April 2020 Daily Journal For GTNP & JH


April 1st, 2020 – Wednesday

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Steller's Jay

Steller’s Jay: Taken in my back yard this morning. At least two of them are in the area right now. They spend most of their time in the conifer forests, so it is a real treat to see some here in town. Nikon D850 and Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens, Tripod.

April 1st: The world is in an altered reality now!

Closed Park

I’ll get the worst news over quickly: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are closed to all visitors. The Town of Jackson has a “shelter-in-place” order. Teton County and the Travel Bureaus are telling people that aren’t already here, “Don’t come here”. If people from this area leave and then come back, they are required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. Most non-essential businesses are closed, along with motels, hotels, and hostels. Visitor Centers are closed. All events are cancelled. All dine-in restaurants are closed, but take out and delivery is still available at some establishments. After the initial run on food and toilet paper, most grocery stores have reasonable supplies and groceries. This area is probably not unlike most other places in the country.

Useful Resources

CDC website
CDC Informational Videos
CDC Factsheets and Print Materials
World Health Organization (WHO)
U.S. State Department

As of the first of the month, town residents can still walk their dogs and do some kinds of recreational activities as long as they maintain six feet distances. Police say they are not enforcing the “shelter-in-place” advisory (yet) so it is possible to move around for a few photos. I expect the Governor to issue a similar statewide shelter-in-place order before too long.

If looking for a silver lining, gasoline is still available, along with electricity, Internet, and water. Darla, myself, and Corey are doing a good job of staying away from people. I don’t believe any of us has had the virus, but there are numerous cases of it in Teton County now.

Mountain Goat

And yet, the world spins!

I watch enough news to know how bad it is already in some areas and I am seeing it spread to new hot spots. Around here, I see the snow melting in preparation for our Spring season. Migrating birds are returning  to the valley. Hibernating mammals, like chipmunks, ground squirrels, and marmots are showing up again. A few bears have been spotted. Some of the big game animals are beginning to look shaggy as they start losing their Winter fur. More than likely, a couple of the Grizzly sows will appear with two or three new cubs, without the throngs of people. The grass will start turning green and wildflowers will begin popping up.

As I write this initial entry for April, there are still areas people can go to get outside for a while. The Snake River Canyon is one option, along with most of Star Valley to the South. The National Elk Refuge is still open. The park area north of the Visitor’s Center can be good for songbirds, geese, and swans. County roads are still open. Don’t expect to find any restrooms open in the forest facilities.

Bird Blind

If you are going to be stuck at home over the next few months, consider photographing birds in your back yard. All they need is food, water, and cover. For some species, food alone will do the job. Sunflower seeds are a big draw, along with suet. Most grocery stores sell both, so you can grab a bag while buying other household essentials. Spend some time reading up on birds in your area and find out what kind of food they prefer. You’ll be surprised how quickly they find your feeders. This year, I am seeing several Blue Jays and Steller’s Jays. They are definitely getting my attention since they are not common in my yard.

Blue Jay

As April progresses, I expect to see a lot more species move into the area.

Best of the Tetons

Over the past five years, I’ve been posting daily photos and comments. With only a few exceptions, the content is mostly of subjects around this area. No doubt, my access to the great outdoors will be much more limited over the next few month. I’ll try to post local subjects when I can. My Photo Tours are essentially shut down until the park opens again. Even though I can’t spend time in the Park, you can always look over the April and May Daily Journals from the past years. Click any of the links below.

Daily Updates Archives:
2020: Apr:Mar: |  Feb:Jan:
2019: Dec:Nov: | Oct:Sept:Aug:July:June:May:Apr: | Mar:Feb:Jan:
2018: Dec: | Nov: Oct.Sept: | Aug: | July:June: | May:Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2017: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2016: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan: 
2015: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2014: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2013: Dec: | Nov: Oct: | Sept: | Aug:

Your source for amazing tips about park photography in Jackson, WY

If you’ve never checked this page, you should! It contains an almost endless supply of Features Posts on a wide variety of subjects. If you can’t visit the area in person, or if you have more time to kill, this page of links might keep you entertained. Click the image!


One-On-One Lightroom/Photoshop Online Training

I am looking into the possibility of offering one-on-one training through Zoom Conferencing. Conceptually, I would create a Zoom session for you and a Dropbox folder for you. I could quickly demonstrate how I zip through my image processing in Lightroom and how I pass them on to Photoshop for final adjustments You could see “presets” and “actions” work in real time. I can also create a DropBox folder for you to upload your photos so I can work on them during the session. You would be viewing my screen and hearing my voice as I run Lightroom. If interested, let me know!

Lastly, please visit Best of the Tetons regularly. I hope to add some new feature posts that might help you fill some idle time.


What is Intra-Personal “Competition”

For most of us our lives probably have changed rather dramatically the last couple weeks with a strong emphasis on Social Distancing.  The Covid-19 epidemic has left many of us spending time at home.  Maybe I should give you a little homework to keep you busy 🙂 or maybe encourage you to share your idea about Evaluative vs. Informational Feedback.

My first thought was to respond to my friend Tom’s comment about his Sun City Hilton Head Photography Club (SCHHPC) and suggest how a Peer Mentor Program might be a valuable addition for a large responsive photography club.  But I’ll wait on that and hope that some of you who belong to large photo clubs can respond to Tom’s comments.  Large clubs like SCHHPC have a great deal to offer all level of photography including many levels of Inter-Personal Competition.  But what about Intra-Personal Competition?  I wouldn’t be surprised if you have never heard of this type of competition, even though you can figure out what it means.  So, let’s take a look at an example of Intra-Personal Competition and give you an opportunity to make the comparison.

Intra-Personal Photo Competition is comparing your own photo growth to your past photography.  That sounds pretty easy but it ain’t all that easy; how can you compare your present photography to your photography from 4 years ago?  I’m trying to encourage my peer mentors to do this, but the Covid-19 has cancelled our monthly meetings after I shared the experience of what I learned.  Let me show you what I have shared with my groups and see if I can get you involved.

For the past two years I have had the peer mentors share two similar photos for the Informal Critique session (more about the reason for that in a later blog).  I then asked the group to critique which photo they liked the best (evaluative feedback) and why they liked that photo better (informational feedback.)

At the February Peer Mentor Group meetings this year, I shared two photos with them for this and asked them which photo they liked the best and why.  The purpose of this critique was to introduce a form of intra-personal competition; the two photos were somewhat similar, but one was from April 2015 and the second one was from the same location in April 2019.  I had already decided which one I liked better and why; The purpose was to explore if I had improved and what I had improved upon in that past four years.

Since it is very likely many of you are sticking around home looking for something to do, I want to introduce you to one way to explore your possible improvement in photography.  I hope that you will learn something from this activity and it will get you to look at your Lightroom Library (or however you look at your old photos) and compare a photo you have recently taken with one from 1, 2, 3, or 4 years ago from a similar location (or of a similar animal or portrait or …)

Below is a photo I took at Blacktail Pond in Grand Teton National Park on April 18, 2015 with my Nikon 7000 at 25mm (with a 18-20 mm lens) at 1/45 sec @ f16 with ISO 100.  Your “homework” is to thoughtfully look at this photo and answer the 4 questions listed above the photo.  Don’t just skim over this!  Take time to answer each question (and preferably write down your answer):

  1. What do you like about this photo (Informational Feedback)?
  2. What do you think is not-so-great?  (Be specific, I’d really like to hear it in your comment)
  3. What specifically do you think should be changed?  This could be in exposure, composition, LR, etc
  4. What advice would you have given me on what I needed to do differently; what would you suggest?


Let’s look at a 2019 photo from a very similar place – Blacktail Pond

Let’s look at a photo taken at Blacktail Pond in GTNP on April 23, 2019 with my Nikon 610 at 24 mm (with a 24-120 mm lens) at 1/30 sec at f16 with ISO 100.  Your new “homework” is to thoughtfully look at this photo and answer the 4 questions listed above the photo.  But this time, also think of a 2015 – 2019 comparison – don’t give the 2019 photo any extra credit so that you can say that Randy’s photography has gotten better.  If you think Randy’s photography has gotten better, what about his photography seems better?  Here are the same questions:

  1. What do you like about this photo (Informational Feedback)?
  2. What do you think is not-so-great?  (Be specific, I’d really like to hear it in your comment)
  3. What specifically do you think should be changed?  This could be in exposure, composition, LR, etc
  4. What advice would you have given me on what I needed to do differently; what would you suggest?

So based on these two photos, do you think Randy’s photography has improve over the last four years?  I think I have improved (that’s a nice feeling 🙂 ) and I honestly do attribute a lot of that improvement to the Peer Mentor Program (more on that later).  Feedback from my peer mentor friends helped me think more …

Here is Randy’s Critique of these 2

The 2019 photo above has more “punch” in the sky, the foreground, and especially that line of orange willows just this side of the mountains.  The reflection of the mountains in the water isn’t great in either of the images and neither foreground leads my eyes to the mountains.  But the mid-range orange willows grabs my attention and leads my eyes to the mountain, and the mountains have interesting clouds in a more vibrant sky.  The 2015 photo has more balance but it is rather boring.  The 2019 has water on the right but brown grass on the left which is a bit distracting.  So my vote goes to the 2019 photo but there is still plenty of room for improvement.  Maybe more cropping?


And at the early March peer mentor meeting a photo friend of the peer mentor program (Mike Jackson, Best of the Tetons) gave me some informational feedback.  Mike pointed out that the water and grass and rocks actually took away from the bold orange willows and suggested that I crop the image quite a bit more, which led to this photo.  I think this pano is probably the best of the three but maybe photo #2 could be improved with more cropping to take away some of the foreground and some of the right and quite a bit of the left.  What do you think?

What have I learned from Inta-Personal Competition?

I must admit that finding images from the past to compare with images that are similar but way more recent isn’t easy.  But I suspect you probably have some social distancing time on-hand to compare the past to the present and I think you will value what you learn.  After a good photo shoot (there will be some good photo shoots in your future) you will feel good about your improvement.  But what exactly has improved in your photography?  You can guess but doing a Intra-Personal examination may be very helpful.

I won’t bore you with a lot of details about the improvements I’ve made but here are some basic changes: I take a majority of my shots on a tripod which slows-down my thinking.  I’m more thoughtful when getting ready to take the shot; I look around the edges, check-out composition, etc.  I think about leading lines and other foregrounds to take the viewer into the photo.  I’m more careful about exposure and use my exposure compensation and blinkies (highlights in the monitor) for most shots.  I take most of my photos at sunrise or early morning and some at sunset.  But probably most important is taking time to look and think which is in many ways fueled by participating in informal critiques where the peer mentors and I discuss what we think about many photos every month.

So have you improved your photography over the past year or two?  How do you know?  Is it a pain in the fanny to find old pictures to compare to new ones, or are you just a bit too lazy to check?  I’d like to suggest that you take the time you need to make those comparisons now that you are locked-up with the social distancing.  Staying home will help keep you safe and healthy.  Checking out your old photos may help you to recognize what is better about your photography and may even given you some ideas about what to improve in 2020.

Let me know what you think.  Can Intra-Personal Competition get you motivated?

The post What is Intra-Personal “Competition” appeared first on First an Amateur.

Sigma Sport 60-600mm : Tamron 150-600mm G2 : Nikon 200-500mm Lenses

My Anecdotal Comments

First, let me say I love zoom lenses, especially in a place like Jackson Hole with its wide array of wildlife and landscape opportunities. Many will tell you that prime lenses are sharper, and I am sure they are, but they can be very limiting on some days. I never know whether I will be photographing a moose from a long distance, or whether he will move much closer, or whether another bull moose or cow will enter the scene. With prime lenses, it would be very easy to have “too much lens” for some situations. Actually, it happens regularly!

Second, if you are looking for a formal review with bench tests and DXO scores, this isn’t the page for you! Comments are based simply my personal experiences with each lens.

I own each of the following lenses: Sigma 60-600mm : Tamron 150-600mm G2 : Nikon 200-500mm. I also own a G1 version of the Tamron 150-600mm lens and a Nikon 200-400mm lens. If you review my Daily Journals for the past 5 years, you’ll see examples of all of them.

Daily Updates Archives:
2020: Apr:Mar: |  Feb:Jan:
2019: Dec:Nov: | Oct:Sept:Aug:July:June:May:Apr: | Mar:Feb:Jan:
2018: Dec: | Nov: Oct.Sept: | Aug: | July:June: | May:Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2017: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2016: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan: 
2015: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2014: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
2013: Dec: | Nov: Oct: | Sept: | Aug:

Chronologically, I purchased the Nikon 200-400 mm lens back when they listed for $4995. Soon afterwards, the price went up to $6495 or so. I liked that lens, but it was heavy and expensive. During the time I owned it, I was always looking for some way to “economically” get to 600mm. When I purchased the Tamron 150-600 mm (unofficially a G1), I managed to hit my desired 600mm, and it was affordable at $1369.95. I was happy enough with it until the G2 version came out. I heard and read enough reviews that suggested the G2 had enough small improvements to add up to a “value” upgrade. Along the way, I bought the Nikon 200-500mm lens. That purchase was based on a lot of positive reviews and comments. Lastly, after a few trusted friends told me how much they liked their Sigma Sport 60-600mm, I made that purchase.

So, that’s my journey. I can truthfully say I used each one enough to be able to develop a real world opinion for each. That’s what this page is about. 

Sigma Sport 60-600mm Lens

To be honest, I had originally planned on writing only about this lens on this page, but after receiving a long list of emails asking about my various lenses, I thought it might be best to include comments on the others. As I mentioned before, a friend showed me photos he and his wife took in Africa using a Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens. He’s a very picky and technical photographer who owns all the top end Canon gear, and at least one Tamron 150-600mm G2 lens. He told me he thought the Sigma was a tad sharper than his Tamron lens, and he told me he liked the longer range on the short end. That was at Thanksgiving last year. Based on his comments and the photos I saw from his Africa trip, I placed my order for the lens along with the USB Dock UD-01.

As I do with any new lens, I did my normal AF Fine Tune adjustments for each of the following bodies: Nikon D5, Nikon D850, and Nikon D500. I did the fine tune adjustments using a Lens-Align, favoring the telephoto end of the zoom range over the short end. Note: Nikon bodies have only one saved value for each lens, while Canon’s AF Fine Tune settings allow two entries.

Sigma Sport 60-600mm Lens

Basic Specs: Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM

Focal Length60 to 600mm
Tripod CollarRemovable and Rotating
Filter Size105 mm (Front)
Dimensions (ø x L)4.74 x 10.59″ / 120.4 x 268.9 mm
Weight5.95 lb / 2.7 kg

Minimum Focus Distance : 23.6-102.4in. / 60-260cm

I paid list price of $1759.00

Sigma Sport 60-600mm Lens Pros

  • Very sharp
  • Extra Range over 150-600mm or 200-500mm lenses
  • Quick focusing – Less searching
  • Solid feeling pro build
  • Lens Hood is more substantial and has a knob to tighten it.
  • Ships with a padded case
  • Built in Area-Swiss foot
  • The collar is very smooth
  • Excellent vibration reduction (OS – Optical Stabilization)
  • Short Range 2.6m-6m, Long Range 6m to infinity, &  Full Focus Range
  • Optional Dock for calibration

Sigma Sport 60-600mm Lens Cons

  • Heavy
  • A Nikon user will need to adjust to the “reverse twist” of the zoom (Canon users will like it)
  • Tight spacing if using a Sidekick on the right side
  • More expensive than the other two lenses

Sigma Sport 60-600mm Lens General Comments

I can honestly say I like this lens a LOT! Since I bought it November, it has been on either my Nikon D5 or Nikon D850 almost exclusively. For all practical purposes, I can leave home with just a Nikon 24-70mm and this 60-600mm lens and do all I need to do photography of both wildlife and landscapes. I still use other lenses for night photography and macro photography, but these two cover most of the daily shooting.

The Sigma Sport 60-600mm is a multi-purpose lens. With a 150-600mm or 200-500mm lens, I regularly found myself needing a different lens to capture an animal (like a moose) in its environment. The long end of the zooms worked great for filling the frame and even portrait shots, but it there are times when the Tetons and clouds add so much more. That’s where the 60mm end of this lens shines! I also use the lens as a landscape lens, and I do a lot of stitched panoramic images with it. The 60mm shots have been amazing.

The Sigma Sport 60-600mm is noticeably heavier than either of the other two lenses. That could be a major consideration if you are flying a lot. If hiking a ways with it in your arms or in a tripod balanced over your shoulders, you’ll notice it. And, if you are trying to keep the lens held up for a long time, hoping a Great Gray Owl will fly down to a vole, you’ll really notice the weight. I might switch to my Tamron 150-600mm if heading out for a long exploratory hike, but otherwise this lens stays on my D5 most of the time.

Currently, my D5 is stuck in the Service Center in Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic. I sent it in for a new shutter and cleaning, but did so with bad timing on my part. I its absence, I have been using my Nikon D850 and have been amazed with the image quality. Occasionally, I use the Sigma Sport 60-600mm on a Nikon D300 (crop sensor) body, but I haven’t fallen in love with the “900 mm equivalent” shots at a long distance. The 900mm images at closer range look fine, however. The long range 900mm shots are probably affected by thermal waves at times.

It seems to me that Tamron and Nikon went for the “lowest price” option, cutting corners in a few places, while Sigma went the “best value” route. For example, the Sigma lens rotates smoothly in the collar, while the other two collars are clunky and poorly designed. As with the Tamron G2, the Sigma Sport 60-600mm has a built-in Arca-Swiss style foot. Only the Sigma came with a padded travel case. When I pick up my Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens, it reminds me of the quality build of my old Nikon 200-400mm lens. Even the lens hood is built better than either of the other two.

I find the vibration reduction on the Sigma to be rock solid…best of the three. Again, I don’t have any bench tests to back it up. Normally, techs suggest turning off vibration reduction when on a tripod, or above 1/500th second. The Sigma “seems” to be more forgiving on either if left on while using a tripod or if shooting over 1/500th second. I have been amazed with the Sigma’s ability to produce sharp shots with slow shutter speeds, hand held or over a bean bag out the window.

Image quality (sharpness) is possibly a tad better with the Sigma 60-600mm. I process images from all three cameras and all three lenses essentially the same. With that said, I wouldn’t shy away from using either of the other two lenses.

I’ve never owned either a 500mm or 600mm (heavy) prime lens, so I never felt the need to buy a Wimberley full gimbal head. Instead, I always used a Wimberley Sidekick for my mid-sized lenses. I have always mounted my Wimberley Sidekick on the right side of the body/lens combo, but when my bodies are mounted that way with the Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens, there is very little room for the fingers of my right hand. That’s even more noticeable when wearing gloves. As a result, I spent the money on a Wimberley Full Gimbal head and haven’t regretted the purchase. Still, it was an unexpected expense I added to my credit card not long after buying the lens. If you have a Sidekick, and if you mount it to the left side, I don’t believe the same spacing problem exists.

I haven’t had a lot of chances for “birds in flight” since I bought the lens, but I believe it acquires focus quicker than the other two lenses. This isn’t an issue for a moose out in the field or a mountain goat on a ledge, but birds in flight put a lens to the test.

The Sigma Sport is more responsive when it is focused on something 13 feet out, then needs to focus on a closer subject. My older Nikon 200-400mm lens would jump from one object to another and this lens does so in much the same fashion. When doing the same experiment with the Nikon 200-500mm lens or the Tamron 150-600mm lens, both “rack out” to the long focus end, then search back to the closer subject. The Nikon 200-500mm is much slower when searching. If or when the Sigma searches out, then back, it does so much quicker.

The Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens has both a short range limiter and a long range limiter, along with Full. The Tamron G2 has the same feature, while the Nikon 200-500 lacks it. Most people with telephoto lenses already know how the long range limiter works. No need for the lens to have to search close if all of the anticipated subjects are well out from you. The short range limiter comes in handy when I’m photographing songbirds from a blind in the back yard. There is no need to let the lens search past 6 meters (19.68 feet) if all of my subjects are closer than 19 feet.

When Fed-Ex delivered my Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens, I immediately set up my LensAlign and did my typical adjustments on my D5 and headed out. It did great. Later, I did the same adjustments on the other two bodies. My lens came with the optional USB Dock UD-01 NA. After about a month, I found some time to do the necessary test shots. As it turned out, my lens needed almost no additional adjustments.

For a Nikon shooter, the Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens twists “the wrong direction”. I have to admit, that took some getting used to. After shooting with the lens for four months, it has become more natural. Since I use this lens the most, my other Nikon lenses are feeling awkward! If you are Canon shooter, the lens twists the correct direction.

Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens

Tamron 150-600mm G2 LensBasic Specs: Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2

Focal Length150 to 600mm
Tripod CollarRemovable and Rotating
Filter Size95 mm (Front)
Dimensions (ø x L)4.27 x 10.15″ / 108.4 x 257.7 mm
Weight4.38 lb / 1990 g

Minimum Focus Distance : 2.2m – 7.22′

I paid list price of $1369.00

Tamron 150-600mm Lens Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Sharp
  • Extra Range over Nikon 200-500mm lenses
  • Quick focusing
  • Built in Area-Swiss foot
  • Good vibration reduction
  • Zoom twists same direction as normal Nikon lenses. (Canon users need to get used to it)
  • Less expensive than Sigma Sport 60-600
  • Short range limiter(2.2m-10m), Long range limiter (10m to infinity), Full Range
  • Can lock the zoom at any zoom range
  • Optional Dock for calibration
  • Tamron Service Center  will micro focus Auto Fine tune your lens and body for free.

Tamron 150-600mm Lens Cons

  • Cheaper feel than either Sigma Sport 60-600mm or Nikon 200-500mm
  • No padded lens case
  • Good focusing, but has to search at times
  • More sensitive if used with a tripod (not recommended)
  • Cheaper, thinner lens hood.
  • Poor collar. Very clunky. Screws work out.
  • Questionable Warranty policies

Tamron 150-600mm G2 Lens General Comments

I’ve always likes this lens a lot. I had one of the original “G1” versions and liked it, too. I should probably mention that my first G2 was a lemon, and after a month or two of struggling with it, including sending it to the Service Center, Tamron replaced it. The new copy is much better. I posted thousands of photos taken with the G2 lens over they years, and probably help sell hundreds of them for Tamron. I was always happy with the image quality, even without having to say “for the price”, it is a great lens. Of the three lenses one this page, it is the lightest. The G2 is priced at about the same as the Nikon 200-500mm, but considerably less than the Sigma Sport 60-600mm.

Tamron sells an optional “Tap-In Console” similar to Sigma’s USB Dock, but I am not sure you really need one. Tamron offers to micro fine tune your lens to your favorite body at no charge. Just pay for the shipping to them and they pay to send it back. I did that and liked the shots even more afterwards. If you have this lens, send it in!

There are lots of things to like about the G2 lenses. It is responsive enough and focuses faster than the Nikon 200-500. It also has the Arca-Swiss style foot on the collar. Of the three, the G2 is the only one with the ability to lock the barrel at any place on the zoom. Along with the Sigma Sport, the G2 has a short range limiter. Nikon shooters will notice the zoom twists the same direction as other Nikon lenses.  With the “pros” stated, I found a few “cons” I didn’t care about. First, Tamron touts a 6 year warranty when you buy the lens, however, when you send it in for repair, they negate the balance of the warranty. At that point your lens has only a 90 day warranty. They must have had enough negative feedback to increase the repair warranty period to 180 days. Kiss the remaining part of the six years warranty goodbye.  When I sent one of my G2 lenses in for cleaning and minor adjustments, the warranty was still good.

The lens has more of a plastic, cheaper feel. I suppose that’s part of the trade-off to get the lighter weight. Likewise, the lens hood is thin and brittle. I’ve cracked two as I tapped the door sill while getting out of my truck. Of the list of Cons above, possibly the biggest one is the collar. It works, but it suffers from poor design. Besides not being smooth when turning it, the lens snags in a couple of places. Over the period of time I used my G2, several of the small Phillip’s head screws worked their way loose, scoring the collar itself, and making it difficult to twist. I could go on and on about the collar, but be prepared for a battle if you use it with a tripod.

Nikon 200-500mm Lens

Nikon 200-500mm LensBasic Specs: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR Lens

Focal Length200 to 500mm
Tripod CollarRemovable and Rotating
Filter Size95 mm (Front)
Dimensions (ø x L)4.25 x 10.53″ / 108 x 267.5 mm
Weight5.07 lb / 2.3 kg

Minimum Focus Distance : 7.22′ / 2.2 m

I paid list price of $1395.95 (Now $1256.95)

Nikon 200-500mm Lens Pros

  • Medium Weight
  • Sharp
  • Solid feeling build
  • Good vibration reduction
  • Zoom twists same direction as normal Nikon lenses. (Canon users need to get used to it)
  • Less expensive than Sigma Sport 60-600
  • Good Warranty

Nikon 200-500mm Lens Cons

  • Least Range of the three lenses.
  • Zooming from 200mm to 500mm takes extra twists
  • No Arca-Swiss foot (You’ll likely need to spend money for an Area-Swiss plate)
  • No padded lens bag
  • Slow focusing, has to search at times
  • Lacks the short range focus limiter
  • No Optional Dock for calibration, except the built in AF Fine Tune on most bodies

Nikon 200-500mm Lens General Comments

A lot of people love this lens. A few years ago, I loaned mine to a friend during his “fall rut” trip to Jackson Hole. I had to pry it out of his hands when he left. When he returned a year later, he had his own Nikon 200-500mm lens. I like the lens, but I don’t love it! It is capable of taking beautifully sharp images, but it is seldom my “go to” lens when I have several other, more flexible options. I like the Nikon 200-500mm lens when paired with a Nikon D500. Knowing the D500 is a 1.5 crop body, the effective reach at 500mm is 750mm. During “bear season”, we are required to be 100 yards from the bruins while inside GTNP and Yellowstone. This combination gives me a bit more reach than at 600mm on a full frame body.

The Nikon 200-500mm is heavier than the Tamron 150-600mm G2, but lighter than the Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens. It “feels” like a better build than the Tamron G2. If your tripod is set up with Arca-Swiss clamps, you’ll need to spend the extra $30-$60 for a plate. The collar is slightly smoother than the Tamron 150-600 G2, but not as smooth as the Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens. Obviously, the Nikon 200-500mm’s zoom twists in the normal Nikon direction.

For most photographers, I’d suggest the Nikon 200-500mm lens is “fast enough” for most subjects. For example, moose, bears, sheep, and foxes are generally not moving around too fast. If you are a bird photographer, it might not be the lens of choice. I find this is especially so for birds in flight. It is capable of capturing them, but at least in my experience, it is slow to obtain focus. Sure, there are a lot of great photos of birds in flight taken with this lens, but I know I lost a lot of photos using this lens.

The glaring issue with the Nikon 200-500mm lens is the comparable zoom range, especially knowing it was introduced after both Sigma and Tamron already had 150-600mm lenses on the market. The missing 100mm at the long end and the 50mm on the short end are noticeable, especially for someone that owns one of the other lenses. The Sigma Sport 60-600mm has 140mm more at the wide end.

Also worth mentioning, it takes a lot more twisting to go from 200 to 500mm on the Nikon lens than it does for a Tamron to go from 150 to 600mm.

Wrap-Up Comments

If you can handle the extra money, the extra weight, and don’t mind learning to twist the zoom in the opposite direction (Nikon shooters), I’d suggest buying the Sigma Sport 60-600mm. All of them can be very sharp, especially if the lenses have been calibrated or AF Fine Tuned. If pressed, I’d say the Sigma Sport 60-600mm is a little sharper. I think it also has the best vibration reduction. Except for some low light situations, the Sigma Sport 60-600mm has effectively eliminated my need for my Nikon 70-200mm lens. Unlike my older Nikon 200-400mm lens, all three of these lenses extend out when zoomed out, changing how they balance over a ball head, Sidekick, or full gimbal head.

If I were wanting a good option for birds in flight, I might consider a  Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR super telephoto lens

This lens looks promising, especially for low light conditions, but it sells for just under $10,000: Nikon AF-S 120-300mm f/2.8E FL ED SR VR Lens Mount

Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Photos

I could dig through four months of photos and pick the best to show here, but I decided to go out this morning, and post only photos from today in the first section of this page. Note: all of these images were processed normally, some cropped.

Bighorn Ram

Taken hand held with OS on, at roughly 200 yards. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 600mm with a Nikon D850.

Trumpeter Swans

Hand held with OS on, at roughly 60 yards. Cropped considerably. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 600mm with a Nikon D850.

Trumpeter Swan

Hand held with OS on, at roughly 40 yards. Cropped. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 600mm with a Nikon D850.

Trumpeter Swan

Hand held with OS on, at roughly 40 yards. Cropped. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 600mm with a Nikon D850.

Trumpeter Swan

Hand held with OS on, at roughly 30 yards. Cropped. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 600mm with a Nikon D850.

Trumpeter Swab

Hand held with OS on, at roughly 25 yards. Cropped. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 600mm with a Nikon D850.

Red Squirrel

Tripod with OS on, at roughly 20 feet. Cropped. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 600mm with a Nikon D850.

Tree Sparrow

Tripod with OS on, at roughly 18 feet. Cropped. Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 at 600mm with a Nikon D850.

Photos from the Past Few Months using a Sigma Sport 60-600mm lens.

Trumpeter Swan

Great Gray Owl



Bull Moose

Bull Moose

Mountain Lion


Sleeping Indian

Super Moon

Blacktail Butte

Bull Moose

If you want to see photos using my other lenses, check any of the Daily Journals from the past five years!

Daily Updates Archives:
2020: Apr:Mar: |  Feb:Jan:
2019: Dec:Nov: | Oct:Sept:Aug:July:June:May:Apr: | Mar:Feb:Jan:
2018: Dec: | Nov: Oct.Sept: | Aug: | July:June: | May:Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan:
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2016: Dec: | Nov: | Oct: | Sept: | Aug: | July: | June: | May: | Apr: | Mar: | Feb: | Jan: 
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2013: Dec: | Nov: Oct: | Sept: | Aug:


Mike R. Jackson
Best of the Tetons
Jackson Hole, WY

While the world is dealing with COVID-19, I am not offering the photo tours, but please keep me in mind when the event is over.

The photo tours help me pay bills and continue to add content to this site. Keep me in mind if you are going to be in the valley! My tours are licensed by the National Park Service and National Elk Refuge.

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Dozen Best Locations for Moose in Grand Teton and Jackson Hole

Where are the best locations in Grand Teton National Park to find moose? As a moose biologist (PhD in Moose Ecology), wildlife photographer and resident of Jackson Hole, this is one of the most frequent questions I receive. Moose are found near wetlands and sources of food; the best locations include: Gros Ventre Overlook Gros […]