Testing lenses

BJMRamage

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Oct 2, 2007
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We are planning a national park tour/vacation for a few years out. I'd like to either rent or purchase a longer telephoto zoom lens.(I have a Nikon D7000 if that means anything).

I figure before renting for the trip or making a purchase I'd test some lenses. I am eyeing a Nikon, Tamron, and Sigma zoom. 80-400, 18-400 or 150-600, 150-600 respectively.

So, if anyone has tested different lenses before going on a trip, do you test them each separately or try to test all at once to see how they work on a similar scene/time/situation? Part of me thinks testing separately allows more time to focus on each lens. but...testing at the same time means getting close to the same shots with different lenses to see how they compare a bit more equally...though this means a HEAVY backpack and lost time switching lenses.


Thanks all
 

kenoh

macrumors demi-god
Jul 18, 2008
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By National Park are you talking beautiful vistas or safari/nature reserves?

Your challenges are in what you have said. If you test them together you will not get the best from them and have less time to reflect. However this way you can do better side by side comparisons in as like for like conditions. Whereas if you do them sequentially over a week or so each, then your challenge would be to do sufficient scenarios that are similar enough to choose between them and to really remember your real feelings about them trying to remember a few weeks later - make notes.

I think the former approach is the pixel peeper approach, you are looking for the best sharpness whereas the latter is about better user experience.

As you are planning for a trip like this, and as it is a way out, that suggests it is going to be in the realms of trip of a lifetime. I think your approach has to be the user experience one, the one that sees how you become most comfortable with the lens and learn to get the best from it. IQ wise, I think from reading reviews ( I dont own any of them ) they are going to be close enough in terms of performance so it is the intangibles that may ultimately swing it for you.

I would recommend the sequential approach to trying them but within those tests, set up at least a couple of controlled tests (as best as can be spaced weeks apart) that you can repeat, then you can compare them in lightroom just the same but I do think using them on their own for a few days is going to tell you more about living with them than constantly switching between them in short bursts.

Just my opinion. Feel free to ignore me but I have played with a lot of kit and know how my brain works... one tip, remember to be more brutally honest with the last one as it will be newest in your mind and so will likely be your favourite...
 
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Apple fanboy

macrumors Westmere
Feb 21, 2012
37,779
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Behind the Lens, UK
We are planning a national park tour/vacation for a few years out. I'd like to either rent or purchase a longer telephoto zoom lens.(I have a Nikon D7000 if that means anything).

I figure before renting for the trip or making a purchase I'd test some lenses. I am eyeing a Nikon, Tamron, and Sigma zoom. 80-400, 18-400 or 150-600, 150-600 respectively.

So, if anyone has tested different lenses before going on a trip, do you test them each separately or try to test all at once to see how they work on a similar scene/time/situation? Part of me thinks testing separately allows more time to focus on each lens. but...testing at the same time means getting close to the same shots with different lenses to see how they compare a bit more equally...though this means a HEAVY backpack and lost time switching lenses.


Thanks all
Just before I bought my Nikon 200-500 mm I tested (as in in a shop not rented) a Sigma 150-600. Found it to be slower at focusing.
Any reason your not considering the 200-500 from Nikon?

Before I had that lens I did try my 70-200mm with a 2 x TC but for wildlife I kept finding I had to keep swapping. A bit lighter load though!
 
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dwig

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Jan 4, 2015
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...

So, if anyone has tested different lenses before going on a trip, do you test them each separately or try to test all at once to see how they work on a similar scene/time/situation? Part of me thinks testing separately allows more time to focus on each lens. but...testing at the same time means getting close to the same shots with different lenses to see how they compare a bit more equally...though this means a HEAVY backpack and lost time switching lenses.
...
it all depends on what aspect of the lens and/or lens-body you intend to test.

If you want to test lens' image quality then to get valid results you must test all lenses at exactly the same time with images of exactly the same subjects. If all you are testing is handling and carrying comfort then you could get valid results testing the lenses separately.
 
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TheDrift-

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Mar 8, 2010
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Just before I bought my Nikon 200-500 mm I tested (as in in a shop not rented) a Sigma 150-600. Found it to be slower at focusing.
Any reason your not considering the 200-500 from Nikon?

Before I had that lens I did try my 70-200mm with a 2 x TC but for wildlife I kept finding I had to keep swapping. A bit lighter load though!
Not sure if it's relevant but sigma did release a firmware update that increased focus speed
 

BJMRamage

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Original poster
Oct 2, 2007
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Thanks everyone so far.

The National Parks we intend to visit: Rocky Mt Nat'l Park, Yellowstone, Tetons, Mt Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Badlands, and some other stuff. Middle America up toward the Northern Parks. Not hitting West Coast or SouthWest.

The reason I chose Nikon 80-400 is I forgot and grabbed the wrong listing. I think the 200-500 could be a nice lens. Expensive but nice.

I suppose I could tell my kids to wonder off to X spot and move around, then tell them to move further away.
I am thinking it is mainly for animals far away. I have a 18-105 (I think) and a 35 Prime, as well as an older 70-200 heavier lens that takes a while to focus. I think it may have been from my N70 Film days....or at least my D70 first DSLR days.
 

Apple fanboy

macrumors Westmere
Feb 21, 2012
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Behind the Lens, UK
Thanks everyone so far.

The National Parks we intend to visit: Rocky Mt Nat'l Park, Yellowstone, Tetons, Mt Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Badlands, and some other stuff. Middle America up toward the Northern Parks. Not hitting West Coast or SouthWest.

The reason I chose Nikon 80-400 is I forgot and grabbed the wrong listing. I think the 200-500 could be a nice lens. Expensive but nice.

I suppose I could tell my kids to wonder off to X spot and move around, then tell them to move further away.
I am thinking it is mainly for animals far away. I have a 18-105 (I think) and a 35 Prime, as well as an older 70-200 heavier lens that takes a while to focus. I think it may have been from my N70 Film days....or at least my D70 first DSLR days.
200-500 is certainly nice. Gives you a bit more length but none of these super Telephotos are light weight.
I'd describe it as a lens to shoot wildlife (or sports) with but not for casual pictures of the kids etc.
You certainly want to pair it with a tripod or monopod.
[doublepost=1501090383][/doublepost]
Not sure if it's relevant but sigma did release a firmware update that increased focus speed
Yes it was quite early on I tried it.
This may well have improved it.
 
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ApfelKuchen

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Aug 28, 2012
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Between the coasts
We are planning a national park tour/vacation for a few years out. I'd like to either rent or purchase a longer telephoto zoom lens.(I have a Nikon D7000 if that means anything).

I figure before renting for the trip or making a purchase I'd test some lenses. I am eyeing a Nikon, Tamron, and Sigma zoom. 80-400, 18-400 or 150-600, 150-600 respectively.

So, if anyone has tested different lenses before going on a trip, do you test them each separately or try to test all at once to see how they work on a similar scene/time/situation? Part of me thinks testing separately allows more time to focus on each lens. but...testing at the same time means getting close to the same shots with different lenses to see how they compare a bit more equally...though this means a HEAVY backpack and lost time switching lenses.


Thanks all
I think "try-out" is a better word to use than "testing." While you do need to be aware of technical quality, it's just as important to know things like whether the controls are easy to use/understand, apparent quality-of-build, and whether the aperture and zoom ranges are suitable to your needs. This is a matter of taking each lens for a "test drive."

I guess if you have access to an automotive test track you could bring all the cars you have under consideration to a track at the same time and perform the same series of tests on each car in succession. However, most of us just get behind the wheel of a given car, take it out on the street, see how it feels, and then head on to the next auto dealership to try another.

For carefully done test results, you can depend on published tests. There's always variability in test results from one unit to the next, so testing a rental lens now will not guarantee you'd get the same good (or bad) results if you were to buy a new lens of the same make and model a year from now.

I'm sure there are those who do bench test their new purchases to see if they meet or exceed the manufacturer's specifications and/or published test results. There's a certain amount of cash investment that goes into that. Back when I had recording studio and broadcast facility engineering shops at my disposal, I could test gear to my heart's content. Today, as a mere citizen, I don't find it very practical.
 
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BJMRamage

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ok, Try Out is a better term for this.

And maybe people don't try out a few lenses. maybe most decide on a few, pick the 'best option' and give it a test run. if it meets the requirements, then there is no need to try out any other lenses.
 

kenoh

macrumors demi-god
Jul 18, 2008
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ok, Try Out is a better term for this.

And maybe people don't try out a few lenses. maybe most decide on a few, pick the 'best option' and give it a test run. if it meets the requirements, then there is no need to try out any other lenses.
Buy the lenses you want. If they are obviously pants return them. If their shine wears off after a while eBay them. Just keep the ones you really like. Over time you learn the ones you like and the lemons, and your buying becomes more focused over time but typically buying a lens made by the same manufacturer as your camera is a safe option. Unless it is Leica, if you can afford Leica, buy Leica or Zeiss... Joke!!!
 
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ApfelKuchen

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Aug 28, 2012
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Just as a general observation... You are concentrating on long telephoto zooms. Considering your subject matter, I hope you also have something good on the wide-angle side, too. Each of our styles is different, but unless you're particularly interested in wildlife, a long tele may not be nearly as useful as moderate and wide-angle lenses for that subject matter.
 
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BJMRamage

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I have an 18mm on a zoom, and a 35mm. I may look to rent a wider wide angle lens too. not sure. but the wildlife is what I am after here with this telephoto lens.


Maybe I can ask my brother if he has any wide angles he could spar while I am out there.
 

kenoh

macrumors demi-god
Jul 18, 2008
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Glasgow, UK
I have an 18mm on a zoom, and a 35mm. I may look to rent a wider wide angle lens too. not sure. but the wildlife is what I am after here with this telephoto lens.


Maybe I can ask my brother if he has any wide angles he could spar while I am out there.
For beautiful vistas I like something in the 15-28mm range FF equiv. so on the DX sensor in your camera it is a 1.5x crop factor so a 14-24mm is like a 21-36mm in ff terms but I suck so dont listen to me... :)
 

Apple fanboy

macrumors Westmere
Feb 21, 2012
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For beautiful vistas I like something in the 15-28mm range FF equiv. so on the DX sensor in your camera it is a 1.5x crop factor so a 14-24mm is like a 21-36mm in ff terms but I suck so dont listen to me... :)
Forgot about the crop! Your math is correct.
Still I have used the 14-24 on the D7100 in the past and thought it was nice.
 

Indydenny

macrumors 6502
Jan 5, 2002
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I realize that this is NOT the point of this thread, and you may know this already, but on your list of national parks --

Rocky Mt Nat'l Park, Yellowstone, Tetons, Mt Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Badlands

Only the first two and the last (in BOLD) are actually national parks. There are only 59 total national parks which can be confusing as other delineations are used (national monument, national preserve, etc). We are trying to visit them all in the next five years and it is confusing!!

And if you are a senior, this is your last chance to buy a senior pass at a real discount. On August 28, 2017, the price goes up to $80 (from $10). Here is the link: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/senior-pass-changes.htm
 
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someoldguy

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And if you are a senior, this is your last chance to buy a senior pass at a real discount. On August 28, 2017, the price goes up to $80 (from $10). Here is the link: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/senior-pass-changes.htm
+1 on getting a Senior Pass if you can . 10 bucks is a steal .... even 80 will pay for itself if you use it a couple of times .
It'll get you and IIRC 3 other adults into fee charging parks for free .
 

BJMRamage

macrumors 68020
Original poster
Oct 2, 2007
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I realize that this is NOT the point of this thread, and you may know this already, but on your list of national parks --

Rocky Mt Nat'l Park, Yellowstone, Tetons, Mt Rushmore, Devil's Tower, Badlands

Only the first two and the last (in BOLD) are actually national parks. There are only 59 total national parks which can be confusing as other delineations are used (national monument, national preserve, etc). We are trying to visit them all in the next five years and it is confusing!!

And if you are a senior, this is your last chance to buy a senior pass at a real discount. On August 28, 2017, the price goes up to $80 (from $10). Here is the link: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/senior-pass-changes.htm

yes, yes I realize that. I used that term loosely. and some that are listed are National Monuments or living monuments. I forget the correct term. not close to a Senior ticket. But, if things do stay the same, our oldest will be in 4th grade and previously they allowed free park entrance to 4th graders and their family.
 

Precision Gem

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Jun 3, 2015
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Have looked at imaging-resource.com website and dpreview.com? I think you will find their testing of lens to be more complete than something you could do yourself.
 
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QuantumLo0p

macrumors 6502a
Apr 28, 2006
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Not sure if it's relevant but sigma did release a firmware update that increased focus speed
Plus you can create two custom profiles for various features which are controllable via Sigma's USB dock.
[doublepost=1501522300][/doublepost]As for the 150-600 I love my Sigma 150-600 Sport. It has more range than a 200-500, is not significantly less sharp and has some customization capability as well.

If you are not going to use it very often I recommend considering the non-Sport version. It basically performs the same as the Sport but is built with more plastic so it weighs significantly less.
 
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Analog Kid

macrumors 603
Mar 4, 2003
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By National Park are you talking beautiful vistas or safari/nature reserves?

Your challenges are in what you have said. If you test them together you will not get the best from them and have less time to reflect. However this way you can do better side by side comparisons in as like for like conditions. Whereas if you do them sequentially over a week or so each, then your challenge would be to do sufficient scenarios that are similar enough to choose between them and to really remember your real feelings about them trying to remember a few weeks later - make notes.

I think the former approach is the pixel peeper approach, you are looking for the best sharpness whereas the latter is about better user experience.

As you are planning for a trip like this, and as it is a way out, that suggests it is going to be in the realms of trip of a lifetime. I think your approach has to be the user experience one, the one that sees how you become most comfortable with the lens and learn to get the best from it. IQ wise, I think from reading reviews ( I dont own any of them ) they are going to be close enough in terms of performance so it is the intangibles that may ultimately swing it for you.

I would recommend the sequential approach to trying them but within those tests, set up at least a couple of controlled tests (as best as can be spaced weeks apart) that you can repeat, then you can compare them in lightroom just the same but I do think using them on their own for a few days is going to tell you more about living with them than constantly switching between them in short bursts.

Just my opinion. Feel free to ignore me but I have played with a lot of kit and know how my brain works... one tip, remember to be more brutally honest with the last one as it will be newest in your mind and so will likely be your favourite...
I think this is the right way to think about it. If you're concerned about sharpness, vignetting, etc, then you can get that information online from a lab that's done the careful testing you probably can't. Side by side testing answers the question "how do they perform taking the same picture?"-- but the lens you choose is going to change the kinds of pictures you take making that side by side meaningless.

Given the nature of the trip, I think you're much better off spending some quality time with each and then reflecting on which one you enjoyed the most. I'd also go out and spend a day in the field with each-- maybe at a local park. When comparing the 80-400 and the 18-400, for example, the image quality isn't going to be anywhere close to the same, but you may find you value the portability and convenience of a do-it-all lens. I'd spend the day with the 18-400, then a day with the 80-400 along with a wide angle in my bag.

I was about to give an opinion on the 80-400 and 14-24, but since I'm using an FX body they probably feel like entirely different lenses than they will for you.
 
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BJMRamage

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Oct 2, 2007
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Thanks again everyone.

I've been thinking of NOT doing the multi-Lens rental over the same period and trying to get the same shots. I think I'd end up too much downtime with hassles of lens caps and weight. and then the feeling of "i dunno which felt 'right' in the shoot"

I think just taking a weekend for each, we have a Zoo membership so I could go there and try for animals further out, though most seem to just be lazy during the open hours, or they are close as it is.
 

mofunk

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Aug 26, 2009
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Whenever I travel I think about what I'm going to shoot and from there narrow it down to two lenses. When I go out and shoot I make sure my bag is not too heavy. Also, I have a bag that can carry the weight and not be too heavy on my back. My last trip I took one zoom lens and one prime because I was traveling overseas.

What you should do is rent a Nikon lens, this way you know what you are getting. If you know you are going to shoot some birds, you could max out at 200mm. Remember you are shooting with a crop sensor. So that 200mm is xTimes as much. I carry my 24-70mm a lot and its about the same weight as the 70-200mm f/2.8. If you go with the 70-200mm with a teleconverter vs. 200-400mm. One of my buddies just came back from Alaska and had the D5100 with 55-200mm and got some pretty good shots of Eagles and stuff.

The 200-500mm Nikkor f/5.6 is around 5lbs. That's about twice the weight of the Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8. Since you have the D7100 you could bump up the ISO if you need. However the lenses that shoot f/2.8 focuses faster in low light. Think about when you are going to shooting.

Wide Angle - I like the 17-55mm f/2.8. 17mm is pretty wide. I haven't tried the 14-24mm yet. I'm guessing you will get the same the results. However you will be stopped at 24mm (actually shooting 36mm??) and 14mm (21mm??) Another you can consider is the 16-80mm f/2.8-4 which is a little bit lighter than the 17-55mm. Pair that with a zoom lens and you should be good to go.


I love renting before buying. This way you know what you like and how it works with your style of shooting. If you are just going to be shooting certain subjects on vacation and not daily, then renting is best.

lens calculator
https://www.digified.net/focallength/
 
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