Joined: 21 May 2007 Posts: 183
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Posted: 21 September 2008 at 8:12am | IP Logged
I've had this lens for a couple of months now and have used it everywhere from my yard to the zoo to shooting the Blue Angels from a boat. It is not as good as the Nikon 200-400 F/4 VR or 500mm VR, but it costs 1/6th to 1/8th as much as those lenses so that's to be expected. I've been shooting the Nikon 70-300VR, a very good consumer lens, for a couple of years now, The Sigma is a substantial step up in reach and a step up in image quality.
I have found that shooting at 500mm is not nearly as forgiving of being sloppy as shooting at 300mm. Even with image stabilization you really need to concentrate on good technique to get sharp photos shooting hand held.
Compared to the 300mm + F/2.8 or F/4 pro lenses it isn't all that large or heavy, but compared to the consumer 70-300 size lenses most of us are used to it's very large and heavy. It has an all metal body, and attracts attention anywhere you go. If you carry it in public be prepared for many comments about the size of the lens. This is built and finished just like Sigmas EX line of lenses. Apparently Sigma has decided that from now on only their fixed aperture lenses will bear the EX designation or I'm sure this would have it just like the 50-500 does.
I've tried it with a Kenko 1.4x teleconverter with poor results. The image quality with the Kenko was no better than cropping or up sizing the image, certainly not worth losing auto focus for. With my particular TC/D80/Sigma it seems to have a weak connection, if I have auto focus enabled the camera reports a dead battery. So for me it's definitely manual focus only with the TC. Maybe the Sigma TC works better with it, for what the Sigma TC costs I'm willing to give it a try one of these days.
I'm satisfied with this lens, it hasn't stopped me from lusting after a 200-400, but it is a step towards it.
These shots are all at 500mm, the lens is sharper below 500 but who buys a 500 and doesn't want to use it at max reach? All of these except the flying eagle were hand held. The flying eagle was shot from a very loose tripod with a ball head to pan and track it in flight, that shot is also approximately a 50% crop.
Here it is attached to a Nikon D80 with battery grip:
This is not an ideal comparison as the shots were taken on different days and the wind was blowing more on the day the sigma shot, but does give you a general idea of the difference in magnification between 500mm and 300mm, and an idea of the sharpness difference between these particular lenses. 100% crops:
Another Blue Angels shot coming head on:
1/250th @ 500mm
100% crop of the ducks foot
OS is quite effective. This isn't the sharpest shot I've ever taken, but it was hand held at 1/50th @ 500mm. Viewed at 100% you can count his whiskers:
Joined: 02 February 2008 Location: Washington Posts: 283
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Posted: 21 September 2008 at 8:45pm | IP Logged
Nice review. Now I need to decide, step up to the new D90, or buy this lens for use with my current D40x body. Both options cost about the same. So far I am thinking the body upgrade will benefit me and my current lens line up more than what a little longer reach will with the current body.
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