Sigma 170-500mm F5-6.3 APO Aspherical A-mount lens review by spmcfarland

reviewer#4755 date: Jan-28-2009
sharpness: 4
color: 4
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 5
overall: 4.2
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sigma 70-300 4.5-6 Apo Macro
price paid:375 USD (used)
Reasonably Sharp when stopped down
negative:Very large
Zoom creep
comment:While this lens certainly pales in comparison to the faster $1000+ lenses out there, it's still a pretty good value.

It's sharpness degrades somewhat at 500mm and it works best when stopped down to about F/8. This should be expected for a zoom lens at this price range.

It is substantially sharper than the Sigma 70-300 APO, even at 500mm, which surprised me, as I have been very happy with that lens.

The AF is quieter and faster than the 70-300 (and the Sony 18-70 kit lens) but it definitely hunts in low light or at full zoom.

The construction feels very solid, despite being mostly plastic. When mounted the lens and camera feel like a single piece, which is very reassuring.

When pointed down, the zoom has a tendency to extend, so I have to be careful when carrying it out of the case.

Speaking of the case, this lens is huge - much to large to fit in my normal walkabout camera bag, so I have to carry a separate case for it. Often I know that I'll be using this lens exclusively (shooting birds nesting, for example) so I can leave the rest of my kit in the car. But if I'm not sure what lens I'll need, it's a hassle to carry an extra case along just for this lens.

Overall, this is a nice lens that falls into a much-neglected middle ground between small zooms (70-300) and truly big glass (400mm F/4). Many people advise to wait until you can afford the big glass, but that's not always feasible.

If sharpness is all that matters, then you should spend 4-5 times as much on a long prime. But if you're willing to sacrifice a little sharpness for affordability, this lens is a good option.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 16
  • sharpness: 4.16
  • color: 4.19
  • build: 4.25
  • distortion: 4.63
  • flare control: 4.50
  • overall: 4.34 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania