Sigma 500mm F4.5 APO A-mount lens review by Bob S.

reviewer#8107 date: Oct-17-2010
sharpness: 5
color: 4
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 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Tokina 100-300/4
Sigma 400/5.6
Sigma 500/7.2
price paid:Probably too much
Build quality (tank!!)
Fast 4.5 aperture
Built in lens hood
negative:Super Heavy
Slow AF
No focus limit switch
comment:I've only had this lens for about 2 weeks and I probably haven't used it enough to do a great in-depth review, but for the short time that I've had and used it - it's a great lens - especially for it's age (it's an older "ZEN" model).

This lens is very sharp - even wide open - but really blows away almost everything else I own once it's closed down to say f/6.3 or f/8 - even f/5.6. The bokeh is incredible; soft and buttery and really makes your subjects pop out of the picture. The colors are also pretty nice, although a little tweaking doesn't hurt. Same with the contrast; it can be the tiniest bit on the flat side.

It's a HUGE lens, built like a tank and it weighs a ton (actually it's a little over 7 pounds) and it can be pretty unwieldy when used only with a monopod; a sturdy tripod would probably be a best bet with this monster.

AF is slow, a focus limit switch would have been nice. And I can confirm that the Sigma 1.4X EX APO TC will work with this lens and it even auto-focuses on my A700 - it's slow, but it does AF. I also noticed that the TC doesn't degrade the image by any noticeable amount.

One other tiny negative about the lens (and, again, this is probably due to it's age) - the drop-in filter holder does not have a dial or wheel so using a CPOL or Split ND filter would be out of the question. The newer versions of this lens have a wheel/dial for using these filters, but they are a different size to this version of the lens so I couldn't even buy a new version's holder and use with this lens.

Compared to the older Sigma "ZEN" lenses that I've owned in the past (and sold); 400/5.6 APO and the 500/7.2 APO - what can I say? They can't come close to this lens so there is no comparison - this lens blows them away.

My version has the gold APO lettering on the side - not the white lettering like in the pictures. Also, I have no red ring around the front. I don't think this makes any difference to the quality of the lens, I just wanted to note that there are different versions of this same lens. Mine came with an aluminum carry case, a leather hood cover and an additional screw-on hood that attaches to the built-in hood (making this monster look even bigger!)

I'm hoping to get to some sporting events in the near future and really put it through it's paces.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 7
  • sharpness: 4.86
  • color: 4.43
  • build: 4.43
  • distortion: 5.00
  • flare control: 4.86
  • overall: 4.71 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania