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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hands-On: Review Sigma 150-500mm

By Mel Beus
Ever seeking lens options longer than 300, I had a chance to spent a couple days up close and personal with Sigma's newer ultra-telephoto zoom offering available in a Pentax Mount, the APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM. This review is strictly from a user's standpoint. There are plenty of places to go for a more thorough technical analysis and description of this lens such as pop photo (http://www.popphoto.com/Reviews/Lenses/Sigma-150-500mm-f-5-6.3-DG-OS-HSM-APO-AF), and Sigma's website (http://www.sigmaphoto.com/lenses/lenses_all_details.asp?id=3348&navigator=3) gives detailed specifications.

This lens is a beast. To say that's it's large is an understatement. Not all photographers are created equally, and thusly, different sized people will have varying results with different sized lenses. I, for example, am a smallish female. What lenses are hand-holdable for me will be different for, say someone who is 6'5" and a former linebacker. I did, however, find this lens to be manageable for the most part. Some sort of physical stabilization (i.e. monopod) would have been preferred but lack thereof did not mean lack of shooting altogether. The two examples shot with this lens, both at 500, were hand-held. Doing so for an extended period of time, however, may prove tiring.




Having previously shot the 50-500 on the same camera (a Pentax K10D) I was able to compare the focusing of the HSM lens vs the non-HSM lens. The HSM was silky-smooth and quiet, but it was still fairly slow. It did not, however, seem prone to hunting, but would lock accurately on the intended target, just not real speedily. The manual override with which this lens comes equipped is an always useful feature. I am currently trying out the 50-500 on the faster-AF K-7 for shooting higher level youth soccer (U19 Boys), and finding that it is not really up to the task in the AF department (as compared to the DA* lenses with SDM AF). It would be valuable to try the 150-500 in the same venue on the same camera and see now it compares in performance to use on the K10D, to the 50-500 on the K-7, and also to the Pentax DA* lenses on the K-7.



The resulting images gave accurate color and nice contrast rendering as compared to experiences with the 50-500. The out of focus areas were rendered pleasingly smooth. From a user standpoint, I really didn't find anything in the image quality that was lacking. There could perhaps be a slighter greater amount of sharpness at 500 but these shots were handheld using a ginormous lens fully extended. A tripod test was not conducted (because honestly, review-writing was not on my mind while shooting).


The last note I'd like to make about this lens is probably a fairly picky one, and that is in regard to the hood that comes with it. Compared the the 50-500, the hood that comes with the 150-500 is cheap and flimsy. It does the job yes, but I don't think it would be that large of a stretch for Sigma to include a hood of the same quality as it's other long zoom offering.


In conclusion, would I buy this lens or recommend it to other Pentax shooters seeking a long telephoto? Most definitely. I would also recommend it to any other camera user as results should be similar. Of the two ultra-telephoto zooms extending to 500mm offered by Sigma in the Pentax mount, this, in my opinion, is the better one, mainly due to the improved focusing mechanism. Image quality between the two seems to be a draw, but I think the images of the 150-500 at 500 have a slight edge over the 50-500 at 500.

By Mel Beus for P3 N&R

Images Copyright: Mel Beus 2009

and Sigma (lens photo)




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