Photography / Buying Guide

Introduction to Super-Telephoto Lenses

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Bristling along the sidelines of practically every professional sporting event, super-telephoto lenses are known for their ability to reach out and capture distant subjects with exceptional clarity and speed. They feel incredible in the hand, with top-of-the-line build quality and a heft that gives shooters confidence in their equipment. Many feature a variety of switches and buttons that allow users to set up the lens for optimal performance in any situation.

In addition to length, these lenses feature all of the latest technology, such as advanced optical construction, accurate image stabilization, and exceptionally quick autofocus motors. Super telephotos sit at the top of their respective lens lineups because of this assortment of features and capabilities, and being packed with the latest tech ensures that any investment is well worth it. And, fortunately for mirrorless shooters, some new brands and lens lines are finally getting some true super-telephoto additions.

Focal Length

The most important feature of these lenses will always be their focal length. The ability to photograph and record images from an extremely long distance cannot be understated, especially when dealing with subject matter that is inaccessible, easily spooked, or both. The most common use for lenses greater than 300mm would be sports and wildlife, where photographers are prevented from getting close to their subjects.

Prime lenses tend to dominate in terms of quality and length, with Canon’s and Nikon’s current longest offerings sitting at 800mm, though each has released longer models in very limited quantities. This compares to the longest zoom lenses available from these two manufacturers, with options reaching 400mm from both manufacturers and Nikon also offering a 200-500mm lens, both fairly short compared to the primes. Third-party lens manufacturers have been jumping into the super-telephoto game lately, too, with their own offerings, such as Sigma’s 150-600mm, 200-500mm, and 300-800mm lenses, and Tamron's 150-600mm.

800mm focal length

Going down the line, Canon and Nikon feature options at the 600mm, 500mm,400mm, and 300mm focal lengths, and Sony jumps in with 500mm and 300mm A-mount lenses. Sigma also has a few lenses for a variety of different mounts at 800mm, 500mm, and 300mm. For more variety, some companies offer multiple options at each focal length so that users have a selection of items that are more portable or affordable.

Zooms offer the added benefit of versatility, something that can be vital to some shooters who require speed and can’t afford to keep swapping-out different lenses. Lenses like the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR give you a convenient portrait to super-tele range, while the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM provides a very usable focal length range along with the added feature of a built-in 1.4x teleconverter, which will boost the focal length to 280-560mm at the cost of one stop of light. However, zooms have generally been limited to about 600mm, with the exception being the Sigma 300-800mm lens.

Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens with Internal 1.4x Extender

The next thing to consider is sensor size, especially since APS-C cameras come with inherent crop factors that will extend the equivalent focal length. This crop factor makes cameras like the Canon EOS 7D Mark II or Nikon D7200 incredibly useful for sports and wildlife shooters, since they can enjoy more reach and pack somewhat more lightly. This is also where I want to start talking about mirrorless options, since their equivalent focal lengths can be just as long as some of the longest in the DSLR arena.

For example, Micro Four Thirds format sensors offers a 2x crop factor, So Olympus’s 300mm f/4 prime is transformed into a super compact 600mm equivalent optic. MFT also offers a nice selection of zooms, including a 75-300mm from Olympus that is equivalent to 150-600mm and both a 100-300mm and 100-400mm from Panasonic, equivalent to 200-600mm and 200-800mm, respectively. Mirrorless is an interesting option these days when it comes to super telephoto shooting, because the cameras can be made quite small compared to their DSLR brethren, and this means that most of the time, lenses are also smaller. With a 2.7x crop factor, the Nikon CX sensor format exemplifies this smallness with relatively tiny Nikon 1 series bodies and lenses, including a 70-300mm option equivalent to an insane 189-810mm. If you are looking for comparable lenses to use with mirrorless cameras that have less than a 2x crop factor or no crop factor at all, there are options, though with less of a size benefit. Fujifilm offers a 100-400mm for its APS-C X-series cameras that is equivalent to 152-609mm, while Sony has a full-frame-compatible 70-300mm lens, which is on the short end of the discussion but definitely worth a mention in this fledgling lens line.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO Lens

Aperture

The second most important feature of any lens is the aperture. With super telephotos, you will find that extremely fast apertures aren’t as common, and that the fastest options are also significantly larger and more expensive than the more conservative models. If we look at Canon’s 400mm lenses, we will find an f/2.8, an f/4 DO, and an f/5.6. Comparing just the size and weight of these models, we can see the f/2.8 lens is more than double the weight and almost twice as wide. If quality is all that matters, then the f/2.8 would appear to be the better option; however, one must consider one’s needs and decide whether it is worth taking a hike with an 8-lb or a 3-lb lens. This is also where mirrorless can be a good decision, since a 300mm f/4 for Micro Four Thirds is going to be way smaller than any 600mm option for full-frame DSLRs.

The f/2.8 lens is more than double the weight and almost twice as wide as the f/5.6

Most extreme telephotos will sport an aperture closer to f/5.6, which is the limit for most modern-day autofocus systems (some do offer limited shooting at f/8). This is mostly due to size: an 800mm lens with an f/2.8 aperture would be impractical for the everyday shooter and would not be easy to transport.

Faster apertures do have a couple of key benefits that are worth mentioning. Primarily, more light will be reaching the sensor, enabling faster shutter speeds and lower ISOs for better images and overall quality. This will also improve your viewing quality, as well as AF speed and performance, as the sensor can better “see” what is happening in the scene. Next, there will be more separation between your subject and the background, due to shallower depth of field.

Zoom lenses will usually feature variable apertures, which keeps overall lens size down, though some do manage to maintain a constant maximum aperture, such as the impressive Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. These options are generally slower than their prime-lens counterparts, but can still be useful in a variety of situations, especially considering the ISO ranges possible on the latest digital cameras.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens

Image Stabilization

Elaborate image stabilization is almost necessary when attempting to handhold lenses at these focal lengths. The reasons for this are that the longer lengths show more camera shake, and the heft of these lenses makes them exponentially more difficult to handhold, which is why they are often found mounted on a monopod or tripod. Modern day advancements from Nikon, Canon, and some third-party manufacturers are rated for more than four stops of compensation, exceptionally useful when trying to shoot handheld. In-body stabilization from some manufacturers, such as Sony, does replace the need for optical stabilization and can allow the use of adapted telephoto lenses without losing this critical technology.

Another of the benefits found in super telephotos is the multiple IS modes available. Usually, there are specific settings for panning and general handheld shooting. This allows shooters, like those working on monopods at a sporting event, to track horizontal motion more easily in the scene and capture it. A side benefit to image stabilization is that it will usually stabilize your viewfinder, as well as your final image. This makes composition much easier, since the image you see won’t be jittery and shaking.

Autofocus

Focusing quickly and efficiently is a priority with super-telephoto lenses, especially relating to their use in action and sports photography. While much of this is reliant on the camera and user, the inclusion of a supersonic or ultrasonic motor does a lot to ensure speedy, quiet focusing. These lenses also benefit from the inclusion of multiple settings on the physical lens, such as a focus limiter that will focus on subjects within a certain range, or from a specific distance and farther. This means that the camera will not waste time hunting throughout the long focus range of the lens.

Other features include an AF lock button that will stop focusing so that users can prepare for a certain shot or position. Also, focus presets can be available on certain lenses to automatically return the focus distance to a specific setting. Additionally, these lenses will generally have a manual override option that will assist in fine-tuning focus.

Optical Technologies

Nearly every piece of optical technology is utilized in super-telephoto lenses, from nano coatings to prevent flaring to fluorite elements that control aberrations. Most common are extra-low dispersion elements, which work with other elements, like fluorite and, to a lesser extent, aspherical, to produce the sharpest, most detailed images possible by reducing visible aberrations and correcting for distortion.

Diffractive optics, or Phase Fresnel, can be found in some of Canon and Nikon’s offerings and are able to dramatically decrease the size and weight of a lens without compromising on image quality. The Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM and Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR are the latest such examples and will even reduce the amount of chromatic aberration visible in the final image, due to the dispersion characteristics of the diffractive element.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR Lens

Anti-reflective coatings are found on nearly all lenses nowadays, and super telephotos are no exception. Each manufacturer has its own version, such as Canon’s Super Spectra Coating, Nikon’s Nano Crystal Coat, and Sony’s Nano AR Coating. These coatings help eliminate flare and ghosting by reducing internal reflections. Also, many super telephotos have an additional fluorine or water- and dust-repellent coating on the front and rear elements that will allow users to clean their lenses easily when water or oil come in contact with the glass.

Filtration can be a challenge for these lenses, as most have front elements much larger than your standard screw-on options. Adding filters to the lenses is, instead, accomplished through the use of drop-in type filters that fit into dedicated holders found near the rear of the lens and keep filter size significantly smaller than would be needed with front-mounted filters.

Construction

As they stand at the top of their lens lineups, these lenses are built to the highest standards, using materials like magnesium alloy to increase strength and keep the lenses lightweight. In addition to this, they are weather–sealed to ensure that the lens will keep functioning, even when out on the field during a rainstorm, or while trekking through a rainforest on a search for an elusive creature.

Now, one common question is, “why are so many super-telephoto lenses white?” The explanation is simple: since these lenses have a larger surface area and are constantly being used in the great outdoors, a white finish on the lens barrel reflects some of the sunlight and reduces the chances that any critical elements or parts will expand due to heat and throw things out of alignment during shooting. Realistically, however, the actual amount of heat gain is probably negligible and, with the durable build quality of these lenses, users of black lenses shouldn’t worry about it.

Teleconverters

Many super-telephoto lenses are compatible with teleconverters to further extend their reach. These will magnify the image by 1.4, 1.7, or 2x without sacrificing important features like autofocus or image stabilization. This additional reach does cost one to two stops, depending on the magnification of the teleconverter. Compatibility can also be an issue for some lenses and cameras, as teleconverters have a glass element that can come into contact with the rear element of some lenses. Also, with a loss of light, some cameras’ AF systems may not be able to function.

Canon Extender EF 1.4X III

Alternative Lens Options

Many photographers will find that these lenses fall well outside their personal budgets and needs, but this doesn’t mean that they should be left out of the super-telephoto world. Many budget options are available, though without the plethora of features and abilities of their more famous big brothers.

Catadioptric lenses, also known as mirror or reflex lenses, are one of these options. They utilize mirrors in their optical design and are much shorter and lighter in weight than standard optics. However, because of this design they have a fixed aperture setting, are almost exclusively manual focus, and the central obstruction produces a distinct doughnut-shaped bokeh.

Bower 500mm f/6.3 Manual Focus Telephoto T-Mount Lens

There are some standard super telephotos and zooms available without the corrective optics and fancy optical designs that make lenses sharper and more compact. These lenses tend to be a bit slower and have all-manual controls but, if you can’t afford the latest and greatest or are simply looking for an entryway to super telephotos, any lens is better than no lens at all!

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How would yu compare the optical quality of the two Sigma 150-600mm lenses and the new Tamron?

Hi David,

It's going to be hard for me to judge the lenses not having used all of them, but per Sigma the Sport version should provide better optical quality than the Contemporary. And, the Tamron should be equal or greater than Sigma's Sport version. 

You make mirror lenses sound like a low class choice. I am VERY happy with my 1,000 mm Nikor.

Hi Larry,

I'm really glad that you are super happy with your lens, a 1000mm Nikkor has to be a great sight. But coming from a technical standpoint, a true telephoto lens will provide better optical quality and features than a mirror lens, which is why they are presented in such a way. Many people find them great choices though for many reasons.

When I was in Korea in '81, I bought a Soligor 500mm mirror lens for my 35mm Minolta SLR to take pictures of North Korean guardposts and odd and sundry North Korean activity in the DMZ.  Given that this was an out of pocket purchase to substitute for expensive Nikon gear which the local Military Intelligence unit had allowed to be stolen, I certainly wasn't going to buy a $1,000 lens for the U.S. Army to use for free.  The images which I obtained were perfectly adequate for the task at hand.

Having somehow misplaced the Soligor, I recently bought a 500mm Opteka mirror lens (with 2x teleconverter) to use on my Canon T4i.

Despite my upfront statements that I understood the limitations of budge mirror lenses, some people told me how much I'd hate this lens.  In fact, it's no worse than the Soligor, and probably a little bit faster.

I didn't buy this lens to sell images to National Geographic.  It was simply a tool to allow me to get images I otherwise couldn't obtain with my existing 70-300mm zoom.  For what amounts to an idle amusement infrequently indulged in, I'd have to be a fool to spend $800 and up on what amounts to a toy.

Due to hideous Cleveland winter weather, I haven't had much opportunity to use it, but on those rare decent days, I've been able to get a few decent shots out of it, some of which I posted to a photography forum.  Someone posted words to the effect of, "I wouldn't put my name on those pictures!  They look like they were taken with a $100 lens!", to which I replied, "It's a $119 lens and worth every penny!"

What is the pixel quality of a 4/3 Olympus with 300mm pro at equivalent 600mm vs a true full frame sensor using a true 600mm prime?  A head to head competition will determine the future direction of lens and bodies. If it is a tie,  then the smaller lighter systems will eventually win like in computers etc. 

Hi Karl,

There are so many variables here, but all things equal a full-frame sensor should provide better low light performance by a significant margin, which can lead to improved AF in many situations. And, it will likely provide a higher resolution. But, as always, this all comes down to personal preferences and needs, and the specific lens and camera combination.

I,m anxiously waiting for the Olympus 300 mm f4 pro. I'm sure that the future, even for pros, is compact size. Sony and Oly are leading the way to the future. Think than Nikon and Canon should reconsider the speed of their tranformation or they will be overpassed.

The Olympus 300 mm f4 Pro was available  in Tokyo recently, but the yen price is higher by about $500 at the current exchange rate than the so-far announced dollar price, so I'm waiting for B&H.  It was good to see, in person, that it's compact and lightweight, considering its speed.  So is the Panasonic 100-400 mm zoom.  

I may be too late to ask, but my Camera is a Nikon D-5100 with an18-55 and a 55-300 MM zoom lenses.  I love the camera & lneses and am still learning how to use them.  I would love a longer zoom lens, 400-800 MM but can't ever see affording one (I like night/moon & landscape as well as up close).  Suggestions on something that would keep auto focus and not totally blure or darken the images would be welcomed.

Doesn't HAVE to be a Nikon lens, compatible is fine with me.

Thanks in advance.

Try the Tamron 150-600mm lens. I use iut on one of my two Nikon D7100's, and I am very satisfied. At about $1000, it is a bargain compared to the Nikon and Canon offerings, and in my opinion, the Image Quality is comparable enough to produce very satisfying results.

Gregg, I'd suggest renting the new Nikon 200-500mm lens. At $1399 it's close enough to the cost of the Tamrons or Sigma's new 'standard' long lens. Remember- for anything taking a photo worth keeping you'll be spending $1,000 or more for a good telephoto-telephoto zoom. I wasn't as happy with the Tamron as the Canon 100-400mm after trying each by renting but have friends that LOVE their Tamron 150-600mm lenses. Yes, the Canon is double the money but you have to think of it as a long term investment- and whether it suits your needs or not. 

Finally- I think you'll be surprised at the quality of the images compared to your 'kit' lenses- fine for just starting out but the better Canon/Nikon and even the better 'after market' glass will amaze you in crops- large prints.

The Sigma 150-500 sport is a super, but heavy lens--and it works well with the Sigma apo 1.4x teleconverter  

As mentioned above, the Tamron 150-600mm and Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens for Nikon would both be relatively inexpensive options for the D5100, and both would retain autofocus on your camera.  That being said, you might also see if you could find a used Sigma 150-500mm lens for Nikon.  A used version of the lens shouldn’t run too much, and would be fully compatible with the D5100.  It was a very popular lens for wildlife and bird photographers before being replaced by the 150-600mm models by Sigma. 

I have a Nikon D600 and a D7100 and my compromise long lens was the Nikon 200–400 f/4. Because both cameras are about 24 megapixels the D7100's crop sensor gives me more reach (mind you with slightly smaller pixels). I can handhold it for a while as it has VR but usually prefer to use a monopod. 

Good article - with one glaring exception in this sentence: "The next thing to consider is sensor size, especially since APS-C cameras come with inherent crop factors that will extend the equivalent focal length. " What a crop sensor does is change the field of view, not the focal length. An 800mm lens is an 800mm lens whether it's on a full frame camera, a crop sensor, or a 4 X 5.

Hello Bill,

Thanks for reading, but please understand that these articles are written in a manner that simplifies some topics in order to allow both beginners and veterans to understand. Crop factor is an interesting, hotly debated topic that we have addressed most recently in this article. And while you are correct, that it does not change the focal length, the use of an "equivalent" focal length has become a common way to explain the "cropping" of the image circle by a smaller image sensor and for many is the the best method for equating the cropped field of view into a more relatable focal length measurement.

Shawn,

While I understand your response that you need to keep it simple or brief and to the point, Bill's point is important, in that from a FOV perspective, you could accomplish the same in a large sensor camera by merely cropping.  

When presenting an article that is outlining benefits of lenses that cost from $1,000 to $5,000, details can be important. The DOF and light gathering capabilities (equivalent f#) when using on a crop sensor is a trade off that needs to be conveyed along with the benefiting FOV.

Overall, this article is very well written and informative. Sorry that I didn't read it a year ago.

It is extremely difficult to get good photos with prime long lenses. Whether shooting fast moving birds, animals or hockey players, it is virtually impossible to successfully track the unpredictable action without using a zoom lens, finding the subject at the wide end of the lens, then crashing in and getting the shot at the long end.

Further, most extreme long primes are too slow (5.6 or slower) for fast-moving wildlife, and too bulky for wilderness shooting. A big heavy lens means you need a big heavy tripod to put it on. As Robert Capa famously said, if your pictures aren't any good, then you aren't close enough. You'll have a lot more luck getting closer to wildlife if you aren't dragging a lot of heavy equipment with you. I've shot mountain gorillas in Rwanda, polar bears in northern Canada, and monkeys in Bangladesh. My experience always suggests that taking the time to get as close as possible to subjects like these is much more productive than trying to shoot with super long lenses from a distance.

Unless your goal is just to show off on photo safaris by having the longest lens of the group (something I've witnessed many times), you are much better off using a moderately long, fast  zoom lens, then blowing up the image with your photo-editing software, when you'll have the luxury of framing the shot exactly as you want it.

Hi, Peter , my name is Daisy, l love shooing wildlife animals especially birds. I have Nikon d7100 with lens 55-300mm . I do not satisfy the photos that I took and keep thinking change a better lens, more close to the subject , more clearly of the subject . I read all the comments and I felt yours make more sense . Can you give me some suggestion of which is the better lens that I should buy to maintain my goal with my Nikon D7100. Thank you, I will be appreciated .

Thelens I most often use for wildlife is the higher end Nikon 70-300mm zoom which costs around $500-600. Some of the best wildlife photos I've ever  made were shot with this lens and for the price it is hard to beat! I use it with a Nikon D7000.

Capa was a  photo journalist that died in 1954.  He photographed the Spanish Civila war along with many others and WW2.  They didn't have extreme Telephoto lenses then.  As far as wildlife shooting, Wildlife is smarter than all the humans on this planet.  The top predators can smell us miles away, so getting close is usually slim.  Getting close to any of the Apex Predators is just beyond stupid.  When you go out to shoot wildlife take out a spotter with you and the best thing to wear are running shoes.  I had an assistant that saw my shoes and said, you actually think you can out run Bears?  I said nope, I just have to outrun you.  

  You can only crop so far before you just end up with a second rate or junk image.  Sometimes the saying "Go Big or Go Home" really matters.  

Having photographed wildlife, not as a profession, for over thirty years I've experienced a number of long lenses like, Questar 700mm, Leitz Telyt 400mm, both with doublers and finally settled on a Zeiss Diascope 85 T FL, which provides 1000mm and can be doubled, but difficult at 2000mm. Wondering why that approach hasn't been mentioned?

The use of teleconverter was touched upon in the article and praised their ability to provide 1.4, 1.7 or 2x magnification, while in many cases, also be able to provide autofocus and stabilization. Use of use of Catadioptric lenses like that Questar 700mm were also noted, but are not ideal for many popular uses of Super Telephoto lenses such as sports, or wildlife in motion. Using a scope like the Zeiss Diascope 85 T FL is another method that could be used, (we delved into this a bit further in this article here) but for our purposes here we were attempting to keep focus on lenses directly compatible with todays DSLRs.

There are also a lot of bird and wildlife photographers that would die for a Questar Field Model. I would agree you can forget about moving objects.

Where is Olympus micro 4/3 300 mm prime??   waiting !!!

I have it and have never gotten very good results with it, especially at 300 mm. I think I have some sort of palsy.

I mean a PRIME 300mm, not a zoom.  Suposed to be available in 2015 and no wod yet.

I have an OMD-M5 and waiting anxiously for their "Pro" series 300mm. I was told it woud be out by the "Holidays". Whatever that means. Also I hope their new 1.4X teleconverter will work with this lens. An awsome combination, in my opinion. I got tired of carrying monster Nikon bodies and lenses and love these small cameras.

My thought exactly.  Also wondering abut the price tag....Could be out of sight for me.   Regards.   Silently Waiting Ed

Unfortunately, we do not have a price from Olympus at this time for their M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 PRO Lens.  If you haven’t already, you could choose the Notify Me When In Stock option on the lens’s page on our site.  We would then send you an email when we received more information about the lens.

Unfortunately, I’m not finding an ETA in our system for the Olympus 300mm f/4 PRO Lens.  If you haven’t already, you could choose the Notify Me When In Stock option on the lens’s page on our site.  We would then send you an email when we received more information about the lens, such as when it is in stock. 

Can't find that option when I went to site.  ??????

If you look on the Right Hand side of the screen, where the Add to Cart button is typically located, there will be a button that says Notify Me When in Stock.  If you click on that button , you will be able to enter in your email address. 

i suspect I already did it   

high crop factor will not give you the same effect that a longer lense does on a full frame body, in some cases there will be a noticeable deterioration of IQ (image quality).

Nikon, what happen to Nikon, oops! Test any Nikon lens and you'll see why Mr. Steiner failed to mention them in this article. Nikon is a class of their own, powerful lenses- tested perfection! If you feel they cost too much buy another brand or become a professional and play with the big boys...

For me the Sigma wins becaus  the price  factor also caunt.

Me interesa tener informacion.

Si necesita mas informacion, Sugerimos envie un mensaje de correo electronico con las preguntas especificas que desee evacuar.  askbh@bandh.com

This was a nice talk on these telephoto and super telephoto lenses. My problem though, is how you leaned heavily on Canon lenses, photos and all, while not showing even one Nikon product, other than what looked like A Nikon 400MM lense at the top of the page and the small photo of an 800 MM at the bottom of the page.

Hey guys, let's get some eveness on these products, OK?

This is a reasonably good article but, "This crop factor makes cameras like the 7D Mark II incredibly useful for sports and wildlife shooters, since they can enjoy more reach, yet pack somewhat more lightly." Part of this comment is inaccurate and missleading and is a common missunderstanding. A crop factor body does NOT give more reach, it it just gives you the equivelent angle of view of a longer lens.

Thank you for this piece of information, it was indeed helpful and good to share as well with beginers 

Es posible encontrar este artículo sobre lentes en español?

very nice article

Awesome

Interesting article, but no surprises. Henry's comment on the telescope as a prime lens has some merit, as I own a few of my own. Telescopes are designed for finite focal length meaning their limited in their ability to focus on close objects. Often the light gathering design washes out the highlights at f8 or f9 with large prime apertures such as 200-300mm . The glass is coated for aberration but not for reflective bounce between lenses as astronomers are night dwellers and have very little light available.

I own a Canon 6D which has great sensitivity for low light, better than the 5DmkIII which my partner owns. Unlike the 7DII it is a full frame sensor the same as the 5D. The Cannon EF 100-400 f4.5-5.6 IS II USM is a really nice lens for its price. I use this lens for birds and wildlife and it copes well at low light. I recently purchased a Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM telephoto zoom and it is the best value for money lens on the market under $1,000.00. It is comparable with my canon 100-400mm and I might even say its auto focus is quicker and more defined, I highly recommend having a look. If you want a versitile lens for travelling, Sigma 50-500mm f4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM is a great companion with a wider zoom in the kit or a Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lightwieght high power zoom might be the all in one lens for the next trip again less than $1000.00 (not for macro uses sorry).

There are other lenses on the market that are lower in price than the Canon and Nikon that will provide you good clean pictures, maybe not as fast, but that is the compromise. I would love a 600mm prime, but unless I win the lottery, it will always be a dream.

Just my two cents. I am a Canon 5D MK III user, and have a main lens 24-70mm zoom f 2.8 L series lens. It is a great lens, but not close to my prime lenses, 80mm f2.8 L series and a 200mm f 2.8 L series, nice lenses but not a super telephoto.  I use these lenses often.

After reading extensivly about lenses that produce the most chromatic distortions, it is obvious that the more lens surfaces within a lens the more distortion. This is not an argument point, but fact. If you really want to get up close and clear, get away from high lens counts and IS.  

Having a super telephoto lens is nice but won't get used much unless you are a wildlife or sports photographer.

If you want an inexpensive but high quality super telephoto lens, and I have photos to back up my claim, is a small telescope, with a field flattener and a "T" adapter. There are pros, and cons, but the images are astounding! The CONS are 1/ no aperature adjustment, fixed. 2/ awkard, 3/ need a tripod, 4/ hard to focus, 5/ don't "connect" to camera's auto mode, 5/ 8 foot min focus distance. The PROS are 1/ very flat image, 2/ no DOF, nice pop to what is in focus, 3/ super tack sharp images, with fine detail. I have a very small William Optics Zenithstar SD 60mm f 5.9 APO Doublet (380mm focal length) with a field flattener, and a "T" adapter. There is a ROUGH and a FINE focus. The overall length without the camera is 15".

It is the equivelant of a spotting scope with a minimum of lens surfaces. It doesn't matter what sort of camera you mount this gem to, with some practice it will produce some stunning images.

A lot about Canon, some about Nikon, a little about Sigma but nothing at all about Tamron?

Great article that helped me to better understand all the subtleties of the various telephoto lenses. It would have been nice to include prices or price ranges within the article. I know that they can be looked up but it would be nice to have them all in one place.  Nevertheless, well done.

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