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02-04-2014, 03:30 PM - 1 Like   #31
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QuoteOriginally posted by dansamy Quote
here aren't any long, cold winter nights in Alabama...
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02-06-2014, 09:36 AM   #32
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Well, I just did some comparison shots. Will post detailed photos with 100% crops when I get a minute, but for straight out of the camera jpegs, the Sigma 400mm I have easily out-resolves the 55-300mm kit lens by a fair amount at f/8. Significantly more detail is visible, even with the fringing. It also beats out the 400mm Spiratone manual lens I have as well as my Tokina 500mm f/8 mirror. By a large amount.(But then, the 55-300 out-resolves both of those as well)

So maybe I over-paid a bit, but it still resolves more detail than any of my other lenses in this range.

Charles.
02-06-2014, 01:39 PM   #33
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$200 for an AF 400mm lens seems like a darn good price, and the sharpness, color and contrast in your shots look pretty nice. Except for the fringing, that hurts. But if you can process it out, I think you did well.
02-08-2014, 09:54 AM   #34
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Alrighty, I have comparison shots. First off, the lenses I'm using.

Sigma AF TELE 400mm f/5.6. 72mm filter and a extendable lens hood (that doesn't stay put)
Spiratone Plura-Coat Sharpshooter 400mm f/6.3. 72mm filter, adaptall mount. $50 eBay lens that's too long for practical use.
Pentax DAL 55-300mm f/4-5.8
Tokina 500mm f/8 mirror lens

Here are the photos: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B_m3oeSD6e89NTgtaWt0Mkh1R3c&usp=sharing
I've included the unedited out-of-camera jpegs, as well as my best effort with the raw files and Lightroom + Paint Shop Pro X3. All photos shot at f/8. I took 5 or 6 shots and used the best of those for this comparison.

Results:
The 400mm Sigma handily wins this contest, even with the fringing, it has the best colors and the most detail. It takes to sharpening well and the results can be impressive -- but it takes a lot of work in post to get those results. The fringing is truly massive, and it takes quite a bit of time to remove it all -- and often removing it all isn't possible without B&W conversion. (Which is an option, of course)

The Sigma and the DAL are very close in color cast and contrast. The Sigma in this test returned a bluer sky, and yet retained the vibrant reds and oranges of the sunlight on the telephone pole. The DAL was no slouch, coming in second overall. If I was rating on overall usability of the lenses, the DAL would win. But I'm going for best overall image. In truth, the quality jump from the DAL to the Sigma is very significant, and very noticeable, so the Sigma must win under these critera.

The Spiratone has a nice blue sky, but the reds and oranges don't come through with the same vibrancy. The overall image is significantly colder. This lens exhibits some ghosting and softness, almost a glow. It doesn't respond terribly well to an unsharp mask because of this, but some detail can indeed be extracted. Too much sharpness adjustment brings out grain though. Fringing is there, but it's very well controlled, and can be easily adjusted out. With post processing, the results of the Spiratone are still less sharp and less detailed than the un-processed image from the DAL. But it's actually not *that* far behind the DAL. That being said, the difficulty of handling,focusing, and stopping down this lens make it not worth the bother. You really need to use a tripod and take several minutes to line up each shot. This was a $50 eBay lens (shipped), and I've kept it on the shelf since the day it arrived.

The tokina mirror lens has the most vibrant sky... but it's pretty terrible everywhere else. Bokeh aside, it's just not sharp. At all. It's extremely difficult to focus accurately, even with live view and focus peaking. I must have taken 20 shots with this lens, refocusing between each, with both viewfinder and focus peaking, and the best result from that is still terrible. Although much smaller than the Spiratone, I'd take the Spiratone over this mirror lens any day of the week. Even extreme sharpness adjustments do nothing, the image is just too soft to respond to an unsharp mask. There's no fringing, but the image is just junk.

Conclusion: If you need the extra reach of the Sigma and can deal with the amount of post required to remove the fringing, and you can find it relatively cheap, it may be worth adding to your arsenal. But for the most part, I'd say go with the DAL 55-300.

Note: I tested the Sigma with the Q and fotodiox adapter, and the Sigma returns better results from a cropped APSC shot. This lens is not a good candidate for super telephoto.

Charles.

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