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sigma 50-500 vs 150-500

18 Jan 2013 11:19AM

I am looking to get a longer range at present I have a 70-300 Tamron with VC which has proven a great buy, I am now looking at the Sigmas, do I really need OS if I am going to use a monopod? does anyone have good experience with these lenses, what are the comparisons between these lenses and the 100-400 L series which is obviously more expensive

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mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2013 11:58AM
Sometimes OS can help even on a monopod so if the lens has it all the better.
The 150-500 seems to fare well against the 100-400 but reading the forums, but from anecdote the quality of the Canon seems to be more consistent. There are several birders who say they sold their Canon to buy the Sigma so the differences seem to be close.
One other worth looking at may be the 120-400 which receive very positive reviews - some say that the 120-400 cropped is equal to the 150-500 uncropped so maybe you can save size and money? Filters on the 120-400 are smaller as well if that is of interest to you.
gingerdougie 10 67 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2013 1:52PM
I had a sigma 150-500 and I found that when it was wide open at 500mms the results were rather soft. It improved when it was stopped down to f8 but this led to problems in less than perfect lighting conditions.
mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2013 2:23PM
What were the shots like at 400mm because that is where you need to compare with the 100-400, and then you can look at the 400-500 range as 'a bonus' if you need it and you know the limitations.
18 Jan 2013 2:48PM
mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2013 3:16PM
You would have to dismantle the lens and I would not do that myself. But 144 sounds a good price as I would have expected more.

Good condition s/h 100-400 sell for 850+ so this seems a reasonable price. I can believe that the flakes do not affect the image but if the paint is coming off the barrel then it suggests that will continue so maybe the needed repair is more than removing paint flakes.
strawman 13 22.1k 16 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2013 5:32PM
I had the good fortune to try the 150-500 and 100-400 side by side and my thoughts were as follows;

Image quality @ 400mm, advantage 100-400 wide open, both soften wide open as you go past @ 300mm but the 150-500 did so more. Stop them down a bit and both improve a lot and @ f8 or so not much in it. I would say the 100-400 mainly looses contrast wide open (so a processing adjustment gets a lot back), the 150-500 gets both softer and has less contrast wide open.

IS mixed bag, the Sigma I think has the better IS when settled, but the Canon settles much quicker. It depends how you will use it. Also since I was buying I note Sigma have produced new lens software for the Canon versions so it may be better on the latest versions.

AF performance, in tracking the Canon was better, and due to the IS settling time for quick reaction the Canon was better.

Value for money, when I bought my lens the price difference was only @ 100, generous cash back helped bring the lenses closer together in price. Since then the Sigma price looks to be the same but the Canon price has rocketed up so if I were buying now I would be trying the sigma again and probably living with the performance. Clear advantage Sigma

Handling, very tricky, the Canon is lighter so I found it better for hand holding, the Sigma was the sort of weight to get me looking for a monopod after half an hours use. The zoom, well its a Marmite moment here. the Push pull zoom takes getting used to, but it is quick and flexible once you adapt, but I think some people may never love that.

Other thoughts, is the Sigma really 500mm, or is the Canon longer than 400mm, either way the captured image was not that different. So I felt for 100 more I would get the Sigma, but for @ 400 more, hmm the Sigma looks better value for money. Oh and 100-400 lenses vary. So try one before you buy.

If you are buying it for the @ 400mm performance then the Canon prime has an excellent reputation, just no IS.

On that 2nd hand lens, I would say leave it and get a different one. Often the barrel scoring indicates a bearing failure, a friend had his repaired and it was @ 140 through Canon on a lens that was @ 8 years old. But it is not a DIY repair for the faint hearted.
18 Jan 2013 5:51PM
great thanks strawman, very helpful so out of the two sigmas then the 150-500 or the 50-500? I'm really looking at the 500mm end which is better?? Tongue
strawman 13 22.1k 16 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2013 6:00PM
I think the newer 150-500 is better, having the IS opens up extra ways of using the lens. Oh and I forgot to say I have found with these long lenses use a lens hood as that helps keep the image contrast up in bright light.
18 Jan 2013 6:53PM
Thanks i thought there was a 50-500 with is?
User_Removed 7 4.6k 1 Scotland
18 Jan 2013 7:32PM
I can't give you a direct comparison, Stevie, as I have no experience of the 50-500mm. I do, however, use the 150-500mm Sigma with my Nikon D800 and have done so, previously, with the D300 and D3s.

All I can say is that, for all normal use, the 150-500mm is a superb lens at a budget cost. How you evaluate it depends, of course, on how you intend to use it and, in particular, what sort of photographs you intend to produce from the images you take.

I use it mainly for wildlife photography and can say - without any shadow of a doubt - that for that purpose and for prints from the full (or most of the) frame up to A3+ size, there is no diminution of observable image quality compared to a Nikon 500mm prime lens. Go to bigger prints or more severe crops and you may start to see a wee bit of softness at the edges - but, of course, for wildlife photography, that is probably desirable anyway. What is important is that your subject is razor-sharp.

Normally you would expect that, the larger the range of a zoom lens, the poorer the quality in extreme conditions at the edges. On that basis, I would expect the 150-500mm to be a slightly better bet than the 50-500mm at the extremes. But whether it is significant is a moot point. However, most photographers will have another lens covering most of the 50-150mm range, so I would suggest going for the 150-500mm. (At least, that was my rationale in making the choice.)

Edit: You also asked about OS. Most of the time I have it switched off as I am using a tripod or monopod. It will slow everything down a fraction and drain the battery more quickly.

strawman 13 22.1k 16 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2013 7:41PM
Ah sorry I only tried the older 50-500 nicknamed the bigma and it had no IS. So I cannot comment on the 50-500 OS personally. I see it does exist but is a lot closer in price to the Canon 100-400 and generally the bigger the zoom lens the harder it is to keep good performance. If it helps here are the lens performance charts from sigma and Canon.

Taking the sigma pair first. If you look at the thick lines the red line gives a clue as to contrast performance and the green line the potential sharpness. The dotted lines tend to indicate how the out of focus performance is. Now charts are not perfect but give a clue. The 150-500 is on the top the 50-500 the bottom. Looking at that the sharpness/ contrast of in-focus elements the 150-500 should be best but the out of focus areas may look nicer on the 50-500.

I stuck in the Canon data, but they do the tests differently and colour code differently. Canon do results wide open (curves in Black) and at F8 (Curves in Blue) Sigma do not say but it is fair to guess it is lens wide open. Heavy line is contrast performance and light line potential sharpness. So compare Sigma red to Solid Black on Canon and Sigma Green to light black. IT may indicate better sharpness/contrast from the Canon but worse out of focus performance, but then none of them look good for that. And graphs are graphs and picture count, I have seen good pictures from the sigma lens so it is not the whole picture. Also if you have a crop camera you will get different results from full frame people. Probably Sigma to Sigma comparison is fair, Canon to Sigma may be unfair. So it may be best to use it as a Sigma to Sigma only comparison.It does show the Canon improves when you stop the lens down to f8 but that is probably true of the majority of lenses in this focal length. And the more I look at it the more I wonder if there are not just too may differences in how the companies test and measure lenses.

I bet all three are capable of better results than I can get out of them Smile
User_Removed 7 4.6k 1 Scotland
18 Jan 2013 8:59PM

I bet all three are capable of better results than I can get out of them Smile

Precisely, Strawman.

I suspect that very few of us are held back by our equipment. As technophiles we may lust after higher MP sensors, sharper lenses, greater dynamic range, faster autofocus, etc., etc., and be willing to pay megabucks for them. But, at the end of the day, our kit probably contributes 5% or less to the artistic/technical quality of our photographic output.

That's why I suggested, in my reply to the OP's question, that a bit of edge softness from a cheap lens is totally insignificant for wildlife photography so long as the centre is sharp and of good contrast. In fact, 9 times out of 10, with wildlife images, we will deliberately soften or vignette the edges and corners to highlight the central subject. The same is true for other genres for which 500mm might be used - such as motorsport or celeb-papping.


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