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400mm on a budget


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Hey all,

I'm about to be sent on an assignment that requires a lot of telephoto work. From colleagues who've previously filmed at this same event, they've suggested taking nothing short of 400mm with me. I've looked at the newish Sigma 100-400 and Tamron 100-400 but they're a little out of my price range for now. I also looked at a second hand Canon 100-400 pump action (mki), which is apparently a nightmare when you extend it out all the way.

I'm on a bit of a budget, but have seen some pretty good deals on these two lenses, which do you think is going to give me the best results at that 400mm reach? 

Tamron 18-400: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1345956-REG/tamron_afb028n_700_18_400mm_f_3_5_6_3_di_ii.html - In the past I've found Tamrons to be soft at the long end and with this amount of zoom, I'm not too confident, although sample videos seem to look nice.

Sigma 150-500: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/549255-REG/Sigma_737101_150_500mm_f_5_6_3_DG_OS.html - This is quite an 'old' lens, but from what I've seen it looks great, although it's much heavier and bigger than the Tamron. It'll also give me a little extra reach should I need it. I can also get this one €150 cheaper than the newer Tamron.

Any help is greatly appreciated, and of course, if you have other suggestions, I'd love to hear them!


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Well, I can get that Sigma for £350, so that's the price to beat right now haha. The newer 100-400 is about €800 and that's too much for now, considering I'm only going to use it on rare occasions. 400 is the minimum requirement. So 350 apparently isn't long enough, but anything over is just an added extra.

FYI: I've ruled out renting because it's a longterm assignment. I figure at €350 for now, I can always upgrade later if I feel the need.

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Obviously, after asking about your budget I'm going to completely disregard it !!!

If you can push the budget and don't mind it being fixed then this 400mm f5.6L is a good value.


If you think you might be in it for the long haul then one of the best routes to 400mm if you are only looking at the f5.6/6.3 area is to get a 70-200 f2.8 and a later generation 2X convertor.

The advantage of that is that you get a much better and more flexible lens for when you're not doing this assignment and then can match the reach and quality of the sort of lenses you're looking at with the 2X as and when you need it.

You can usually pick up a 70-200 f2.8L in decent condition for around £700 if you shop around and a latest generation 2X convertor for around £250.

Another alternative is the Sigma 120-300 f2.8 and their 1.4 convertor which you can often pick up as a package for similar money. 

There are 3 generations of it but this one (the 2nd) is the best value for money version of it. 


However....just for balance

If you are looking to upgrade later and just want to get in the game for this assignment and don't mind it being rough then you can save yourself a few quid with this Sigma 120-400mm


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I think for that kind of money, I'd sooner get the new Sigma 100-400 and not have to deal with converters etc. From what I've read, it's similar sharpness and quality to Canon's mkii, at a much lower price. After this assignment, if I feel I need to upgrade from whichever I get now, I'm fairly sure that's what I'll get

I also looked at the 120-400 you  posted, in fact that's how I discovered the 150-500. Somehow, the 500 is cheaper around these parts, and I'm going to test it on Monday, with the idea of buying it unless I become dissuaded in the meantime. (Also, the one you posted has scratched glass, and  I'm not diggin that. Haha.)

From the sounds of it though the Sigma beats the Tamron right?

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Of its type, the Sigma 100-400 does seem to be the favoured one. 

The scratches on the glass are generally always less of an issue in actual use in my experience. People pay good money to have plug ins that emulate that kind of "character" ;)

I haven't done any A/B stuff between Sigma and Tamron lenses in that range as they're both too slow for my application but I can definitely vouch for that 120-300mm f2.8 as I've had one for quite a few years. It is a very good performer even up against the Nikon 300 f2.8 I was using when I bought it. It uses Sigma's 1.4 TC which is smaller than the Nikon/Canon equivalent and has no discernible impact on AF and barely any on IQ and is giving you 420mm at constant f4 whereas you will be at f6.3 with the 100-400 at the long end and for most of its range. I don't know what your application is so whether that is going to be an impact for you either light gathering or separation wise I don't know. You'd also have to factor in that with it being a 300 f2.8 its a bit of a bigger lump so again that may or may not be as much of a factor as the price.

Or maybe you should just cave in and buy the Canon 200-400 f4 with its in-built switchable 1.4x TC for £10K and have done with it ;)


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28 minutes ago, Kisaha said:

@BTM_Pix Thanks for all the info.

Are these cheap lenses that good for pro photography? What about video?

The 120-300mm f2.8 is the one I'd vouch for in terms of pro photography because I have and still do use it in anger. In certain stadiums that have particular shooting positions it actually offers a one lens shooting solution with a D500 in the same way that the 200-400 does on a D5.

Video is not something I can attest to its use for but someone does/did re-house them in PL mount so there might be footage around somewhere


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Do you need AF?     I use an old manual focus 300 2.8 with a 1.4x converter if needed (though with Sony I use clear zoom variable zoom to 2x instead lately).

The old 300 2.8 lenses are all quite good compared to older slower lenses and many long zooms.      If lucky you might get a user condition one in budget.

This was with my old Tamron 300 2.8 adaptall and with 2x clear zoom used (I think).


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If you don't need AF, I would suggest you to use an old lens and adapt it. If you search around you can find a cheap and good copy.

Alternatives like an old Nikon 400mm ais 3.5 or 5.6 version, an old Nikon 300mm 2.8. Or a Leica R 350mm.

If you are really really on a budget, you can also consider the Nikon 300mm 4.5 ais ED, it can be found for 200-300 euros.

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