I have been working with telephoto lenses for as long as I can remember. From my earliest days as a teenage photographer and all along the way (some 50 years later) the telephoto lens has provided me opportunities photographically and artistically that no other types of lenses can offer.
The precise application of the lens to visually bring subjects up close that are happening far away- in the distance, is an exciting way to create photographs. I would photograph car races, surfing photos, nature, concert performances, movie stunts using explosives, and I even did some fashion photography using long lenses. The telephoto lens has its own unique way of rendering reality. It has its own unique, graphic footprint, in the perceivable expression of photography. In my opinion it’s an important part of any photographers collection of equipment.
Recently I purchased the SIGMA-APO 500mm F4.5 EX DG lens (for Canon or Nikon). I cannot praise this lens enough. The lens is an Apochromatic ultra-telephoto lens with a fast F4.5 maximum aperture, and it incorporates two ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) glass elements to reduce chromatic aberration to a minimum. The internal focus enables responsive and fast autofocus speed. This is an auto-focus Sigma 500mm telephoto lens with its own self-contained Hyper-Sonic Motor, which drives the autofocus system, and is almost completely silent when in use. For nature photographers this is significant, especially bird photographers because the lens is so quiet it won’t disturb the peace of the moment. The entire way this Lens is engineered is impressive.
The lens itself is beautifully designed and finished. It has a lens hood that easily mounts to the front of the lens, providing excellent sunshade for the front element glass. The entire lens is relatively small for a lens of this capability, approximately 14 inches long without the sunshade hood on. Its weight feels substantial because of the high quality of the materials used in the manufacturing of the lens. The lens is constructed of 12 elements in 9 groups. A rotatable 46mm drop in filter holder in the rear part of the lens barrel facilitates the use of filters including a polarizing filter. All the markings on the lens are very easy to read and the tripod mount is quite sturdy giving the photographer choices on how one chooses to mount the lens, with the different tripod threads spaced between themselves.
Coming from the days of pre-digital and non-autofocus lenses I still embrace some old school working techniques. One for example is that I still shoot film, a lot of it actually, and one of the reasons I purchased this lens is because the F4.5 aperture will allow me to shoot 35mm film, even under lower light conditions, like overcast skies. And the sharpness of this lens, when it’s wide open is awesome. In fact, I’m a photographer who cares a great deal about the sharpness of a lens, for me it’s the defining attribute, along with its focusing action and aperture accuracy. I will often take lenses off their autofocus capability and focus them manually. This SIGMA lens has a wonderful touch when focused manually. Its action is smooth and tight…no play is felt between racking focus one way and then changing direction going the other way. This can become critical when capturing just the right moment for the subject at hand, if you’re focusing manually. The lens feels very ergonomic, the SIGMA engineers kept the photographers needs in mind when they were designing this lens.
When it comes to value you cannot beat the price of this lens… Nikon is selling their similar lens for over eight thousand dollars. Canon is selling theirs for over ten thousand dollars. The lens is manufactured to mount on either Canon or Nikon. I ‘m a life long Nikon shooter. I tried the Lens on both my Nikon D3 and I also used my Nikon F100 shooting black & white film. Both cameras worked really well with the SIGMA 500mm lens. I shot using the autofocus system both on and off, with each camera body and the lens performed perfectly.
The SIGMA 500mm F 4.5 EX DG APO retails around five thousand dollars, a significant difference in the cost of the lens- brand new out of the box. Keep in mind SIGMA also manufactures tele-converters which can be used with this lens which will extend its focal length even more.