October 02, 2014, 12:39:31 PM

Author Topic: Sigma lens for birding?  (Read 5892 times)

glongstaff

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2013, 08:07:43 AM »
Anyone have experience using the latest Sigma 50-500 OS for birding?  I am thinking of renting one to use on my XXD crop body.  I realize there are other better prime supertelephotos for this, but I've wanted to try this lens for a while, since it is within my budget to purchase...and the cost of rental is less too.  Also I like the idea of the 10x zoom range.  I've read many of the lens' faults, but I'm keeping an open mind.  I've tried the Canon 500 f/4 in the past, and never could get it to AF accurately (using AFMA), or even to manually focus sharply at all with Canon's version iii 1.4x TC.  Not sure why, but I do know it was an optical problem...because even when I manually focused the live view image at 10x, it was never razor sharp, before the shutter was ever engaged...nor was the IS engaged.  The tripod was a relatively sturdy carbon fiber, but admittedly not the "best".  The lens was tested and they found nothing wrong.  No doubt the new version is much better.  Not that I'm implying the Sigma would be optically better, either, of course...but I digress. 

Even if you haven't used this Sigma lens specifically for birding, please feel free to tell me some of your experience.

The birds will be mostly small at distances from 15 to 50 feet, some will hopefully be robins near the ground at a greater distance.  I own a decent carbon fiber monopod which is rated for 50 pounds.

I use the Sigma 150-500 as at the time the 50-500 wasn't in the market place...and found the lens to be pretty good..the lens is attached to an old Canon 350D. If you look here you will see how it faired:http://glongstaff.smugmug.com/Animals/Martin-Mere-Wildfowl-Trust/23729822_5TqVhF#!i=1921695068&k=gMwrdBX
5D MKIII, EF 24-105mm F/4 IS L USM, EF 85mm F/1.8, EF 55-200mm 4.5-5.6 USM,  Sigma DG 150-500 5-6.3 APO HSM, Speedlite 430EXII

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #15 on: February 06, 2013, 08:07:43 AM »

sdsr

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #16 on: February 06, 2013, 10:07:30 AM »
there can be only one! :P

http://www.juzaphoto.com/article.php?l=en&article=64

Sure, why not....   The same site also does some comparisons that may be useful:

http://www.juzaphoto.com/article.php?l=en&article=54

http://www.juzaphoto.com/article.php?l=en&article=50

I rented the Canon 100-400 L and Sigma 50-500 OS (not simultaneously, unfortunately) and preferred the Sigma.  There was little difference in sharpness, but the background blur from the Sigma was much smoother than the Canon's, which could be horribly busy with twigs and leaves fairly close to the subject (greater distances were fine).  So I bought the Sigma.*  There is presumably a degree of variation among copies.  Juzaphoto complains about the OS in the copy he tested of the 50-500, but on the one I rented and the one I bought both provide superb stabilization - I've taken photos in very low light, hand-held, quite successfully (I've read other reviews which concur).  Initially I was rather taken aback by the weight of the thing, but I soon became used to it.

*By the way, if you're interested in the Sigma but concerned about quality control, you may want to do what I did and buy a used one from lensrentals, which recently sold a few for well under $1000.  They actually tell you whether a copy is equally sharp across the image or a bit soft in a particular corner or along one edge....

Mt Spokane Photography

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #17 on: February 06, 2013, 12:13:00 PM »
For small birds, you want to get close!!  other Canon 400mm or longer telephoto lenses will not focus up close.  The 100-400mm will.
However, if you do not consider a 500mm f/4 to be sharp, you will be in big trouble with a low cost lens.
Here is a shot handheld out my car window with my 100-400mmL, about 8-10 ft away.
 

AlanF

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #18 on: February 06, 2013, 02:02:05 PM »
For small birds, you want to get close!!  other Canon 400mm or longer telephoto lenses will not focus up close.  The 100-400mm will.

The 300mm f/2.8 II focusses to within 8" of the 100-400mm L including when 1,4 and 2x TCs are attached. If you want something dirt cheap, sharper than the 100-400mm L, and focusses even closer, get an old Sigma 400 Tele Macro.
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CarlTN

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #19 on: February 06, 2013, 03:12:07 PM »
Again, thank you all for your input!

Many of you keep mentioning the 100-400L.  I just wanted more reach, but I suppose at some point I should try it.  I really wanted to wait until the new version, but that one isn’t out yet, who knows when it will be?  I’ve rented the 400 f/5.6L prime lens about a year ago.  I know the current zoom is less sharp, but it’s a zoom, with IS.  The cost to rent the 100-400 is noticeably less than the Sigma, so that is a factor in its favor…since I’d like to rent for as long as I dare spend money on it.

Apop, thanks very much for your detailed response.  I’m still pouring over it.  It’s a shame these reviews sometimes use such old bodies like the 20D for a resolution test.

Rienz, neither lensrentals nor borrowlenses has the 150-500, and I believe it’s no longer in production.

Glongstaff, those are some nice pictures…I especially like the two birds in the air together.  If you captured most or all of these in a single afternoon, that is also impressive…a target rich environment!  However, the sharpness seems a bit off on even the ones that are more static.  The one of the mallards walking away, the male is sharp enough (assuming the original size is a 1:1).  Obviously depth of field is in play, so I’m not trying to nitpick.  The sharpness is probably acceptable.  It’s not as if I haven’t gotten even softer results than this before, myself!  Again, no one has this lens for rent, that I have seen.

Sdsr, excellent information and suggestions.  I actually rent from Lensrentals.  Not sure I want to buy used…and in any case, I doubt I will be buying a telephoto lens in the very near future.  I will be renting at least one, though…if not two.  I’ve bought 3 wider angle lenses that I plan to use until at least the summer, then probably sell them.  Ideally I want to buy a full frame body by the fall, but funding for that is up in the air right now.  The only way I would buy a supertelephoto very soon, is if I decide to not get the full frame until 2014.  As an alternative, I would likely rent a full frame body for a very brief time this fall.

Mt Spokane, nice image.  What dilated pupils you captured!  Sometimes I can get fairly close, like on our window sills at the house.  I’ve even shot a few with the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4, besides my 135 and 70-200.  Will try to post some later…along with others from the tele’s I’ve rented.
 
It’s not that I don’t consider the 500 f/4 to be sharp, in general.  It’s just that obviously there was an anomaly with the one I rented.  The 400 f/5.6 I rented the next year, was a bit sharper, and focused more accurately (even in very low light…less light than my ISO noise wanted to tolerate…of course, center point only).  Certainly the color and contrast of the 500 f/4 was there, along with the bokeh…far beyond what the 400 f/5.6 could do (obviously).  I know as a rule the original 500 f/4 was extremely sharp.  The new one is even sharper.  But I don’t feel the need to spend that kind of money to rent a lens right now.  (The only reason I rented that one, was to try to shoot the next-to-last Space Shuttle launch.  Never got to, it was delayed over two weeks.  The ideal lens there would have been the 800, but that was $300 higher in cost.) 

Honestly, I would sooner try renting the older 400 f/2.8  (comparatively “cheap” to rent now)…and possibly even before that, the 400 f/4 DO.  It’s supposedly sharp, but lacks contrast due to the diffraction optics.  I dunno, it looks like it would be interesting to try.

Maybe another question is, which of these older lenses (the 400 f/2.8 and f/4DO…since I’m not paying the extra $150 to $300 to rent the new version)…would work best with the new 1.4x iii TC (I can’t rent the version ii TC)?  And for that matter, I own the 2.0x ii TC…how would it compare, mounted to the old 300 f/2.8, with the old 400 f/4 DO combined with the new 1.4x iii TC?  (again I can’t rent the old 1.4x ii TC, and don’t own one.)  It’s probably a similar result, although it’s possible the 400 DO doesn’t work well with any TC’s at all.  Certainly the 400 DO alone would be better for birds.

I mention those lenses, because well…I do love to shoot in low light, even if there is noise.  (And a lowly 2 stops of IS is better than none, on a monopod!)  I have deer, raccoons, turkeys, woodducks, mallards…and usually by spring, many of the larger birds (like cardinals, etc.) don’t really come out until sunset.

Frankly, I wish Canon would make a 1.7x TC like Nikon does.  That would be the only one I would own.  Or perhaps a 1.55x would be even better.

Renegade Runner

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #20 on: February 06, 2013, 03:22:27 PM »
In my opinion anything shorter than a 400mm on a full frame body for shooting birds is going to be hard to get good, close results.   Birds like sparrows, finches, blue jays, cardinals and robins don't stay still very long and can spot you coming in close to them. At least with a crop body you get a little bit of an extra reach.  Even with a 300mm.  Also with a crop sensor you can crop your photo more than a photo shot on a full frame sensor before it starts to deteriorate in quality.
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CarlTN

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2013, 03:43:27 PM »
Renegade...I said I wouldn't do this, but..."+1"...hahaha.

Yes, true...but the new 70D, or 7D2...or 7Dx...or 8D...would have to have a crop sensor with noise and DR at least 2/3 of the way between Canon's current 18mp crop sensor, and the best that Nikon/Magnavox/Toyota has to offer...before I would even consider not "stepping up" to Canon full frame.  Also, the bokeh offered by full frame is always lovely.  And the viewfinder image is nice and big-ish.

Btw, have you ever noticed that what you see through the viewfinder on your crop camera, with your own pupil, when a fast lens is mounted (such as a 50 or 85 f/1.4)...is not what the sensor is seeing?  The sensor's "pupil" is much bigger than your eye's.  So your eye is effectively skewing what you think will be captured, by giving you an unwanted "depth of field preview" of its own...This occurs on full frame as well.  It's no wonder it's so difficult to focus fast lenses...there are just too many factors at play.  I love them anyway though.

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #21 on: February 06, 2013, 03:43:27 PM »

Renegade Runner

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #22 on: February 06, 2013, 04:03:39 PM »
Quote
Btw, have you ever noticed that what you see through the viewfinder on your crop camera, with your own pupil, when a fast lens is mounted (such as a 50 or 85 f/1.4)...is not what the sensor is seeing?  The sensor's "pupil" is much bigger than your eye's.  So your eye is effectively skewing what you think will be captured, by giving you an unwanted "depth of field preview" of its own...This occurs on full frame as well.  It's no wonder it's so difficult to focus fast lenses...there are just too many factors at play.  I love them anyway though.

I haven't really paid much attention to that.  I will keep my eye on that next time and let you know.
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wickidwombat

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #23 on: February 06, 2013, 06:11:12 PM »
there can be only one! :P

http://www.juzaphoto.com/article.php?l=en&article=64

Sure, why not....   The same site also does some comparisons that may be useful:

http://www.juzaphoto.com/article.php?l=en&article=54

http://www.juzaphoto.com/article.php?l=en&article=50

I rented the Canon 100-400 L and Sigma 50-500 OS (not simultaneously, unfortunately) and preferred the Sigma.  There was little difference in sharpness, but the background blur from the Sigma was much smoother than the Canon's, which could be horribly busy with twigs and leaves fairly close to the subject (greater distances were fine).  So I bought the Sigma.*  There is presumably a degree of variation among copies.  Juzaphoto complains about the OS in the copy he tested of the 50-500, but on the one I rented and the one I bought both provide superb stabilization - I've taken photos in very low light, hand-held, quite successfully (I've read other reviews which concur).  Initially I was rather taken aback by the weight of the thing, but I soon became used to it.

*By the way, if you're interested in the Sigma but concerned about quality control, you may want to do what I did and buy a used one from lensrentals, which recently sold a few for well under $1000.  They actually tell you whether a copy is equally sharp across the image or a bit soft in a particular corner or along one edge....

good advise on lensrentals if you live in the US they wont sell lenses to us peasants that live in other countries
:(
that website has pretty good reviews on lots of stuff :)
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glongstaff

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #24 on: February 06, 2013, 07:02:16 PM »
As you picked up, and even in the reviews the lens at full max is quite soft...and too be honest the camera body is that old (ie only an 8 MP Camera and only 3.5fps) .I was getting used to the lens also as it was pretty new when I went to Martin Mere for the full day....

Other photos on the site (ie Cheshire Falconry and Gauntlet bird of Prey have had a few taken with the sigma)
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CarlTN

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #25 on: February 07, 2013, 04:28:34 AM »
Renegade, I wouldn't have believed it myself, except that I was going back and forth between live view, and the eyepiece...focusing on something relatively close, of course...less than 5 feet (using my 58mm Voigtlander f/1.4)  I first noticed it on the much-reviled 1.3x crop camera I rented.  It was more pronounced on it...but it's certainly still there on my 1.6x camera too.  I guess that's why they offer focusing screens for fast lenses, but that seems like a bandaid, because there could still be a degree of effective focus shift going on...going from something as small as your pupil, to something the size of the sensor.  (I know lenses have focus shift themselves, but given just how fine we can magnify the image these days...and given just how shallow the focal plane is via a fast lens at close distance...you never know.  This is also likely why those who shoot fast lenses of people "on the go" or "street photography", might be happier to not view their images at 100%.  Just a guess.)

Wombat, I agree.  I've posted in their blog section at times.  Lensrentals are very professional, and very kind.  I highly recommend them.

Glongstaff, interesting.  And again, they were nice pictures!  I may just try to ask Lensrentals if they've MTF50 tested the 50-500 Sigma lens.  Probably haven't.  I have to wonder why they would charge 40 to 50% more to rent it, than the Canon 100-400L, even given the extra reach...if the resolution truly is overly soft, especially towards the long end.  The comments they have on the lens say it is sharp:

(Roger's Take):  "After playing around with it for an afternoon, I’m totally impressed (obviously on limited data but totally impressed nonetheless). It is as sharp as the original 50-500, which is sharp indeed. The OS is spectacular and really does appear to be 4 stops worth. We have some nice 500mm images shot at 1/125 second. Autofocus speed is adequate to the task and accuracy has been good, up until the items discussed below. My summary: once again Sigma has designed a spectacular lens, and while the price isn’t cheap, it’s a good value for what you get."

They seem to have cut off the "items listed below"...I believe it initially had a high electrical failure rate...and some focus shift issues that required AFMA.  I am not scared to use mine, as long as the setting is consistent at all focal lengths and focus distances...which it almost never is!

After a quick search, I am seeing the street price for the Sigma at $1509 at the usual places, and $1399 from Amazon marketplace.  The Canon 100-400 seems to be $1499.  I suppose the difference in rental price, could be due to the fact that so many more people rent the Canon, and they stock more of them.  I believe I read somewhere that it is their most often-rented lens.

I really wanted to try a big zoom, but I'm just not that enthusiastic about the 100-400.  I guess I should be.  I know it's a fine lens.

Looks like Superdigitalcity, who offer coupons via a Lensrentals rental, have the same price of $1509, and have a sale price on the 150-500 OS, of $1019.  The 120-400 is on sale for $949.  If I was going to buy something, a price of under $1000 would be preferable...along with the smaller size and weight of the 120-400.  But again, neither LR or Borrowlenses rents the 120-400.  And I'm not ready to buy anything just yet.  But the robins will be passing through here before the end of February. 

I recall seeing a test of the 120-400 lens somewhere, and it looked bad.  Could have been thedigitalpicture.com, I forget. 

Given the combination of the low rental cost, combined with widely known and consistent performance / image quality, it looks like the Canon 100-400 may be my best choice.

I do want to rent a faster lens also, a month or two later...and that looks like it's between the (as yet released) "Art" version of the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 (said to have two fluorite elements, the 2011 version has none)...or the version 1 Canon 300 f/2.8...or the version 1 Canon 400 f/2.8 (given what you get for the reduced rental price, it's hard to not want to rent the big heavy old 400.)
« Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 04:34:37 AM by CarlTN »

CarlTN

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #26 on: February 07, 2013, 06:32:52 PM »
Voigtlander 58mm Nokton, shot wide open at f/1.4.

CarlTN

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #27 on: February 07, 2013, 10:34:01 PM »
Looks like doves have dilated pupils too.  This was the 400 f/5.6 last year, cropped to 100%.

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Re: Sigma lens for birding?
« Reply #27 on: February 07, 2013, 10:34:01 PM »