Lens Guides

Wild Things Within Reach: SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS Sports Lens for Nature Photography

Recently, I took a trip to the Tampa area of Florida and brought the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports lens for Sony E-mount, along with both my Sony A7R IV and Nikon Z7 II cameras. I was excited for the opportunity to photograph the local wildlife and hopefully photograph a wild alligator, so I made sure to bring two cameras just in case I needed a backup!

While this particular lens is made specifically for Sony E-mount or L-Mount, the E-mount version can be adapted to Nikon Z cameras, with autofocus, using a small third-party adapter. SIGMA doesn’t guarantee compatibility with non-OEM products, but in my experience, they work very well. You can learn more about adapting lenses to Nikon Z cameras here.

The Florida weather was hot and humid as usual, but my SIGMA gear was ready to stand up to the challenge. I traveled to a few wildlife preserves and was able to capture many different bird species that I have not had the opportunity to photograph in the wild (see photos below).

Into the wild with the SIGMA 500mm

The SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports is incredibly compact, lightweight and sturdy which made navigating the preserves with it easy and effortless. I sometimes have fatigue after lugging around bigger lenses, especially in the heat and humidity, so this compact lens went along with me without added stress.

Once I was able to venture into the wilderness, the real challenge began. Birds and most wild things tend to not stick around when you come upon them. At times you have mere seconds to raise your camera, lock in your subject and snap some shots. Birds especially move quickly, and you need to be ready to get those shots. The autofocus performance of the 500mm was fast and accurate, all while I was shooting handheld.

I rarely, if ever, use a tripod. I find them clunky and bothersome when I am out in the field. There are situations where it may be necessary, but I simply prefer hand holding my camera and lenses whenever possible. Thankfully, the optical stabilization (OS) system of the 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports makes it possible to handhold my camera no matter the challenge, whether it be low light or panning with a bird in flight. Even in the darkened, tangle of the mangroves, I still achieved crystal clear, tack sharp images that I come to expect from SIGMA lenses.

While roaming the Florida preserves, I had one particular bird in mind that I wanted to photograph: the crazy-cool-looking Roseate Spoonbill. This remarkable bird is incredibly shy and quite elusive. I searched a few different areas without much luck, only encountering one on a hiking trail, but which left as quickly as I spotted it.

But as luck would have it, during some downtime at a friend’s home, I found a small group of spoonbills that stuck around long enough for a few photos!

Not only was I able to photograph the spoonbills, but while doing so, a very curious alligator made its way towards me. You can only imagine my excitement and intimidation of this massive creature.

Side note: My FIRST priority is ALWAYS safety. Safety for myself and safety of the wildlife I am photographing. Alligators can launch themselves onto land from the water very quickly and grab their prey. With longer telephoto lenses like this 500mm, I am able to stay a safe distance from wildlife so I don’t become their next meal.

Also, I rarely hike on my own in areas where we are not at the top of the food chain, as an extra set of eyes can be a lifesaver. Alligators are very stealthy, and I did not see or hear this one until I had finished photographing the Spoonbills that were on the bank of the inlet. A scary and exciting moment, to say the least. I am so incredibly thankful for a telephoto lens that not only allows me to be safe, but to get up close and personal images of these types of animals.

By the way, these shots also show the lightness of the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports and the effectiveness of the OS system. I was “off the clock” and dressed for an evening out with friends, but even with one hand holding up my dress to avoid tripping, I was able to take tack-sharp photos of both the spoonbills and alligators.

Back to the busy shores of Tampa

When in Florida, you simply have to get to the beach at some point. But sun, waves and sand can wreak havoc on your gear. But, with the 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports lens’s weather-resistant construction, the only thing I had to worry about was getting the shot! The surf, intense sun and occasional water spray was no match for its impeccable construction.

With the 500mm by my side, I walked the beaches of Madeira and was able to photograph Godwits, Laughing Gulls, Brown Pelicans and even water sports. The birds and people were very active along the Gulf shores, so everywhere I turned there was a photo opportunity.

One sailboat caught my eye as it sailed over the turquoise water against the bright blue sky. I just had to grab a shot. When I zoomed into the image, I was astounded by the detail I was able to capture on this fast-moving boat.

After the sailboat left my area, I noticed people on jet skis, bouncing along, hopping over waves at incredible speeds. I locked onto them and fired off a few shots before they were out of range. The 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports had no issue locking on and tracking.

Wrapping up a memorable trip with the SIGMA 500mm F5.6

All in all, between the Florida weather, wildlife and people, and under all lighting conditions, the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports quickly became my favorite lens to shoot with during this trip. Its autofocus performance, OS, compact design and weather-resistant construction made it a dream to work with and take along anywhere I roamed. I was able to take in the Florida beauty and not have to worry if my gear could keep up with me.

Again and again, it proved to be a great companion, and one I would not leave behind for my nature trips to come!

Prepare for your next nature adventure

Available for Sony E-mount & L-Mount

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