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Feel the intensity, not your equipment. Maximum image quality. Minimum weight. The new ZEISS SFL, up to 30% less weight than comparable competitors.

Reviews by Fowl Mouth

Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Size, weight, nominal sharpness, contrast, AF speed
Cons
  • Ugly bokeh when stopped down, tripod collar fixed
I'm truly late to the party with this oldie but goodie. After many years of lust I finally nabbed a used copy one year ago. Mine is a pre-DG. After spending seven years shooting with a Sigma 150-500 OS, this lens surprised me immediately with both how much heavier that much glass is, and how freaking sharp it is, even wide open...even wide open with a cheap 2x TC!

The lens is not light weight, but certainly is by 500mm prime standards. And even though hand holding can be taxing over time, I find no issues doing BIF with this lens.

Bokeh is decent wide open, certainly nicer than my 150-500, although not as smooth as my Canon 70-200 1:4. Once you cinch the aperture to 5.6 there is a funny look to grass and branches. But I can live with this. It just forces me to be more selective with setting up my shots.

I wonder how long it will be before it is discontinued and replaced by a lighter version with OS. Time will tell.
Recommended
Yes
Price
199$
Pros
  • build quality, smoothness
Cons
  • for the price, how can you nit pick?
I have not used any of the higher priced gimbal heads, so my praise of this product may be skewed by such lack of comparison. However, I can comment on it's use vs. three other Bogen heads that I also own and use extensively: the 486-RC2, the 701-RC2, and the 501. All are built well, and operate in a acceptable range of smoothness for their given design. But none have been a good match for my ~7 lb 20D+grip/Sigma 150-500 kit. Of course easier tilting from better balance is achieved through the center of gravity design that gimbals are built for. However, what struck me immediately about this in use was just how silky smooth the 393 movement is in both axes. And although the kit that I currently use is no heavy weight compared to many of the bazookas out there, it clearly receives great benefit from support in the field for long sessions. Most noteworthy for smaller teles with shorter mounting brackets like the 150-500, is that I find the lens balances better when the support is set in the advertised up position with lens hanging. This seems opposite to most reported heavy lens users who like to set up in the traditional bracket down position.

I've read all of the complaints of this bracket: it's too big and heavy, it doesn't have a tilt lock beyond the tension knobs, it doesn't have a pan lock,... All these things are true, to a point. I believe the size and weight gives it a stability factor that could easily hold a setup twice the weight of what I currently use. And from what I know of mounting telescopes for astronomical use, a two armed design is always stronger than a single arm. Also, despite the lack of axes locking, I haven't found any need for these features in field use. I assume the complaint has arisen from transportation difficulties. Again, I haven't encountered these issues myself.

In the end, I believe that if I had payed $400 USD for this head I might be thinking about whether I should have purchased one of the other gimbal options. But for just under $200, there are no other options. For that single reason the Bogen rides alone.

It's stout, smooth, balanced and inexpensive. What more could you want?
Recommended
Yes
Price
881$
Pros
  • 500mm, Optical Stabilization, sharp @ 8
Cons
  • heavy, slightly soft wide open, no limiter switch
Rather than regurgitating manufacturer specs and capabilities, I figured Id simply throw a few opinions about this lens your way.

The only other telephoto that I have significant time to compare to is a Canon 70-200 1:4 non-IS. The Canon is a superb lens, with perfect scores both mechanically and optically, in my opinion.

The Sigma 150-500, which Ive seen referred to as the Bigmos, is the lens I purchased to specifically fulfill my desires for bird photography. Its both the 500mm focal length and the Optical Stabilization (OS) that make for an unusual combo of features in a sub $1000 USD lens. Ive been using it almost daily for three months now, and nearly every shot in my Gallery to date is with this lens.

Mechanically, the lens appears quite solid. Build-wise it feels and looks as good as my Canon L lens. The HSM motor is as fast and as quiet as my L, which is itself equipped with USM (Canons similar high end motor technology). Where the Sigma lags behind is a lack of a focal length limiter switch. This is regularly evident when shooting wildlife, which is inevitably almost always distant, and forces me to wait that extra second or two when I miss the focus lock on the first try. Still, the motor is far superior to another Sigma lens that I own (28-70 EX DG 1:2.8), which is loud and slow in comparison. As for the OS, it is a dream. Ive managed completely handheld shots (no bracing or resting) as low as 1/80 sec @ 500mm with admirable results:

MG_1906.jpg


It is definitely a large lens, weighing in at 4.2 lbs, or about 2 kg. It is balanced well, though, having most of its weight near the mount end.

Optically, Id rate this lens as good wide open and very good stopped down. I spend most of my time shooting at 500mm, and I assume most people reading this review are honestly interested in the long end anyway. When set open to 6.3 the nominal sharpness is on the side of soft. Additionally, a small amount of color fringing seems to impede sharp, contrasted edges. Both of these things can be fixed in Photoshop, but know that if you are desperate for that extra light gathering, you will need to post process. When pinched to 8 this lens really shines. Ive managed some truly sharp songbirds with this lens from about 15 feet. Color saturation and contrast is also very good, considering that it utilizes 21 elements in 15 groups!

Like anything in life there are always compromises. This lens is regularly being compared to the Canon 100-400 L, and rightfully so since it shares many virtues. Based on numerous 100-400 L bird pics available webwide, I do feel that this relatively new lens from Sigma is capable of putting up images on par with the venerable Canon zoom. Unfortunately, the Bigmos is larger, heavier, and annoyingly lacks a limiter switch. Then again, the Sigma is two-thirds the cost, which is fairly significant. If I had the money at the time, I would have considered the Canon. In the end, though, I do not regret my purchase.
Recommended
Yes
Price
539$
Pros
  • sharp, no CA, fast focus, size, weight, PRICE
Cons
  • none
Based on almost no existing poor reviews about the net, I ordered this lens to fill my need for something past 70mm in my kit. This baby "L" tele is extraordinary. The color saturation and contrast are beautiful, without much need (ever) for post processing in these regards. Sharpness is fantastic across all corners of the field, and that's wide open at 200mm (which is where it spends 80% of it's time). I see zero CA in this lens.

Mechanically the lens is solid and tight, while having very smooth ring action for both the focus and zoom. Auto focusing is very quick, and amazingly quiet.

I marked "none" for negative aspects of this lens. Although it does have the following short comings: it's not 2.8, it's not waterproof, and it doesn't have IS, for the current price (less than $600 USD) how can you complain.

It's my current favorite lens. The image quality is so good that I'll even use it in tight situations where a shorter FL lens might be more appropriate, instead using my feet to frame.

As a birding lens? Well, it's 200mm (320mm with an APSC). Not exactly what you call long. Still, if you can get close, you can do very well. Even cropping down retains some excellent detail.

If you are shopping in this FL, and have a moderate budget, buy this lens with zero concern.


Samples:

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2413/2398886752_1d754bbc5e_o.jpg
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3225/2403512977_5a8d813e6f_o.jpg
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2246/2512376822_22882cc146_b.jpg
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