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Thread: Sigmonster 300-800, anyone here used one?

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    Member NikonUser's Avatar
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    Sigmonster 300-800, anyone here used one?

    Hi there,

    I'm just wondering if anyone here has any experience with the Sigma 300-800 f5.6 EX DG HSM (etc) lens?

    For the price it would seem like a magical bird/wildlife lens. Most of the reviews on the net seem quite positive and I'm looking for some opinions from people who have used the lens.

    I currently own an AFS (version 1) Nikkor 500/4 that I think is underperforming (I can't seem to get decent results, even after a service!). It's an old press lens that I got for a very price, but I'm just not happy with the results I'm getting from it (which is probably why it was a decent price!).

    I understand that this lens is big/heavy... but I don't see that as a problem. I already have a gimbal head (Manfrotto) and a decent tripod.

    For those that have used the Sigmonster:

    1) What is/was your overall opinion of the lens?
    2) How is the autofocus? As snappy/quiet/good as the expensive 500+ primes?
    3) How is the overall image quality. I have read that the lens is super sharp throughout the entire zoom range and is only a hair softer/less contrasty (if at all) than the Nikon/Canon superteles.

    Any comments/opinions would be welcome.

    Thanks,
    Paul.
    Australian Nature Photography

    Nikon D7000
    Nikkor 12-24, Nikkor 28-70/2.8, Nikkor 50/1.8, Tamron 60/2, Sigma 100-300/4, Sigma 180/3.5 macro, Nikkor 500/4, 1.4x TC, 1.7x TC

    (Comments And Critique On My Images Most Welcome)

  2. #2
    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    I am not so sure that the Sigma 300-800 f5.6 is will be the answer to your dilemma and it would be good to know what specific issue you are having with your current 500 f4. Is it too soft due to camera or subject movement, is it too slow to focus, is it a back focus or front focus issue?

    The problem with these super teles is you need to have a very stable hand, a tripod, VR, high shutter speeds or all 4! You may not be shooting your current set-up with enough shutter speed to get sharp results for birding. When I was shooting with the D7000, my usual minimum shutter speed handheld was at least 1/focal length x 2, so, if I was shooting with the 500mm f4 VR, it would be 1/1000sec with VR on for stationary birds and for BIF it would be at least one stop faster again, so 1/2000sec and that was with reasonably good technique. I would use Auto ISO to allow me to adjust the aperture and get decent shutter speeds right up to ISO6400. Your D7000 has excellent high ISO ability and so can be used right up to ISO6400 and a bit of post process noise reduction applied where required can fix high ISO very well. The thing is, you can fix high ISO noise to a large degree, but you can't fix a blurred image due to camera shake or subject movement.

    Would it be possible for you post some samples from your current set-up so as we can ascertain what the possible issue is?

    Also, what is your primary subject matter?
    Last edited by Lance B; 26-03-2013 at 7:12pm.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Post images as Lance said and lets see what may be causing this underperformance. I'm assuming that by underperforming, you're referring to the resultant image quality/sharpness. Or are you using the term as a reference to the amount of magnification you wanted or were expecting.

    Is the lens underperforming with or without the tc's you have listed as well ....

    All the points that Lance has listed as possible causes for the lenses inadequate capability .. but have you also tested it in a static environment before condemning it as such?

    That is, find a fixed target with good detail, fix lens to a solid support system, using all possible aids to eliminate camera shake ..... MLU or exposure delay and remote control .. etc, etc.
    Do you get decent image quality in this situation?
    Nikon D800E, D300, D70s
    {Nikon} -> 50/1.2 : 500/8(CPU'd) : 105/2.8VR Micro : 180/2.8ais : 105mm f/1.8ais : 24mm/2ais
    {Sigma}; ->10-20/4-5.6 : 50/1.4 : 12-24/4.5-5.6II : 150-600mm|S
    {Tamron}; -> 17-50/2.8 : 28-75/2.8 : 70-200/2.8 : 300/2.8 SP MF : 24-70/2.8VC


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    Thanks for the help guys,

    I am certainly not ruling out user error in my troubles... and the frustrating thing is that I am finding it almost impossible to determine if it is me, the camera(s), the lens, or a combination of both.

    I have posted an example of what I am talking about a week or so ago... I will post some more tomorrow in this thread. I would love some other opinios of what the cause of my issues are.

    The problem is that I just can't seem to get sharp images. Autofocus of the lens is fast and snappy. I don't THINK it is subject movement or camera shake as I have done EVERYTHING I can to try and eliminate these in my testing. In the images I have taken it doesn't appear to be a front/back focus problem as no part of the images are sharp.

    I always use the lens on a tripod and have tried shutter speeds ranging from 1/60 to 1/4000 with no discernible difference. The lens is used with a Manfrotto Gimbal head and a sturdy Benro tripod. I have also done tests with the lens on a solid floor and table to try and further eliminate shake.

    Primary subject matter are birds and wildlife.

    The lens underperforms (as I Use it) without teles... but I can seem to get acceptable (not great) results occasionly. (Which is why I haven't ruled out user errorl..... but then again, the controlled tests show otherwise). The results are worse with the 1.4x and 1.7x TC's (Nikon brand).

    The thread I made a week or so ago with a few images can be found here: http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...p?118202-Egret

    I will post some more examples of static subjects tomorrow.

    Thanks again for your help
    Paul

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    NN. The MRSP was enough to ensure that I only looked at pictures of that lens. What price have you got?
    Am.

    PS: (Half-posts!) Have you been able to find any shots on Flickr?
    Last edited by ameerat42; 27-03-2013 at 8:37am.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Hi again,

    Here is an example of a test I have run this morning.

    On the left is a shot from my Tamron 60mm macro. On the right is the 500mm (No Teleconverters). These images have zero sharpening applied (in RAW or POST). The Tamron image is what I am aiming for and am expecting from my 500. Am I expecting too much?

    Shot details are as follows:
    Both images shot at ISO400, 1/1250, F4
    500mm was on a low tripod, gimbal head, locked down. Shot with AF-S (Live View), Mirror Lockup, Long-lens Technique Applied.
    I used live-view as I seem to be able to get sharper images with it than pure autofocus (I will try some focus adjust applied soon).


    EDIT: These are 100% Crops

    Any thoughts?

    macro vs 500 by AustralianNaturePhotography.com, on Flickr

    Thanks again,
    Paul

    P.S. CR Kennedy (Australian Importers of Sigma stuff) will price match grey imports. I have found the 300-800 for $6750 and they have confirmed that they would match that price.
    Last edited by NikonUser; 27-03-2013 at 10:33am.

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    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    The 500 f4 looks a little softer, but it is also wide open, which is not really the best thing to do. I would suggest stopping down to at least f5.6 or even better f8, and trying again.

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    Ok, so now I seem to be getting somewhere.

    I was under the impression that the big Tele are very close in performance wide open as when they are stopped down. It seems I am mistaken!

    Same test again (bumped ISO to keep shutter speeds high...ignore colour difference) with the 500 at f8. Major Difference!


    macro-vs-500---2 by AustralianNaturePhotography.com, on Flickr

    Still getting sharper results with Live View than Autofocus though, even after a quick play with Autofocus fine-tune.

    Paul

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    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Now that looks very good!

    Where you bird shots taken wide open?

    The new 500 f4 VR and the other newer super teles all work very well wide open. However, I think the older versions aren't quite as good.

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    Most of my bird shots are taken wide open, yes.

    I've had this lens for quite a few years now but don't get out with it very often so am quite inexperienced.... which is why I have never ruled out user error in my troubles.

    I've mostly used the lens wide open to try and get the shutter speed high (and ISO low). Next time I go out (hopefully Friday) I will try and use F8 with a higher ISO to see how I go. I will also use live-view as I think I get better focus with that.

    I have been recently been thinking of selling the lens and upgrading to a VR version, but didn't want to based upon the fact that I wasn't sure if the lens had a problem and didn't want to sell anyone a lemon. I'll keep testing (and saving) and see how I go.

    Thank you so much for your help! If I can start to get some better results with this lens stopped down you will have made me a very happy man!

    EDIT: Looking back over my past images that I have deemed 'acceptable' with this lens would suggest that stopping down does indeed help... most (but not all) of them were taken at smaller apertures.

    Paul
    Last edited by NikonUser; 27-03-2013 at 12:18pm.

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    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NikonUser View Post
    Most of my bird shots are taken wide open, yes.

    I've had this lens for quite a few years now but don't get out with it very often so am quite inexperienced.... which is why I have never ruled out user error in my troubles.

    I've mostly used the lens wide open to try and get the shutter speed high (and ISO low). Next time I go out (hopefully Friday) I will try and use F8 with a higher ISO to see how I go. I will also use live-view as I think I get better focus with that.

    I have been recently been thinking of selling the lens and upgrading to a VR version, but didn't want to based upon the fact that I wasn't sure if the lens had a problem and didn't want to sell anyone a lemon. I'll keep testing (and saving) and see how I go.

    Thank you so much for your help! If I can start to get some better results with this lens stopped down you will have made me a very happy man!

    EDIT: Looking back over my past images that I have deemed 'acceptable' with this lens would suggest that stopping down does indeed help... most (but not all) of them were taken at smaller apertures.

    Paul
    I look forward to seeing some more recent shots using your new technique, I hope it does work better for you. As I said, do not be frightened of boosting the ISO up in order to get decent shutter speeds as it is there for a reason, just be aware that you will lose DR and a small amount of detail, so where there is high cointrast you may need to be careful. Get yourself a decent post process noise reduction software like Noiseware Professional and you can shoot in some dim environments like these from my D7000:

    D7000 + 500mm f4 VR, f5.6, 1/160sec, ISO3200 handheld.



    D7000 + 70-200 f2.8 VRII + 2x TCIII, f5.6, 1/500sec, ISO4000 handheld.



    Shooting birds, you have a couple of options. Shoot high shutter speeds if the bird is moving, like a BIF or bobbing around on a branch, or drop the shutter speed if you have good support and keep the ISO lower if the bird is quite still.

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    Some stunning examples there!

    And I saw the dragonfly shot you took with your 500/4 (stalked your pbase account ).... awesome!

    I've never really pushed the ISO above 800 on the D7000.... probably because using a D2X scared me from using high ISO.

    I currently use Nik's Define 2.0 software as my noise reduction.

  13. #13
    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NikonUser View Post
    Some stunning examples there!

    And I saw the dragonfly shot you took with your 500/4 (stalked your pbase account ).... awesome!

    I've never really pushed the ISO above 800 on the D7000.... probably because using a D2X scared me from using high ISO.

    I currently use Nik's Define 2.0 software as my noise reduction.
    Thank you very much for your lovely comments!

    I would seriously look at Noiseware Professional as it really is a superb noise reduction software and it opens up a whole new world of being able to use high ISO. It plugs into Photoshop and Elements.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    Hey NikonUser. Glad you're getting it sorted. In my earlier post I called you NN, which is my abbreviation for Nikon Nellie. I thought this was a post by her - and I thought it was strange because she usually offers advice for problems like yours.

    Am.

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NikonUser View Post
    .......
    I used live-view as I seem to be able to get sharper images with it than pure autofocus ........
    How did you go with AF adjust too?

    Quote Originally Posted by NikonUser View Post
    Ok, so now I seem to be getting somewhere.

    I was under the impression that the big Tele are very close in performance wide open as when they are stopped down. It seems I am mistaken!

    .......
    Mee too!
    The reviews I've read of the 500/4 seem to wax lyrical about this lens at f/4.

    The f/8 shot being sharper could be due to the deeper DOF inherent with f/8 too.

    Also try this same test(with the 500mm only obviously!) on a distant object too.
    The house across the street or the back fence or something about 10-20m away. I'm assuming that the focus target you've shown was at a fairly close distance.
    It'd be interesting to see how different the lens will perform at distant subjects.

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    Ok,

    So I went out this morning with some lens testing in mind. I must have had my anti-bird face on because they wouldn't let me get close.... but here is what I have discovered.

    1) Stopping the lens down does indeed help with the sharpness issues I've been having and by f8 I can get some nice results. I didn't really test f5.6, but I think that might also yield large improvements over f4

    2) The lens/camera need calibrating. The results with live-view are MUCH crisper than by using the normal autofocus. I will have to pull out the D2X and see if I get the same results with both bodies.

    So, not great news, but at least I can get around the problems for now. Using live view sucks, but at least it works.

    Thanks for the help guys.

    Paul

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    Who let the rabble in? Lance B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NikonUser View Post
    Ok,

    So I went out this morning with some lens testing in mind. I must have had my anti-bird face on because they wouldn't let me get close.... but here is what I have discovered.

    1) Stopping the lens down does indeed help with the sharpness issues I've been having and by f8 I can get some nice results. I didn't really test f5.6, but I think that might also yield large improvements over f4

    2) The lens/camera need calibrating. The results with live-view are MUCH crisper than by using the normal autofocus. I will have to pull out the D2X and see if I get the same results with both bodies.

    So, not great news, but at least I can get around the problems for now. Using live view sucks, but at least it works.

    Thanks for the help guys.

    Paul
    As Arthur suggested, you may be getting worse results at f4 due to the fact that the lens needs some AF fine tune and at f8 there is enough DOF to cover any slight misalignment with AF. You may find that your f4 shots will be better once you do AF fine tune.

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