I have a Nikon D5100 and it's my first dSLR. I've played with the kit lens for a while and now want to explore the zoom category. I've shortlisted these 70-300mm lenses:

  • Nikon AF Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6G
  • Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro
  • Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 DG Macro

I don't have a problem with the manual focus, but I intend to use the lens handheld in daylight without a tripod. Are there any recommendations? I'm on budget and I don't expect super crisp photos.

  • Handheld, you'll need a VR lens. May 12, 2013 at 10:24
  • @RedGrittyBrick what if I follow the 1/mm sec shutter speed rule ?
    – Sourav
    May 12, 2013 at 11:47
  • @Sourav - An open-ended "which should I buy" is less than useful I think. I think you'll get better answers with pros/cons/features comparison request. Right now, I think you'll get opinion responses.
    – Joanne C
    May 12, 2013 at 13:26
  • 1
    This is technically a duplicate of Which 70-300mm f4-5.6 lens is “better?” except that the answer to that isn't all that good.
    – Joanne C
    May 12, 2013 at 13:33
  • 1
    I have an older version of the Tamron in a Canon mount. The best I can say about it is that it's not terrible between 70 and 200 and absolutely atrocious at 300. May 12, 2013 at 14:24

2 Answers 2


Any of those lenses will be fairly comparable. They all have their positives and negatives...

I have the Nikkor lens which I picked up as my first zoom in that range to use on film and it is what it is, it's built to a price and that shows. It's not the sharpest at 300mm but (although that also makes it light if you plan to carry it around). Because of the popularity and price you should be able to pick it up more cheaply on the second hand market than the others.

Without the AF motor in the D5100 I suspect you're going to get fed up with manual focus sooner rather than later. Ideally you'll want one with a motor built in like the Nikon AF-S version. And without VR or the equivalent, none of them will be stellar without good light.

A lot of the reviews of all the lenses report softness, which will be partially down to the users not adjusting their shutter speed to reflect increased travel (1/focal length is often a good rule of thumb).

A quick poll of reviews on DPReview of the Tamron and the Sigma seem to concentrate on the AF being slow, which it is on the longer lenses anyway. Both the Tamron & Sigma reviews note purple fringing at long lengths, which is every bit as bad as the reported softness of the Nikon. The Tamron has the closest macro focus range of all three and the sigma lenses seem to be pulling in the best user ratings.

  • Will request you to post some shots [preferably handheld at various mm]
    – Sourav
    May 12, 2013 at 11:45
  • Can do, I'll have to go dig it out as I have an 80-200 f/2.8d which is my main zoom nowadays so it won't be today. May 12, 2013 at 12:31
  • Please post the photos with handheld with in days, as your photos will be helpful for me !
    – Sourav
    May 14, 2013 at 2:00
  • Hello There !!!
    – Sourav
    May 17, 2013 at 2:27
  • I had a look for it today and I don't have it, it probably got loaned to someone with a couple of other unused pieces of kit and I won't be seeing them again for a good few months. Sorry May 17, 2013 at 22:13

I just bought one of those lenses on your list. The Sigma 70-300 f/4-5.6 DG Macro.

But, unlike your camera, mine has in-body image stabilization by means of sensor shift. And so far I've kept it turned On. The camera is also new to me ;) Anyway, I went out today and turned the SteadyShot Off. It was a bright day today, and shutter speeds were high enough that handheld shooting was possible, but needed a few shots to get a sharp one captured. Or at least as sharp as my camera allows for.

You asked for handheld samples, so that's what I did. The camera is an entry level 16 megapixel Sony SLT A37. I did lean on a park bench, elbows on knees or whatever I could find at the beach, but the camera is in my hands (and somewhat protruding into my eyesocket) and not touching anything else.

300 mm, 1/400 sec, ISO 400, distance to target ~32 meters

300 mm, 1/800 sec, ISO 100 distance to target 12 meters

300 mm, 1/200 sec, ISO 100, distance to target 17 meters

I could not show the photos inline. Uploader got stuck. Maybe because these jpeg-photos are straight out from camera and there is possibly something that "imgur" does not get right. I did not want to ride them thru an editor of any kind.

While trying to steady the camera with that zoom pulled out to full length, I found it hard to keep my left hand so near the camera body. Focusing part is turning and the farthest away part of the lens I can hold is the zoom ring. That is not very far from camera body. Good grip on the zoom ring, no complaints, but shooting handheld with 300mm focal length is a bit on the wild side. Not even mentioning exact framing and composition. You just point and shoot, then crop the excess away later.

Focusing may be slow, I would not know if it is or is not. But the focusing motor is definitely not silent, especially noticeable when mounted on a quiet Sony SLT camera. Edit: there is no focusing motor in this lens. Sony A37 has in-body focusing motor that does the job.

  • Thnx a ton :) (:
    – Sourav
    May 18, 2013 at 1:39

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