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Reviews by Tord S Eriksson

Recommended
Yes
Price
2200$
Pros
  • Fast-focusing, crystal-sharp, water-and-dust resistant
Cons
  • Front heavy, cumbersome, massive lens shade
This is a delight, but a wee bit heavy one.

I used to own Sigma's earlier lenses (150-500, and the 120-400) when I was a Pentax user, but various things happened, and i switched to Nikon 1 cameras, and a D600. Then I got the then new 80-400, which I eventually sold, and started to look around for a new long lens, to be used with my Nikon V2 (I already had a few 70-300 lenses, which compares, when used on a Nikon 1 camera, to a 190-810mm lens on a full format, so I kind of wanted something long and sharp, with fast focus.

The then introduced Nikon 200-500 promised to be great, but the first reviewers had great problems in finding sharp copies, as the lenses had various serious problems. At the same time the fairly established Sigma 150-600 Sport was well established, but more costly, and the simpler Sigma Contemporary and the Tamron 150-600 were not really in the same league when it came to focusing speed and sharpness.

Then Sigma slashed the price of their Sports to be the same as the 200-500! I just had to test both out!

Without lens shades on I took a few sample shots in the shop, and they felt very much alike, but I preferred a faster-focusing, water-resistant one to the slower, but marginally lighter Nikon.

Now, after a couple of months use, and near 10,000 shots, I have found out, like many others, a few basic facts:

  • Fast focusing, very
  • Outstanding sharpness at 500mm
  • Great sharpness at 600
  • Excellent on DX and CX cameras (aka Nikon 1 cameras)
  • Center of garvity shift forward as you zoom out
  • Delightful bokeh in most circunstances, but not always
  • The lens shade is over engineered and heavy

With help of Sigma's dock you can update the firmware, fine-adjust the focusing, and set most other parameters as well, like focusing speed.

There is a whole row of switches on the side of the lens, including focusing mode, anti-shake on/off, settable limiter (the basic settings: full, 26-10 meters, and 10 to infinity can be accessed through the dock), Custom settings 1 & 2 (or off), where the custom settings first have to be set by the help of the dock.

Can be used handheld, but you need to be a beefy kind of person to do it. I occasionally do it, sitting down on a small, foldable, stool or similar, to rest my arms between shots. Works, but not very comfortable.

If you have a beefy tripod, and a Wimberley Sidekick, or similar tripod head, you are well equipped to have a great time with your Sigma Sports!

I use mine both with OS (Optical Stabilisation) on, and off: always on handheld and if it is very windy so the tripod moves/vibrates a bit, but otherwise off.

I mostly shoot birds with it, from 2.6 meters to the infinity, from goldcrests to eagles.

I liked the 80-400 VR II I used to own, but this takes the game at least one step further.

Not found it best with my FX gear, but with my newly acquired DX camera it really shines, and so it does when used with my Nikon 1 V2 (you'll need the FT1 adapter, of course), if the light is good enough to keep the noise at bay. The Nikon 1 J5 would have been even better, had it been made compatible with the lens, which Nikon has not, due to reasons of their own (the camera can't use anything hefty, no matter what make).

The TC-1401 Sports-dedicated TC helps if the animal/object in question is far off, or you're shooting at the full moon.

If the lens shade was much lighter (it weighs close to a pound), and the CG didn't move forward as you zoom, this would have been worth a 10 out of 10, but now I just give it a 9, but fully recommended!
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Cheap, sharp in the long end, vibration control
Cons
  • Lacks a limiter, and can occasionally 'pump'
I've had mine for a while, and mainly use it on my Nikon 1 cameras, but also on my FX camera.

It isn't quite as good as the 70-300CX, but costs less than a third!

I had the AF-S 70-300 VR before, but this lens is sharper in its long end, where my interest is (the Nikon lens is excellent in its wide end).

In low contrast situations it can have problems attaining perfect focus, thus can pump a bit.

It is nearly flawless on my FX camera, a little more hesitant on my Nikon 1 cameras.

Considering its excellent anti-shake system the lens is truly exceptional, considering its very friendly price!
Recommended
Yes
Price
1200$
Pros
  • Small, light, superbly sharp! In short amazing!
Cons
  • Quite expensive, hard to find, and not the best for BIF
This is the sharpest long lens I've come across, and I have the fabulous AF-S 80-400 VR II N! Nothing compares to it, not when one consider its compact size.

It is designed as a collapsable unit, so it is surprisingly small, when the lens is in stowed position. Ready for use (a matter of pressing a button, and turning the lens a quarter turn), it delivers the best images I've seen under almost any circumstances, even when used from a car speeding at 70 mph.

It isn't without its flaws, though, as it is not the easiest to use for BIF (birds in flight), as it has a tendency to pump a bit. The manual focusing ring, forward of the zoom ring, takes immediate command, so manually resetting the focus to infinity often improves things a lot.

But just having a lens and camera combination, that is just as sharp as the best zooms around, covering roughly 200-800mm on a full frame, is amazing.
And as proven by numerous users the results are amazing, with about 100% sharp images when photographing birds on the ground, or water, and with training, and using the best settings, producing awesome BIF shots, too! That in a lens that weighs just a little over a pound (550 grams, to be exact), is truly amazing!
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • An unusually compact full-format DSLR
Cons
  • Shutter sptting oil, and/or dust on sensor
I've been around cameras over 50 years, and got my first DSLR in 2010 (a Pentax K-x), but after a number of upgrades, and a few diversions, ended up as owner of then brand new D600, and what a revelation it is!

The D600 is just slightly heavier than my last Pentax, but a much more capable camera. The bigger sensor improves both image quality, and dynamic range, as by magic. Slightly more complex to operate than my old Pentax DSLRs (some of it due to me not being used to Nikon DSLRs, I suppose).

Amazingly good AF, good endurance (almost 1000 shots per charge).

In every way a nice camera, except for the quite common problem with dust/oil on the sensor had the same problem with my Pentax K-5, actually, and that was worse than my problem with the D600.

The replacement D610 fixed the shutter issue, and gave it an even quieter shutter mechanism!

D600 are available on the used market for around 1000, or about half the cost of the D610, giving the shopper an excellent choice, new or just slightly used/rebuilt.

It is a pure delight to use it with my new AF-S 80-400 VR II, even in very bad light.
Recommended
Yes
Price
500$
Pros
  • Usable on CX, DX & FF cameras, sharp, VR, and fairly cheap!
Cons
  • Not the lightest lens
A bird photographer in Honduras, Bobby Handal, posted pictures he had taken with his AF-S VR 70-300 at DPReview (Nikon 1 Forum), which led me to get one, too. A nice zoom, useable for everything from a Nikon 1 camera (CX format), D3200 (DX), or a D600 (FX). Probably works well on other cameras, but I have not tried it!

It is not at its very best for birds in flight, but as soon as the birds are on the ground, in a tree, or swimming, its pretty awesome. The VR (vibration reduction) is amazing on this lens, and on my V1 it equals a lens of about 200-800 on the D600.

The only negative part is that it is not the lightest of 70-300 on the market, but the results with it is outstanding, considering it relatively low price!

Mine works very well with my Kenko 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300!
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • One of the sharpest lenses around, at a fair price.Low weight
Cons
  • No anti-shake, a pity!
Have this excellent lens, which I use on my CX, DX and FX cameras, that is, from Nikon V1 to D600. When I use it on my V1, it equals a 230/1.8 lens on my D600, a lens far beyond anything available! On my APS-C camera it equals about 130/1.8, also a rare beast ;-)!
Recommended
Yes
Price
1000$
Pros
  • Nice OIS
Cons
  • Not that sharp in the long end!
I had this lens, and like its sibling, the 120-400 really nice in the short end, not as impressive in the long! Needs clear, sunny days to do its best!

The newer versions of the 50-500 has a reputation of being sharper than this 150-500.
Recommended
Yes
Price
1400$
Pros
  • Small, rugged, fast, and sharp!
Cons
  • Not best in low light! Surprisingly heavy, almost a pound!
This is a camera you easily fall in love with, as it is small, lightning fast, sharp, and rugged. Quirky, unusual, and with three minute lenses that have gotten full points with every lens tester. Think MFT (aka M4/3rds) lenses, and then make them 30% smaller!

Very much a poor man's Leica, where you for a tenth of the price of the Leica (with three lenses) get a kit that very much reminds of the famous camera.

The ISO range is better with the V1 (its simpler sister J1 has no viewfinder), the sensor is comparative to the M8's in size, both cameras's lenses are among the best on the market.

Focus is lightning fast with the V1, and it can take a series of shots in zero time, and so on.

As yet, the main disadvantage with the Nikon 1 Series was that there were no fast lenses. Originally the best is the 10/2.8, but better things are in the works, according to Nikon, who seem to have been surprised by the camera system's success! Now there is the 18.5/1.8 and the 32/1.2 (the former equals a 50 on a full format, and the latter a 85, or so).

For day's with heavy overcast, and when I need longer focal lengths, I've invested in the TF1 adapter, which allow you to use 'normal' Nikon lenses, with fully functional auto focus, as long as they have a focus motor (G models). Even VR lenses have working VR, as long as they are genuine Nikon lenses. Some Tamron and Sigma lenses work as well, but not all, far from it.

As the sensor is small (roughly half the area of a MFT's, but bigger than compact's), a complete camera kit with the three basic lenses (covering, in FF/FX terms, 27-297mm), weighs less than a kilogram (close to two pounds).

According to Ken Rockwell, the Nikon guru, the sharpest Nikon zoom ever, was the classic 80-200/4.0, which on the V1, with the TF1 adapter, is pretty amazing, equalling a zoom range 216-540!

The viewfinder is surprisingly clear (if not quite in NEX-7 class), and the display is just as good (if, with my copy, with a minute green tinge), and the switching is automatic between the two, as you approach the viewfinder with your eye. Works well with glasses, too!

The battery is hefty, and seem to last for ever, unless you use the flashgun (optional extra). There is also a GPS (optional), about which I know nothing ;-(!

The bad things, then?!

Well, the arrangement of thumb wheels, and buttons, is unique, and a bit quirky, so many have taped over the selector wheel on the back, so you not accidentally choose movie, or animated postcard mode.

It occasionally chooses a too low ISO, so the shots become fuzzy, but it can also, at times, choose a too high ISO, so the shots become grainy. So I use A, most of the time.

Update, 2014

The real revelation, as far as the V1 goes, is using it with the FT1 adapter, which gives access to all the lovely F Mount lenses. For instance, the AF-S 70-300 VR, which compared to when you use a full format camera, is a 200-800mm lens, something out of anyone but a millionaire's funding possibilities. But instead this lens costs about 400 pounds, and is crystal sharp in the area that matters (when you add your V1 to it).

I also own the 80-400 VR II, which works quite well, too, but the VR is a little over-active (worse if you add a 'TC'), but is said to work very well with the V2 (no personal experience).

Most V1 owners use dental floss to lock the selector wheel on the back of the camera, and taped it in place as well. Works like a charm, as long as you don't want to change from stills to movies! You can still turn the wheel, but it now takes a little effort.

========

Addendum, october 2014:

Since I wrote this review a few things have happened, not least two excellent, fast primes (18.5/1.8 & 32/1.2), that equals a 50mm and a 85mm lens on a full format. For some reason these superbly engineered lenses have no anti-shake built-in, but they are among the sharpest lenses I ever used, and I've owned a lot through the years!

Let's hope the next generation zooms also get faster apertures ;-) !

Then came the 70-300CX (mine is still on back-order, but the wife's came a few months ago. Amazing!

This lens is extremely fast, sharp as a needle, and a delight to use, weighing in at 550 grams. Compared to what you need, if you're used to full format cameras, to get the the same angle of view, it is a 200-800/4.5-5-6, with better DOF (depth of field).
Recommended
Yes
Price
1700$
Pros
  • Tough, fast, big sensor and durable
Cons
  • Not FF!
The last year, or so, has seen four new DSLRs from Pentax, the first being the K-7, aimed at the pros, and advanced amateurs, that wanted a stylish, yet rugged camera, with lots of features, suitable for outdoor, and studio work, where the lighting is good. The 14MP sensor isn't the fastest around, so while the pros liked it quite well, some found the noise at ISO 3200 hampering.

Then came the cheap & mechanically noisy, but fast, K-x, that amazed with its huge dynamic range, and the ability to take photos at ISO 6400. Plastic feel, even if there is a steel frame inside, somewhere. Very much a cut-down version, with just the essentials, but nice speed!

The next came a model, that eventually will replace the K-x (if it hasn't already done so), which added some features of the K-7 to a K-x, thus improved ergonomics, speed and looks, plus more options in the menus.

Late in the year of 2010 came the K-5, which could be called a souped up K-7, with some nice new touches:

The K-5 is fully a pro-style DSLR, top-of-the-range at Pentax, which means it is has a durable, rain-proof body, made mostly out of magnesium. At a distance there is nothing that differs it from the K-7, but the K-5 logo, and a button, or two.

But what differs is the sensor: a 16+MP CMOS sensor from Sony (actually the same as you can find in the Sony A55), which gives the camera an astounding ISO range - expanded: 80-51400 (or basic setting: 100-12800).

But it is not the sheer ompf that really took me by storm, but the results of my photos with it, using the same lenses as before: The green grass is no longer just one green colour, but a spectrum of green colours - just as my eyes see it; the birds look much more alive, and so on.

Independent testers have found it to be performance-wise on par with Nikon D700, a camera loved by many.

In short, it should be called K-7 Mark II, and it so good that my critical wife, who used prefer her Olympus E-PL1 to my first Pentaxes - and shots taken side by side with her E-PL1, and my K-7, with as simlar lenses as possible (say the Panasonic 20mm pancake on hers, and DA21 on mine) almost always were won by her camera, at high ISO, or low.

At high ISO both stinks, by the way :)!

I almost bought a D300S a year ago, but the sheer bulk of the camera scared me - I wanted a DSLR that would replace my favourite compact, my old Olympus C-8080, which is outstanding in some ways, and terrible in some other, not a behemoth (thus I ended up with the Pentax K-x).

My wife later thought about the Canon 550D, but that was just too big for her hands, so now we both have Pentax K-5s, and are very happy with our choices! The K-7 will be sold, soon!

Update, June, 2011:

I have now used my K-5 for quite a while, not least during a trip to Slimbridge and Newent, recently coming home. Sadly the K-5 fell on its back while attached to a monopod, which has forced me to send it off for repairs - auto focus didn't work quite right, nor could it use lenses with the focusing mechanism built-in at all.

Other than that it has worked effortlessly, but the camera has a problem with reds, including imfrareds, so I now have bought some IR-blocking Heliopan filters (very expensive) that seems to help a lot!

Update, August, 2011:

The repair took about a month, due to a lack of spare parts (in this case the tape that holds the replacement display 'glass' in place, as the original glass was slightly damaged when the camera fell on its back. The serious damage was to the bayonet, and that was fixed in a matter of minutes, but the tape took ages!

Update 2012:

then it refused to read the SD cards!!! Back to Pentax, and this time I got a brand new one - no further issues!
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Optical stabilizer, price, availablity
Cons
  • Sharpness not the best, flare problems, bulk (nose heavy)
Had planned to buy a Bigma, but this was the one available at the time. Quite quickly it became apparent that if you use it at its extreme ends the result is not very brilliant, but at f8 and medium zoom it is pretty impressive. It is a front-heavy lens, thus feels heavier than it is - recommend a tripod, or monopod!

A long time now since I owned the lens, but looking at old photos the other day proved it to be excellent at short focusing distances, in the wide-to-medium end particularly! Like its sibling, the 150-500 it needs lots of light to perform!
Recommended
Yes
Price
0$
Pros
  • Amazing long-zoom wonder in pocket-size package
Cons
  • Not perfect in low light!
Seldom you'll get so much performance from such a relatively cheap camera - it has a more expensive brother as well, with even longer zoom, but I have no experience with that!

It takes excellent HD films, with good stereo sound, and has a 18x optical zoom
(its 'bigger' brother has a 24x zoom), and is excellently suited to bird photography! At the long end of the zoom the OIS (optoical image stabilisation) isn't quite up to par, so attaching a monopod, to increase the camera's inertia, is an excellent idea (it doesn't need to touch the ground, just the extra mass does the trick!).

My wife has one of these, and I am tempted to get one for myself, as well!

The FZ100 has a focal length of 24-600 (equivalent), by the way!
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