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08-17-2015, 07:17 AM   #1
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comparison of 400mm lenses

I currently have the Tokina 400mm AT-X SD f.5.6; which I'm very pleased with the image results. However, it is rather handicapping, with the fixed lens, that I have to move back, etc., to get a different view, or to even get the entire subject in the image, which sometimes results in the subject being frightened away.

I'm wondering about the quality (sharpness, etc.) between my lens and these:

Sigma 120-400 F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM
Tokina AT-X 80-400 F4.5-5.6 ver. II

Thanks in advance for any opinions!

08-17-2015, 12:42 PM   #2
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If you don't mind playing on the used market, get a sigma APO70-200/2.8 EX. Non GDG non macro, and a sigma 2x TC. Great quality and flexibolity
08-17-2015, 04:32 PM   #3
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All of my equipment has come from MarketPlace right here, so I don't mind the used market in the least. Since I already have a 400mm, I really don't want to go to a shorter lens, even with a TC.
08-17-2015, 10:23 PM   #4
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The reason I mention it is because it is a) available usually, and b) offers additional flexibility, because you can shoot with no TC at F2.8 ( and this lens ins sharp wide open) or use one of two different TCs that work very well with this lens. It is extremely flexible. You may want to consider having also a second body, and use the zoom with a 1.4x TC for "in close" work.

You may also find the zoom focuses closer than the prime.

08-18-2015, 02:40 AM - 1 Like   #5
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The Sigma 120-400 can be delightfully sharp if stopped down to f8, but is slow to focus. I have found it to be a very useful walk-around or hiking lens for when I need longer reach but can't carry my Sigma 500 f4.5 and tripod etc. Nonetheless, I have no bought the Pentax 150-450 and I would describe that as being better quality and focus speed.

Attached is a photo taken recently with the 120-400 (no editing except resize and taken with K5IIS at 400mm and f9
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PENTAX K-5 II s  Photo 
08-18-2015, 06:25 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by csa Quote
I currently have the Tokina 400mm AT-X SD f.5.6; which I'm very pleased with the image results. However, it is rather handicapping, with the fixed lens, that I have to move back, etc., to get a different view, or to even get the entire subject in the image, which sometimes results in the subject being frightened away.

I'm wondering about the quality (sharpness, etc.) between my lens and these:

Sigma 120-400 F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM
Tokina AT-X 80-400 F4.5-5.6 ver. II

Thanks in advance for any opinions!
I am not familiar with the Tokina AT-X 400/5.6, but I am very familiar with the Tokina AT-X 80-400/4.5-5.6 AF-II. As much as I dearly LOVE my AT-X 80-400/4.5-5.6 AF-II, I would have to point out that it less sharp and less contrasty at 400mm than at other FL's (of course, for many long zooms, being softer at their longest FL is pretty common). Therefore, I think you'd likely be disappointed in IQ at the one FL that you are used to using currently -- after all, that 400/5.6 is optimized for 400mm, while the 80-400 (and the AF-II version is only marginally better than the 1st version) has to be quite a compromised optical design in comparison.

EDIT: To illustrate the above, I offer this: When I'm "out and about" and wanting to be ready for most any telephoto situation, I might take the 80-400. However, when I know I'm going to mostly want a longer FL (say, for birding), I take the F* 300/4.5. Not surprisingly, the F* is sharper than the 80-400 is at 300mm, but crops of the F* at 300mm are also sharper than those of the 80-400 at 400mm, as well.

Last edited by fwcetus; 08-18-2015 at 07:16 AM.
08-18-2015, 06:31 AM - 1 Like   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
You may want to consider having also a second body, and use the zoom with a 1.4x TC for "in close" work.
Yes, I currently have two bodies, one I keep the 400mm on it all the time.

I just checked pricing on the Sigma 70-200 F2.8, and it is way out of my budget.

Last edited by csa; 08-18-2015 at 06:41 AM.
08-18-2015, 06:33 AM - 1 Like   #8
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Adrian, that is a very nice photo showing the capabilities @400mm!

08-18-2015, 06:36 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by fwcetus Quote
I am not familiar with the Tokina AT-X 400/5.6, but I am very familiar with the Tokina AT-X 80-400/4.5-5.6 AF-II. As much as I dearly LOVE my AT-X 80-400/4.5-5.6 AF-II, I would have to point out that it less sharp and less contrasty at 400mm than at other FL's (of course, for many long zooms, being softer at their longest FL is pretty common). Therefore, I think you'd likely be disappointed in IQ at the one FL that you are used to using currently -- after all, that 400/5.6 is optimized for 400mm, while the 80-400 (and the AF-II version is only marginally better than the 1st version) has to be quite a compromised optical design in comparison.
Fred, thanks for your post; I had not considered this fact of zooms, it definitely changes my thinking.

I can't do anything until at least Spring, but wanted to get some input, and all of your responses are greatly appreciated; it's certainly turned my direction!
08-18-2015, 08:26 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by csa Quote
Fred, thanks for your post; I had not considered this fact of zooms, it definitely changes my thinking.
But don't forget that my generalization about long ("tele") zooms being usually softer at the long end is not always true -- I am sure that "premium" (read "often more expensive") zooms may defy what I had stated.

For example, in my case, I very recently had used a MF Tokina AT-X 100-300/4 SD zoom, and, once again, it showed me that its long end is at least very nearly as good as its short end.

But, it's easier for optical designers to create a 3:1 zoom (e.g., 100-300mm) that is better overall (and perhaps especially so at its extremes) than a 5:1 zoom (e.g., 80-400mm).

Last edited by fwcetus; 08-18-2015 at 09:40 AM.
08-18-2015, 03:28 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by csa Quote
Yes, I currently have two bodies, one I keep the 400mm on it all the time.

I just checked pricing on the Sigma 70-200 F2.8, and it is way out of my budget.
What is your budget? The sigma APO 70-200 F2.8 EX non DG non Macro version is usually about $600. The TCs run about $200 from memory. Remember this is a 12 year old lens, not a new one. Newer ahSM lenses don't work with teleconverters
08-18-2015, 06:28 PM   #12
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I like my K 400mm f/5.6 + Kenko 1.5x TC but I think the best compromise is the Sigma 150-500 Bigmos which works well with the Sigma 1.4x TC. If you can find one that is. I've rented one from CameraLensRentals and LensRentals so if you don't need one full time you could just rent one.

K400 + TC.


Bigmos @ 500mm.
08-18-2015, 06:38 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by wtlwdwgn Quote
I like my K 400mm f/5.6 + Kenko 1.5x TC but I think the best compromise is the Sigma 150-500 Bigmos which works well with the Sigma 1.4x TC. If you can find one that is. I've rented one from CameraLensRentals and LensRentals so if you don't need one full time you could just rent one.

K400 + TC.


Bigmos @ 500mm.
Though keep in mind the HSM Bigmas won't AF with the Sigma TC. Sigma never made a HSM TC in K-mount. The 120-400 and 150-500 had non-OS and OS versions, but both versions have HSM. The first version of the 50-500 was non-OS and had a screw drive.
08-18-2015, 06:43 PM   #14
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Oh, so that's why I had to manually focus that combo. Well, duh. I don't suppose 500mm really needs a TC anyway.
08-20-2015, 07:32 AM   #15
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Steve, those are great shots! The Bigma is out of range for me now; I may try to find a 1.5 or 1.7 TC to use with my 400 for now. Renting would not be an option, as I need a lens full time, as I never know when an opportunity shows up.
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