Sigma APO 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG, you made me eat my words

Expectations

Let me say up front that I had very low expectations for this lens. Beyond the versatility and convenience offered by a 10× superzoom that goes to 500mm were my expectations that it at best would be “okay all around” and not “great at anything”. Furthermore, it is a Sigma, my experiences with Sigma is got the best, they are not the best in glass quality; they are sort ok okay’ish, but not stunning. I have previously been complaining to Sigma about the exteriors of their old lenses as it turns into a sticky goo, nasty to touch and leaves your fingertips tacky and blackened. They never replied, leading me to the conclusion that I should probably never buy a lens from that company, since cares so little of their quality and customer. Well NOW, I have to realize that “Never” … is a long time!

I had been looking for a long lens for some times, and been scared away from Sigma by some horrible reviews on top of the reasons mentioned above. The reviews was very conclusive, the old versions of the 50-500 was really really really bad.

This new lens is a completely new optical design, reviews was good. It is the successor to the long-lived and legendary Bigma. The updated Sigma APO 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM provides a wide zoom range, and it specifications and tests looked really promising. It features a cool Optical Stabilizer function which Sigma claims allows for handheld photography at shutter speeds approximately 4 stops slower than would otherwise be possible. What really thrilled me is that it focuses as close as 51cm @ 200mm. This allows for the use as pseudo-macro. This lens incorporates HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor), ensuring quiet and high speed AF as well as full-time manual focus capability. I love the traction of the 80-200 HS f/28 and wasn’t all that nuts about a soundless lens, but I must admit my worries was wrong it works brilliantly.

 

First touch.

WHO, “This thing is huge” that was my first impression when I unwrapped the package. It was much larger than I had expected. I went for a walk with my youngest daughter taking some shoots while she was practicing her bike cycle skills. Very quickly did my arms go tired; I realized that using this lens hand-held without a pole was likely not something I would do a lot. I also thought about my travels, where I like to go around in big cities, very anonymous. This lens screamed for attention, it is going to remove my last tiny chances of being a city ninjaJ. A quick glance into my already stuffed AW tracker, confirmed me in that this lens is unlikely companion on my travels.

Second base

Next day I was going with a team building day with the company, we were going to climb our big 92m high wind turbines. Obviously wasn’t this lens of much use in the heights, but taking shots from the ground was just perfect. I did several tests @500mm with and without the stabilization feature turned on. Admittedly I expected it to be horribly blurry due to camera shakes, to my surprise was the shoots with the stabilization on amazingly good. @50mm the hood created corner shadows, but that was to be expected. The build quality seems good, solid and heavy. The outside is seems to be made of matte plastic, given a surface of something that the distinct impression of a matte metallic paint.

Optical Stabilizer

The lens’s major advertised feature is the Optical Stabilizer (OS) system. This compensates for shake-induced image blurring, particularly when taking hand-held shots it has two modes, one to stabilize images that might suffer from general shake from wind or weight of optics. The second is specifically designed to deal with vertical shake on objects moving horizontal to the lens, such as flying birds, in AI Servo mode

Focus

Auto Focus is quick to lock on a target but, I do prefer to do my focus manually with this lens. Manual focus was also smooth. Sigma’s built-in Hyper Sonic Motor for “quick and quiet auto focusing” meant that the mechanism seemed almost silent.

Stepping down for sharpness

The lens is showing a bit of barrel distortion at 50mm, but it helps stepping down to f/8. It is pretty center sharp in the whole spectra, but a little soft at the corners. If you step down to f/8 then the lens becomes pretty good at the corners, and at f/11 it is really good. There is a good review at YouTube.

So why did I get it.

  • It’s a zoom out to 500mm. A range I lacked in my arsenal of lenses. Previously was my longest reach 80-200mm APO HS f/2.8. Despite using a 1.4x tele converter that could crank its maximum reach to 280mm. Add on top that I shifted from the A100 to A99 with a wonderful increase in quality, a loss of 1.6 x crop magnification was also the result. Something had to be done!
  • It’s a 10× superzoom. With a really wide use, going to 50 to 500 is so convenient, and this version has “OS” (optical stabilization), giving much better photos with my old shaky hands.
  • It is heavy but not too heavy to operate by hand.
  • Due to good reviews, I decided to shame bid a guy on EBAY. I guess due to the new 150-600 Sport; he decided to give in, allowing me to get this lens for 650 USD.

     

Impressions from the day (more at)

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s