Decisions, decisions

Volume 10, Issue 53; 25 May 2007; last modified 08 Oct 2010

The Sigma 10-20mm or the Nikon 70-300mm VR?

I'm going to get a new piece of glass for my birthday this year. I have an affinity for prime lenses, but in my price range, the top contenders are both zooms: the Sigma 10-20mm and the Nikon 70-300mm.

Back in the 80's, when I had my first SLR (a Minolta SRT 101), I bought a 135mm macro to complement the beautiful 50mm f/1.4 lens that it came with. It was years before I bought a wide angle, a Vivitar 28mm, and after I did, I couldn't believe I'd waited so long. It was easily the most useful lens in my bag.

Remembering the utility of that wide angle, and knowing how hard it can be to get far enough away from city cathedrals and other landmarks, makes me inclined towards the 10-20mm.

But my D80 came with an 18-135mm zoom. On a APS-C DSLR, 18mm is roughly the same as 27mm on a 35mm film camera, so I've already got the wide end covered as fully as I ever did.

There's a lot to be said for that extra 8mm though:

On the other hand, I've never owned a really big telephoto and that 70-300mm zoom is equivalent to 105-450mm on a 35mm camera. It also comes with “vibration reduction” technology; that makes it awfully attractive. It had no trouble taking a sharp photo of the clock, the tiny white square left of center in the image above, hand held rather carelessly at 1/80th which seems pretty impressive to me.

I think the 10-20mm is going to win out, but I'm going to agonize for a few more days first. Which ever one wins, the other has “christmas” written all over it.

By the way, the composite photo above was composed from “real data”, individual images that I took with the lenses in question. But it isn't really three images, it's just overlaid rectangles scaled to the correct size and lined up as best I could. The layers tool is your friend.


Where you travelling between now and Christmas, if it's cities, go for the wide angle, if you're doing anything where there's good animals to play with grab the 300mm one, you can have great fun with that sort of zoom.

—Posted by Jim Ley on 26 May 2007 @ 04:03 UTC #

FWIW, I'd go for the wide; it's a much more versatile lens. Hand-holding the 300 will be tricky in anything except static circumstances (usually not what you use a long lens for), or with very bright light.

Also, if you haven't seen it, Ken Rockwell has done a good comparison of wide zoom choices for Nikon digital.

—Posted by Mark Nottingham on 27 May 2007 @ 03:08 UTC #

I already have the Sigma 70..300mm Apo zoom, which has a decent but not outstanding quality. And lacking VR of course ;-(

The other day I spoke a professional (wedding) photographer, who never uses the VR option because it adds a slight delay. Just one opinion, but I had not considered that yet.

The additional FoV with the 10mm is huge; makes my decision slightly easier.

One day I might feel rich enough to replace the 18..70 kit AND the 70..300 Sigma with a Nikon 18..200 mm VR lens, but that has to wait....

—Posted by Joe on 14 Jun 2007 @ 08:42 UTC #