This issue we test and review four affordable super-tele zooms from the likes of Nikon, Sigma and Tamron
Photographers can be a greedy bunch. However much telephoto reach we have, we often hanker after a little more, and there are various ways of achieving this. The starting point for most of us is to buy either a 70-200mm f2.8 or 70-300mm f4-5.6 tele zoom. You can boost the former to 400mm with a 2x tele-converter, or gain an effective 450mm focal length by mounting the latter on an APS-C format body (480mm for Canon).
Another option is to buy a wellestablished super-tele zoom like the
Canon 100-400mm or Nikon 80-400mm. However, if you are used to shooting with a 70-300mm lens on an APS-C format camera, and have moved up to full-frame, you might still feel a bit short-changed when it comes to outright reach. Next up are the Canon 200-400mm and Nikon 180400mm lenses which feature built-in 1.4x tele-converters, but they’re monstrously expensive at around £11,000/$12,000 apiece, and monster prime lenses also tend to be very pricey.
Offering a more manageable and affordable solution, Sigma and Tamron have pushed the boundaries with their recent 150-600mm super-tele zooms. Nikon has responded with a 200-500mm lens which, while it doesn’t quite match the others for zoom range or maximum reach, isn’t far off. And the Nikon is similarly competitive in terms of price.
One thing you won’t get with a zoom lens that’s sufficiently lightweight for handheld shooting, yet stretches to 500mm or 600mm, is a ‘fast’ aperture rating. This makes image stabilisation an absolute must. It’s featured in all of the lenses in this test group, apart from the Sony A-mount edition of the Tamron, which relies on incamera stabilisation instead. Let’s take a closer look at what the current contenders have to offer.