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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 nigelblake

Recommended
No
Price
0$
Pros
  • High magnification
Cons
  • unwieldy and poorly balanced
I owned one of these prior to getting my 600mm IS Canon, It looks like a real workhorse of a lens that will get the goods, sadly I all to often had images that did not quite make the grade unless the light was really good. The main reason for this, I feel, is that it is just too powerful. Wide open the image will crack into focus in the viewfinder, but the resulting images are slightly soft, maybe not such an issue when you can sharpen digital results, but sharp to start with is the way to go, this lens cannot do it consistantly. Even on a sturdy tripod results were hit and miss, used on a beanbag it performed much better. Maybe when Sigma have a workable image stabilizing system to overcome the camera shake issue that you will get with this lens, the next generation will be a cheaper good alterative to the more expensive Canon and Nikon alternatives, at the moment though it does not quite make the grade.
Close focus is at 7+ metres, not that close at all, for small birds you will still need to get closer than that to get frame filling images, so the use of an extension tube is neccessary, at the cost of not being able to focus to infinity, more chances of missed opportunities.
Its OK if you are on a tight(ish) budget, but Sigma's other shorter lenses (around 500mm) are a better bet for bird images.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • It is awesome
Cons
  • cost
I spent a good while pondering whether I could justify the expense of this lens, at around 6500.00 it carries a hefty price tag, but I finally took the plunge and demolished my bank balance. Just like any dream item on ones shopping list it could be argued that owning such a lens is more about ego than good reason, I am sure that there are a good few of them around the world that never get used to their full potential.

Along with its sister 500mm IS this is one of the big white lenses that is seen at all sporting events, look out at the football and motor racing on TV and these will stand out like sore thumbs in the photographers enclosures, when you see the results it produces there is no question as to why!

This lens has become a permanent fixture on my EOS 1Ds it delivers and some, the auto focus is instantaneous and has a full time manual over ride meaning that you can use AF and tweak focus to the most critical part of the subject, (usually the eye on birds). The wide f4 aperture has very shallow depth of field meaning that you can see it crack in and out of focus without any problem, there are few times when you will want to shoot at full aperture though, but even when using auto focus only, the clarity of viewfinder image means that you can hit the shutter confident of bitingly sharp results. Stopped down to the f8-f16 range this lens just cannot be rivalled, it is so sharp it will make you eyes bleed!

Image stabilising has two modes, and there is also a focus limiting switch covering three ranges, this is invaluable if your subject is at a set distance as it prevents the AF from hunting through its full range in low light, I use it when photographing highly mobile subjects like feeding waders, or birds at my feeding station.

Also there is a focus preset, very useful, recently when photographing a Kingfisher that uses the same perch on each visit, I preset focus on the perch, I could then carry on photographing other subjects, as soon as the Kingfisher arrived I activated the preset and there it was, spot-on sharp in the frame, without any wait, making the shot easy to get!

It is a big heavy lump of glass, do not expect to get to grips with it straight off, even with IS it is possible to get camera shake until you get used to using it, that said, once you have worked with it for a short while no other lens of this focal length will give such good results.

I have actually managed to get pin sharp flight shots with it whilst hand holding, in reality though you would do well to use beanbag or a good gimballed tripod head such as a Wimberley to get consistently sharp results. You will of course need a very substantial tripod, as it will weigh-in at an arm straining 8 kilos (17.5 pounds) with a camera attached.

When used on the 1Ds you can get AF with all 45 focus points even when using a 1.4X converter, but the system defaults to just the central focus point with the 2X, however I prefer to focus manually with the 2X as I have found that focus accuracy can very occasionally be slightly forward of the subject in lower lighting.

There is a drop-in filter drawer at the rear of the lens, which is also very useful, I fear though that this could be a weak point in the barrel of the lens that could break if the lens is badly handled or if it falls from an unsuitable tripod.

This is the lens of lenses, I have never before had such astonishingly crisp images, I think it could be that I will never have to buy another super tele, but I am sure Canon will at some point do even better, it will be a very tough job.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Lightweight, well balanced, and pin sharp
Cons
  • none
I bought my 100-400mm when they first came out in late 1999, it has served me very well, suffering the cold of a Helsinki winter and the heat and dust of Botswana, South Africa, Morocco and Gambia, it has only failed me once and that was a result of a bit of a bash, Canon CPS replaced the AF module in 24 hours and its been just a good as ever since the repair.
Contrary to many of the worries that zoom lenses are a compromise, this is a pin sharp lens right through the focal length range, it is an ideal lens for grab shots due to its portability and superb balance. When used with a D60 or 10D it has the advantage of being a 160-640mm because of the 1.6x factor bought about by the smaller sensor size of these camera bodies, in my opinion this makes it the best lens available for flight shots.

The zoom action is smooth and has a lockable ring to fix it at a desired focal length, this is also handy to use for adjusting the tension of the zoom action.

The image stabiliser on it is quite fantastic; with practice it is possible to get pin sharp images at the 400mm end of its range whilst handholding at shutter speeds as low as 1/30th of a second. There are two modes, mode 1 for general use and mode 2 for panning, it is important to switch between the two as it does make a big difference. I have lost count of the times when this lens has got shots that any other non-stabilised lens would have struggled with!

The close focus is a very respectable 1.4 metres so the lens is ideal for butterflies and Dragonflies as well as birds. There is also a focus range limit switch, use this with flight shots of birds (or aircraft and motor sports0) and you will hardly miss a shot.

AF works very fast, and I can tell the difference between how it works with different bodies, on the 1Ds it is instantaneous even with a 1.4x converter, but it defaults to manual focus when using a 2x, the results however are still very sharp with either converter, on the D60 and 10D it is a little less accurate with converters.

The tripod-mounting ring rotates and can be removed; I also use it to mount a lamp on for night photography as I can set the lamp at 45 degrees, leaving clear space for a flashgun mounted on the camera to illuminate the subject unhindered.

I have used other manufacturers lenses of similar spec; none could quite match this one. I think this is the best lens in its class.

Currently about 1150-00 it might seem expensive, but a lens of this quality is an investment, you could get similar for a few hundred pounds less, but the guarantee of getting that unrepeatable shot right first time makes it sensible to get the best.
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Image quality, build quality, and almost everything else.
Cons
  • price, but then Ferraris arn't cheap either
Canon EOS 1Ds

When you are prepared to spend as much on a camera as you might pay for a small car you expect something special for your cash, believe me this is a beast of a camera.
To clarify the expense of it first though, it is worth considering the saving on film and processing, currently this camera retails around 5500.oo for the body only, I have had mine six months and shot some 12000 frames already, divided by 36 this is 333 rolls of film at about 8-oo a roll (inc processing etc) ..about 2660-oo, so its half paid for itself already before I even think about the income from picture sales.

So what do you get for your money, a bewildering array of digital technology, that without some degree of previous photographic experience will take a while to get to grips with, but then what we have here is a Rolls Royce machine that is aimed fairly and squarely at professionals and dedicated amateurs, it is a dream camera and some!

Unlike the 1.6X magnification advantage of the D60 and 10D with a smaller 22.5mm x 15mm sensors, the CMOS sensor is a full frame 35mm size (36mm x 24mm) and pitches in at 11.4 Mp with 11.1 effective pixels; this will give you A3 prints that simply ooze quality, straight from the camera. Shooting with an ISO setting between 100 and 320 asa the images are clean, crisp, and provided that you have set the right white balance for the conditions, spot on for colour as well.

Noise does start to creep in after 400 asa, but with most images it is still far better/cleaner than the grain would be on similar ISO film. Shooting at 800 asa will still give extremely good prints up to A4.
I have compared the noise levels with images taken on my Canon D60 and those taken with a 10D, on a pixel against pixel basis the 1Ds is only slightly noisier, but of course you have nearly twice as many pixels, so therefore would have to make a proportionately bigger print for this to notice. This astonishing resolution (I have stopped shooting film) is backed up with a very accurate auto focus and metering system that can handle almost any normal photographic situation.

Ergonomically this is without doubt the best camera I have used ever, having been an EOS user for many years the layout of controls is similar to my previous cameras, it is a lot heavier though, personally I like a heavy camera and this one feels right in every aspect, the controls are instinctive, so within a very short time I found that I could use it without taking my eye from the finder. A big advantage when all is happening around you and you want to get that shot.

Start up time is very fast and there is no noticeable shutter lag. My EOS 3 film cameras gave me up to 7 frames a second (fps) shooting speed, the 1Ds is slower by comparison at only 3fps, ironically though I have found that as I have had to change my technique I get better results as I am a little more selective about how and when I shoot, so I do not see this as an issue, however I would like to see a faster fps on later models of this camera, and a faster buffer write speed would be a big advantage.

The default sharpness is quite soft, but for good reason as it enables much better control of post processing the image sharpness, that said though the 1Ds has a comprehensive in-camera sharpening parameters menu, which I spent some time shooting tests with in order to get what I felt was the best results.

A truly AWESOME camera, my only complaint is that I cant yet afford a second one!
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