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Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo HSM

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20 181840 Oct 8, 2012
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100% of reviewers $2,749.91
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Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo is one of the EX Series lenses. It is an Apochromatic ultra-telephoto lens with a fast F4.5 maximum aperture, and it incorporates two Extraordinary Low Dispersion glass elements (Abbe number 90.3), to reduce chromatic aberration to a minimum. It incorporates internal focusing which enables responsive and fast auto focus speed. The AF drive for Sigma SA, Canon and Nikon S.L.R. cameras features Sigma's ultra-quiet Hyper Sonic Motor (H.S.M.). It also features a rotatable drop-in filter holder in the rear part of the lens barrel, which facilitates the use of filters, including a polarizing filter. Sigma's dedicated APO Tele Converter 1.4x MF and 2x MF can be used with this lens (in case of Canon EOS3 the 1.4x teleconverter can also provide the AF function). The lens materials used in this new lens are lead and arsenic free ecological glass.


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Registered: Jun 5, 2012
Location: United States
Posts: 1
Review Date: Oct 8, 2012 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,300.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: -Razor sharp- a true pro-class super-telephoto lens. -1.5 pounds lighter than the Nikon 500. -Excellent collar and tripod foot.
-AF not as fast as the Nikon 500.

This is an excellent 500mm tele for the price- if you can find one. I bought mine here on FM, after poking around for 6 months or se now and then. Mine is the older EX APO version, not the newer one with the DG coating, which is still a good deal against the Nikon. Don't let anyone fool you- the DG coating is better, but the older version without it is still a top quality telephoto lens, comparablerible in image quality to the Nikon or Canon 500.

With a modified Nikon 1.4x TC, it is still extremely sharp. It won't aupotfocus with even the 1.7x Nikon TC. I do not recommend the Sigma TCs because they are not as sharp. This is a bummer because, as I said, you have to actually do surgery on a Nikon TC to make it work with this lens.

to do the modification:

The AF is fast, but not quite up to par with the Nikon AF. I have gotten excellent bird shots with this lens, but none of birds in flight yet. I have heard that it is not nearly as easy to do the BIF shots with the Sigma as opposed to the Nikkor, and I believe it. I do not know if the newer DG version has a faster AF motor or newer design, by the way.

The bokeh is great at wide apertures, but is not up to par with the newer Nikkors when stopped down past around f/3.5.

It's also 1.5 pounds lighter than the Nikon!

All in all, a great lens, and a serious alternative that save a lot of money.

Oct 8, 2012
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Registered: Nov 24, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 476
Review Date: May 26, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Handling, weight. It is sharp-see comments. Build
Lens hood a bit short. Loses AF with converter. AF needed tweaking.

When I first got this lens I was a bit concerned about the sharpness wide open on my EOS 7D.Images appeared soft with smeared highlights and low contrast. It was sharp on my 5D, but I had to stop down to >F5.6 to get really sharp images on the 7D. However after playing with the combination for a while I tried adjusting the microfocus on the 7D. The lens needed +15 and is now sharp wide open if a little lacking in contrast compared to the Canon. IN conclusion it is a very good lens, but may need microfocus tweaking on some cameras.

May 26, 2011
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Registered: Feb 2, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 69
Review Date: Jun 10, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Size, Build, Image quality, cost relative to other long lenses
AF struggles with BiF's, tripod foot is very tall and can't be replaced or removed

I purchased this lens about two years ago, second owner.. at the time I was shooting with a D300 and D2x. Purchased primarily for birding.

Build quality is superb. I had no issues with the finish being damaged as is often the case with Sigma lenses. It size is about the same as the Nikon 200-400VR but it is about a half pound lighter.

It's able to be hand held, but it shines on a gimbal mount which is how I used it.

For static subjects this lens simply rocks. For it's price it is unbeatable. Focus is fast with very little hunting. The f4/5 max aperture allows for clean smooth backgrounds. With today's hi-iso machines, shutter speeds are little issue so the max aperture and the ability to isolate subjects becomes key and this lens does a fine job!

It responds well to 1.4x TC's. Oddly, like many others, I have found that it's performance and IQ was substantially better using a modified TC14eII than with a Sigma AP EX DG tele converter and that is how used it, but sparingly as AF takes a decent hit with a TC. Never tried it with a TC17E, but for giggles I have shot it with the TC14EII + Sigma 2x TC stacked on the D300.. not something I would do in practice, but it worked..

Autofocus with TC's can be retained either by using the TC14E with the mounting tab removed or taping off one contact on the Sigma TC.

I ultimately sold it for one reason... On BiF's the AF could not respond acceptably. Acquisition was unreliable and tracking..non-existent. I was so happy with this lens otherwise, that I ultimately upgraded bodies to the D300 + D700 and later D300 + D3 in hopes that the more robust AF engines would remedy the AF issues, but alas..they didn't.

My frame of reference for AF performance is lenses like the 300VR which locks on and tracks with a tenacious bite. When the Nikon TC20eIII was launched I sold the Sigma 500 as the 300VR & TC20eIII provides better IQ and AF performance, plus VR, albeit at a much higher price.

Aside from the AF on fast moving subjects, my only gripe is that the tripod foot is quite tall and can't be replaced with a shorter aftermarket version. When mounted in a side mount gimbal style head, the lens mass is positioned outside the vertical plumb line of the tripod which makes for a potential disaster if the tripod is bumped.

Jun 10, 2010
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Registered: Mar 9, 2009
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 19, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Light weight - good IQ - good VFM - small and light for focal length
Awkward F4.5 max aperture - AF not as good as Canon tele primes - lens hood not deep enough IMO

Bought used from a Charity shop - a steal at 150 quid!!
I took a chance on this lens having to make an immediate decision to buy [the price was very low and too good to miss] I didn't have my camera with me so was unable to test it. But hey the price was right and I reasoned I could sell it on on ebay if I didn't like it.
Well I do like it 'sort of' the awkward F4.5 max aperture prevents the use of a tele convertor and retain AF on most canon bodies:-((
It's a very light lens but no IS - when used on a beanbag the IQ and sharpness are excellent - I made up a longer hood and this has improved the contrast to very good levels - however I have a Canon 400 F2.8 IS and this lens blows the Sigma 500 into the bin either used Naked or with the Canon matched convertors.
This is an awkward lens to rate it's too big to take on Hols but not fast enough to allow the use of convertors:-(
SO in reality the sigma is surplus to my requirements, I'm just not ready to sell it. Because on those few occasions when 500mm is the perfect focal length, then this lens is as good as it gets
Come on Sigma make it an F4, then Canon's overpriced 500 would have a bit too much competition at it's current price point.

Mar 19, 2009
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Registered: Apr 6, 2008
Location: United States
Posts: 195
Review Date: Jul 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great image quality, not too heavy, good tripod foot with handy grooves for carrying, and a fantastic bargain.
ƒ/4.5, no IS/OS, autofocus hunts a bit in lower light and it can easily be scratched.

This lens has been a joy to use and so far it has provided many keeper images. I mainly use this lens for birding and wildlife photography and it does the job great. Sharpness is great at the wider apertures (I personally never use stopped down too much, so I can't speak for the quality there) and I would have no problem using this lens at the widest aperture for an entire shoot.

I use this lens on a Canon 40D and with that it gives me an 800mm effective focal length which is great for wildlife. There are a couple relatively minor problems though. The first is that the maximum aperture is ƒ/4.5 so it limits use with a teleconverter. Second is that the autofocus hunts a bit in lower light such as when shooting a bird near the center of a tree, and also if there is a lot of foreground interest. The final problem I've run into is that the finish on the lens scratchs pretty easily and is probably going to end up causing me to buy a lens coat for it. (Would be handy for me anyway though) These issues are all pretty minor though and there are workarounds for each of them that don't cause me too much inconvinience. And for the price this lens is a downright bargain for what you get.

Anyways, here are some shots that I've taken with this lens:

Jul 16, 2008
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Jonathan F
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Registered: Oct 17, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 526
Review Date: Apr 11, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,700.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very sharp telephoto lens. Excellent price. Good sharpness at f/4.5 Very good sharpness at f/5.6 and above. Light weight is a plus.
Doesn't autofocus with teleconverters unless you resort to modifications to the the TC. Doesn't have VR/IS.

I've had this lens almost two years now. Probably one of the best values in super telephoto lenses. I currently shoot it with a D300 and D2X and the results are excellent. Despite being a non optical stabilized (OS) lens, the light weight makes it possible to hand-hold for short periods of time. I own the non-DG version. This lens is very rare to find on the used market. I also own a Nikon 200-400 VR. I've done side-by-side test and I actually found the Sigma to match the Nikon in image quality if not slightly exceed it. For the price, I find this lens to be the best bang for your buck 500mm on the market, especially if you can find one used!

Apr 11, 2008
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Registered: May 13, 2006
Location: Denmark
Posts: 568
Review Date: Oct 28, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $4,500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Weight, superb sharpness stopped down (literally no sharpening needed at F8), cost, AF speed, IQ, 3 optioned AF distance switch, built quality very rigid, bokeh.
Not as sharp as Canon 500mm F4 wide both lenses wide open (although still decent sharp), lens hood is a bit to small, No IS.

Love this lens. Sharpness still very impressive using 1.4tc. Creamy bokeh.
IQ and AF speed improves keepers by a mile.

Sigma 500mm + Tamron 1.4x tc @ F8 =

Oct 28, 2007
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Registered: Apr 3, 2005
Location: Poland
Posts: 1
Review Date: Apr 30, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Excellent cost/quallity DELTA, weight, drop in filters, especially the polarizer , sharp,sharp,sharp!
There is no IS or I should rather say OS version of that lens yet! Sigma made one, please! And a 120-300 OS too !!! ;-)

I bought that lens a year ago. I shoot watersports for 95% of my time. This is my workhorse lens for any regatta. What can I tell you.
This is the best lens around 500mm for that price. Quality is excellent.

Apr 30, 2007
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Registered: Feb 27, 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 0
Review Date: Mar 4, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: excellent IQ - sharp wide open - fast AF - great value
none at the price

I bought this lens about 18 months ago as an upgrade from the Sigma 170-500 and love it.

The first thing that struck me when I got it was just how sharp the images were, even when shooting wide open. At f4.5 you can count the feathers, stopped down to f6.3-f8 and it's even more impressive. The AF is fast and quiet, it just snaps into focus. I often use this lens with a 1.4x tc (taped pins to retain AF), AF is still fast (difference only notices in poor light) and acurate.

The close focus of 4.5m seemed quite limiting on paper, but in real life it's not an issue. A starling sized bird will basically frame fill at this distance. It's only been on rare occassions that this has cost me a shot.

the lens hood is large and solid so offers decent protection to the front element. The foot is also large alloing firm attachment to a tripod. It is a large, fairly heavy lens, and definitely works best on a tripod.

It has two slight disadvantages over the Canon - no IS and f4.5 rather than f4, but given the difference in price I doubt I'll ever justify an upgrade. For it's price I think this lens is unbeatable value, even better if you can pick up a secondhand one.

Mar 4, 2007
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Registered: May 30, 2006
Location: Norway
Posts: 0
Review Date: Oct 26, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 7 

Pros: Not so heavy as the competitor,also a lot cheaper.
Slightly slower AF than Canon,also less contrast "as is"... Not as rugged and "all-weather" as Canon`s 500 f/4.No stabilizer...

This lens from Sigma is shurely a very good performer and a good competitor to Canon`s 500mm f/4,wich is almost standard amongst wildlife-photographers around the globe.
This one from Sigma is perfoming very good,and is shurely a good investment for those looking for a lens not too heavy.After all,if the rig gets too heavy it tends to stay in the car or at home,wich then again means that it can be the best lens in the world(back home...)At least,the Sigma is acceptable both at size and weight,it will join you in the field and give you the pic`s you want instead of being the one you missed out...
The autofocus is slightly slower than the reference-model from Canon,it can jog in and out a few times before i locks.
There is also less contrast in the Sigma compared to the Canon,but just slightly less and no big fuzz.
The only thing missing on this lens is of course an image stabilizer.An IS on this lens would have been a real deal even if you would hav to pay more...
The build and ruggedness is ok,but I`m not comfortable with the matte layer covering the lens,it will shurely get a lot of scarches wich of course will affect the seconhand price/value when that day comes.
Overall I can recomend this lens for those who`s not willing to pay the price( both in cash an sweat) for the Canon( or Nikon for that sake).It`s a really good lens giving you pin-sharp pic`s if you give the autofocus the extra second it needs to lock up!

Oct 26, 2006
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Registered: Jun 21, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 739
Review Date: Apr 20, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,200.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Lighter weight, Sharp, Cost

I got this lens used as I could not afford the Canon 500mm F4, and I heard that Canon was going to stop servicing their 500mm F4.5 (rumor). Now that I have it, I can honestly say I am not sure I will ever move up to the F4. The images from this lens are eye-popping. The lens is easy to use, colors nice, and images sharp. The 4.5 means teleconvereters put you into manual focussing, but going to F4 means almost three more pounds.

I love this lens!

Apr 20, 2006
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Registered: Jan 21, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 4153
Review Date: Jan 3, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,600.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Cost Lighter and slightly smaller than the Canon EF 500mm Sigma has a better/longer warranty compared to the Canon Drop in filters (which can get expensive) are included Tripod mount is very practical and usable Excellent hood included Very good construction/finish
Sigma tech support/cust service not the most helpful No image stabilization/OS Aperture of f4.5 limits use of only the 1.4x for AF on 1 series bodies

I compared this lens to the Canon version which sells for considerably more and purchased it over the canon for several reasons.

Lighter and slightly smaller than the Canon EF 500mm
Sigma has a better/longer warranty compared to the Canon
Drop in filters (which can get expensive) are included
Tripod mount is very practical and usable
Excellent hood included
Very good construction/finish

Con’s (Compared to the Canon version):
No image stabilization
Aperture of f4.5 limits use of only the 1.4x for AF on 1 series bodies

This is one of the sharpest and extremely contrasty lenses I have mounted on my camera. I am picky about resolution on my lenses and don’t care much for lenses that are not tack sharp wide open. This sigma is my benchmark for “sharp” and I end up comparing my Canon Tele’s to this to judge their quality. The bookeh at wide open aperture is amazing/smooth and the AF was quick. I could not tell the difference in AF speed between this lens and any of the Canon “L" primes or zooms I own (400mm f5.6, 300mm f4.0, 300mm f2.8, 100-400L, 35-350L, etc.). The AF speed is the same as the USM lenses. The lens accepts the Canon 1.4x TC and provides full AF (center point) with my 1 series bodies. The pictures taken with the lens and the 1.4x TC combo are perfect with no loss of image quality. HSM is quiet for the most part.

The Sigma case included is okay, but the shoulder strap is not the most comfortable. It can only hold the lens and not the lens+SLR body combo. The hood goes on well and stays on thanks to well designed locking knob/system. The focus ring has good friction and has a good texture for fine tuning.

The lens, much as with the Canon version, is not easy to hand hold and requires a monopod or a tripod.

My only gripe is with Sigma’s tech support/customer service department. If you do not ask for someone specifically who knows about these lenses, you are stuck with a person who could not tell the difference between a lens cap and a lens hood, let alone help you with tech specs. Also, I had to wait almost 8 weeks for Sigma to order me an overpriced ($100) spare hood for the lens (from Japan) – supposedly not a frequently stocked item at Sigma USA.

I purchased this lens brand new for less than half the cost of the canon version and have yet to find a Sigma or Tamron or Tokina or Canon Lens that gives me the “bang for the buck” this lens does. This lens is the older non-DG coated version, but after trying out the newer version a friend recently bought, I could not tell the difference and am still puzzled as to what the “new and improved sigma coating” is supposed to offer for pictures the older lens did not already offer. The other Sigma lens in my arsenal includes the Sigma 300mm f2.8 EX HSM and much like it’s big brother (the 500mm), the 300mm f2.8 is another amazing lens.

The Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX HSM is probably one of the best lenses I have used on the Canon EOS System. For those that wonder if this lens deserves a 10, what does the canon version deserve (a “11” ?) - I give this lens a rating of 10 because it is the best I could find for the $$$ in the price range. You get the price/performance/result with the Sigma, but it lacks the max aperture and IS. With the Canon version, I would give it a 10 as well as it has IS and a max aperture of F4.0, but is overpriced (to me). Both provide amazing results. If you are in the market for a 500mm lens and IS and F4.0 is not the most important factor, I would highly recommend this lens as it is lacking absolutely nothing compared to the Canon version when it comes to amazing picture quality.

Jan 3, 2006
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Registered: Jan 13, 2004
Location: France
Posts: 263
Review Date: Oct 21, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Build quality, price (for non DG version !), sharpness, perfect ergonomics
A little short lens hood (less of contrast if the sun shoots the frontal lens...)

I use it on Canon EOS 20D.

This lens is a terrible challenger for Canon supertele lenses, for several reasons :
- price (the 500/4 IS costs triple !!!)
- build quality
- circ. polarizer included
- the old Canon 500/4.5 L USM will not be reparable any more in May 2006 and is as expensive as the Sigma one (but for a used model)

Ergonomics :
- perfect in hands ! The tripod collar is simply awesome, offering a excellent catch in hand
- shorter and lighter than Canon 500mm lenses
- close focus
- very good with Manfrotto 393 head on monopod (I like this combination for approaching animals !)

AF :
- the faster of all my lenses ! I have owned the Canon 500/4.5 L USM for one month and I think the Sigma is a little faster.

Optical quality :
- perfectible but very reasonable sharpness at f/4.5 to my mind, very good at f/5.0 and excellent up to f/5.6 ; at full aperture the Canon 500/4.5 is better
- no chromatic aberrations
- very good contrast (but a little under the Canon 500/4.5 at full aperture)
- a surprising very good sharpness with Sigma x1.4 EX Apo (but no AF...)

Conclusion : I bought this lens for waiting a future Canon 500/4 IS (so expensive !!!) and I'm REALLY happy of my choice !

Oct 21, 2005
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Registered: Feb 24, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 253
Review Date: Jan 20, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharp, "relatively" light, price, build quality, inclusion of a Circular Polarizer
Silly shoulder strap on case, TC multiplier not recoreded in EXIF with Nikon TC's

I purchased this lens in March of 2004, one week before a price increase, good timing. I had been renting a Nikon 500 f4 as I had become interested in shooting birds and after several outings found that I loved it, much more than the 600 I rented, the 500 was just much easier to maneuver. Now I was faced with a "continue to rent" or "buy" question, and knowing how often I wanted to shoot "buy" seemed the thing to do. Upon examing the price, even of a good used 500 f4 AFS Nikon, budget was an issue. In looking around I found the Sigma and from reviews here and elsewhere I decided to take a chance. Needless to say I am not at all unhappy with my decision.

In comparing this lens with the Nikon I really don't find much in the way of differences. Both focus incredibly quickly and well on my D2H, and even on my D70. The Nikon "feels" a touch faster, but I cannot really quantify that. Sharpness appears just as good, at least from the comparison images I have shot, and there do not seem to be any color issues. The inclusion of a Circular Polarizer with this lens is just another couple of hundred dollars that you don't have to spend. The only real downside, and it is a small one, is that whoever designed the placement of the shoulder strap for the case should be summarily dismissed.

I use this lens most often with a Nikon TC-14E attached. The TC-14E has been modified, removal of a tab on the mount, to work with the Sigma lens. This does not affect it's use with NIkon lenses, it works quite well on my 80-200 f2.8 AFS. And here is my only other nit with this lens. For reasons that I don't understand the recorded focal length is 500mm with the TC attached when it should read 700mm. I am not sure what the Sigma lens is not reporting that the TC cannot be accounted for, but this is a difference between using the Sigma with the Nikon TC. It does not affect metering or exposure, just looks bit different in the EXIF. With the TC14E AF works very well, just as with the Nikon AFS version. I have also used this with the TC20E, AF is very slow but sometimes works, as well as stacking the 14E and the 20E, kiss off AF if you try this. In all cases the MF mode works very well.

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, so let me show you a few examples.

D2H. Image DSC0616 was with stacked TC's, 1.4x plus 2.0x


Jan 20, 2005
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Registered: Aug 7, 2003
Location: Sweden
Posts: 123
Review Date: Aug 4, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,600.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Price, size, fast AF, tripodmount.
None so far

Unfortunately starting to have some problems with this lense.
First the aperture got stuck while stopped down at f 22 which required two trips to the shop to get fixed.

Secondly the AF is not working with my MKII and a 1,4TC which it is supposed to.
Have just contacted my retailer to see what they can do to solve this.
According to some members of FM a chip-upgrade might be enough.


Have had this lens for about 2 months and am really beginning to like it.
Sharp and contrasty pictures and no declining edge-sharpness on a 10D.

AF is very fast (faster than my 70-200) and silent.
It also works with 1.4X converter when pins are taped (without taping on 1D) as long as there is plenty of light.
Focuslimiter works well but I find it is seldom needed, AF is that good.

In my opinion not that heavy for a long prime but I wouldn´t recommend hand-holding it unless you are shooting at very high shutterspeeds.
I use it with a Bogen 3421 head which I find to be perfect for this lens.

It has a very good tripodmount with 4 screwholes (3 small, 1 large).
The molded handle is a nice touch as well.

Build-quality is very good, it feels solid, but I agree with the previous poster that the finish attracts dust.
It´s easy to wipe clean but I like L-Canons more "slippery" finish better.

The bag that comes with it is well-made except for the idiotic placement of the shoulder strap.
I can´t seem to balance it on my shoulder when carrying it.
Have ordered a LowePro Lens Trekker 600 instead.

Have not tried Canon´s or Nikon´s equivalent optics so I can´t comment on how this Sigma compares but I for one am VERY happy with my example.

Aug 4, 2004
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Registered: Feb 23, 2002
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 77
Review Date: May 21, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,950.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: edge to edge clarity, rapid and silent AF, one touch manual focus if needed, cost, weight
velvety finish prone to dust/rubbish.

Using Nikon AF-D fit on Fuji S2pro for bird photography. Images (some large) at

Edge to edge clarity/sharpness is amazing on this relatively cheap lens. Weight and length makes for more realistic use in the field than a big f4, I know too many pro bird photographers with serious back problems to venture into 600mm f4 territory!

Have tested my Nikon fit version on Nikon D2h and the AF speed is blindingly fast.

Textured finish is a downside, attracting dirt and covered most of the lens with no-mark realtree tape.

Not much to say, other than it's an amazing lens for the price and I have absolutely no regrets at buying a Sigma instead of an f4 500mm (current camera AF's perfectly with sigma 500mm with 1.4x tc). Already had a front cover and various other sales with this lens, so it's starting to pay for itself.

May 21, 2004
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Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo HSM

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Reviews Views Date of last review
20 181840 Oct 8, 2012
Recommended By Average Price
100% of reviewers $2,749.91
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