Sigma 600mm F8 Mirror A-mount lens review by Clamdigger

reviewer#10422 date: Aug-1-2012
sharpness: 4.5
color: 4
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 5
overall: 4.5
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:Conventional Sigma 500mm APO.
price paid:105 USD (w/S&H)
positive:On 1.6x APS-C, view equals a 1000mm!
Very solidly built.
Surprisingly sharp in the right hands.
Small & relatively unobtrusive in use.
Cheap enough to risk in the field.
Amenable to major IQ improvement in PP.
negative:Susceptible to all CAT limitations:
Funky bokeh (tho' occasionally a plus!)
Small effective aperture -> dark viewing.
Shallow DOF -> difficult focusing.
Low contrast prior to PP.
Unsaturated colors prior to PP.
Sensitive to mirror slap, atmospherics, etc.
comment:I've just bought my second example of this lens, so you can tell I'm a fan. Indeed, having used this on several generations of film & digital SLRs, I've now gone to a Sony "mirrorless" specifically to dampen the main problem with any extreme telephoto: camera vibration or shake. (The NEX-type cameras have no mirror to "slap", plus hands-off electronic triggering... which = better sharpness. Pity the current NEX generation doesn't offer in-camera shake reduction too.)

Anyway, in brief, this is a fine lens and is capable of pictures which rival comparably long refractor teles costing 10 to 50 times as much (and which you would never dream of taking into a swamp!) It does, however, require practice and thought to get the most out of it - possibly a lot more so than any other lens you might use. And it is not a fast-to-use lens: it's great for scenics with distant but compressed foregrounds and backgrounds, and nearly stationary wildlife can sometimes be managed, but taking it to a fast moving sporting event would, in my opinion, be madness!

Do not be afraid of post production work in software! If you shoot in RAW and then use the computer intelligently, the lens' normally subdued contrast and color saturation can be easily adjusted: the data is there in the RAW format. And even the odd CAT lens' donut bokeh can be processed out, if one so desires (although it is also avoidable in the "taking" phase, by careful attention to out-of-focus highlights.)

Start with a higher ISO and shutter speed, use the heaviest tripod you can manage (I sometimes use one that retired from a career in cinematography)... or improvise in the field with a view towards solidity, ample light and a motionless camera (I like to use big boulders on location, paired with a lead-shot beanbag rest like the ones used by competitive marksmen and an infrared triggering accessory.) Then... have fun finding just the right compositions to exercise the CAT's strengths.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 18
  • sharpness: 3.83
  • color: 3.33
  • build: 4.72
  • distortion: 4.39
  • flare control: 4.33
  • overall: 4.12 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania