Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR vs Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC
How does the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR optically compare to the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC? Let’s take a look at the two at 500mm:
It is pretty clear that the Nikon 200-500mm VR outperforms the Tamron 150-600mm VC at 500mm in the center. Where the Nikon suffers a bit in comparison is the corners, particularly when stopped down. Here, the Tamron seems to be a bit better in comparison. Still, considering that these are sports and wildlife lenses, it is not very likely that one would be shooting a flat subject, so the center performance is more important in my opinion.
The real question, however, is to see how the Nikon 200-500mm VR does at 600mm with the 1.4x teleconverter when compared to the Tamron 150-600mm at 600mm:
Now this is interesting. At its maximum aperture of f/8 with the 1.4x teleconverter, the Nikon 200-500mm VR outperforms the Tamron 150-600mm at f/6.3! However, when stopped down to the same aperture, the Tamron is just a tad sharper, as shown in the graph above. The difference is not drastic, but it is there.
So which one is better overall, the Tamron 150-600mm or the Nikon 200-500mm with the teleconverter? Keep in mind that the above test on the Nikon 200-500mm was performed roughly at 430mm to yield 600mm with the 1.4x teleconverter. The Nikon in this case can actually go all the way to 700mm with this combo, giving a 100mm more advantage. If you are wondering about the performance at 700mm, take a look at the below chart:
As you can see, the performance of the lens at 500mm with the teleconverter is only slightly worse than at 430mm, which definitely gives the advantage to Nikon 200-500mm. In my opinion, the Nikor 200-500mm VR is a bit more versatile than the Tamron, not only because it delivers sharper results pretty much at every focal length (particularly at 500mm), but also it can be used with a teleconverter, adding another 100mm of focal length advantage. Therefore, I would personally go with the Nikon 200-500mm over the Tamron 150-600mm.
Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR vs Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary
Now let’s take a look at how the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR optically compares to the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary. Here are the two lenses at 500mm:
The Nikon 200-500mm VR comes out sharper than the Sigma 150-600mm C, particularly at the maximum aperture. While the difference in performance diminishes at f/8, the 200-500mm still looks better all the way across the frame. Here are the two lenses at 600mm (200-500mm + 1.4x TC):
Once the teleconverter is used on the 200-500mm VR, its maximum aperture is reduced to f/8 and its performance obviously drops. However, we can see here that the Sigma 150-600mm cannot keep up with the Nikon 200-500mm in sharpness at its maximum aperture. Even stopped down to f/8, the Nikon 200-500mm is still sharper. Only when both are stopped down to f/11, the performance differences pretty much disappear.
Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR vs Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sport
The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sport is a beast of a lens, but once you factor in its cost and compare it to the Nikon 200-500mm VR with the teleconverter, the two get fairly close in price range. The Sigma 150-600mm Sport is still heavier and bulkier in comparison, but still should be included in this comparison. Let’s take a look at the two at 500mm:
It is pretty obvious that the Sigma 150-600mm Sport is a visibly better lens than the Nikon 200-500mm. At 500mm, we can see that it performs really well, even wide open. It goes without saying that the Sigma 150-600mm Sport will obliterate the Nikon 200-500mm at 600mm:
The sharpness difference is very obvious in images – the Nikon 200-500mm looks much worse in comparison. Images from the Sigma 150-600mm Sport look very crisp, fairly close to what we see on some high-end super telephoto zoom lenses. If you are trying to decide between the Sigma 150-600mm Sport and the Nikon 200-500mm VR, the Sigma is obviously the way to go.
Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6E VR vs Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR + 1.4x TC
Let’s now compare the 200-500mm f/5.6E VR with the Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, with and without a teleconverter. Here is what happens with both lenses at 400mm:
Since the Nikon 80-400mm gets much softer towards its long end, while the Nikon 200-500mm shines at 400mm, we can see the drastic difference in performance, with the 200-500mm looking much better at f/5.6. Stopped down to f/8, the differences start to disappear, but the 200-500mm still outperforms the 80-400mm in the mid-frame and the corners.
To compare the 80-400mm at longer focal lengths, we have to use the 1.4x telconverter for testing. At the longest end of the zoom range + 1.4x teleconverter, the 80-400mm yields a focal length of 560mm. While it is not directly comparable to 600mm we cam get on the 200-500mm VR with the same teleconverter , it is still worth comparing the two:
Here, the 80-400mm seems to be doing a little better in terms of overall sharpness. However, there are two important points to keep in mind. As stated earlier, the 1.4x teleconverter reduces AF speed and accuracy pretty drastically on the 80-400mm, making the combo not so usable in the field. Also, we are looking at 560mm vs 600mm here and the 200-500mm can go all the way to 700mm, which is something the 80-400mm cannot achieve (its performance with the 1.7x is very bad).
Overall, the 200-500mm VR is a noticeably better lens than the 80-400mm.
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