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Sigma 500mm f4.5 EX Apo HSM

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