PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


The Search for the Perfect Telephoto Combo

A bit of pre-Photokina banter here, and perhaps a wish for Photokina.

I’m looking for a longer telephoto lens (possibly with camera combination) that would be equivalent to a 300mm f/4 (or better) with stabilization on a 24x36mm sensor.  It could be an actual 300mm f/4 lens but Nikon’s lacks VR.  It could be a 200mm f/2.8 with a 1.4x converter or crop factor but again Nikon’s lacks VR and isn’t compatible with Nikon’s TC’s (irony).  It could even be a 150mm f/2 lens with a 2x converter or crop factor, such as Olympus offers.

When you reduce my goal to a simpler statement: I want a stabilized lens with a 75mm aperture diaphragm.  It’s an odd statement of requirements, but an accurate one nonetheless.  At first blush I don’t care what camera this lens is for but if the lens won’t fit the D700 then (1) that camera must take my ZF lenses with adapters and (2) the savings on the lens must offset most of the cost of the additional camera.

Lastly, I consider crop factors and optical converters to be completely interchangeable here.  When you add the lower light-gathering power of a smaller sensor and the deeper field effect of smaller focal lengths, Olympus’ 150mm f/2 is really like a 300mm f/4.  To one exception however: size, because it is very much smaller.  That may be worth a small premium.

With the stage set, here are the competitive price players I have been looking at:

  • $1400: Olympus E30 (or E-P2 with 4/3 adapter) and Sigma 150mm f/2.8. (*)
  • $1500: Sony A55 with Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 (old). (**)
  • $1800: Pentax K7 with Pentax 200mm f/2.8. (**)
  • $1900: Used Canon 50D with used 300 f/4L IS. (***)
  • $1950: Nikon D700 with Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS and 1.4x DG.
  • $2400: Canon 60D with 300 f/4L IS. (***)
  • $2550: Nikon D700 with Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 VR-II and TC-14E.
  • $2800: Olympus E30 (or E-P2 with 4/3 adapter) and Olympus 150mm f/2.
  • $3400: Canon 60D with 70-200 f/2.8L IS-II.

(*) = Not a 75mm diaphragm, but otherwise attractive.
(**) = Does not have F mount adapters available.
(***) = Effective 480mm could be too much here.

Canon doesn't get away with the whole chart, despite clearly being the smart money here, because their line-up has some of the same issues as Nikon's : the 200mm f/2.8 lens is not stabilized.  Nikon's place in this line up is glossing over a major problem if you're looking for this type of lens : the camera has to be valued at $0 to keep Nikon in the running!  The only reason I might go with Nikon for my telephoto solution is that I have the camera on the shelf already - and it's barely going to make the cut despite being free to me!   I miss the days of the 70-200 VR-I on the D80… that was uncomplicated bliss.

I guess I’m warming up to the Sigma 70-200 OS now.  Did anyone else notice that Sigma changed the finish material on this lens between PMA and launch?  (Sigma USA hasn’t noticed, heh.)  But will hubris prevent me from settling for it?  This drama to continue…  unless Nikon does something to end it, like adding VR to the 300mm f/4.  Now would be a good time Nikon.


Comments (6) Trackbacks (3)
  1. Had the D700 with a Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR-II and TC-20E III for a while now, and the results are simply stunning. Very happy with it. You can even shoot very nice handheld macros at a convenient distance by adding a Canon 500D close-up lens to the rig.


  2. Hello Olivier,

    I must admit I don’t understand your quest for 75mm aperture diaphragm. Why such a request ?

    Why not a Nikkor AFS 200mm f/2 VR on your D700 ?
    Add a TC1.4 , TC1.7 or even TC2.0 to have a versatile lens !
    Or just use it on a D300.

    Unfortunately I have not dared spending so much money on a single lens, but may be one day…


    • I know the 75mm requirement is counter-intuitive.

      Basically I’m defining a combination of price and weight of lens that I want to buy into. All the 75mm diaphragm lenses can be converted to each other with TCs or bodies so they are somewhat interchangeable. Any one of them would work for me, I’m not too specific, it’s just sad that Nikon has none.

      The 200mm f/2 VR lens is surely fantastic but costs WAY too much and is WAY too heavy. Here is why: the 100mm aperture. I’m just not willing to pay for that.

      No, I’ve defined the space I want to buy into : it’s the 75mm aperture family of lenses.



      • OK, now it’s clear why you’ve mentionned the “75mm limit” 🙂

        Why not a Nikkor AFD 180mm f/2.8 on a DX body ?
        Far cheaper than the 200f2 dream lens.


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