70-300mm lens

edited January 2017 Posted in » Nikon D3100 Forum
I'm looking at getting a telephoto lens. Is there any real difference between Nikon, Sigma and Tamron lenses for my D3100?


  • edited January 2017
    From all I've read all three are pretty good, and relatively similar in performance. If you are interested in macro or near-macro, check out the close focusing distance, as either the Tamron or the Sigma may go a bit closer.

    On the Nikon side, neither S nor T can absolutely guarantee compatibility with all Nikon cameras, as the lens software is not shared, and third parties arrive at theirs by reverse engineering. Usually not a problem, and when it is, usually updated, but worth mentioning.

    When shopping for a lens, make sure you keep track of which version you're getting. I know Nikon has made several with the same focal length, and the others may have also. Remember your camera must have an AFS lens (one with its own focus motor) in order to auto focus at all. The recent Nikon AFS VR version is said to be very good. The earlier AF G without VR and without AFS was pretty poor, though also very cheap. The even earlier AF D without VR and without AFS is pretty decent, but like the plain G will not auto focus on a D3100. Similarly, the other makers may have made some earlier versions with different AF and with or without vibration reduction, so be careful you know which kind you're getting.

    On a telephoto zoom, vibration reduction is a very big asset, making hand holding in relatively weak light possible. You can use the non VR lenses, but you'll pretty much need a tripod when you go long in any but the brightest conditions.

    The Nikon 70-300mm AFS VR is a full frame lens. This means it's a little bigger than the lenses made just for DX format, though it's not a lot bigger. It's said to be very well made, and fast focusing. The others are probably in a similar league. Depending on your budget and your need, you might also look at the Nikon 55-300mm AFS DX zoom. Optically not much different in quality from the 70-300mm, it has a bit more range. It's a DX lens, rather lightly made. Unlike the 70-300mm, it has a rotating front element, and no manual focus override when in AF. The aperture range is about the same, but its AF speed is a good deal slower. It is, however, a decent lens, reasonably sharp and portable, and a good bit less expensive. I have one of these, and it's served me pretty well despite its lackadaisical AF performance. But it's also developed a loose AF mechanism and is now out for repair after a couple of years of heavy use and travel. If you don't need the quick AF performance, this is worth a look, as it is sometimes available at a good discount.

    Also consider the 55-200mm if you're not needing the long tele. The most recent version of this (of which there are several), with AFS and VR, is getting very good reviews.

    My wife is about to replace her 55-300mm with the Nikon 70-300mm, seeking better AF speed and manual override, but it has not arrived yet so I can't report on it.
  • edited January 2017
    Thank you.
  • edited January 2017
    A little update: The new used 70-300mm came last night, and my wife tried it out briefly on her D7200, and the cursory verdict is that it's good. It appears to be good and sharp, at least as sharp as the 55-300mm, and a little better than the old 70-300mm AFD I've been using on the D7100 while mine is off for repair. The AF speed is very fast and appears to hit accurately with consistency. The VR works well too. Both this and the 55-300mm have VRII, which is very good.

    That's not a complete or exhaustive test, of course, just a quick hand held shoot on a cloudy day, but it's definitely a going concern, and well made. It's also a good inch or more longer than the 55-300, though, not as compact for traveling.
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