Sigma 50-500mm OS Focus Test…

I figured that whilst I still had Gerry’s focus test tool (thanks Gerry and yes I know I keep forgetting to bring it with me to return it…) I’d see how the focus works on the new lens.

The Nikon D7000 has AF micro adjust capability which allows you set specific adjustments for different lenses – however as it turns out it looks like I won’t be needing it for this lens.

I locked the camera down on a tripod with a remote cable release in a well lit area a couple of metres from the target and shot wide open (with OS off) at various focal lengths (manually setting the focus way out for each before half pressing the shutter to AF and then taking an image). Focal lengths I tried were at 50, 70, 100, 135, 200, 300, 400 and 500. Even at 100% zoom on the computer it’s a little hard to tell at this distance at the shorter focal lengths but by 200mm it is easy to see where the depth of field lies in the image on the measured target and focus looks to be pretty bang on through 200, 300, 400 and 500mm (at this distance) – gotta be happy with that.

A close up view of the target for 290mm

NIKON D7000 + 50.0-500.0 mm f/4.5-6.3 @ 290 mm, 1/160 sec at f/6.3, ISO 100

Coming soon some first “real” images in the field…

Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM Lens…

I’ve made my first foray in the the realm of long/super (>300mm) telephoto lenses with the purchase of the Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM – affectionately named the Bigma or this newer version the BigMOS.

With the 500mm space littered with insanely expensive (read $10K to $15K) prime lenses I’ve entered the market with a value proposition lens. The Sigma 50-500 OS has an RRP of around $2000 here in Australia but generally sells from around $1500 on the street but I managed to get a pricematch here in Sydney at Georges to $1335 (incl 2 year Sigma Aust warranty) which I was quite happy with.

Probably the only other competitive options in this focal length at around this price range are the aging Nikon 80-400mm VR f/4.5-5.6D ED (which is 100mm shorter, has VR but is reputed to be slow to focus on all but high end bodies), the older 50-500 non OS and the slightly cheaper Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM (which is 100mm longer at the short end and is reputed to be not quite as sharp as the 50-500 bigger brother) and the Tamron SP AF200-500mm F/5-6.3 Di (which has no stabilisation and is apparently not very good). One other very viable option is the very good Nikon 300mm f/4 with the 1.7x teleconverter giving you a 500mm f/6.3 prime lens (a friend (Gerry) shoots this exact combination and whilst it possibly is a sharper 500mm lens it isn’t as convenient a range). To be fair another friend (Cameron) tried to steer me towards the Nikon 80-400 VR and others have extolled their distrust of Sigma lenses (however I already have two – the 8-16mm and the 50mm f/1.4 (which I absolutely love and reckon it’s probably my best lens and better than any Nikon lens I own)). I did try the Nikon 80-400 VR, the Sigma 150-500 OS and Sigma 50-500 non OS on my camera body but in the end decided to opt for the longer reach and convenience of the well regarded BigMOS.

Unlike true fast primes in this focal length arena these lenses (with stabilisation) are designed to be both hand held as well as shot on monopods and tripods. Whilst the new Sigma 50-500 OS is quite large and heavy at 2KG it pales in comparison to say the $11,000 4KG Nikon 500mm f/4 or the $12,000 4.6KG 400mm f/2.8G or the $14,000 5KG 600mm f/4.

You probably couldn’t expect too much of a 10x zoom lens spanning focal lengths from 50mm to 500mm (75-750mm equivalent focal range on my crop sensor DX Nikon D7000 camera) but online reviews and reports seem to bely it’s apparent compromises. Typical reviews online indicated the following general Pros and Cons of this lens:

The Pro’s: very useful focal range, 500mm at a ‘budget’ price, optical stabilisation, hand holdable, quite sharp wide open from 150 to 400mm, great minimum focus distance of 50-180cm 1:3.1 macroish, fast hypersonic focus motor with full time manual override

The Con’s: relatively slow aperture of f/6.3 from about 250mm onwards, not as sharp above 400mm, chromatic aberration and vignetting at the edge of the frame (on FX), huge 95mm front filter, focus problems on some lenses

I’ve only had the lens for a day and have yet to use it in the field but am looking forward to the chance to use it for either wildlife or sports when the opportunity arises and I’ll definitely report back when I’ve had a chance to test it much more thoroughly.

Whilst it wasn’t the brightest of days this morning with hazy overcast skies but I took it for a quick spin from our front balcony – all shots standing handheld with OS on shot at f/8, 1/400 and ISO 180-280, RAW images straight out of camera and converted to JPEG in Lightroom. These are pretty mundane but look pretty promising so far – looking at the 420mm and 500mm at 100% in Lightroom I can’t see much if any drop in IQ.

50mm – setting the scene you can see the tops of the tree in the middle there that I’m going to zoom in on – you can’t see it at this size but 50mm (at least this image) is quite soft

NIKON D7000 + 50.0-500.0 mm f/4.5-6.3 @ 50 mm, 1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 220

210mm

NIKON D7000 + 50.0-500.0 mm f/4.5-6.3 @ 210 mm, 1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 180

290mm

NIKON D7000 + 50.0-500.0 mm f/4.5-6.3 @ 290 mm, 1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 220

420mm

NIKON D7000 + 50.0-500.0 mm f/4.5-6.3 @ 420 mm, 1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 220

500mm

NIKON D7000 + 50.0-500.0 mm f/4.5-6.3 @ 500 mm, 1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 280

100% crop of the 500mm image

NIKON D7000 + 50.0-500.0 mm f/4.5-6.3 @ 500 mm, 1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 280

Wine Country…

We travelled through the back roads of wine country recently and never one to miss a photographic opportunity managed a few images on the way…

Note: These images (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer.

It’s just starting to be fall colour time so I was lucky enough to get some of the turning leaves. A nice compressed landscape with the 70-200.

Autumn Rows

NIKON D7000 + 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 @ 200 mm, 1/125 sec at f/5, ISO 100

We stopped at this winery for a picnic lunch – this was our view from where we ate… This was a nine shot bracket HDR’d and then converted to monochrome. I’m not entirely happy with this image and I’m not sure why – I like the skies but… I should have binned it I think… 🙂

Vines and Skies

NIKON D7000 + @ 13 mm, 1/50 sec at f/11, ISO 100

On the way home we also visited this winery which had an amazing grove of autumn trees in a lovely courtyard outside the tasting rooms and I couldn’t resist a couple handheld HDR brackets whilst we were there. The colour of the red leaves on the pebbled ground along with the bright golden, orange and green leaves on the trees was vibrant and incredible.

Rose Coloured Fall

NIKON D7000 + @ 12 mm, 1/100 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100

Tea for Two

NIKON D7000 + @ 12 mm, 1/100 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100

Supermoon Sunday…

The moon was full on Sunday evening and because this month’s full moon coincides with the moon’s perigee — its closest approach to Earth — it was also the year’s biggest.

Note: These images (especially the wider shots) look much better when larger – so click any of the images below to see larger versions in an inline overlay slideshow gallery viewer.

Some friends and I headed down to Dawes Point under the southern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge because The Photographers Ephemeris indicated that the moon would rise directly behind the Sydney Opera House and as luck would have it also approximately at the same time as sunset and twilight (moonrise at 5:06PM and sunset at 5:09PM behind us):

+ @ sec at

Sunset and early twilight was very pretty with soft pastel colours in the sky

Lavender Sails

NIKON D7000 + 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 @ 170 mm, 1/30 sec at f/8, ISO 100

Unfortunately we’d setup too far to the right and the moon was already above the horizon behind the Opera House before we moved over to the left just in front of the main bridge pilon. From here we could watch as the moon rose whilst there was still a little light and a touch of colour left in the sky

Pac Moon

NIKON D7000 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 280 mm, 1/15 sec at f/8, ISO 100

Actually truth be told it didn’t seem all that much bigger than normal but having it lined up with the Sydney Opera House with a nice clear sky behind it was pretty good.

As the moon rose and twilight headed towards full night and it became progressively much darker we moved back up the hill a little towards our original setup location

Blue

NIKON D7000 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300 mm, 1/60 sec at f/8, ISO 200

By now I was bracketing exposures (at +-2 stops with a base exposure of at least -4EV to cope with the very bright moon). The -6EV exposure results in an almost black sky and opera house but with a nicely exposed moon and the -2EV exposure results in some colour in the sky and detail on the SOH but a nuclear moon. For the following I took the three exposures into photoshop and blended the moon from the better layers into the layer for the environment

Luna Opera

NIKON D7000 + 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 185 mm, 1/3 sec at f/8, ISO 200

Eventually we moved back to where we’d started with the moon directly above the sails (and a little behind) but the sky was so dark by this stage that nothing I took at this time with the sails was really salvageable.

The Lonely Church…

Was on a day trip in the back roads of the Hunter Region recently and stopped to take some shots of this lonely church in Wollombi early one very overcast morning.

NIKON D7000 + @ 12 mm, 1/80 sec at f/9, ISO 100

Wollombi Church

NIKON D7000 + @ 12 mm, 1/200 sec at f/5.6, ISO 100