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07-28-2011, 09:08 PM   #1
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IQ for 150-500, 50-500, 120-400 Sigma's?

Apologies if i am doubling up on another thread but I've done a search and have waded through vast amounts of posts. Most are either contradictory, pre-2009, or both. ( a lot of 150-500mm posts date back to 2009 on the search function)

Anyway, is there any consensus as to which of the above lenses is most likely to produce the best IQ, particularly at the long end? I have seen views that claim the 50-500 is sharpest, others have the 150-500. It's hard to follow through all the threads, but the 150-500 seems to have become better as time goes by (early reviews tend to complain of softness, later reviews seem to be more favourable). The 120-400 tends to polarise opinions just as much.


I'm looking for an affordable Long lens for field action-sports (Australian Rules Football) specifically, and will mate it to a K5 to offset the relatively slow apertures. The priority is to capture human forms in motion, and in close, so perhaps outright sharpness and detail isn't as crucial? I'm not under any illusion that any of these lenses will produce "professional" results like a big 400 or 500/2.8.

Is it (as i'm starting to suspect) actually a case that sample-to-sample variations within each model is likely to be just as great as the general variation between them?


I'm leaning towards 150-500 but for no specific reason. Many thanks for any views or opinions. I'm only posting this after confusing myself with so many different views and reviews.

Jason.

07-28-2011, 09:15 PM   #2
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I can only speak for the 50-500mm lens but I'm totally thrilled with it. I've read thru a lot of the same threads and understand that it can get confusing. I will say that I prefer the previous version of this lens. The current model just did not seem as sharp....good luck on your search.
07-29-2011, 12:07 AM   #3
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Read this review.
07-29-2011, 08:19 AM   #4
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Very useful review! However, I disagree with the conclusion. The Canon 100-400mm is not on par with the Sigma 50-500. The Canon is clearly showing more contrast than the Sigma, especially wide open. The interesting thing is that the Sigma 50-500mm seems to the best performer of the three Sigma lenses tested there.

I have the Sigma 50-500mm and it is a versatile lens. It is also a heavy lens, and it is designed for full frame. And having a camera with very good high ISO performance is a must with this lens.

07-29-2011, 05:36 PM   #5
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I also disagree with the principle of this test. You cannot test such lenses at so close distances, taking a picture of a stamp.
There are several specialized websites that will give you much reliable tests.

I have some experience about the Sigma 120-400. You can read what I think of it on this page.
07-29-2011, 09:18 PM   #6
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For me the ability of the 50-500 to go from relatively wide angle for close in action to long telephoto for the action further away would be desirable.

I have a 170-500 currently but have used 70-200 for sports such as soccer in the past, and being close to the sidelines sometimes the 70mm wide was necessary to capture multiple players on a play.
07-29-2011, 10:47 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by gt13013 Quote
I also disagree with the principle of this test. You cannot test such lenses at so close distances, taking a picture of a stamp.[/URL].
Those are 100% crops from a 21MP FF camera. The shooting distance isn't that small that results are irrelevant.

You can also check the-digital-picture, but they use different cameras, which makes it hard to compare.
07-30-2011, 02:57 AM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
Those are 100% crops from a 21MP FF camera. The shooting distance isn't that small that results are irrelevant.
I don't say that they are irrelevant, but they are very partial.

First, a shooting distance of some meters for a 500mm lens is very short, and the lens can behave very differently compared to longer distances.
For instance, here is what you get from a 105mm (Nikon 18-105) lens at a shooting distance of about 1 meter, in the corners of the image : http://sn.im/tcfhi (explanations here, in French); Its is pretty bad, but here the shooting distance is 9 times the focal, and the lens is not optimized for that.
On the contrary, if you shoot small animals or flowers at some meters, these results become quite relevant!

Second, and most important: it is not said how the focus was made in the test. Generally, the resolution tests are made in order to test the intrinsic quality of the lens, by bypassing the AF focus system, taking some pictures and keeping the best one, etc... I can do that with my Sigma 120-400, and get good pictures. But in the real life, you use AF, you don't use mirror lock-up, etc.. And the results can be quite different. If you look at all the problems that people get with these lenses, front and back focus are very frequent. And indeed, the Sigma 120-400 seems prone to this problem. You can read the link that I gave in my precedent post (just above) for details.

07-30-2011, 10:19 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by gt13013 Quote
First, a shooting distance of some meters for a 500mm lens is very short, and the lens can behave very differently compared to longer distances.
So far, I have not seen a lens that looked good at 5m but was bad at 20m. And you do get opportunities to shoot 500mm at short distances - birds for example.
07-30-2011, 12:19 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
So far, I have not seen a lens that looked good at 5m but was bad at 20m.
Because you have not be confronted to front and back focus problems. But many Sigma 120-400 have this problem, and I have one example of these at home!
Apparently, you have not followed my link above (here again). It is detailed inside. But if you want to understand with an example, here is what you can get if the focus if optimized for infinity: http://sn.im/ru7ft : back-focus. And if the focus is good at 5 meters, it will be bad at infinity. You have to choose!
This problem has also been pointed out here (sections 10 and 11): Sigma 120-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 APO DG OS HSM review - Introduction - Lenstip.com

QuoteOriginally posted by Laurentiu Cristofor Quote
And you do get opportunities to shoot 500mm at short distances - birds for example.
Yes, I already said the same thing in my previous message!

Do you have one of these lenses: Sigma 120-400, 150-500, 50-500? I can propose you some testing...
07-30-2011, 04:57 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by gt13013 Quote
Because you have not be confronted to front and back focus problems.
I use MF, so for me, tests done using MF are all I need. I don't have any problems with AF systems other than their existence and impact on things like focus throw and dampening.

On the other hand you brought a good point - now I'm not sure if those tests are made with manual focusing - if they were using AF, they don't really test the optics alone, but the optics+AF. Which isn't useful because the AF calibration can vary between lenses more than optical differences.
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