Blog - Technical

Sigma 500mm F4.5 EX DG APO HSM - First Impressions
16th February 2012 - 1 comment

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.
Canon 2x Extender
12th September 2010 - 0 comments
One of the problems of bird photography is having a lens long enough to get a nice close up of your subject without having to approach too close.
The obvious option is a telephoto lens, but once you get to a certain level these go from being expensive to being very expensive!
The lens I currently use is a Cannon 300mm f4 L, more often than not I pair this up with a 1.4x extender to give a 420mm f5.6. However on occasion I would like more reach (especially doing hide photography on nature reserves).
So for that reason I thought I would chance a 2x extender to give me a 600mm f8 lens. I have been in the garden today 'playing' with this combination and I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by the results; From reading various reviews I was expecting most of the images to be soft but in all honesty they are coming out reasonably sharp and respond well to post processing.
On non 1 series Canon bodies autofocus won't work unless the maximum aperture is f5.6 or less, so as the 2x extender makes the f4 lens an f8 AF doesn't work, unless you use live view and rely on the 'live' AF. Although it's not the quickest it did prove itself to be accurate.
The images below were taken today, the lens was mounted on a tripod and the shutter was fired using a remote release.

Blue Tit - Cyanistes caeruleus
Canon EOS 7D with 300mm L and 2x Extender
1/500s @ f11 ISO 400

This is a 100% crop from the above image with no sharpening applied.

Great Tit - Parus Major
Canon EOS 7D with 300mm L and 2x Extender
1/100s @ f11 ISO 400

I am very pleased with this combination and the 2x extender is something I will definitely be using in the future.
Canon 7D Custom Functions
01st September 2010 - 0 comments
I found a really useful article on the Canon Professional Network. It details the 7D custom functions and explains what they do and what the settings mean.
I found it invaluable as there are lots of ways fine tuning the 7D.

The EOS 7D’s Custom Functions explained