Sigma 50-500mm F4-6.3 EX APO RF A-mount lens reviews

reviews found: 5   
reviewer#8702 date: Feb-25-2011
sharpness: 4.5
color: 4
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.7
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I used to own this lens
compared to:Tamron 70-200 w/ Kenko 2X Pro 300 DG
price paid:
missing
positive:Terrific Range
Exceptionally sharp at 500
negative:Heavy
A little slow in low light
comment:This lens was crazy sharp at 500. I picked it up to get stealth pictures of an aging dog that was frightened of the camera. It did not disappoint.

Keep in mind, the lens is heavy if you handhold for extended periods. In anything other than really bright light, use a tripod to get more keepers.

I also found this lens was really good for lunar shots. Check out 2 examples wide open at 500 with this lens on the images page.
reviewer#1542 date: Dec-15-2006
sharpness: 4.5
color: 4
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.7
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:* Minolta 70-210 f/4
price paid:$799 USD New
positive:* Built like a tank.
* Extremely useful range.
* Great image quality for the range.
* Sigma gives you nice stuff when you buy it.
* Fast (enough) AF on 5D, very fast AF on a700.
negative:* Attention getter.
* You better be in shape.
* "Fair weather" lens.
* Requires sturdy tripod or monopod.
comment:The Lens also known as Bigma.

The Sigma 50-500 has a well deserved reputation. For the price, it has unrivaled build and image quality. It also has a few caveats. If you can accept the caveats of the lens, you'll gladly welcome it into your stable.

* BUILD QUALITY *

Huge. Absolutely huge. It's not called Bigma for nothing. This is how a 10X zoom should be made - imagine if those 28-200 or 18-200 zooms had the kind of build quality as this beast. Four pounds of glass and metal combine to a shoulder-straining experience. A good tripod/monopod and head are a requirement for this lens. Handholding at 500mm is nearly impossible, antishake or not. Your arm just gets tired from holding it. The included protective case and lens strap are nice touches.

Sigma's lens caps still bother me. Everyone but them (and Canon I think) is doing the center pinch gig and they need to follow suit. I shouldn't have to buy a third party (hard to find) 86mm center pinch cap for a lens of this caliber.

Materials are nice. Finish is great (would be even better if it was white!), rubber is smooth and grippy, and the magnesium tripod collar is extremely sturdy. Match it up with a Bushhawk, gimbal head or other such apparatus and you're pretty much set. Sadly, I have none of those things yet!

* ZOOMING AND FOCUSING *

The zoom is very stiff until about 100mm. You could theoretically use the lens in a push-pull fashion but I'm not sure how well that would impact on the internals. Just point it towards the ground while zooming out that first "hump." After about 100mm it zooms well enough.

Manual focusing has a few oddities due to the lens' initial design for a focusing motor and subsequent transplant onto a mechanical AF train. You must make sure the lens is set to the AF mode when attaching the lens to the camera, turning the camera on and off, or when AF is enabled on the camera. If you don't do this, the focus motor will just keep spinning until it times out.

This has the side effect of not spinning the focusing ring while the camera AFs. When you do want to manual focus (even with DMF activated), you must pull the ring towards the lens mount and then turn it. This engages the manual focusing clutch. You can even do this while the camera is in AF mode, but when you half-press the motor will just spin and spin. Keep this in mind when using the lens. Keep it on AF at all times unless you have MF set specifically.

There is a zoom lock to keep the lens from extending while stored or when you don't want it to move. This lock also keeps the lens to a 100-500 zoom range if using a Sigma teleconverter. Sigma TCs also disable autofocus.

Autofocus is fast enough thanks to a rear focusing design (think Minolta 28-135 f/4-4.5). It can hunt in low contrast situations on a 5D, but then, most lenses do. Note that if you have a flash for AF assist attached, the AF assist beam stops working around 300mm. Autofocus is fast and confident on a700.

* IMAGE QUALITY *

Two things are evident from most Bigma pics - little to no chromatic aberrations, and a high level of sharpness for a superzoom. After some initial dopeyness on my part, I managed to get the Bigma into some shooting, and several things were made apparent to me.

1. This lens needs a lot of light. The slow maximum apertures (You're at f/6.3 at 200mm, f/5.6 at 100mm) demand either high ISO, a lot of light, or both. When the clouds come out, the Bigma might have to come off if you like higher shutter speeds.

2. Slowness also means less bokeh flexibility. The tele-ness of the lens helps in this regard, but a 500mm f/4 would kill this lens in that regard.

3. Mirror lockup is also extremely useful but is out of the equation when shooting moving subjects.

4. Remote shutter cables and a tripod are helpful too. At 500mm, vibrations are magnified many more times. Your images will not be ruined by the lens' softness, but more often by your moving it.

As long as you keep the shutter speeds as high as they can go, you'll probably find a lot of success with the Bigma. It has its flaws (you have to compromise to get a lens like this) but the images will certainly please. There is the risk of some vignetting and pincushion distortion, but that comes with the territory and is not so severe that it cannot be adjusted for. The color cast is neutral-cool, which I tend to adjust towards a warmer side in post.

The Bigma is not an every day lens. I bought it to shoot airplanes. If you don't know what you're shooting, this lens isn't for you. If you're a nature/wildlife shooter, this lens was built for you. If you're a street shooter, I wouldn't reccomend it.

By the way - the lens is very, very conspicuous. Be careful where you aim it, because people might mistake it for something else. Not speaking from experience, but make sure you have a giant indicator that you are a photographer.

UPDATE: I have used this lens on my new a700 with great results. It focuses faster and quieter, and the image quality is still very good. However, the chromatic aberrations that were very hard to see on 6MPX are now quite visible on 12PMX, only because the camera is better at resolving lens flaws. Funny how that works. But comparatively speaking, the CAs are very minor and can easily be corrected in your favorite RAW converter or left alone even.

I also had an issue earlier this year when the small screws in the zoom lock switch came apart and jammed the lens. Sigma repaired it under warranty with no problems. If the switch feels loose or hard to change settings, take a jeweler's screwdriver, take the switch off the body, and tighten up the two screws holding the switch to the locking tab. Some loctite may also be of use here.
reviewer#156 date: Oct-12-2005
sharpness: 4
color: 4
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.6
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I have experience with this lens
compared to:
missing
price paid:
missing
positive:Nice range, farely sharp lens for this range, build quality.
negative:Af quite slow, too heavy for some people
comment:I bought this lens for a bargain, because I noticed that 200mm was kinda short on the race track. I had this lens before on both Nikon and Canon bodies, so naturally the choice was clear. Allthough the Minolta version is not HSM, and it tends to be slow in AF from close to infinity, it is fast enough to track race cars (or other action). I find this lens farely sharp, considering its range (10x zoom) and have allways found that this is one of Sigma's top lenses. Some people will have problems with the weight of this monster, but I couldn't care less. Personally, I'll take the weight with pleasure for the overall use one got from this lens. So add the built-in AS from Minolta digital bodies, and one gets a stabillized 50-500 zoom lens ....
reviewer#135 date: Oct-5-2005
sharpness: 4
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.8
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I have experience with this lens
compared to:
missing
price paid:
missing
positive:great build quality, fine optics
negative:heavy
comment:
missing
reviewer#55 date: Feb-18-2005
sharpness: 4
color: 4
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I have experience with this lens
compared to:
missing
price paid:
missing
positive:Very versatile lens, a budget ultra zoom for hibbyist with limited budget like me :). Its build is solid!
negative:Heavy. Small size like me will have problem using it without a monopod or tripod. The zoom ring can be difficult to rotate if the lens is tilted upwards, and will creep when facing down.
comment:Buy this few years back for my film 7. It is the my only telezoom lens. I don't usually need lens with focal lenght more than 200mm. The autofocus is fine, although lack of HSM feature for Minolta mount.

Remember to bring your tripod along.. its heavy!

reviews found: 5   

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 5
  • sharpness: 4.20
  • color: 4.20
  • build: 5.00
  • distortion: 4.80
  • flare control: 4.80
  • overall: 4.60

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