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Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo HSM

500f4_5EX_lg_1_
Review Date: Jun 10, 2010 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Size, Build, Image quality, cost relative to other long lenses
Cons:
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!

http://www.emotion-images.com/p682400864

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..

http://www.emotion-images.com/img/s1/v0/p999502928-5.jpg

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.