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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 (, and Sigma's website ( 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)

onOne Software Announces Photo Essentials 3 for Adobe Photoshop Elements 8

New version brings improved color correction, additional image framing content and the new Make It Cool! module that gives digital photos a professional look.

onOne Software, Inc., a leading developer of time-saving solutions for professional and advanced amateur photographers, today announced a new version of Photo Essentials 3 for Adobe Photoshop Elements. onOne Photo Essentials 3 is a collection of five tools that painlessly correct color, remove unwanted backgrounds, add photographic effects and enlarge photos. These easy-to-use tools help photography enthusiasts get the job done quickly and easily in Adobe® Photoshop® Elements.

Supporting the new Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0, onOne's Photo Essentials 3.0 offers these capabilities:

- New Photo Essentials Palette - The Palette provides quick access to all five modules from a single location right inside Photoshop Elements.
- Make It Cool - New in Essentials 3, this offers a library with dozens of professional effects that can be added to images in one click.
- Make It Better - Turn your snapshots into professional images. Automatically fix brightness, contrast, color and sharpness with no need to understand cryptic sliders.
- Cut It Out - Easily remove an unwanted background while maintaining fine detail such as hair, clouds and glass.
- Frame It - Choose from hundreds of easy to add edge and border effects to give pictures the perfect finishing touch.
- Enlarge It - Get sharp, poster sized prints out of your photos, even from camera phones.

"Our mission is to provide tools that help make digital photography easier, faster and better. onOne Photo Essentials 3 delivers on this by helping amateur photographers spend less time in front of their computer correcting their digital images and more time behind the camera taking pictures," said Craig Keudell, president of onOne Software. "And with this new version of Photo Essentials 3 comes a completely new module, Make It Cool, based on our award-winning PhotoTools 2 plug-in, a new dynamic range optimization algorithm in Make It Better and a new version of the Photo Essentials Palette."

onOne Software's Photo Essentials 3 will be available in October 2009 for $69.99. Customers who purchase Essentials 2 on or after September 24, 2009 will receive a complimentary upgrade to Photo Essentials 3 as an electronic download for free. For more information on Photo Essentials, please visit
About onOne Software

onOne Software, Inc. a leading developer of innovative software tools for photographers, develops time-saving software solutions for professional and advanced amateur photographers. onOne Software solutions have been created to help photographers spend more of their time behind the camera taking pictures instead of the computer workstation. Such solutions include a wide range of easy-to-use plug-in enhancements for Adobe® Photoshop®, Photoshop Elements, Photoshop Lightroom, Apple Aperture and Apple iPhoto. Founded in 2005, onOne Software is a privately held company located in Portland, Oregon. For additional information, visit or call 1-888-968-1468.

Autodesk Application Videos by Marcel de Jong

Marcel de Jong, Solutions Engineer at Autodesk, demonstrates how a Cintiq 21UX fits into his workflow in this series of videos. See how Marcel sketches architectural structures and environments in Sketchbook Pro:

Creating Characters
Sketching Architectural Concepts
Sketching Interiors
Learn how Marcel paints and texturizes in Maya:
Painting Motion Characteristics on Materials
Detailing and Texturing Clothing
The Autodesk Maya to Mudbox Workflow

Bamboo: A Touch of Excitement from Wacom

Introducing the new Bamboo line of tablets. Five in all. With striking looks and sleek designs, they're easy on the eyes and even easier to use.

New to Bamboo is the addition of Multi-Touch input. Now you can add Multi-Touch to just about any computer, so you can navigate, scroll and work with the same gestures you use on your mobile device or laptop trackpad, only with lots more space to maneuver.

As always, you can use Wacom's world-renowned pen for retouching and editing your digital photos, or digitally painting, drawing or sketching. The pen is also a great way to personalize, mark up, annotate and collaborate in your documents and presentations.

Choose the Bamboo that's right for you: Bamboo Pen and Touch, Bamboo Touch, Bamboo Pen, Bamboo Fun or Bamboo Craft.

Go To Bamboo's Website

New book from O'Reilly: Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography

Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography
—New from Rocky Nook
How to Create a Unique and Intriguing Visual Experience

Santa Barbara, CA—The unusual perspective of a panoramic image creates a unique and intriguing visual experience for the viewer. Skillfully executed, panoramic photography can realize scenes that could otherwise never be captured in an image or seen with the naked eye.

Panoramas offer new possibilities for creative photographers, either as flat, two-dimensional images, or mapped into a 3D space that can be visited on a virtual tour. New, powerful, panorama software makes the workflow easier and more efficient than ever before.

In Mastering Digital Panoramic Photography (Rocky Nook, $34.95 USD) you will find everything you need to know to create amazing panoramic images. Author Harald Woeste takes the reader on a tour from the basics of capturing panoramas, all the way through stitching, editing, and printing panoramic images. He provides a detailed description of the necessary equipment and materials, as well as the various software tools that can be used in the workflow. The latter half of the book illustrates the making of panoramas through a number of example projects.

Topics covered include:

  • History of panoramas and panoramic cameras
  • Shooting technique and equipment
  • Stitching methods
  • Output methods
  • Stitching software
  • Case studies of indoor and outdoor panoramas

Harald Woeste lives in Bonn, Germany where he works as a designer and photographer for international clients. Digital photograhic panoramas was the subject of his thesis at the "Universitaet der Kuenste" in Berlin, and it has become one of the tools for his work as an artist and designer. One of the widely recognized projects of Harald Woeste is the panoramic capture of the exhibit "Einstein, Engineer of the Universe" in Berlin.

Additional Resources:
For more information about the book, see:

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