Sigma 300-800mm Lens Review
There are plenty of good things to say about this lens but what has to be number one on most anyones list has to be the eight hundred millimeter focal length. I was able to get my hands on the lens known as the “Sigmonster” from the folks at lensrentals.com who, as far as I know, is the only company that rents the big Sig. I had it for eight full days of shooting at both the Bolsa Chica Wetlands and Bosque Del Apache so I was able to make a pretty good impression of how good the lens is. I received it in “like new” condition, in fact I would not be surprised to find that the lens had never been used. To sweeten the deal lensrentals.com rents the Sigmonster cheaper than the longest factory lenses so if you are at all interested in trying out or buying the 300-800 I highly recommend a rental from Lens Rentals.
Being able to zoom from three hundred millimeters to eight hundred makes the Sigmonster different from all other high-end lenses and the first thing that comes to mind is that a zoom will not be as sharp as a prime lens. I can tell you that the Sigma is very sharp. Maybe not as sharp as my three hundred-two eight but very close to it. Many people will however find it hard to fully appreciate the sharpness because to is so hard to stabilize the big lens. It is indeed a big heavy lens, only supposed to be around twelve pounds it feels more like twenty. I did my usual three-mile round trip hike at Bolsa Chica and the lens was awkward, very heavy, and at the end of the day left me with sore shoulders and neck.
Back to shooting, there is no slouching allowed, you will need to use good long lens technique all the time. Let up for a moment and images will be blurry. There is no stabilization so you will have to be on your best behavior twenty four seven. But to say the lens is not sharp is a mistake, lock it down and use a remote to take a picture of a still subject and you will see tack sharp results even at eight hundred millimeters which has an effective focal length of twelve hundred millimeters on a crop sensor Nikon camera. The Sigma focuses and tracks surprisingly well too. A tad slower than the best big lenses but with all that heavy glass moving around it does an admirable job and is not a hinderance or a source of select swear words. Probably the best feature of the Sigmonster is also the root of its biggest drawback, that thing is the ability to track, focus, and zoom at the same time. Yes Virginia, you can acquire a bird in flight at three hundred millimeters and zoom all the way to eight hundred and never lose focus. It is a remarkable feat that makes BiF’s a lot easier. Then comes the epic fail. The zoom ring is way too close to the camera and stabilizing the lens while zooming is really hard. If the zoom ring were furthest out on the lens it would be possible to zoom while holding some weight on the outer portion of the lens increasing the sharpness factor by a whole bunch. Color and contrast is about what you would expect. Like all the Sigma’s, not the same as the factory glass but nothing to really gripe about either. Sigmonster meters fine but like many long lenses displays dark. Don’t be fooled into over compensating based on what you see. I also understand there are compatibility issues with the newest Nikon camera bodies but I also hear Sigma is working on that.
You can see in the photo above that the Sigmonster still performs when pushing the limits. Notice the stupid slow shutter speed of 1/250sec and the selective focus that nailed the bird’s head. One thing to be aware of is when zoomed to 800mm at shorter distances your depth of field is going to be quite shallow.
The Sigmonster has an attractive price too. With the cost of Nikon and Cannon products skyrocketing the last few years the big Sig has managed to keep the street price at around $7,900 US making it an absolute bargain compared to factory glass. When I rented the lens I was hoping that I would like it to the point that I would want to run out and buy one but that is unfortunately not the case. I like the lens but the truth is I am looking for something that is a little more forward leaning. Stabilization and lighter weight is becoming a must have in a lens. If Sigma updates the lens I will be all in but until then I am going to explore other options, probably going the big sensor shorter focal length crop what you want route that has become so popular.
Thanks for reading everyone, more from Bosque next week.