Sigma 500mm F4.5 EX DG APO HSM - First Impressions

16th February 2012

I will caveat this review in saying I am no expert when it comes to cameras and lenses and haven't the opportunity to try out every lens there is. This is just my personal opinion on this lens and I am in no way affiliated to Sigma.

A recent addition to my lens collection is the Sigma 500mm super telephoto lens. It took me a while to make a decision mainly because it is a significant investment and also I was considering the Canon 500mm F4 IS.
In the end I decided on the Sigma based on a few criteria:

  • Price at the time of purchasing the Sigma was around ¬£2,000 cheaper than the the Canon (even more now the second generation 500mm is the only one in production).

  • Weight - The Sigma is around 700g lighter than the Canon

The Canon has Image Stabilisation which I find extremely useful in my other lenses but in the end I decided as I would be using the lens mostly on a tripod I could do without.

The first thing that struck me on oepning the box was the size of this lens the dimensions (12x35cm) don't do it justice it's a big lens and at 3.1Kg, heavy too. Even with an Optech strap it takes it's toll on your neck if you carry it for a while.

The lens comes with a case, drop in polarising filter and lens hood. The finish on the lens is excellent although I have covered it in a lenscoat cover mostly to protect it from scuffs and scratches.

The first problem I came across was supporting the new set-up I was borderline on the weight limit for my Manfrotto 190 XProB and it showed with some vibration and the lens just wasn't steady enough. I decided a new tripod was in order and purchased a Giottos MTL 8360B Carbon Fibre Tripod, I also bought a Wimberly sidekick to go with it, the head I use is a Giottos MH1300. This combination is doing an admirable job of supporting everything and I have had no problems so far.

I took some test shots in the back garden and I was very impressed with the quality even wide open as I hope hte shots below demonstrate, I also found the bokeh very pleasing to the eye.

1/500s f4.5 ISO 400

1/250s f6.3 ISO 400

The lens works ok with a Kenko teleconverter although the pin taping trick is need to maintain autofocus.

Using a big telephoto like this is a whole new experience the logistics alone are difficult my rucksack is now fairly heavy so I cannot slip a few more lenses in anymore! I do miss the lack of spontaneity, no quick snapshots with this lens at least not yet.
I am still getting the hang of using this lens properly but I am happy with my decision to buy this lens and my first impressions have been good ones. I haven't had many opportunities to take the lens out but shown below are a couple of recent photographs I have taken with this lens.

Wigeon - Anas penelope
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/640s @ f8 ISO 200

Ring-Necked Parakeet - Psittacula krameri
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/800s @ f8 ISO 200

Redshank - Tringa totanus
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/320s @ f6.3 ISO 200

Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
Canon EOS 7D with 500mm lens
1/320s @ f6.3 ISO 200

I will update this blog later in the year with further impressions of the lens as I get to use it more.


Photo comment By Hank: very good review, and the pictures show a lot for this lens.

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