Sigma Lens - Help me Please!


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Jun 6, 2006
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Well after my previous post about wanting a new lens im gonna be following all that up fairly soon. The Sigma 10-22mm is on the cards, but for the zoom lens im still stuck.

I had a look at an L series lens today, and altho it was nice, it was quite bulky especially with the slide mechanism on the lens itself, means thats yet more length on the camera. However sat next to it on the shelf was a Sigma
Sigma 100-300mm f/4 EX DG HSM Lens


To be honest, it had a better feel and i generally preffered it over the L series. I know the L series is a better lens, quality, but for an extra £300, i wasnt so sure.

Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5/5.6L USM Image Stabilised
that was the L series lens. Very nice but worth paying the extra for?

But looking ive found for the same money as the other sigma,
Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3 EX DG HSM

Basically i need some help, and advice on understanding the differences. The feel of the first sigma was great in the shop, but the L series has the backing of thousands of other users out there and more durable, weather wise. And the last one being 50-500mm a more usable len in different applications with the wider range.

But what do you guys think? What are the differences in the F numbers? Also how are they for price, Jessops is about my only local camera shop, so ive had a go with the first sigma and L series lens, wouldnt mind buying off the net if its gonna save me anything?

Help much appreciated.
Well, the first sigma lens is nice due to constant F/4 aperture throughout the zoom range.

The canon L lens has an extra 100mm of reach which could be useful for sports stuff where you are generally pretty far away.. but most importantly it has IS, which should allow you to shoot in around 3 stops lower light without shake than ususal... and of course it L glass... thats goooood stuff.... not a constant aperture though :(

The 50-500 is fairly massive, ive used one before and it is pretty bulky... also suffers from HUGE lens creep if you have it hanging off your shoulder, which is annoying. Massive zoom reach though and goes wider than the other two lens.

Basically, buy the one which suits your needs... if you need a more all round lens.. maybe go for the 50-500 due to the slightly wider focal length. if you want assured quality and IS go for the Canon 100-400, and if you want a constant aperture.. go for the first sigma.

Dave :)

Edit: Also, check the shops on ebay.... ive found a lens that im getting that is a massive £300 cheaper off an ebay shop then in jessops!!
That's a bit of a tough comparison.

I don't know much about the Sigma 100-300 F4...but if it really does have a max aperture of F4, throughout the whole zoom range, then that's pretty good. The other lenses are F5.6 and F6.3 respectively...which means that they have a smaller max aperture...which makes it harder to get faster shutter speeds...which are very important when shooting with a telephoto lens like these.

On that same topic, the Canon also has IS (image stabilization)...which is a huge advantage over the others.

When shooting hand held, you need to be aware that your movements will case blur in the image. The longer the focal length, the more blur you will get. (and these are long lenses). To eliminate or reduce this blur, you can use a fast shutter speed. The rule of thumb is that you will want a shutter speed that is 1/focal length...and some people say that you should take the crop factor into account as well. So at would need a shutter speed of 1/480 (1/500) to get a clear photo. You would need plenty of light to get that speed if your max aperture is F4, harder if it's F5.6 and harder yet if it's F6.3.

Now, getting back to reduces the shake of the image though the lens...allowing you to get sharper shots at slower shutter speeds. Canon says it gives up up to 4 stops more might be closer to 3 stops...but still, that means that at 300mm, you could use a shutter speed of 1/60...maybe even longer if you can hold it steady.
I've used this lens, and it's really amazing when you are looking though the viewfinder...and trying hard to keep the image steady...then you activate the IS and the image seems to 'lock' into place.
Go into the store and ask to try that lens out on a camera (or bring in yours so that you can take some test shots).

If you are shooting wildlife, the Canon lens would be a great deal better than the other two.
I agree with everything Mike has said.
The Canon has 100mm more reach than the first Sigma, and IS.

The first Sigma wouldn't be too bad...and you could get a 1.4x extender probably to make up for the shorter length, and lose one stop. But you can't add

The 50-500 I've heard a few things about, and it's bulky and clumsy. I know someone on here shoots one...but I forget who. Maybe they'll find this.
I've borrowed the sigma, its a very nice lens, the HSM is nice and quiet and f/4 through the range is nice for the price/length.
I have, own, and shoot the 50-500 "BigMa". I call it "The Beast", it weighs in at 4 pounds and after you have shot it all day long you KNOW it has been on your shoulder.

Image quality is surprisingly good for a lens with that kind of zoom range (10X)... BUT... and this is a big but... you shouldn't expect to shoot it handheld at 500mm.

Unless you are shooting at HIGH shutter speeds (1000th of a second or higher) it has to be on a pod or stabilized (I use bean bags) when shooting in the 400-500mm range. This is one lens that desperately cries out for Image Stabilization, but doesn't have it.

Another quirk about the lens, and one that is quite annoying, is that it has a weird front filter size and no drop in filter tray... so you have to buy all new filters just for it and they are EXPENSIVE at that size. I generally carry a couple ND filters, a polarizer and keep a UV filter on all of my lenses, but a polarizer for the BigMa is $300 alone. I don't, therefore, own one.

The lens is fairly sharp wide open, which is good, because having to shoot at 1000th of a second pretty much means you are going to spend a lot of time wide open or nearly so.

Here is a shot I took with the Bigma at 500mm to give you an idea of what it can do (I posted this recently on another forum). This is at a zoo, where the bird was backlighted (hence the blown out top of the head), and I am shooting through a cage which (obviously) hurts the sharpness of the picture a bit... however, the lens is GREAT at blowing through cages. The picture isn't very good, but you can see that the lens is at least fairly sharp.


Here is a tiger (also shot through a cage at 500mm) with the lens wide open:


I am not saying that either of these pictures are very good, they are just illustrations of pictures that the lens takes (albeit though cages).

As far as lens creep goes, that isn't a problem with the bigma... it doesn't creep, it SHOOTS open... There is a lock switch on it to lock it shut in the closed position for carrying it around, but this lens will open up every time you point it down.
That EF 100-400 is a pretty darn good lens. IQ wise, it is the hands down winner among the two Sigmas. The 50-500 has more range, but not nearly the build or quality of the Canon. Without IS it is a fair mission to get a decent shot without a tripod at 500mm. My friend has one and wrestles with it all the time. Images are pretty soft at that range unless stopped down a bit. In correlation, I captured a women picking her nose at 400mm f/5.6 with the Canon hand-held from 150 feet away and it was pretty darn sharp. Unfortunatley I couldn't keep the photo since I used the stores camera and card while testing. The quality and IS would be the clincher for me.
Another thing to consider, at f/5.6 most auto focus systems have a difficult time. As the light level diminishes, AF has real problems. A lot of AF systems will not work at f/6.3.
In regards to bigma's zoom creep... remember that the 100-400 Canon is a push pull zoom design... so it isn't going to be any worse than the bigma.

I have the 100-400mm and I like the lens. For the price you get a wonderful zoom with a nice range and good IQ. The push pull design is something to get used to.. some hate it .. some love it. I've learned to like it as I can got from 100mm to 400mm very quickly. You zoom quickly like a trombone.

Image stabilization is nice thing to have BUT you will still want to use a monopod/tripod for long focal lengths. Also note that the 100-400mm has the older version of IS.. you need to turn it off when on a tripod and it is rated for two stops not three like the later versions.

One thing to look for when comparing the Bigma to Canon L is fringing (purple usually) at the highlights. Both exhibit fringing but IMO the Canon handles it better. You can see some of it from sabbath999's first photo. You can check out examples of both lenses on pbase and decide for yourself. Both are reasonably sharp (wide and at the focal range ends) but improve greatly as you stop down.

Personally... I'm also a bit hesitant to invest into lenses with huge focal length ranges. In general, they have to make compromises in IQ to obtain that focal range. On the other hand, the Sigma does VERY well and is probably one of the better of the "super zooms".

I noticed on that there are two other choices in lenses of this type. The 170-500 and 135-400mm. Anyone know anything about these? They have focal ranges closer to that of the 100-400L.

(I'm considering selling the whole Canon EOS system and moving to a combination of K10D w/Sigmas.. one that hopefully is comparable to the 100-400)
So if.. you were gonna buy a zoom lens, on the Buy now Pay later schemes... Would holding out for a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L and extender, be more worth while?? I hear its alot better, but the price bumps up.
For nature and motorsports photography then, are you gonna be able to get away with these lenses on a monopod at full strech? My panning is pretty good anyways.
It seems the 50-500 is more popular, but is this beacuse you get better range on the lens for less money, is that the only reason??
No.. If the 400mm focal length was important, I would suggest the 100-400mm L over the 70-200mm L + 2x teleconverter.

If you want a faster aperture and don't shoot past 200mm often, then a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter is an option on those more rare occasions you do shoot past 200mm
Me, personally, I would never buy photography equipment (or anything else) buy now, pay later, but that is a whole different discussion.

The 70-200 f2.8 L is simply a much better lens than the 50-500, but it is a 200... which isn't nearly the same range. Yes, you can get an extender, but then you are making the lens slower and reducing the quality of it at the same time. I have no idea the quality of the extender you are talking about, since I don't shoot Canons, so I can't help you there.

The 70-200 f/2.8 is a lens that is a lot more appropriate (IMHO) than a 50-500 for most circumstances... the only time it isn't is when you need to "go long", which is exactly what I got mine for.

I generally don't even carry mine around with me, I leave it in the trunk. I usually go back and get it when I am done doing my "normal" shots and use it for the few that I really need to "reach out" on.
I've been shooting through the Sigma 18-200 for a year or so and love it.
You should buy the new OS one with Optical Stabilzer. I'll probably buy it and sell the one I've got.

Another quirk about the lens, and one that is quite annoying, is that it has a weird front filter size and no drop in filter tray... so you have to buy all new filters just for it and they are EXPENSIVE at that size. I generally carry a couple ND filters, a polarizer and keep a UV filter on all of my lenses, but a polarizer for the BigMa is $300 alone. I don't, therefore, own one.

Might be too late for you but because the glass size is only for more light, the BigMa can use a 78mm filter and a step-ring even at 50mm.

The 50-500 is my other lens.

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