The Blog: See what
Sigma is saying.

10.28.2011

Join me on a lens exploration and photographic safari to one of the most interesting and unique places on earth, Australia. Over the last month I explored the Northern Territory, Queensland, and New South Wales with a Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM lens. Quite honestly I thought I knew what would be in store for me having been to Australia before but this trip was more than I imagined. This area of the world is like no other with unique animals and plants found no where else and the flexibilty and range of the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM made it a pleasure to use and the perfect tool to liberate my natural instinctive vision in a place with unlimited photographic potential.

SHARPNESS

Judging by the amount of email I get asking me about the sharpness of the Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM, this is the most important factor for a lot of people. A lens like this must deliver sharp results, specifications and features dont really amount to much if a lens cannot give you the detail you need when it counts. A couple of years ago I would never believe that a 10X super telephoto zoom lens could deliver professional level sharpness. The Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM is capable of delivering professional quality images.

Male Australian King Parrot portrait, New South Wales, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 210mm and Nikon D700. 1/250 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 1600. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

The capability of the Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM really shines in this king parrot image. No other 500mm lens that I know of can focus this close and the most importantly, make sharp image this close. This image was made of a wild bird, camera handheld, with flash, OS on, and was only cropped slightly on the top edge for the ratio I wanted to use. At this distance depth of field at f/8.0 was very narrow and it took dozens of images to get the plane of focus just right. I choose f/8.0 to balance the flash and the ambient light to keep the background from going black. So how did I manage to make dozens of images of a wild parrot at a portrait distance? At this location and in many other areas of Australia parrots are habituated to the presence humans and they show no fear at all thankfully. For close focus ability, hand holding ability, and a huge zoom range the Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM is king.

Sand goanna, Gould's monitor, or Bungarra in Northern Territory, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 500mm and Nikon D700. 1/500 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 900. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

Goannas can be huge, up to 5 feet in total length. Its great to have one lens to make a full body images and a tight portraits like this, without having to switch lenses. Goannas are commingly founds basking in the open but they will seek refuge up a tree once disturbed. Australia is a reptile wonderland, you can find dozens if not hundreds of them just sitting on the side of the road.

AUTOFOCUS

Any lens that I use has to be able to keep up with birds in flight andSigma’s Hyper-Sonic Motor in the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM is fast and accurate. With a huge focus range good technique is a must.  Since there is no focus limiter you have to pre-focus as much as possible. This will keep the lens in the range you need to aquire and lock focus quickly.

Brown Noddy banking, Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Queensland, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 500mm and Nikon D300s. 1/1600 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 400. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

Brown noddies nest colonially in the thousands with sotty terns and other birds. The 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM on a DX camera body gives you the great reach and the flexibility of 75-750mm. For birds of this size I use 1/1600th of a second as a minumumn and f/8.0 is s good balance of depth of field, sharpness and speed.

Male Australian King Parrot, New South Wales, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 240mm and Nikon D700. 1/250 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 1000. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

King parrots are so curious and so energetic they make great subjects but you have to be able to work quickly. Then can be posing one second and gone in a flash. This male was hung above my head for a just a moment looking for some tree seeds or blooms close by.  Quickly I was able to zoom to 240mm to fill the frame, lock focus and combination of OS and flash helped bring out the feather detail I was looking for.

Mareeba Rock-wallaby pair grooming, northeastern Queensland, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 500mm and Nikon D700. 1/500 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 1400. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

Rock-wallabies spend their days in steep, rocky, complex terrain but they can be found out in the open early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Once they get used to your presence they will lose their initial shyness and allow you to move closer. For this situation with subjects at all different ranges the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM was perfect.

Male Australian King Parrot, New South Wales, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 500mm and Nikon D700. 1/160 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 2000. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

For these medium sized parrots you need to be work quickly to make a decent image. Sometimes there are only seconds to frame, lock and fire the shutter. Autofocus needs to be fast and accurate, here using the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM you can see the eye in sharp focus.

REACH

Joey Mareeba Rock-wallaby, northeastern Queensland, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 460mm and Nikon D700. 1/250 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 500. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

Photographing nocturnal animals like this rock-wallaby joey can be tricker than it would seem. The young animals like this joey are very sensitive, this one came out in the open for just a few moments and then disappeared again. It was thrilling to see him close enough to make a portrait. For this image I really needed every millimeter the 50-500mm could give me. Some of the slightly older wallabies were so curious they would come in very close after a few hours, some close enough so I could give them a quick head scratch. The largest adults would stay high up on the rocks.

Crimson Rosella, New South Wales, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 500mm and Nikon D700. 1/500 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 2000. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

The Crimson Rosella is gorgeous, smart, and always very active. They can be very tame like this individual. I used the 50-500mm F4-6.3 not because I needed the reach but instead I wanted to be able to stand back and photograph at a natural looking angle. It is always best to avoid steep angles when you photograph perched birds.

Saltwater crocodile, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 290mm and Nikon D300s. 1/250 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 200. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

The saltwater crocodile is the largest of all living reptiles, newly hatched measure about 9 to 12 in long and can reach more than 20 ft (and 2,200 lb) as adults. Photographing an animal like this can be dangerous so you need to use the longest focal length you can since they are very agressive. When I made this image the crocodile was hissing and opening its jaws as a threat. I would never photograph an animal like this with less than 500mm, or 750mm equivilent on a DX body.

ZOOM RANGE

The abilty to go from 50 to 500mm is amazing and can be addicting. You can frame the subject as needed quickly and accurately when you dont have the time or the ability to move your position or change lenses.

Sunset, northeastern Queensland, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 240mm and Nikon D700. 1/500 sec at f/8.0, ISO 200. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

The 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM is really amazing when it comes to flare control. Even with the sun off center as in the image, there is no problem with it. I shoot in situations like this quite often and with large aperture zoom lenses flare can be a real issue.

Mareeba Rock-wallaby relaxing in it's habitat, northeastern Queensland, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 170mm and Nikon D700. 1/250 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 800. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

When photographing animals in the wild, changing your framing from a full body image to a portrait or tight crop must be done quickly and quietly. The metallic click or a lens mount or the drop of a lens cap can cause your subject to flee. A 10X zoom is all you need to change focal lengths silently and quickly to make the most of a situation. The 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM made photographing these rock-wallabies almost easy, I really like this type of ring zoom lens for precise framing. I find push type zoom lenses less user friendly.

SENSOR COMPATIBILITY

The 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM is a DG series lens so it is designed to be used with both full frame digital SLR cameras and those with smaller sensors. I use both full frame and DX sensor bodies and the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM works great on both. The 50-500mm turns into an amazing 75-750mm equivelent on a DX sensor body.

SUBJECT ISOLATION AND BOKEH

Heliconia, northeastern Queensland, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 210mm and Nikon D300s. 1/500 sec at f/8.0, ISO 400. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

Even at f/8.0 the 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM can exhibit a buttery smooth bokeh. This is superb for a complex 22 element lens like this. The key to a good clean smooth background is subject to background distance and not a large aperture as most people believe.

Mareeba Rock-wallaby, northeastern Queensland, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 290mm and Nikon D700. 1/250 sec at f/8.0, ISO 500. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

The ability to go to beyond 200mm is really useful to blur backgrounds and help isolate your subject. The  longer the focal length and the smaller the angle of view the tighter and smoother the background will look. This soft creamy background will really help make the subject stand out. The 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM gave me a nice pleasantly smooth background and helped make the details in the subject stand out.

Australian Water Dragon basking, Northern Territory, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 380mm and Nikon D700. 1/500 sec at f/8.0, ISO 280. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

For this kind of subject the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM is ideal. Wide at 50mm for a full body image then close at 300mm to isolate the details in the head. The longer local length really helps to isolate the subject from the background.

OS PERFORMANCE

Warramal Clan aborigional wall painting at Burrunggui (previously called Nourlangie Rock), Arnhem Land Escarpment, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 210mm and Nikon D700. 1/320 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 2000. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

Over the course of this trip the 50-500mm F4-6.3 OS system worked great and without a single  problem.  Amazingly almost all the images in the collection were made handheld with OS on. This wall painting image was made in really low light at only 1/320th of a second.

CLOSE FOCUS ABILITY

Blue Dasher dragonfly, Northern Territory, Australia. 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM at 500mm and Nikon D300s. 1/200 sec at f/8.0 and ISO 320. © 2011 Robert OToole Photography.com

One of the my biggest discoveries on my trip to Australia was the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSMs close focus ability. Technically the specs are 1:3.1 ratio at 19.7 in. What does this mean in the real world? This means that you can when you are handholding the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM lens you can focus on your feet. This also means you can make a good sharp image of an insect or flower from great working distance.  You should know that a 500mm f/4.0 prime lens normally has a close focus distance in feet not inches, typically 13 to 14 feet.  A magnification ratio for one of these lenses is about 1:7 or 1:8.

One important thing to note is that the way the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM works is that the closest distance is at 300mm and not 500mm. So if you cannot focus on something that is too close at 500mm just remember to zoom out to 300mm for even closer focus. The close up ratios are clearly marked on the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM lens barrel.

My trip to Australia really opened my eyes to the opportunites that exist there and at the same time I really have learned a lot more about the 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM lens.  It was fast, sharp, reliable and a pleasure to use and most importantly it never let me down. The biggest endorsement I can give is that I will actually be purchasing a 50-500mm F4-6.3  DG APO OS HSM, its that good.

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For more information or to find out about my workshops please visit my site:

http://www.robertotoolephotography.com or email me at Robert@RobertOToolePhotography.com


50-500mm 4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM

SPECIFICATIONS

Lens Construction22 Elements in 6 Groups
Angle of View46.8-5.0 degrees
Number of Diaphragm Blades9
Minimum Aperturef22
Minimum Focusing Distance50-180cm/ 19.7-70.9in
Maximum Magnifications1:3.1
Dimensions
(Diameter x Length)
104.4 mmx219 mm/4.1 in. x 8.6 in
Weight1970 g / 69.5 oz.
Corresponding Mounts
SigmaAPO, OS, DG, HSM, CONV
NikonAPO, OS, DG, HSM, CONV
CanonAPO, OS, DG, HSM, CONV
Sony/MinoltaAPO, OS, DG, HSM, CONV
PentaxAPO, OS, DG, HSM
HSM – Hyper-Sonic Motor, OS- Optical Stabilizer, CONV- APO teleconverter, DG- DG for digital, APO- Apochromatic
EX – EX Lens
DG – DG for Digital * The appearance, specifications, and the like of the product are subject to change for improvement without notice.

LENS CONSTRUCTION

MTF CHART

at 50mm

at 500mm

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  1. I really like my Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3 DG APO OS HSM. It’s a bit of a beast to carry around on a tripod in the wilderness, but the results are so pleasing to me that I consider it worth the effort.

  2. Awesome review and beautiful images that speak for themself! Love your work! I purchased this lens about two years ago and have never looked back- its so versatile and it is to me the perfect nature lens for the money.

  3. Hello there , I love your review with excellent photos to demonstrate the lens capability . And really admire your photos and hope to get to this level one day . I have a question for you , I own a Sigma 120-400 APO-HSM and using it with a Cannon T1i . The results Im getting are less than fair . The main problem I have is I dont get sharpness in my photos and the color are not vivid at all . Any suggestions on how to improve the the use of this lens ?

    Thanks again

  4. I have Sigma 105mm 2,8 macro, 150mm 2,8 macro, 70-200mm 2,8 macro and 30mm 1,4.
    Did 50-500 is aviable for Olympus 4/3?

  5. I’ve owned a Sigma 50-500mm OS for a little over a year, after using the non-OS version for five years. I shoot action sports, from yacht racing to motorsports, and the lens is absolutely perfect for those subjects, where changing lenses in a hurry is not an option.

    The ability to shoot from 50mm to 500mm with one lens is simply awesome, and the Sigma’s sharpness and sturdy build makes it the perfect go-to lens for me. Being not too heavy and not too large is also a plus.

  6. Has there been a price reduction on the beautiful 50-500?

  7. great pics, could sigma please launch a fully functioning micro four thirds version for my panasonic gh2
    it takes stunning wildlife video, and this lens would give amazing reach, same size or
    smaller would be great as i usually end up on a tripod for longer shots, money waiting.

  8. I am an enthuiastic 69 year old beginner who purchased a 50mm -500mm lens a week ago for my very first camera, a Canon DRSL 60D. Now I need instruction as to how to use it to best advantage ! And to build up my muscles; Love & appreciate your wonderful work, thank you for sharing such a gift.

  9. I love photographing nature, from close up plants and insects, to many different species of animal. I recently decided it was time to upgrade my camera. While there are the Canon and Nikon fans out there and yes most pros are using one , the other or both, I had a Pentax K100D for many years and for the fact that it was on 6Mp, it produced some incredible close up shots.. My new camera is a Pentax K5, which I consider a beautiful and very professional piece of kit and after reading this review, my decision has been made. Sure we’d all love to have the money to throw at those super lenses we see many wildlife photographers using.. and yes this lens isn’t cheap. but I have waited a long time and saved real hard, so I needed to be totally sure it was the lens for me and as I said, thanks to this review and the incredible results that show what it is capable of, I have no hesitation now. The Sigma 50-500 will be mine. Thank you for a REAL review. All those overly technical, colour chart, type reviews are just not what a photographer wants, they want to see results. I have seen many photos taken with various cameras attached to this lens, all pretty dire. but soon as I saw these images, even though I wouldn’t consider myself anywhere near as professional, I knew this was the lens for me