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Old 8th of December 2005 (Thu)   #5
liquidstone
insane Bird photographer
 
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,063
Default A short User Report

Quote:
Originally Posted by burntbizzkit
Does anyone actually have this lens? It's HUGE. I wanted to see some pictures of this thing and the pictures it produces if anyone has one.
Hi Chris,

I use one and let me put here a short User Report:

I've been using the Sigmonster (Sigma 300-800 DG, Canon mount) as my main birding lens since since April this year, and I'm very, very impressed with its optical performance.

THE GOOD POINTS:

It beats my beloved 400 5.6L in sharpness and contrast at any length (with TC on the 400 prime) and aperture. Here are unprocessed 100% crops straight from the camera (jpeg large fine, parameter -1/0/+1/0) from my copies of the 400 5.6L and the Sigmonster:

http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/52379202/original

This beast is prime-like in sharpness (on my 20D/350D/300D) from 300-700 mm wide open, and I stop down in those focal lengths only for more DOF. At 800 mm, it's still sharp wide open, but improves back to super-sharpness at f/8 - f/11.

Here's a shot at 800 mm, f/5.6 , 1/60 sec, ISO 200:
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/51039579/original

100% crop:
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/51039585/original

Here's one at 800 mm, stopped down to f/9, 1/250 sec, ISO 200
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/52733557

100% crop:
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/52733454/original

A test shot at 1000 meters:
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/52021274

100% crops
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/52021338/original
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/52045420

Wide open shots at 700 mm or shorter:

648 mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 400
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/48133059/original

687 mm, 1/80 sec, ISO 400
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/52847449

With a 2x TC, there's some IQ degradation but it's still better than upressing. Here's a shot at 1600 mm with a Sigma 2x TC (2560 mm equivalent AOV with the 350D), f/18, 1/50 sec, ISO 400, manual focus and exposure:
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/50832927

100% crop
http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/50832965/original

The Sigmonster (with 350D) is now my main long gun and it allowed me to get close to a lot of shy Philippine endemics. For flight shots, my 20D + 400 5.6L is of course the better tool.


THE NOT-SO-GOOD POINTS

Sigma has increased the price of the DG version to circa USD 6200 (B&H). From the outpout I've seen, I can't see a difference in IQ between the older non-DG and the newer DG one. So if I were to buy this lens all over again, I'd go for the non-DG version if it's cheaper by more than USD 1,000.


This lens would benefit greatly with the addition of Optical Stabilization (tripod-ready OS) and a focus limiter switch. The latter, a standard feature of Canon long Ls, works wonders in speeding up AF at fliers. The Sigmonster's HSM is fast, but Canon's USM is a bit faster (just a field use impression, not based on objective test).


The Sigmonster is a heavy beast, and I've not been able to hand hold it in any manner. But I knew about the weight and bulk before I bought it, and had accepted these trade-offs for extreme reach, near-prime optics and zoom flexibility.


It needs a good support and long lens technique (LLT) to do its job well. For support, I use a Manfrotto 3421 gimbal head and 475B tripod.


The classic LLT of "left hand on the lens, face against the VF and gentle shutter press" work for many people. However, I prefer to use a remote switch, hands off the lens and wait for the vibration to die down (evident in the VF) before tripping the shutter. With this LLT, I have gone as slow as 0.8 sec (with MLU) and 1/40 - 1/50 sec (without MLU) at 800 mm and got decent results. In strong wind though, I revert back to the classic LLT and just use faster shutter speeds of 1/160 or faster.


MY CONCLUSION:

If you're looking for 500 mm to 1000 mm and beyond reach, the 500 f/4 L IS is lighter (hence can be hand held) and more compact, 1 stop brighter and most probably a bit sharper at 500 mm, has IS, faster AF and weather-sealing. But the 500 prime doesn't zoom.

If you value the framing flexibility of zoom while still retaining near-prime sharpness, and can live without IS, the Sigmonster is a worthy alternative to the similarly weighing 600 f/4 L IS.

Most of the recent bird pics in my galleries are taken with the Sigmonster:

http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone


Warmest regards from our islands,

Romy Ocon
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Romy Ocon, Philippine Wild Birds
Over 260 species captured in habitat, and counting.

Looooong Lens Imaging (1000 mm and beyond)
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