55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

Started Aug 21, 2011 | Discussions
KellyMom New Member • Posts: 5
55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

I am about to take the plunge and get my first DSLR - a Nikon D5100. It will come with the kit lens 18-55VR, but I have the option of getting either the Nikon 55-300VR or getting the Nikon 70-300VR (for $140 more than the 55-300). I know I have read some opinions on here about the 70-300 being superior. Is this going to be the better choice and worth that extra $140? I will mostly be shooting the kids in outdoor soccer, indoor volleyball, and high school marching band and indoor family pics. Thanks for any advice or opinions!!

Graystar Veteran Member • Posts: 8,373
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

The 70-300 is significantly sharper than the 55-300 at the long end. See testing results here...

55-300
http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1359/cat/13

70-300
http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/992/cat/13

Blur charts...
http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/zproducts/nikon70-300f45-56vr/tloader.htm
http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/zproducts/nikon55-300f45-56g/tloader.htm

I doubt you'll miss the The 56mm-69mm range. It's actually a good range for portrait photography, but only if you have a lens with a wide enough aperture to give nice background blur, which none of these lenses have. Better to buy a 50mm f/1.8 in the future for portraits.

.

ceh5100 Regular Member • Posts: 320
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

I was in the same spot as you are about a month ago. I have the D5100 with 18-55, so I went and got the Nikon 55-200 for longer range. Liking that, I wanted to go longer. Sold the 55-200 and WAS going to get the Nikon 55-300 to replace the 55-200. However, after reading, it was clear that the Nikon 70-300 was much better. However, I ended up getting the Tamron 70-300 vc usd. Most likely if I had went for a bundle option in the beginning, with those prices, I would have had the Nikon. With all that said, 70-300 would be the wiser choice..

Now, to start thinking about a tripod!!

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70, old, dirty & fast

tclune Senior Member • Posts: 1,544
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

KellyMom wrote:

I know I have read some opinions on here about the 70-300 being superior. Is this going to be the better choice and worth that extra $140? I will mostly be shooting the kids in outdoor soccer, indoor volleyball, and high school marching band and indoor family pics. Thanks for any advice or opinions!!

With outdoor soccer, the faster focus and sharper optics of the 70-300 VR (BEWARE: there is a non-VR version from Nikon of the 70-300 that is a truly awful lens) will be a clear win.

With indoor volleyball, both of these lenses are WAY too dark to be useful. Sorry. If you were swimming in money, the right lens would probably be the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VRII. Otherwise, you're going to have trouble with indoor shots that you can't use flash with.
With the marching band, again, the 70-300 VR is a clear win outdoors.

With indoor family pics, either lens would probably do. You'll need a flash and the family may stand still long enough that the speed of focusing won't be a big issue. But the 70-300 has better optics FWIW, even with these shots.

Digetydog
Digetydog Senior Member • Posts: 1,461
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

The 55-300mm has horrible AF speed relative to the 70-300mm VR (or the Tamron 70-300 which I ended up buying). For sports, I don't think it is a viable option.

Neither lens is likely to have fast enough focal lenght to be a good option for indoor use without a flash.

KellyMom wrote:

I am about to take the plunge and get my first DSLR - a Nikon D5100. It will come with the kit lens 18-55VR, but I have the option of getting either the Nikon 55-300VR or getting the Nikon 70-300VR (for $140 more than the 55-300). I know I have read some opinions on here about the 70-300 being superior. Is this going to be the better choice and worth that extra $140? I will mostly be shooting the kids in outdoor soccer, indoor volleyball, and high school marching band and indoor family pics. Thanks for any advice or opinions!!

 Digetydog's gear list:Digetydog's gear list
Nikon D610 Olympus OM-D E-M10 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR +6 more
bgD300 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,552
Generally speaking,

the lower the zoom ratio, the better the lens. Look at the pro glass and their zoom ranges.

14-24 zoom ratio
24-70 zoom ratio
70-200 zoom ratio
200-400 zoom ratio = 2

once the zoom ratio goes above 3 the compromises needed in design start to impact IQ
--
My photo blog: http://birdsnbugs.wordpress.com
My camera club porfolio: http://www.pacameraclub.com/bgrant.htm
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EXIF is embedded in photos WSSA #51 as bg5700

 bgD300's gear list:bgD300's gear list
Nikon Coolpix P7100 Nikon D90 Nikon D300 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR +16 more
eddyshoots Senior Member • Posts: 2,178
Re: Generally speaking,

You mean my Sigma 50-500 doesn't qualify as pro glass.....

bgD300 wrote:

the lower the zoom ratio, the better the lens. Look at the pro glass and their zoom ranges.

14-24 zoom ratio
24-70 zoom ratio
70-200 zoom ratio
200-400 zoom ratio = 2

once the zoom ratio goes above 3 the compromises needed in design start to impact IQ
--
My photo blog: http://birdsnbugs.wordpress.com
My camera club porfolio: http://www.pacameraclub.com/bgrant.htm
RF Stock Portfolio - http://www.dreamstime.com/resp129611
EXIF is embedded in photos WSSA #51 as bg5700

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eddyshoots

eddyshoots Senior Member • Posts: 2,178
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

Until September 3rd, Nikon will still have it's instant rebate program. The D5100 is a qualifying camera. You can buy select Nikon lenses and get significant savings through the rebate. With rebate the 70-300 is even closer to the price of the 55-300.
55-300 price: $311-$100=$211 (good deal)
70-300 price: $488-$200=$288 (great deal)
I think a mere $77 differential makes this an almost no-brainer.

I don't know if other vendors participate in this but here is the Amazon link as a start:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html/ref=amb_link_357056902_3?ie=UTF8&plgroup=5&docId=1000708381&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=hero-quick-promo&pf_rd_r=1TRHVM2B5SAK8ESFPCEW&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_p=1313130502&pf_rd_i=B004V4IWKG

KellyMom wrote:

I am about to take the plunge and get my first DSLR - a Nikon D5100. It will come with the kit lens 18-55VR, but I have the option of getting either the Nikon 55-300VR or getting the Nikon 70-300VR (for $140 more than the 55-300). I know I have read some opinions on here about the 70-300 being superior. Is this going to be the better choice and worth that extra $140? I will mostly be shooting the kids in outdoor soccer, indoor volleyball, and high school marching band and indoor family pics. Thanks for any advice or opinions!!

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eddyshoots

(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 603
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

I have the 55-200 VR right now and shoot with it quite a bit. What it lacks in professional build and speed it really makes up in portability. It is so light and small that it goes everywhere and because of it, it ends up taking a lot of photos.

I've had reason to look at something longer, and after reading a Thom Hogan review of the 55-300 mm that contained some comments on the 70-300 mm, I began a hard look at the latter lens.

Thom suggested the 70-200mm, of course because it is just THE lens for so many uses, but also mentions that the 70-300mm is quite underrated.

If you don't have the budget, I think the 55-300 would do a good job, and if you have the scratch then fo for the 70-300mm. The 70-300 will also work on the large-frame cameras.

Here's a shot I took yesterday with the 55-200mm. I cropped out 2/3 of the shot for this image.

Not bad for a $200 piece of plastic, eh?

Rick
--
Enjoying life one moment at a time.

rfclark Contributing Member • Posts: 589
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???..Is Weight a Consideration?

How important is weight to you?
The 70-300 is 26 oz.; the 55-300 is 19 oz.
I have the 70-300 and am happy with it but the weight is considerable...
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uncleskull Senior Member • Posts: 2,330
70-300VR

Probably one of Nikon's better (if not best) consumer grade zooms.

Here's Abbey taking a break during a running dog session when I first got mine . . .

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unc

~ The only things stopping us from reaching our goals are the limitations we place on ourselves ~

 uncleskull's gear list:uncleskull's gear list
Olympus E-10
(unknown member) Contributing Member • Posts: 603
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???..Is Weight a Consideration?

You might try the 55-200mm to save some weight. It's only 11 ounces and around $200.

Then only carry the extra 100mm when you think you'll need it. Right now I'm looking at the 70-300 for Hunting Dog field trials. I have to move very fast for that, and shooting with my kit 18-105, the 55-200 and my Sigma 150-500 I've learned that the high 150-260 mm is where I'm shooting a lot. With the smaller lenses I learn that from cropping.

One day I suppose I'll own both the 70-300 and the pro 70-200 f/2.8 VRII (plus some TCs). Each one will have a purpose.

Rick
--
Enjoying life one moment at a time.

mgd43 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,322
Re: 70-300VR

I had the 70-300 VR and I loved it, but as I got older, it got heavier, so I traded it for the 55-300 VR. I find the 55-300 VR to be a little sharper especially wide open, but the 70-300 VR focused a little faster. Soccer is not that fast moving so I think there wouldn't be a problem with the 55-300 VR focusing. The 55-300 VR is considerable smaller and lighter if that is a consideration.

That said either Nikon or the Tamron would be fine for outdoor shooting, but all three are too slow for indoor shooting without flash. For that you should consider a 70-200 f/2.8. The least expensive if you buy new is the Tamron at $769. The Sigma is around $950 new and the Nikon even more. You could look around for a good used one. Unfortunately any one you'll find will be expensive, and they are real artillery pieces weighing 2-3 pounds.

 mgd43's gear list:mgd43's gear list
Nikon Coolpix P7800 Nikon D5500 Nikon AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR +3 more
mgd43 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,322
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

Another thought is that you can get a D90 instead of the D5100. That way you can get lenses without built-in focus motors. That includes a used Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 or Nikon 85mm f/1.8. The 80-200 f/2.8 can be gotten used for $750 or less and the 85mm f/1.8 cost a around $450 new.

A 70 or 80-200 f/2.8 could be used for the indoor or outdoor activities.

One last thought is a used Sigma 50-150 f/2.8. It could be used with a D5100 or D90 and it weighs a lot less than the 70/80-200 f/2.8. I have one and I love it. It doesn't weigh much more than a 70-300 VR. You could get a good used one for around $700-750, maybe less. That's the way I would go.

 mgd43's gear list:mgd43's gear list
Nikon Coolpix P7800 Nikon D5500 Nikon AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR +3 more
OP KellyMom New Member • Posts: 5
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

Thank you everyone for your replies. I am now very concerned that the d5100 will not produce the indoor shots that I had imagined. (mostly the volleyball and indoor school shots) I certainly cannot afford the professional grade lenses. Guess I will back up and look at the D90 for the reasons suggested above. I need something that is easy to use and auto-focused (just don't trust myself to do it manually). Has anyone had success with the D5100 and the 70-300 VR lens in an indoor gymnasium environment?

Graystar Veteran Member • Posts: 8,373
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

KellyMom wrote:

Thank you everyone for your replies. I am now very concerned that the d5100 will not produce the indoor shots that I had imagined. (mostly the volleyball and indoor school shots) I certainly cannot afford the professional grade lenses. Guess I will back up and look at the D90 for the reasons suggested above. I need something that is easy to use and auto-focused (just don't trust myself to do it manually). Has anyone had success with the D5100 and the 70-300 VR lens in an indoor gymnasium environment?

I'm not sure what difference you're referring to between the D5100 and D90. The D90 has an AF motor built in, but most likely you'll never buy a lens that doesn't have an AF motor. All the inexpensive prime lenses have them, and any new zoom lens you get will have motors. And the latests lenses are better than the old lenses anyways. It's really not anything to worry about.

In any case, the AF motor doesn't have anything to do with being able to capture the shots you imagined. Both cameras are equally capable of capturing such images. The D90 has additional controls and additional functions, but the IQ should be the same (some say the image quality of the D5100 should be better.)

The real problem is the lens max aperture, which is f/5.6 at 300mm. You'll need to shoot at a high ISO to get a sufficiently fast shutter speed. If you're shooting JPEG images then the D5100 has a more advanced JPEG engine than the D90, which has the older generation engine. So the D5100 will produce better images at high ISO.

.

Kim Letkeman
Kim Letkeman Forum Pro • Posts: 33,444
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

KellyMom wrote:

Thank you everyone for your replies. I am now very concerned that the d5100 will not produce the indoor shots that I had imagined. (mostly the volleyball and indoor school shots) I certainly cannot afford the professional grade lenses. Guess I will back up and look at the D90 for the reasons suggested above. I need something that is easy to use and auto-focused (just don't trust myself to do it manually). Has anyone had success with the D5100 and the 70-300 VR lens in an indoor gymnasium environment?

There are probably few people who have managed really good results in a school gym (very poor lighting in most) even with pro lenses. It's a real skill ...

But ... you have two possible approaches: best high ISO (D3s, D700, D7000/D5100 in that order) or best glass (faster the better.)

Since it is between the D5100 and the D90, then you will be choosing the D5100 to get better high ISO. If you are a jpeg shooter, you may in fact benefit by a bit more than a stop ...

The best inexpensive glass for the job would be a used Nikon 80-200 2.8 push pull for 5090 bucks. The second best would be the 70-300VR, but you give up about 1.66 stops at 200mm ... still, you get 300mm for super close shots. Might be useful. And wide open at 70mm you only give up 1.33 stops, which you make up in ISO. So the 70-300 / D5100 is not a complete wipe.

You can try a Sigma 70-200 HSM, which is decently sharp and very fast. HSM is like AFS and works fine on your camera. A used one should set you back around 700. Tamron may have a built in motor version of the 70-200 as well.

The options continue to build for the newer sensor, and if you are serious about shooting in a gym in ambient light, then the newer sensor will definitely pay dividends.

 Kim Letkeman's gear list:Kim Letkeman's gear list
Nikon Coolpix 990 Fujifilm FinePix F770EXR Nikon D600 Nikon D7200 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G7 +27 more
mgd43 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,322
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

Gyms are relatively dimly lit and you need high shutter speeds to prevent motion blur. It's one thing to shoot an assembly program with little movement, it's something else to shoot a fast moving sport. Your least expensive option is a D90 and an 85mm f/1.8 which costs around $450 new. You should be able to find a good used one for less. Amazon and ebay have used ones for $375 and $369. I trust Amazon more than ebay. I couldn't find any at keh.com, B&H, or Adorama. If you can get close enough you could use a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 that are available new for not much more than $200 and used for around $100.

I did some checking and found this:

Nikon D90 new 799 refurbished by Nikon 639 Adorama

Nikon 18-55 VR refurbished by Nikon 99 Adorama

Nikon 55-200 VR refurbished by Nikon 150 Adorama

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 460 new Adorama 375 used Amazon

The least this would all come to is $1263. You might be able to get a used Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 for not much more than the 55-200 VR + 85mm f/1.8.

I'm sorry but this stuff is expensive. You might be able to find something for less, but Adorama and Amazon are reliable.

 mgd43's gear list:mgd43's gear list
Nikon Coolpix P7800 Nikon D5500 Nikon AF DX Fisheye-Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8G ED Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR +3 more
gerry328 Regular Member • Posts: 270
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

The "awful" non-VR lens you are referring to, the Nikon AF Nikkor 70-300mm f4-5.6G, is a sharp lens although it will not autofocus on the D5100. Just observe the 1/focal length minimum shutter speed rule. Below is a hand-held photo from my copy of that non-VR lens.

 gerry328's gear list:gerry328's gear list
Kodak EasyShare C310 Nikon Coolpix P500 Nikon D7000 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm F3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D +4 more
eddyshoots Senior Member • Posts: 2,178
Re: 55-300 VR or 70-300VR???

Graystar wrote:

KellyMom wrote:

Thank you everyone for your replies. I am now very concerned that the d5100 will not produce the indoor shots that I had imagined. (mostly the volleyball and indoor school shots) I certainly cannot afford the professional grade lenses. Guess I will back up and look at the D90 for the reasons suggested above. I need something that is easy to use and auto-focused (just don't trust myself to do it manually). Has anyone had success with the D5100 and the 70-300 VR lens in an indoor gymnasium environment?

I'm not sure what difference you're referring to between the D5100 and D90. The D90 has an AF motor built in, but most likely you'll never buy a lens that doesn't have an AF motor. All the inexpensive prime lenses have them, and any new zoom lens you get will have motors. And the latests lenses are better than the old lenses anyways. It's really not anything to worry about.

Graystar, I agree with much of what you write elsewhere but not here. This time you are leading Kelly down the garden path. While it is true that the focus motor is less important today than yesterday it is still an important option, and for those on a budget it canl be huge. We've seen many threads about the merits of the in body focus motor so I won't get into too much detail here. So let it suffice to say that many brand new Nikons sold today still don't have built in motors, many third party lenses (good ones too) don't have built in motors and millions of really good used lenses require an in-camera focus motor.

Kelly, I don't think that buying a camera without a focus motor is a terrible decision in your case, as all of the new entry level Nikons are missing them. However, it might very well be a decision that will become an irritant in the future. There are few things more frustrating than finding some cool old professional grade lens in a camera store used equipment case at a great price only to have to pass it by because your camera doesn't play well with non-AFS lenses.

Kelly, You mention that you have a vision for your indoor volleyball shots. I'm going to assume for a moment that this vision is probably fueled by the wonderful sports photography we see from professional photographers all the time (Sports Illustrated being the epicenter of this kind of photography.... http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/multimedia/photo_gallery/index.html ).

The reality is that these images are taken by very talented photographers and you can't just buy talent. The second part of the equation (the less important part) is that they compose most of these images much closer than the average volleyball mom can (or in my case ... dad). Getting in close can be tough and for that you need access and telephoto capabilities ... access at our kids games is not so hard for most of us but getting these lenses can be difficult. The third factor is that they often take these images using very large apertures to help isolate the subject... this takes cash, and lots of it. The 400 and 600mm lenses that the pros will use cost many thousands of dollars. Fortunately, for indoor sports 200mm is often enough and for volleyball sometimes even less is needed. But the large aperture versions of these lenses can still be pretty darn expensive.

I'm a Nikon shooter as I have lots of stuff and even some knowledge so I'd hate to have to sell it off, but I've been asked lately by some friends about getting started in DSLR photography. With Nikon's current fleet of entry level cameras being compatibility crippled I've been recommending they look elsewhere. Canon is the other 800 lb gorilla in photography. Every AF lens made by Canon will auto-focus on every DSLR they make (although they have some goofy sensor size restrictions). Additionally, Canon seems to do a better job of providing that F4 mid range lens (better than a F5.6 kit lens but not quite as expensive as a professional F2.8 lens). Pentax has perhaps the best backward compatibility of any camera brand today and one can't rule out Sony as long as the parent company keeps putting the necessary money into R&D. Might be worth while looking at some of these brands as you don't have any Nikon legacy glass to worry about yet. Regardless of what the fans here might say...Nikon is just another camera brand.

In any case, the AF motor doesn't have anything to do with being able to capture the shots you imagined. Both cameras are equally capable of capturing such images. The D90 has additional controls and additional functions, but the IQ should be the same (some say the image quality of the D5100 should be better.)

The real problem is the lens max aperture, which is f/5.6 at 300mm. You'll need to shoot at a high ISO to get a sufficiently fast shutter speed. If you're shooting JPEG images then the D5100 has a more advanced JPEG engine than the D90, which has the older generation engine. So the D5100 will produce better images at high ISO.

.

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eddyshoots

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