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

reviewer#6811 date: Jan-23-2010
sharpness: 4.5
color: 4
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.3
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:Beercan
Minolta 100-200
Minolta 75-300 D
sigma 70-300 APO
Minolta 100-300 APO
Minolta 500 Reflex
price paid:
positive:Affordable 500mm
Good sharpness at f9-f11
negative:No zoom lock
No limit switch
comment:I managed to pick up a mint boxed 170-500mm for very little cash, at first I thought it was soft, but as I got used to handling the lens it showed me I was mistaken - loads of examples of great images of motorsport and aviation plus wildlife on flikr etc had made me think it could be me.......

Maximum Sharpness is there at f9-f11, I tested it in real life conditions(but all tripod mounted) against the Beercan, Minolta 100-200, Minolta 75-300D, Sigma 70-300Apo, Minolta 100-300Apo and to my surprise at f9-f11 it was a crisp and clear winner, it gets softer above 460-480mm so if you can back off a touch all the better.

It has that very slight Sigma yellow cast to my eye and it does not have fantastic contrast, which can give a slightly washed out and soft look at times - easily tweaked in pp

Af is good in good light, but it can take a long time to go from infinity and back in low light, tracking BIF is ok on fine days, but to be honest I leave it at home if too dull and I want to shoot wildlife as I can travel a lot lighter then.

Build quality is very good but there is no limit switch sadly and also no zoom lock, the supplied hood does a great job and offers good protection for the front element as a bonus.It takes 86mm filters, I shoot without one and always use the hood.
Make sure you get the tripod collar with your lens as its OK for short periods of hand holding, but its a large lens and a tripod/monopod gives you more consistant results.

I would recommend it as an affordable mid range lens for aviation, motorsport and wildlife at sensible distances as it seems a bit softer at infinity - it is slightly more forgiving for man made objects compared to how critical the eye can be for birds etc. to steal someone elses quote "its the last stop before big money" for a 500mm lens.

This is just my personal opinion on my lens and there may be sample variation.

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