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02.25.2014

Over the last few months I have been testing the newest version of the Sigma’s 120-300 f/2.8. I have nothing but good experiences with the older version of this lens so I have been looking forward to working with this lens over the winter and spring at home in Southern California. So far my experiences  have changed my view of this lens, the newest version of the 120-300 f/2.8. The previous version was good. I found that this latest version has quick and accurate autofocus; the image quality is superb and the focal range excellent for nature photography.

120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S, 1.4X Teleconverter EX APO, Nikon  D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/5.6, ISO 160, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S, 1.4X Teleconverter EX APO, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/5.6, ISO 160, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

This kind of turn in surfing jargon is called a cutback where the surfer turns on the shoulder of the wave back into the main part of the wave. This is a classic and basic part of a surfer’s repertoire.

For this image I used a 120-300mm f/2.8 AF with the Sigma 1.4X Teleconverter EX for extra reach. I found this combination in terms of image quality and AF speed to be very good so I wont hesitate to use the 1.4X from now on when I need the extra focal length.

120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S, 1.4X Teleconverter EX APO, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/5.6, ISO 160, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S, 1.4X Teleconverter EX APO, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/5.6, ISO 160, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

This wave, a right, since it breaks to the right from a surfers point of view, is know as barrel since the shape is so round. This kind of wave, my personal favorite to shoot and ride, is very difficult for most people to ride well. A right like can easily break a surfboard.

For shooting a break like this called shorebreak, since the waves break close to shore, the 120-300 f/2.8 is just about perfect. Matched with DSLR with a high frame rate and a big buffer the fast AF and large f/2.8 aperture make a combo that would be really hard to beat for surfing.

120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S, 1.4X Teleconverter EX APO, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/5.6, ISO 100, Auto-ISO, handheld.

120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S, 1.4X Teleconverter EX APO, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/5.6, ISO 100, Auto-ISO, handheld.

This backlit mutant wave shows a phenomenon known as backwash. This is caused by wave that has been pushed up a steep beach by one wave is reflected back out to sea and collides with another incoming breaking wave. Surfers are always on the lookout to avoid backwash at all costs since it can easily throw you several feet in the air. Surf photographers on the other hand look for these kinds of mutants since they make interesting and unique wave sculptures.

120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S, 1.4X Teleconverter EX APO, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/5.6, ISO 160, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S, 1.4X Teleconverter EX APO, Nikon D4, manual mode, 1/1250th s at f/5.6, ISO 160, Auto-ISO, -0.3 EV, handheld.

The interesting shape of this wave was caused by a large backwash that exploded almost straight up when it hit the incoming wave. These kinds of wave collisions are nice to see and photograph but this wave is overhead breaking in water that is about knee high so its not a good situation to experience close up in the water.

I am looking forward to shooting a lot more along the California coast with the lens over winter and spring and sharing the results on the Sigma Blog.

If you have any questions or comments be sure to share ‘em in the comments section below.

Robert O’Toole is a Sigma Pro and has been a professional photographer for more than 20 years. As an accomplished instructor, Robert leads photography workshop tours across the US and internationally. For more info visit Robert’s web site at robertotoolephotography.com

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