A long zoom lens is helpful when you can’t, don’t want to, or are otherwise legally restricted from getting too close to your subject. The zoom lens we use on a daily basis is the Nikkor 18-200mm with vibration reduction (VR). Getting REALLY close to a hawk, especially when you can’t fly, was made easier with our Sigma 80-400mm zoom. The Sigma 80-400mm zoom has optical stabilization (OS) which makes handheld shooting with the big heavy lens possible. However, after a few outings, what we learned was that while OS is a great feature, a big lens like the Sigma 80-400mm really needs to be on a tripod.
So, when Sigma upgraded their 50-500mm zoom with onboard OS, we kept our eye out for used non-OS units on Craigslist. After a few months of diligent scouring, we finally scored. We picked this unit up from a local photographer. He originally purchased it for sports photography, but realized he did not use it as often as he thought he would. We settled on a mutually agreeable price, and this “almost new” lens has become the latest addition to our collection.
The Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3 EX DG HSM zoom covers a wide range. It is a large-aperture lens with a wide angle and a relatively short minimum focusing distance. The lens works well for both Digital SLRs and traditional 35mm SLRs. The APO lens is made from special low-dispersion (SLD) glass and is designed to minimize color aberration. This lens uses a hyper-sonic motor (HSM) driven by ultrasonic waves to provide a quiet, high-speed AF. The lens is equipped with a rear-focus system that moves the rear lens group for silent focusing. The lens can be used with an APO Teleconverter to increase is focal length.
The two Sigma zooms (50-500mm, 80-400mm) are similar, but also quite different in important ways. The two lenses weigh pretty much the same (3.6 lbs), but the HSM drive on the 50-500mm zoom is MUCH quieter. So quiet that when we first used the lens, we didn’t think it was working, as we did not hear the familiar whirl of the autofocus motor coming alive. This may seem like a small point, but can be the difference between spooking the wildlife or getting the shot.
The FirstUse review of our new Sigma 50-500mm zoom will be ready in a few weeks. We will also put these two lenses in a head-to-head shootout this Spring. Check out the Summer iPad issue of RainyDayPhotography for the full write-up.