Sigma 150-500mm – Getting The Hang of It

Juvenile White-Bellied Sea Eagle

My initial feeling of this lens was that it was a little heavy. But, after a few outings, the weightiness is now less of a concern. Either my hands have become stronger or that I am now more accustomed to it that it is out of my mind. In fact, during outings my mind is more on the job and to get it right. When there is no bird in sight I just put it aside.

Autofocus is quite fast if the subject is near the focus point during the initial framing and from then onwards locking on is a breeze. Otherwise the focusing mechanism will go hunting high and low. This is not good for shooting birds in flight. Almost impossible to get a lock on focus. I know that I can easily get a good and sharp pictures of birds by just visiting the aviary but somehow I just don’t like the idea. I prefer to shoot wild and free birds. It is more challenging and I get to learn more about them. I am now more interested in birds, so when I know a place where the not so common birds often seen, I shall keep note of it and will go for an outing to that place when I have the time and will to do it. If a place that I will be visiting, there are chances of eagles sighting, I shall bring along my Sigma telezoom lens.

Precision

My outings with the Sigma telezoom lens are still few, but I am now more than comfortable with it. Lugging it around for short distances with the camera attached, I just grip the tripod collar with my left hand. When I want to shoot, I lift it to eye level simultaneously lifting my right hand to grip the camera. As a precaution, the camera strap is wound around my wrist. With the weight of lens and camera resting on my left hand palm and four fingers gripping the tripod collar, the thumb is free to rotate the focusing ring. If during the initial framing the focus is totally out, I shall pull the focusing ring down (to infinity focus point) and then up clockwise. When the view is almost in focus, the shutter is then pressed halfway to let autofocus kicks in. The focusing method for BIF that I am experimenting now is continuous focus coupled with continuous frame exposure. Occasionally, I do have a hard time getting the bird almost into focus manually before letting the autofocus takes over and lock on. When this happened, I quickly swing the camera to focus elsewhere which is approximately about the same distance as the bird and then get back to the bird.

Heron at Lido Beach, Johor, Malaysia

All said, I have yet to get a good and sharp picture. I am still learning. After going through all of the pictures, I found that most of it were below 1/2000th shutter speed unless it had higher ISO. In fact many were below 1/1000th. I try not to use high ISO because I do not want the picture to be too noisy as I am not doing any serious post processing at the moment, just a little bit here and there. Now that my stock is growing and whether I like it or not, it has to be soon. One of the reasons I am not getting good and sharp pictures of the bird is probably that I was too excited as the case with the eagle seen here. I was on my way back to Tanjung Batu from an island in Riau, Indonesia. As I was waiting for the ferry at the pier, I saw two White-bellied Sea Eagles flying and at times very near just above my head that it filled the whole frame in the viewfinder. On checking the exif, some were at 150mm and few others at F11.

Egret at Lido Beach

One thing I want to mention about the Sigma 150-500mm telezoom lens is that the hood is not tightly fit. Just recently on my way from Penyalai to Tanjung Batu in Kepulauan Riau, Indonesia, I noticed a group of birds flying behind and following the ferry. I grabbed the camera, attached the Sigma telezoom lens and started shooting. Through the lens I saw the birds were looking down and occasionally dived down to the water. There was probably food for them found at the still water that sloped down just after the turbulence caused by the propeller. After indulging myself shooting the birds, I lowered the camera. I felt something hit my right foot. I looked and saw the hood bounced, landed at the edge of the deck and rolled into the sea. There goes my sigma lens hood. Is it just my Sigma lens hood that is not tight-fitting or all of the others too? On closer inspection of the mount system on the lens, there is a small mount near the edge of the groove slot probably for locking. I guess it needs more force turning the hood when attaching it. Anyway the hood itself is quite fragile. It is made of plastic, large and thin. If it is expensive, I shall go for metal from the independent accessories maker.

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