johnmh's reviews

  • Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM APO

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Good performance for the cost. OS/VR and faster AF
    Slowish lens - You'll want good light

    I got this lens as a smaller, easier to carry 'long' lens (as an alternate to my Nikon 200-400). Gave up waiting for an AF-S version of the 80-400.

    This lens gave me my money's worth and does what I wanted it to do. I use it on my last two trips - Montana and Colorado. Was a good lens for wildlife - on trails and in the car. I left this lens on a second body - and grabbed it off the rear seat when needed. Can't do THAT with the 200-400 or larger prime lens.

    I wish Sigma had put another $500 or so into this lens - upping the IQ or making it a little faster but it fills a niche where there's little competition. A woman using a 170-500 was blown away when I lent her this lens. The OS works and gave me better images hand held than she got on a tripod.

    I ended up with a Nikon 80-400 and did some comparisons. Wide open at 400mm the Sigma matched or beat the Nikon in sharpness - though the balance tips as you step down. IMO, this lens is a better value than the current version of the Nikon 80-400. Longer reach, faster AF and 2/3 the price.

    Note - You'll want a manual focusing screen if you try using TC's on this - and you will lose IQ. Have shot with both the 1.4 and 2.0 using a Katzeye screen.

    All in all I've been pleasantly surprised by this lens. Does it match my 200-400? No, but it cost 1/5 the amount and gives me 4/5 the result in a smaller, lighter package. It's easier to carry backcountry, to get through airports and I'm less paranoid about it as well.

    From other reviews, it DOES seem as if there were some early problems and there are sample variations so make sure you can exchange if you have problems.

    reviewed January 7th, 2009 (purchased for $980)
  • Tokina 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AT-X 840 AF-II

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    good value, built like a tank. small size
    no VR/OS

    I picked up a copy of this lens used for a trip to Four Corners - wanted a small long lens for hiking. I used it with a monopod - it doesn't have VR or OS. You'll want a fast shutter speed and may have to up ISO settings to get them.

    This is a good lens for the money, solid build quality and good images. This is the smallest 80-400 out there. I replaced (this with a Sigma 150-500 - NOT the Nikon 80-400) mainly because I wanted OS/VR.

    This is an under-rated lens that outperforms most of its price-point competitors. It's a real bargain used, rarely going for more than $400.

    IQ may not be equal to HIGHER priced lenses (it's equal to or betters its direct competitors or lesser lenses) but you're getting 400mm in an affordable compact package.

    reviewed January 7th, 2009 (purchased for $350)
  • Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    Good all-around carry lens

    I use this as part of my 'light' carry kit - usually paired with a 70-300. If you want, add a Tokina 11-16 for really wide landscapes.

    It's a great all-around lens in a small compact package. Better image quality than the 18-200 - if you're willing to swap lenses, this lens paired with the 70-300 is a FAR superior carry combination.

    I have 'good' glass but sometimes it's just too much to carry around - and some places you really don't want to be carrying a 24-70 and 70-200.

    reviewed January 7th, 2009 (purchased for $580)
  • Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED VR DX AF-S Nikkor

    8 out of 10 points and recommended
    Good 'all-in-one' carry lens
    'jack of all trades, master of none'

    My wife leaves this on all the time - lets her avoid changing lenses (an issue in dusty outdoors environments).

    It does a good job over a wide range and has VR. You WILL notice distortions at the wide end in an urban environment where you have lots of lines. Not an issue in the 'outdoors'.

    Don't expect perfection and be happy with all it does. If you want better IQ, pair the 16-85 with the 70-300. You'll get better images over a wider range - but will have to swap lenses.

    reviewed January 7th, 2009 (purchased for $650)
  • Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR AF Nikkor

    7 out of 10 points and not recommended
    good range, relatively compact
    slow AF - no 'S', older design, pricey for capabilities, bad tripod mount

    I got this lens in a trade - had actually decided NOT to buy it previously. Owning it confirms my previous decision.

    IMO, at this point in time, there are better alternatives out there. Nikon is long overdue for updating this lens.

    If you're serious, you'll want to upgrade the tripod mount - the Nikon foot is horrid.

    It's a good lens but not cost effective at $1400 or more. Change the foot and you've got the price of a 70-200 2.8 VR. The 80-400 is NOT in that league. The Nikon 70-300 VR provides MUCH better value for HALF the money in comparison - if coming up short at 300mm.

    If you're looking at this range, there are cheaper lenses that do as much or more. The new Sigma 120-400 OS and 150-500 OS in particular are great values at under $1000. My Sigma 150-500 gives me longer reach, faster focusing and surprisingly good IQ. My copy was marginally better than the Nikon at 400mm wide open, though the Nikon improved when stepped down. Frankly, I expected more from Nikon at this price point.

    As an alternative, you can spend MORE and go for a 70-200 (a GREAT lens), add a TC and get 'more' overall for only 25% more. This lens is fine with a 1.4 or 1.7 TC, loses some IQ with a 2.0 TC. You'll be soft at 400mm but then the 80-400 is a bit soft at 400mm as well.

    If Nikon ever comes out with an updated version of this lens: AF-S, VRII and perhaps faster (even if offset by a shorter range), It'll be worth looking at.

    In its current form, you get better value spending less or more for something else.

    reviewed January 7th, 2009
  • Nikon 200-400mm f/4G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    great lens
    large (it's the nature of the lens)

    Picked this up used - can be impossible to find new for months at a time. Have used for wildlife and shooting cliff dwellings in the Southwest.

    This is a great lens - meets or exceeds expectations.

    Have a monopod or tripod available for best results though you can handhold and get amazing results with the VR.

    Only possible issue is size - this is NOT an easy lens to deal with in carry-on luggage or on back-country hikes. I usually carry it in the middle of a large Tamrac backpack which is marginal as 'carry-on' for some planes.

    You will also find that you attract an inordinate amount of attention when using this lens.

    You can use a 1.4 TC and get good results.

    Despite Nikon's warnings you CAN get AF with a 1.7 TC in good light but don't depend on it. It will start to hunt as light falls off. You CAN use a 2.0 TC if manually focusing. Having a manual focus screen - like Katzeye - helps.

    This lens will be passed on as part of my estate (like my father's Contax).

    reviewed January 7th, 2009 (purchased for $4,800)
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF VR AF-S Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    great lens

    A 'must-have' lens. This will be passed down as part of my estate.

    I've shot indoor plays, outdoor sports, wildlife, you name it with this lens.

    You can use it with a 1.4 or 1.7 TC without regrets and even with a 2.0 TC with only minor reservations. I find this a great lens for soccer with the 1.4 TC - good field coverage.

    It's not cheap but you'll never regret owning this lens.

    reviewed January 7th, 2009 (purchased for $1,700)
  • Nikon 500mm f/4G IF-ED AF-S VR Nikkor

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    great lens all around
    not cheap, limited availability

    If you need a long lens this will not disappoint.

    This is a great lens with nothing to complain about. Great IQ - even with a 1.4 or 1.7 TC

    Unfortunately the price is high and has gotten higher, and it is not easy to find in stock if you are looking to buy.

    If you have a long lens you're already happy with, do NOT try this one. It will change your level of expectations.

    reviewed April 16th, 2009 (purchased for $7,800)