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I'm looking at two different lenses.

The Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro Lens.

http://www.amazon.com/Tamron-70-200mm-Digital-Cameras-A001NII/dp/B0012GDOQS/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1419193565&sr=8-3&keywords=tamron+70-200mm+f+2.8#dpr-review-summary-widget

Or the Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR.

http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-70-300mm-4-5-5-6G-Digital-Cameras/dp/B000HJPK2C/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420253196&sr=8-1&keywords=nikon+70-300mm

I'm shooing with a Nikon D3200 right now and I would like to get a D52/5300 later on.

I like to shot long exposures, some portraits, every now and then an event, action, and just things that catch my eye.

I don't have a huge budget. I can spend $420.00 USD max! I can get the Nikon lens for $410.00 USD new. I can get the Tamron from a friend for $325.00 USD used, but he has kept it in like new condition.

According to DxO the Nikon lens is not that sharp, but the Tamron is just as sharp as the Nikon 70-200mm VR.

I really like the fast aperture of F/2.8 on the Tamron. The Nikon's aperture is slow, but it has VR to make up for that.(?)

The macro feature on the Tamron is a plus and seems to work well according to "That Nikon Guy".

I have 72mm filters. With a step down ring they should be fine on the 77mm Tamron though because I would be shooing with an FX lens and it would not show up on my APS-C DSLR. (DX)

The build quality on the Tamron seems to be much better in every way!

I plan to test the Tamron out soon.....

The VR on the Nikon looks good though.

What do you think is a better lens and why? Thanks!

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The Tamron AF 70-200mm f/2.8 Di LD IF Macro is generally regarded as having very good optical quality and a fairly slow AF motor. As long as you aren't trying to shoot action/sports it is a pretty good lens.

The Nikon isn't as good optically but might focus a bit faster with the right camera body. VR is good for shooting static scenes at slow shutter speeds in low light, but it is useless for stopping action. For that you need a faster shutter speed. All else being equal, the way to get a faster shutter time is to open up the aperture - which means the f/2.8 aperture is needed when shooting action in marginal light.

At your stated budget level, you're not going to find a lens that has it all: VR, excellent image quality, wide aperture, and fast AF. The Nikon has VR and fast AF, the Tamron has better IQ and f/2.8.

For your stated use cases the most important of these features is:

  • Long exposures: Image quality. Long exposures require a tripod or other type of camera support, so VR isn't an issue. Neither is AF speed when you can carefully focus manually using Live view before taking a long exposure.
  • Portraits: IQ and the wider f/2.8 aperture. Assuming you are shooting in bright enough light, IQ is probably more important than VR. If you're shooting under controlled studio strobe lighting the short length of your flash duration should eliminate any motion blur and again, VR is not a consideration. AF speed depends on the way you shoot portraits. In the studio it is not uncommon to use careful manual focus with wider apertures. Good models can hold a position long enough for slower AF to work. With narrower apertures the depth of field is wide enough that focus accuracy is not as critical. The wider f/2.8 aperture will allow you to blur the background more with the Tamron than the f/4.5-5.6 if the Nikon.
  • Event: It depends. In bright light the faster AF of the Nikon will be an advantage. In lower light fast AF doesn't matter if your shutter time is so slow that everything is blurry even when properly focused. You need both wide aperture and VR when shooting many indoor events. Neither of your two choices shine here, but the Tamron has a slight edge indoors while the Nikon has a slightly larger edge outside in daylight.
  • Action: AF speed and wide aperture. AF speed is a function of both your camera and the lens. With the D3200 the Nikon lens may or may not focus faster than the Tamron. It is more likely to make a difference with a camera such as the D8x0 series, D750, D6x0 series, D500, or D7x00 series than with an entry level D3x00 or D5x00. In anything other than bright daylight you need both fast AF and a wide aperture to allow shutter times 1/500 second or faster. Neither of the lenses you are considering give you both of those.

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