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02-27-2013, 09:14 PM   #1
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Help me choose: A summary of my research for a tele lens ... all Sigma.

A while back, when the budget seemed to allow for the purchase of a Sigma 500/4.5, I didn't pay much attention to the ultra-zoom lenses available because I thought "prime tele lenses are much better than tele- zoom lenses."
I still think the primes are better, unfortunately, budgetary restrictions make me now look into zoom lenses.

I have browsed for hours regarding two Sigma lenses:

1. Sigma 50-500 (the "new" version)
2. Sigma 150-500 (the new version too, as far as I can see from my searches)

This is a short summary of some of the threads I have browsed:

Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO OS HSM - Review -

and there are so many more that I stopped searching. And that is only from this site here. Tons of others from different websites as well.

What I am looking for is a tele-zoom which will have good IQ at the long end (400-500mm).

The reports/reviews are sort of a mixed bag of opinions; some will report the 50-500 as "better" at the 400-500mm than the 150-500mm counterpart.
Who's to believe? That's a tough call. So many different opinions.

I have been using the DA*300/4 for many years now and I am now convinced that any zoom lens will have a tough time to come close to its IQ; however, I still need to get to 500mm for my "birding" and other such wildlife photography.
I have tried the combo DA*300/4 plus the Pentax AF-A 1.7X adapter (that's 510mm) but I find the resulting images rather "just OK".
Am I kidding myself to think that those tele-zooms (Sigma 50-500 and 150-500) will be a better choice?

Just a note: I am presently experiencing the "Q + adapter + "adapted lenses" .... no great luck after just one day trying. I will be taking some more shots over the next few days with this combo and other lenses (the Tamron 70-200/2.8 is next on the list) and see if the Q kit suits me or not.
Further note: of course I am not expecting miracles with the Q as far as IQ is concerned although I still find it a very capable little camera.

I am looking forward to any suggestion (not just "opinions") from actual users of either one or both of those Sigma lenses.

Thanks to all.


02-27-2013, 10:01 PM   #2
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I have the older screw drive 50-500mm. It is quite adequate for me but to be honest I don't see it competing with the DA*300 in IQ. I have gotten good images with it, even some with Pentax AF-A 1.7x adapter on. But it is not prime quality IQ.
02-27-2013, 10:04 PM   #3
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I have the 150-500 and like it well enough. I have never used the 50-500. I'm not prepared to spend the extra $1000s for the 500 prime (yet), so I am happy with the zoom :-)

I am told the slow aperture does not work so well on the Q due to the diffraction.

Last edited by SpecialK; 02-27-2013 at 11:10 PM.
02-27-2013, 10:51 PM - 2 Likes   #4

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I have a Sigma 150-500 HSM. It's the greatest FL zoom lens I have so I can't compare it to other lens. I'm happy with the IQ at 500.

The only problem with that lens is that it's big and heavy. Many times I can't lug it along so I use the DA* 60-250mm + 1.7X AFA instead. The IQ of the Sigma is much better than that of this combo.

For birding, I think a zoom lens is easier because with zooming, I can locate the target easier. With a prime lens with great FL, by the time I locate where the target "used to be," it's flown away.

02-27-2013, 10:54 PM   #5
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I have an older 50-500 and it's great if you can't afford anything better. The main complaints are
1. at 500 when focusing more than 15 metres away it gets progressively softer. I wouldn't be surprised if the pentax 300 had more usable detail cropped than the bigma at infinity.
2. Sucks in dust
3. zoom comes out so long that it really a problem with a tripod.

Maybe your consideration is forget the 50-500 and other alternatives keep your pentax 300 and buy the pentax converter when it comes out. That way you have a fantastic lens with no compromise. (on the other hand if you have kids at home get whatever you can afford before the kids use the money)

Am I allowed to say the Sgma 500 4.5 is absolutely sensational - better not

I used a 150-500 sigma on a gimble with a nikon 7000 in Africa and it didn't come close to the Sigma 500

Last edited by Bob from Aus; 02-27-2013 at 11:07 PM.
02-27-2013, 11:02 PM   #6
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Have you considered the 70-200 or 100-300 with a TC?
02-28-2013, 06:05 AM   #7
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I would advise to check into the 50-500mm OS. I had the previous version and find the OS version to be quite a bit sharper at the longer ranges. It also has HSM and closer focusing. At 300mm it is almost as sharp as my DA300 and at 500 it is about as sharp as a DA*300 with AFA 1.7x. I use it with a sturdy monopod and keep the Aperture at F8 and get great results. I hesitated for months after selling my older Bigma which I was less than thrilled with its IQ. I finally made the purchase and have been happy with it. Now we have moved to the big city and I don't get to use it much....
02-28-2013, 08:13 AM   #8
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I have an old, by today's standards, SIGMA APO 70-200F2.8 EX (non DG Non Macro)

this was the version of the lens which was available for film at the introduction of the pentax *istD camera,

This lens has been modified / upgraded many times, but except for a non macro DG version (same design but anti reflective rear element coating) and the latest HSM II version with OS, I am not sure any of the intermediate lenses are quite as sharp.

I use it with the 1.4x and 2x Sigma APO - EX DG teleconverters and find the IQ is exceptional.

I am not sure that you can use the HSM lenses with TCs, buit in looking at sigmas website, they seem to indicate that the TCs now support HSM, but this needs to be confirmed.

I like a 70-200/2.8 with TCs because i have much better speed without TCs for short focal lengths.

02-28-2013, 08:37 AM - 1 Like   #9

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That 500mm mark is tough to get to without spending alot of money.

I've had 2 different versions of the Bigma and sold both becuase at 500mm I found the pictures pretty useless if I had to crop even 25% (i.e. small birds you just couldn't get close enough to or farway subjects like elk/beaver that didn't fill the frame)

I have the Sigma 100-300 F4 now and with a Sigma 1.4x, I can get to 420mm and those images can atleast survive a little cropping, plus my camera bag is literally 5-7lbs lighter and when I'm on the return leg of a 4-5 mile each way hike it's a HUGE HUGE difference w/o the bigma in my backpack.

If you don't like the images from the 300+1.7x, maybe try the 300+1.4x and see what you think of the images after cropping to 500mm FOV.

At 46, I now have to seriously take into consideration the weight of my camera bag, and I don't think even if I could afford the 500 4.5 I could carry it for long in my bag. I know I'll never but a Bigma in again, it's just too heavy.
02-28-2013, 09:30 AM   #10
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There is a lot more to it then just getting a lens and a good camera body - the second thread link you posted is a perfect example of this.

As for the need to get out to 500, most of the time this need can be countered by shooting from portable bird blinds and other creative ways, I have gotten shots of skittish birds that fill the entire frame at 150mm with my Sigma 70-200. For me, I am more about speed of the lens and optical qualities than I am of the reach - the Sigma 300 2.8 with the matched Sigma 1.4 TC is an extremely deadly combo, 420 at f/4 with blazing fast AF that locks as quick as without a TC and still resolves as high with the TC as the equivalent canon and nikon offerings - have you researched that lens?
02-28-2013, 09:51 AM   #11
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if i were you, i will pick up DA 60-250/f4 combine with TC 2x or 1,4X at the end long throw you can get 500/f8 or 350/f5,6 thats can make your image better, or perhaps you will consider sigma 100-300/f4... that will do, consider you have DA 300/f4
getting extra long super zoom will not enriched the image become more exceptional, its the optical build quality that mattters in end long throw
02-28-2013, 10:42 AM   #12
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JP - I've been on a similar journey as you in finding the right match for my wildlife shooting. I've tried quite a few lenses/combinations and still haven't found the perfect fit for myself.

My mission is to capture the wildlife that I am surround with where I live. I live in the deep woods along a small river where all types of wildlife abound. But, this wildlife is truly "wild" and as skittish as can be. It drives me nuts when I see images posted of a Great Blue Heron or Wood Duck that fills the frame with a 300mm lens. I beat my head against the wall for a long time until I realized that a lot of these images were being taken a city parks and such where the wildlife is accustomed to people being close. Where I am, if a GBH or Wood Duck even senses that I am within 100 yards of them, they are gone.

So, my quest for long reach has been a long and expensive one. I've tried the following:

Tamron 300mm 2.8 Adaptall - fantastic IQ but I struggle with manual focus.
Tamron 300mm 2.8 Adaptall with AF 1.7x Pentax TC - worked great for the auto focus, but lost too much IQ for my likes.
Sigma 150-500 - Fairly soft at 500mm and slow - also didn't like the build quality and terrible zoom creep.
Pentax FA*300 4.5 - Wow - now this is the IQ I've always been looking for - my favorite lens by far. But, tough at 300mm.
Pentax DA*300 4 - bought this for the dedicated tripod mount and to see if it will out perform my FA*300

And just to add - because of a recent physical problem, I am now a tripod shooter from a stationary point. There is no more stalking etc. for me. So now I really feel the need for the reach.

I feel the ultimate for me right now would be the Sigma 500 4.5, but just can't afford it. I came very close to buying the used one here last week.

So what to do now - after a couple years of this mission, the one suggestion as was already pointed out here, is to get closer - period. I am working out some ideas for a blind which is kind of nice in my situation as I shoot only from here at home. And to add to that, as Joe suggests, is to work on the possibility of a 300 2.8 lens possibly with a very good/matched TC.

I've finally come to the point in realizing that I am spoiled by the IQ I get from the FA*300 and DA*300. I did try the Tamron 1.4x TC once, but think I may have discounted it too quickly and sold it. So now my only choice is to get closer, and the only way to do that with my super skittish wildlife around here is to use some sort of blind and be patient. I feel pretty comfortable with my plan. I will be shooting at either 300mm f4 or 420mm f5.6 with what I have. I honestly feel that I will have better results with this than with either Sigma zoom lens. Other than the Sigma 500 4.5, which I can not afford, I may look toward a 300mm 2.8 with a TC that will rival the IQ I get from the FA*/DA* 300.
02-28-2013, 01:03 PM   #13

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QuoteOriginally posted by ewig Quote
if i were you, i will pick up DA 60-250/f4 combine with TC 2x or 1,4X...
In terms of AF, none of the current 2X TC works with the DA* 60-250mm. The Tamron 1.4X kind of works (AF hunts a lot at 250mm).

I tried Tamron 2X TC + DA* 60-250mm (manual focus of course), the IQ is terrible. Tamron 1.4X TC + DA* 60-250mm is better, but IQ is still worse than that of Pentax 1.7X AFA + DA* 60-250mm, which is in turn worse than that of Sigma 150-500mm at 500mm.
02-28-2013, 01:30 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by stormtech Quote
And to add to that, as Joe suggests, is to work on the possibility of a 300 2.8 lens possibly with a very good/matched TC.
Hi stormtech. I was part of a thread on this forum where the chap said his sigma 300 plus sigma TC out performed his sigma 500 4.5 (just) That was a couple of years ago and almost swayed me to go the sigma 300. I love the 500. I agree with you in that having now got really sharp lenses I prefer a sharp 300 to a soft 500.
02-28-2013, 01:32 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by SOldBear Quote
I tried Tamron 2X TC + DA* 60-250mm (manual focus of course), the IQ is terrible. Tamron 1.4X TC + DA* 60-250mm is better
Are you certain the sigma TC can be used on the pentax 50-260? Is there a chance of damaging the pentax lens.

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