It arrived today,.. I found it waiting for me in the central office in the building I live in.
The office staff had to rearrange the furniture to make room for it!
(it did not fit in my mail box
There taking up so much room in the office was this large well traveled cardboard box.. with tape at all seams declaring in English and Japanese in bold red...
... Fra - geee- lay .....must be Italian?
I tossed it up onto one shoulder and nearly cringed at the weight. Whoa....
Ran it up stairs with the enthusiasm of a child at Christmas, to unwrap it on my kitchen floor
I tore into it as if it contained a Red Rider repeating action Air rifle with a compass in the stock and this little thing that tells time...
.... Inside was the most businesslike padded case,.. all black. It looks like something a S.W.A.T. team would pack in.
I slid back the zippers to reveal... my Major Award...
... it's,... it's ,.. it's- its- its indescribably beautiful!!
Sigma EX 300mm-800mm f/5.6 HSM APO IF
First Impressions and ergonomics:
- Overall Build Quality:
Identical to my previous Sigma 500mm f/4.5 EX HSM
Solid as any lens I have used. If you have not held a Sigma EX Super Telephoto,. consider it in a class equal to a Canon L Super Tele,. just Matte black as opposed to semi-gloss putty. I prefer the Zen black finish to Canon white.. but that's just me.
Optics look super clean, and AF is just as fast as on the f/4.5 Sigma 500m prime. One thing I did notice that was different from the Sigma 500mm,. the lens has optical coatings that bestow a more green tint to the glass,. vs. the usual rose tint I have seen on Sigmas in the past. It will be interesting to what effect if any this will have on the images. When comparing the Sigma 500m to the Canon 500mm I have noted (as have many others) that the Sigma tends to have a warmer feel. I have theorized that the optical coatings may play some part in this impression of color balance.
This is the Heaviest lens I have owned. At nearly 13 pounds It's twice the weight of the Sigma 500mm (207oz Vs. 111oz )and significantly heavier than my current 8Lb Canon 500mm f/4L Lugging this beast on a tripod or otherwise will be a chore. Between the weight and lack of IS hand holding is completely out of the question. (Minolta fans take note,. any Sigma Super tele is a better choice fro owners of Minolta DSLRs with built in IS
- Manual Focus and Zoom Ring:
Like my previous Sigma 500mm EX,. the Sigmonster's manual focus ring is smoother and more tactile than any other I have used. It is positioned perfectly. The Zoom ring.. oh what a Zoom ring.. the only one on the planet that is marked from 300mm to 800mm in increments of 100.. It too is smooth and tactile,. Like most Sigmas I expect it's very slight stiffness to loosen in a few quick months. located behind the focus ring,. with my left hands fingers on the focus ring my left thumb sits naturally on the zoom. Perfect.
- Other Controls:
My first disappointment.
I was prepared fro this having read it in other reviews,. other than an AF-MF switch,. the Sigmonster is bare.. no focus limit switch for you! This is a small problem,. and an odd choice for Sigma. A focus limit is included on the earlier 500mm prime and I think there is one on the 300mm f/2.8 EX and 800mm f/5.6 EX prime. My only possible explanation? Near focus on this lens is waaaaay out at 236 inches! (600cm) That's TWENTY feet! (6 meters) Most focus limit switches on Super teles are around 8 - 10 meters.. so really perhaps Sigma figured "what's the point?"
- Other Amenities
All the rest of the details I look for in a lenses ergonomics are virtually identical to those of the top notch Sigma 500mm f/4.5EX, which in my opinion.. are in most cases better than those of Canon's comparable super teles.
It is mounted toward the front of the lens,. as opposed to the rear,. so it is completely out of the way regarding controls on both the lens and camera, and tripod head. This also puts it closer to the lenses center of balance. On the Sigmonster it is in fact nearly perfectly balanced.
The tripod collar is so smooth,. allowing you turn the lens in the collar easier and with less jerkiness. It is in fact "butter smooth" . It feels like it is on roller bearings.
I feel the front mount and larger diameter of the ring on the Sigma must contribute to this,. by balancing the lens better there is less sideways force,. and thus less friction.
Tripod Mounting FOOT:
Again the Sigma has gone the extra mile on the little things. The Tripod foot is long,. allowing more leeway to balance the lens with T-cons being added,. and it has four threaded mounting holes,. two 1/4" and two 3/8" The grip surfaces are excellent for use as a carrying handle.
Drop In Filter
Like all modern AF super teles,. one uses rear drop in filters as opposed to trying to mount a frisbee sized disk to the front of the lens. Sigma's solution is superior to most OEMs including Canon, as the ability to rotate the filter is built into the lens itself. No special holder is needed for a polarizer! And yes,. Sigma includes both a standard clear filter (installed) and a polarizer.
The Sigmonster's hood has a substantial feel,. and when it is mounted it is quite secure.
Included with the Sigmonster is a very practical, useful high end soft padded case.
This case is in fact exactly like the ones i have been eyeing as an after market purchase for my Canon 500mm, which comes with a virtually useless plastic Revlon Cosmetics hard case instead of a use able bag like this Sigma. This padded soft case even has a separate compartment to fit all the added doo dads one needs to keep with a lens,,. like the INCLUDED polarizer (nice touch) .. lens mounting plates,. manuals etc..
With this included bag I no longer need to look at the Tamrac or Domke supertele lens bags,.
Two so far;
- T-Con compatibility:
The Sigmonster displays the same Autofocus incompatibility with T-cons on the 1D MkII with current firmware as the 500mm f/4.5 did.
ie: It will NOT AF with a 1.4 T-con. To date I have never heard any Sigmonster owner mention this,. and I am truly chagrined to find out this oddball incompatibility exists on this lens too. I have to assume this is the identical issue that the 500mm had bestowed upon it with Canon's first Firmware upgrade for the 1D MkII. If I could find the original firmware I'd re-install it
Further T-con Oddities;
This same result occurs on the 1D MkII with both Canon's 1.4x AND with the Kenko teleplus pro 300! The Kenko 1.4x is also reporting correct aperture to both the 1D and the 20D. In neither case will the lens even attempt to AF. However when I use the Kenko 1.4x on the 20d with other f/5.6 lenses .. the Kenko will not report the proper f/stop and AF will function. So the Kenko is NOT an option for Sigma Super tele owners looking for a T-con that will allow AF.
I also attempted the "tape trick" .. just to see,. and the results were nearly Identical to those of the Sigma 500mm .. it tries to AF but hunts drastically and does not easily achieve focus,. and sounds like it will really hurt the lens. My advice again is to NEVER use the tape trick on Sigma Superteles.
In The Field:
- Lack of Focus limit switch:
Perhaps when I use it I won't miss it,. but for now it bothers me to not have this on a lens that can use all he AF speed we can muster.
- AutoFocus Speed
AF seems a tiny bit slower than on the Sigma 500mm prime. It is fast and silent, and locks on well, extremely accurate. The slower speed seems due to it's having to travel further within the lens to get from infinity to minium distance.. this just seems to take a long time. If the focus point is allready in the right neighborhood as your subject (and with focal lengths like this neighborhood is not much of an exageration) .. then the AF will snap right onto target just like with the 500mm. But if you are at the focus extrmems,. then be prepared to either help it along with a quick twist of the manual focus,. or wait while the HSM motor boards the nearest taxi to cross town to the other end of the focus range.
- AutoFocus Tracking
I had really good luck with accurate AF tracking of birds in flight my first time out with this lens on the 1D MkII. Using both center AF point with expansion on ,. as well as all 45 AF points left to the camera to decide,. I got great results.
- Impact of 800mm Vs no Image Stabilization
Sigma NEEDS to get it's "O.S." act in gear. This lens is desperate for all the help it can get. 800mm is waaaaay out there and even on a heavy expensive tripod movement is VERY noticeable in the viewfinder @ 800mm
At 500mm and under,. life without IS is not too bad.. but once you go up to 600mm and up.. I can't see any reason not to demand IS in your lens. Keeping this lens while having an IS lens is going to be a real trick.
1St group of Sample pics are up.. nothing scientific;
<=== 300-800mm Test gallery
fill flash.. (cloud cover was awefull again)
ISO had to be high @ 800 this time,. 1/400th shutter,. and fill flash. But I remembered to pack the cable release! MLU is a big help @ 800mm
This sums it up for now.. will be back with a full report on performance when I get the chance to take it into the field.