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Old 8th of December 2005 (Thu)   #5
insane Bird photographer
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,065
Default A short User Report

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.


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:

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:

100% crop:

Here's one at 800 mm, stopped down to f/9, 1/250 sec, ISO 200

100% crop:

A test shot at 1000 meters:

100% crops

Wide open shots at 700 mm or shorter:

648 mm, 1/60 sec, ISO 400

687 mm, 1/80 sec, ISO 400

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:

100% crop

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.


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.


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:

Warmest regards from our islands,

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

Looooong Lens Imaging (1000 mm and beyond)
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