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I currently have a Nikon d3200 and am trying to decide between these two lenses. I understand the sigma can only manual focus on my camera. Im mostly looking to shoot wildlife , landscape or other far distant images and Im interested in trying macro. However, I am curious to how difficult it is to manual focus at farther focal lengths such as 200-300mm especially on my d3200. So in the end should i opt for a 55-200 AF with VR or challenge my skills and shoot manually with the sigma. Any comments are helpful. Thank you.

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    Don't be fooled by telephoto zoom lenses that claim to be "macro" when their MM is only around 0.25X. A true macro lens is usually a prime with maximum magnification of 1.0X (which is the same as a 1:1 reproduction ratio).
    – Michael C
    Feb 18 at 1:34
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    What specific Sigma 70-300mm lens are you considering? Sigma has made and at least a dozen various 70-300mm lens models in F-mount over the years.
    – Michael C
    Feb 18 at 1:35
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    Wildlife is often moving, so not having autofocus can be a big deal. Landscapes you have the time to focus. Longer lenses are more difficult to focus because they are slower, so the image is dimmer. I find live view with a 5 or 10 times magnifier easy to manually focus when I am on a tripod. I have not tried it handheld. Vibration reduction is also a big deal with long lenses. Feb 18 at 3:23
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    I wouldn't buy a lens without vibration reduction. I seem to recall that Nikon puts VR in the camera body, so that may not be an issue for you. For DSLR I have Canon, who puts the VR in the lens (though I think some recent bodies may have VR). I have seen some claims that lens VR is better than body VR, but I haven't read carefully because it isn't an option for me. 300mm on an APS-C sensor is 450mm effective focal length. That is rather short for wildlife, which tends to be far away. Feb 19 at 4:15
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    @RossMillikan No Nikon or Canon DSLR bodies have image stabilization. Both Canon and Nikon chose to put image stabilization in the lens so it could be optimized for specific focal length(s). Both Canon and Nikon have put sensor based IS in some of their newer mirrorless bodies, as well as offering some longer focal length lenses for those cameras with lens based IS to work cooperatively with the body based IS.
    – Michael C
    Feb 19 at 11:23
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I am curious to how difficult it is to manual focus at farther focal lengths such as 200-300mm especially on my d3200. So in the end should I opt for a 55-200 AF with VR or challenge my skills and shoot manually with the sigma?

Manual focus is an acquired skill. It's one that takes lots of practice. Ultimately some folks find it easier or harder to do than others do. It's hard to say how hard you will find it to be.

Back when I started we learned to manually focus because we had to. There was no other way to focus our SLRs. Other than astro work and occasional landscape or architectural work, all of static scenes done from a tripod mounted camera, I haven't voluntarily manually focused a shot in decades.

By using a modern Digital SLR designed for use with autofocus lenses, though, you'll be at a distinct disadvantage compared to us grizzled old-timers that learned manual focus on cameras designed to be manually focused.

  • The viewfinders of pre-AF cameras tended to be larger and brighter than their modern AF counterparts, even on consumer grade cameras. Now only the top pro models tend to have large, bright viewfinders that were more commonplace in the pre-AF era. Even those top end DSLRs don't have VFs as bright and large as some of the top tier pre-AF 35mm cameras did.
  • The viewfinders included manual focus aids not included in DSLRs and other ILCs with AF capability. Split prisms and/or prism collar micro screens were common in SLRs before AF came along. Some cameras had one or the other. Many cameras had both. Other types of cameras often incorporated a parallax rangefinder type of focusing aid.
  • Lenses were also designed to allow finer gradations of focus adjustment. Focus rings on lenses had to be rotated much further to get the same change in focus position that now results from a very small movement with current lenses.

The only thing some DSLRs offer that we didn't have back then is the AF confirmation light, but on many cameras the focus confirmation light has a fairly wide range of tolerance that will tell you a subject is in focus when it's actually anywhere between slightly front and slightly back focused.

I certainly wouldn't want to try to do it today with a moving subject without at least a split prism in the center of the viewfinder. I'm not even sure if my younger self thirty years ago, when I was fairly competent using manual focus with the advantages of brighter VFs, focusing aids, and long throw lenses (and my eyes were also better), could have been able to do it with dimmer VFs, no focusing aids, and short throw lenses without a LOT of additional practice, if ever.

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    I don't know why this got a downvote. Sure, it's grim reality, but it's accurate. I took a manual lens out on a rare outing last week & even at only 55mm I got so few keepers that it's gone back in its box until next time I find it 'appropriate'. At 300mm, by heck you want every modern aid you can get.
    – Tetsujin
    Feb 18 at 19:04
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    @Tetsujin I get lots of downvotes just for writing answers. Sometimes no good deed goes unpunished. If it bothered me I wouldn't be here.
    – Michael C
    Feb 18 at 22:29
  • Thanks for all the comments everyone! Ive just recently gotten into photography and came across this community and am really enjoying it! Looking forward to continue communicating with all of you.
    – Huntap
    Feb 19 at 21:15

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