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I'm looking for a lightweight telephoto lens for my Nikon D700 body, with a focal length around 300mm, good sharpness and AF. After several days with the 70-200 vrII handheld, I found this lens too big and heavy. I usually prefer the prime lenses, but all the good ~300mm prime I know weight 1.5kg or more.

I will use it mostly for sport, wildlife and landscape. A bonus point if it is bright enough for a use in dark concert stages :)

The only two lightweight options I considered for now are

  • Nikon 70-300mm VR (750g, F5.6@300mm)
  • Nikon 180mm (760g) + 1.4x TC (F4@250mm)

Have you any recommandation on these possibilities ? e.g. with third party lenses. I'm in love with my 85mm 1.4G, but I have the feeling that I won't be able to get the same quality at 300mm without carrying expensive kilos of glasses.

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This would fail the F-stop requirement, but does anyone make an AF mirror tele in a Nikon mount? I haven't used one in ages, but 500mm in a lightweight package can be done with a mirror lens, you just end up with a (fixed) F-stop around 8. –  David Rouse Jan 4 '13 at 13:58
    
Also I don't know if Nikkor make any but what about Diffactive Optics? The Canon 400mm f/4 L DO is remarkably light for what it is!!! Is there a Nikon equivalent? –  Mike Jan 4 '13 at 14:01
    
+1 for the AF mirror lens. I will investigate to see if the AF on mirror lens are fast enough for sport and wildlife. –  Emile Jan 4 '13 at 14:09

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Lightweight fast telephotos don't exist, physics puts some limits on the amount of glass required. You are not going to find anything brighter than f/5.6 under a kilogram.

The only f/5.6 lenses that cover 300mm seem to be all zooms, and many of them low cost options so the image quality is not great. If you've ruled out the weight of the Nikon 300 f/4 (1.5KG) then the 70-300 VR is probably your best option. The 180 f/2.8 is not listed as being compatible with the Nikon TC14E, a third party teleconverter might be compatible but quality will suffer and you're still short of 300mm.

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You're right, the 180 f/2.8 is compatible for example with a Kenko 1.4 300 Pro DG TC. I know the 70-300 quality is not as "bad" as other low cost telezoom, especially under 250mm. But how does it compare with other alternatives at 300mm ? –  Emile Jan 4 '13 at 14:02

Alternatively more MegaPixels and good technique can cut weight by going to a shorter focal length. Trading in the D700 for a D800 triples your pixel count, then you could effectively multiply your current lens focal lengths by 1.5 through cropping and good shooting technique. ~ Another vote for lightweight and telephoto don't mix. I'm wanting Nikon AF-S medium tele f2.8 primes at 105mm or 135mm and 16 oz. They could make it but apparently they do not want to.

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Really you seem to have done your research already. There are a few more similar lenses, from Sigma and Tamron but they will not save you much weight and certainly not improve on image quality and AF-speed. As you noticed, lightweight and quality telephoto do not mix.

What is left is for you to consider the total weight of your system instead. Maybe you can replace more than one lens with a longer zoom ratio one. Quality is not top-notch but still can be good enough given the constraints. Something like the Nikkor AF-S 28-300mm F/3.5-5.6 ED VR maybe.

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