Lens Guides

First Look: SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports Lens for L-Mount

Despite reading all the technical specifications of the new SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports lens… and despite all these ideas floating around in my head about all the subjects I wanted to photograph with it… there is always that first impression that sticks with you when you finally unbox a lens and hold it in your hand for the first time.

For me, as I unboxed this lens in late January, I was immediately struck with how small it is. How small for a 500mm lens. How small for a telephoto lens in general. And then, how little it weighed. That’s how I knew this lens was special right from the beginning. And spoiler alert in case you quit reading this and are thinking of heading off to your favorite camera store to order one… excellent idea!

First Impressions of the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports

Here are the initial three things that really impressed me:

  • It’s a SIGMA Sports lens. Period. I know SIGMA’s reputation for quality, innovation and attention to detail. And for me, if it’s a Sports line lens, it is not only was built for rugged use, but also incorporates all the latest tech and quality-of-life features, like dust and splash resistance, a manual aperture ring, focus hold buttons, detachable tripod socket, superb lens stabilization, and a linear focus motor for fast autofocus.
  • It is so small and light I can easily carry it around for hikes, air shows, and just plain traveling around.
  • A 500mm prime lens this small and easy to carry is something that is going to supercharge my creativity. It’s going to give me new options and perspectives as to how I capture the world around me, and how I share my ideas and vision with others.

That last point is important to me. I’m someone who is very into technical specs about lenses and cameras. It’s important that I’m using the best gear to help bring my vision to life. But the most important aspect of photography to me is capturing those moments I see and feel. Sometimes I see with a wide-angle perspective. Sometimes I see with a telephoto perspective. And sometimes it takes a new, small, light and extremely sharp lens like this 500mm to give me all sorts of new ways of looking at old things.

In the field with the new 500mm for L-Mount

I used the new SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports lens for about a month in as many different situations as I could. I had the L-Mount version of this lens, so I used it on SIGMA fp L, Leica SL2-S and Panasonic Lumix S5 II camera bodies. Here’s what you need to know:

  • One reason this lens weighs in at only 48 ounces (approx. 1370g) is because SIGMA is taking advantage of TSC, or thermally stable composite, as well as magnesium, to reduce weight and size while improving overall durability.
  • A redesign of optical elements specifically for mirrorless cameras produces stunningly sharp images with little need for aberration correction, as well as producing edge-to-edge sharpness.
  • Super fast autofocus to capture action because of a linear motor known as HLA (High-response Linear Actuator).
  • The entire lens exterior from mount to filter thread is splash and dust resistant. It’s something I’ve come to expect from SIGMA, especially when photographing, say, an air show in dusty conditions.
  • Lenses and coatings are designed specifically to reduce flare in backlit situations.
  • The latest OS2 algorithm provides 5 stops of stabilization in the lens for steady, handheld photography.
  • Because I was using the L-Mount version of the lens, I was able to make use of the SIGMA 1.4x and 2x Teleconverters.

Of course, the truest test of a new lens is how it performs in real life situations. (Hint… it’s fantastic).

For aviation

If you’re into aviation photography as I am, you are going to love what this lens offers. The small size and weight will make it easy to carry around during hours spent at an air show. For example, I was able to easily pack the lens into my carry-on backpack for a recent trip to Los Angeles where I joined others for plane spotting photography around LAX airport (on an unfortunately hazy day). Once in position and the airliners were on approach to land, the lens locked on and easily tracked them to the runway.

The 500mm focal length has enough reach to work great for either large or small aircraft. The images were so sharp I could read some of the small labels on the fuselage. And for me, the compression of a telephoto lens looks great on the subject.

For birding and wildlife

If you love photographing birds and animals, this lens is for you. I kept my camera next to the living room window so I was always ready when the neighborhood birds and squirrels visited the backyard feeder. The SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports lens was always so quick to focus on the birds as they flitted around the feeder. And F5.6 on a telephoto lens gives a beautiful depth of field falloff.

Having the longer 500mm focal length also came in handy during a visit to a raptor rehabilitation center. I didn’t want to get too close to the owls, but wanted tight compositions. And when shooting inside the center with a shutter speed down to 1/25th of a second (see owl photo above), the impressive OS2 algorithm held the lens steady for some very sharp and detailed owl portraits.

For getting creative

I rounded out my time with the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports by just having fun with it and photographing whatever looked interesting. Maybe some of the most interesting moments were captured walking around downtown Chicago.

A 500mm lens is not a focal length a street photographer would use, but if you break free of what you should use, you can capture a very unique look and feel of a big city. The reach and compression gives crowded streets a cinematic look. You can compress architectural shapes into new compositions. Remember I mentioned before how this lens can supercharge your creativity? It really did on the streets of Chicago.

Overall: outstanding performance in a lightweight package

In a word, this new SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports lens is fantastic. And, it not only is small enough to fit into my camera bag, but it will be in my camera bag as soon as it starts shipping!

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