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© 2011 Robert O'Toole

Last week on a scouting trip to Greece I was able to give the Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM an extended test drive. The trip was to scout opportunities to photograph the Dalmatian Pelican, Pelecanus crispus, in full breeding colors. This was my first experience in the field with this lens I am happy to report that the lens performed flawlessly and I have nothing but good things to report about the image quality and outstanding flexibility.

© 2011 Robert O'Toole

Honestly I didn’t know what to expect from this lens in the field, it sounds too good to be true.  I have to admit I didn’t expect perfection from a lens with a huge 10X zoom ratio, but after 5 days in the field I can say that the 50-500 can deliver professional level quality images. Of course this might not the perfect lens for everyone, the maximum aperture speed will limit some of its usefulness for some people, but it will deliver fine quality images in the hands of someone using proper field techniques.

© 2011 Robert O'Toole

For this trip I brought a good range of lenses for 24 mm up to 500mm including primes and zooms and the 50-500mm quickly became my favorite and most used lens on the trip. With a 10X ratio this lens allowed me to lock on to an approaching bird and fill the frame far away, then track all the way to a close distance, then in an instant I could lock on the next individual bird without having to change cameras or lenses.This was an important consideration in weight savings to avoid fatigue since I was in the field from just before sunrise to dark. In most situations, especially for flight photography, having to use 2 bodies or using a tripod for a larger, faster lens would severely limit my opportunities.

© 2011 Robert O'Toole

© 2011 Robert O'Toole

For images of flight I use my standard 1/1250 th of a second at F8. For static images I used down to 1/500 at F8 or F11. ISO sensitivities used varied from 200 to 2000.

Look for more reports here from my trip to Europe in the coming weeks and check out my website for more images and more information on this trip and upcoming trips and workshops including a future workshop to this area in 2012.

Any questions feel free to contact me at or

3 comments so far

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  1. That’s some pretty impressive work considering you weren’t using a tripod. I can get shots about this good but only with a tripod. Kudos!

  2. I rented a Sigma 50- 500 Bigma for an African safari and had great success until the auto focus locked up and would not work- I had a backup 18-200 mm but never got the photos I could have with the 50-500. If Sigma addresses this issue, as it seems to be a widely known defect of this lens, I would buy one, as it is very versatile and the image quality I got while it was working was very impressive- even full out to 500mm hand held, because of the image stabilization feature, which does work well!!

  3. Hi Stetson, there was a recall on certain serial numbers of this lens: