My Thought On The New Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary

The old and the new Sigma super telezooms

The old and the new Sigma super telezooms

I should say that on many occasions, I am not patience enough when snapping shots .  This is due to the fact my early experience in photography hinges on covering events, namely weddings.  I try to present a story without much or any manipulation of the subjects unless it is a pose shot.  No problem at all in getting sharp images because the maximum focal length that I use at that time was 135mm for half body and head & shoulders portraits.  Eventually, I learned to shoot quickly and be done with it without the subjects knowing my action in advance.  Now that bird photography is one of my favourite subjects, I have to slow down and not getting too excited because photographing birds require a totally different approach.

The Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM, that’s quite a stretch, is the lens of my choice after some reading and consideration.  It is sharp when I’m relaxed and just trying it out, but on my outings, very few turned up good.  I have to admit that I’m quiet new to bird photography, thus I may still be lacking in techniques and experience.  I have yet to try using hide and/or give tips to the birds, that is food in return for pictures which I am sure that I can get good results but I am not going in that direction at the moment. Hence, I always wonder what could be wrong with my way of shooting or that I am missing something.  I have no other lenses to compare until I got hold on the new Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary.  Just after one initial outing, my heart fills with satisfaction when I review the images on the computer screen.  I now know the reason why and am sure about it.

Being the successor, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 has many improvements over its predecessor. On paper, it has focus limiter, more reach, zoom lock, sharper image and programmable via Sigma USB dock, but on trial, well…I like the taste of the pudding. It is faster in focusing and less hunting, quick and snappy stabilisation and a much more silent motor.  Even the lens hood has improved.  It is much more thicker, the locking mechanism is now a ring and the hood attached to it.  This makes the mounting end of the hood stronger and harder to flex.  Many have complained about the thin and flexible hood of the 150-500mm lens detaching, mine decided to jump into the sea while I was in a ferry shooting at the terns following it.

Unedited image of Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary converted and resized into Jpeg through Faststone

Unedited image of Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary converted and resized into Jpeg through Faststone

Hoods

The hood of Sigma 150-600mm (left) and the hood of Sigma 150-500mm sharing the same type of locking mechanism

My only critic is that the base of the tripod collar is short, resulting in less grip in holding down the lens with the camera attached and extra care must be given to hold it and not to let it slip while holding.  All said and without doubt, Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM is a good lens but Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is better. Probably Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sport DG OS HSM is the best of them all.

Photo Outing at Singapore Botanic Garden

I had been there previously with my Canon 60D together with the EF 75-300mm 4-5.6 III and EF 50mm 1.8 AF lenses. The 50mm 1.8 was good, the problem with the 75-300mm was the CA, its terrible. Now that I had the Sigma 150-500mm, I made a return trip to rectify the mistakes I did previously and also to try the 50mm 1.8 with the Kenko 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300 DGX teleconverter.

My mind was set on the two pairs of White Swans and the orchids. Surprisingly, I did managed to shoot at other birds in close range on the ground with the 50mm plus the 1.4X teleconverter attached. It seemed that they were not afraid of people, probably they were used to being fed by some people who frequent the garden. As for the birds that fly high and perched only on branches, it’s the usual story.

Bought A Sigma 150-500mm Telezoom Lens

Sigma 150-500mm APO DG OS HSM

The name in full as Sigma put it is APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM. That’s a mouthfull of acronyms. It is the most expensive lens I had bought so far, even more than the body that I had. But considered cheap if it were to be compared to the more expensive lenses in roughly the same focal range. So why the plunged?

I have a liking for sharp beautiful pictures of birds especially eagles but I never did once seriously went out primarily just to shoot birds. On my recent trip to Daik in Pulau Lingga, Riau, Indonesia, I saw a lot of eagles flying, circling around and occasionally dive down to the river in an attempt to catch whatever that it saw fit to consume. I had never shoot wild birds and was only equipped with a Canon EF 75-300mm lens plus a Kenko 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300 DG AF teleconverter for distance shooting. No Image Stabiliser but AF was working. None of the images were sharp.

Bird on pole

It’s not easy to shoot wild and free birds unless it is given to you on a palette like the one shown here of a small bird which I found perched on a pole when I looked out over the parapet wall of the hotel in Daik. Birds were very wary of my approach and ultimately took flight before I could raised my camera. A case why many birds photographers use hides and free meals to attract their subjects. I am not going that road at the moment.

I also found that the eagles were also wary at me even though they were flying above. Many of the shots show the eagles looking towards me including shots that were taken from inside the hotel room and the camera was not out of the window. I need a little distance and image stabiliser. Auto focus not so necessary because I think manual focus might just do the trick or pre-focus at a distance plus lots of shots (continuous) and a little bit of luck. It will all be in Jpeg as RAW will be slow in writing the data into the memory because it’s file size is very big compared to Jpeg.

Bird on antenna

The lens weighs about 1.9 kg and it is quite heavy to lug it around for some times. It came with a padded rectangular soft box, a hood, tripod stand and a lens strap that had it strapping point on the tripod stand. Filter size is huge, 86mm. Attaching it to the Kenko 1.4x teleconverter had it working fine. No issue whatsoever. At least for now and hopefully none in the future.

Having had the baby in hand, I set off to test it on some birds. Birds that are easy to approach, chicken that is. Well…it was like waiting for the bus, I could not find any hen or a cock behind the house but did found a bird perched on a TV antenna at the neighbour’s house. Not a good result shooting hand-held anyway still decent.

As for the non-flying birds, I will post the pictures as soon as I had it.

Update 18 February 2011:

Here are the pictures.

All shots captured at 500mm

Verdict:

Pictures are sharp especially at  about 5 metres. At distance more than 10 metres, you need a tripod for stability regardless of the image stabiliser if shooting for an extended period. At 1.9 kg excluding the camera soon your hand will turn soft. The tiredness coupled with unstationary subject are not a good recipe for a sharp image at 500mm focal length. It is okay to shoot hand-held for a short while. Also, this is not the lens to hold on while you are waiting for your subject.

More here:

Sigma 150-500mm – Getting The Hang of It