Losing confidence in Sigma 150-500 ... or is it the photographer??

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birdie
birdie's picture
Losing confidence in Sigma 150-500 ... or is it the photographer??

Lately either I have just become so unstable that I am incapable of getting a sharp shot or I have managed to do something to the Sigma that has downgraded it's performance ..... in my opinion that is .  I find the bird shots getting less and less successful and it is just about average for other stuff such as animals.

Can anyone else  tell me if they have had the same issues?  I took it out for a trial with some kangaroos yesterday and they were just average, then went for a walk and found a whole heap of Red Backed fairy Wrens .... this as the most successful shot I got  and it has had a little selective sharpening around the eye and head .  I am quite concerned about it ... and would welcome anyone who has experience with it to let me know what they think

sparrow
sparrow's picture

No its not you I have had similar issues with my bigma and was going to do a post on it when I got tied up do other things

sparrow
sparrow's picture

We have spoken at length on this subject I have found that it only works well when conditions are ideal which at this time of year is at the wong time of day for bird photos or not at all, and trying to get the thing to focus on a BIF in less than perfect light forget it .

This post should be about the little Eagle in flight photos that I should have when I had one circling above me for 5min

Insted its about the fact no matter what I did  IT JUST  WOULD NOT  FOCUS on the bird,I ended up trying to focus manualy try that shoting almost straight up while running with the ground covered in branches

Its going going back in the cupboard until next spring or untill someone can tell me what im doing wrong !

birdie
birdie's picture

I hear you Mark ..... I should have some White Bellied Sea Eagles and a better shot of a Yellow tailed Black than what I ended up with yesterday considering I had time to wait for it to fly overhead .... some of that is me though, I can't handhold for BIF  It hunts all the time against sky though...so incredibly frustrating angry

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Rick N
Rick N's picture

Birdie. I did mention in another post that I was handing my new one on based on its performance. My problems were softness past 400mm and slow autofocus.

For birds in flight I use single spot so am confident I can track accurately but the lense just would not lock on.

My nikon 300mm f4 plus 1.4tc is streets ahead but double the price of course. 

I still feel it's a good starting out lens for the price and I have taken some good quality still shots but I was starting to get the feeling of inconsistency as well maybe related to the VR system.

As far as your posted photo goes would need the shot data plus distance to give an opinion. Hope this helps.

birdie
birdie's picture

Thanks Rick and yes I should have posted that info

Shot settings were as follows:

EOS600D .... f 8.0 1/640th sec ISO 400

focal length 439m and distance was 7.9m

I did some sharpening around the bird only and played with levels and a tweak of contrast

 Maybe I am looking at oo many L lens shots frown

cheers

Adrienne

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Rick N
Rick N's picture

Hi Birdie

Had a look back at lots of shots and would expect better results than the one shown with those settings.

Keep in mind that with crop factor you are talking nearly 700mm hand held. I found that my best results with it hand held were at least 800th sec and mostly higher. I would do some testing with tripod just to eliminate these factors.

Of course none of the above changes the fact that I couldn't get it to focus as well as needed but that shouldn't affect static shots.

This was taken with D600 (so full frame ) 500mm,f9,1/1250,iso 800. About the same distance.

birdie
birdie's picture

Thanks heaps Rick .....  I cant recall when I last had a shot like that ... I am concerned that the lens may have suffered damage when the camera bag took a drop last year. At the time the prism shattered in my 600D and silly me told the insurance company that the lens was all OK  without getting it checked. But I am now wondering if that bump has moved something in the elements . I am going to borrow a friends 70-300L and take it for a test to see if maybe it is me getting too unstable , but then again that will only make me more green lol. here are so many factors when I look at my shots... not the least of which is that I only have an average laptop to view them on so I never know if what I am seeing is accurate or not.. I will check back to some earlier shots then and see if the lens was better before the bump.

Cheers

Adrienne

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Rebecca Z

While I don't own one, I borrowed a 150-500 for a day from a friend and found it to be very unreliable in terms of sharp images. All the birds seemed to have a soft halo around them. While I can't comment on how that lens had been treated, I don't think it was more than a couple years old and it really shouldn't be having those issues.

What I've read from other photographers time and again, is don't waste the money on one. If you're using a canon camera, take the time to save up the extra money for a 100-400 which I have seen plenty of exceptional images from.

birdie
birdie's picture

Yes Rebecca if I could afford one it would be mine tomorrow believe me smiley  That is the word I have been searching for....halo.... that is exactly the look I mean . Sparrow check this image out and you will see it....

Sunshine Coast Queensland

Rick N
Rick N's picture

Can see it around the beak though the rest seems good. Maybe someone with more experience can chip in. Took some more shots today with tripod at 500mm and wasn't impressed, seems to be an inconsistency in results but how much of that feeling is just the fact we are talking about it smiley

Canonguy
Canonguy's picture

It's one thing to complain you are not getting results, but how do you expect someone to offer help if you post an image of the bird without any shooting details????? Also, it is not known if that shot is full frame or cropped to post here, which I think it would be....

This lens is a dud in my opinion and of that of many other photographers. If image quality is not everything, then it's a lens that will do for the majority of people who want to dabble in photographing birds. Remember what you said about missing Brahminy Kites because you had the landscape lens on rather than your zoom. I said then you either want to photograph birds or you don't. That's just something you need to accept if you want to swap and change your interests rather than focus on getting good experience at shooting one subject matter. smiley


The only way to get the best quality images is to buy a lens with good quality glass. 

Unfortunately the Sigma zoom is not good beyond about 400mm and that's what most users claim. 

If someone is dead set on photographing birds, the best bet for the money spent is the EF 400/5.6L USM or the EF 300/4L IS USM with the 1.4x converter. 

The 100-400 is not a serious wildlife lens and while it produces good results it is no match for a prime and you don't need less than 400mm most of the time; I mean most of the time.

Anyone who claims they can get away photographing birds with say a 70-200 is talking out of their rear end or really have no interest in getting the best possible quality images. 

There are bird photographers and there are serious bird photographers. :)

birdie
birdie's picture

Ahhhhh ...Canonguy ... I can always trust you to tell it like it is wink

No.. the truth is I am not as serious about bird photography as you and I have to say I make no apologies about that as photography has always been my first love and birds second. Bit apart from omitting the Exif data on this shot, I posted it as I had been speaking to Sparrow about the OS system on the Sigma and how in my opinion it distorts the image. The effect I was referring to is the halo effect around the birds bill and head which Rebecca mentioned above. As you well know, I am limited as many of us are and have to shoot at a budget so this is all I have to work with.  we have a mutual friend who has recently changed from this lens to a Canon Prime... and the results are obvious immediately ... but I can only dream of this for the moment.  I was pretty happy with the results of my lens when I first got it, so either something has changed with me... or something has changed with the lens. ( it did get a severe bump last year which shattered the prism of the attached camera body remember? I am trying to see if what I am getting is what everyone else is getting or if my lens is damaged or..... I am just a crap photographer smiley  Then you add the other parameters such as PP and how it looks on your screen at home versus others and it just gets pretty complicated.

Thanks for your input as always ... but this is a forum to cover all levels of bird photography remember ... if I said these things on Feathers and Photos I would get rubbished off the page I expect laugh

Your passion is what makes your photos so amazing , and that is why we love to look at them and learn from them . Ideally I would have two camera bodies ....  one for say ...waterfalls ....  and the other for wildlife with an appropriate lens ...  so I just stay patient and dream on  ..... am even finding I dont like my 10-22 much lately either frown

Sunshine Coast Queensland

sparrow
sparrow's picture

Canonguy this is why I miss your "rants" as you've called them ,as birdie just stated you tell it like it is .

Photography is like everything else in life, you can't be a jack of all trades and then expect to be a master of one .

Like I said o/f Birdie its all a matter of prospective ,for a photo taken taken with a 600D and Sigma 150-500mm its a great image.

If it was with a 4Dm4 and a 500f4L taken by someone who is not just a master of bird photography but photoshop and P/P as well the beak might look a bit soft.

Birds are not my speciality there what I take photos of to relax ,thats why I only post photos on this site straight out of the camera just croped and I use ETTR so I adjust the levals , birds are not easy they test not just the photogaphers skill but our gear and out patience as well, that for me is one of the main attrations.

My coments were about my lens completely failing me and not letting me get any shots off at all not on the quality of the images I do get ,I probally expect to much there as well but that wasn't the problem  it  just  would  not  focus  on  the  bird  period and that why its back in the cupboard.

One of the main reasons I like this site is theres room for everyone from the weekend happysnapers to the ones like you Akos who are passionate ,and have masterd the art of bird photogaphy, not trying to brown nose mate just telling it like it is.

Hope you hang around and share some of that knowledge with the rest of us.

Canonguy
Canonguy's picture

Birdie
You need to get out and take lots of pics.
You will get good and bad results.
I still get crap results all the time.
You just get to see the better pics.
Feathers and what?
Just a boys club.... lmao don't even mention them. Waste of your keystrokes

Lachlan
Lachlan's picture

All the same, the soft focus on the cormorant is odd. Bigma isn't the sharpest lens out there, but it shouldn't be producing softness like that on a computer monitor. 

kevinj
kevinj's picture

I have been and still am very happy with my Big Siggie,over 400mm it really needs f8-f11 to be at it`s sharpest.

Shooting Birds with a Canon.

birdie
birdie's picture

Yes Kevin..... I have to get it checked and then learn to use higher ISO and how to edit it ( courtesy of Canonguy) so as not to sbow up the noise ..... then I can keep the apertures sharper

Sunshine Coast Queensland

timrob
timrob's picture

The Sigma 150-500 is a compromise.  I have one and use it whenever I go birding.  For the mere mortals of this world it is a good performer for casual bird photography - i.e.  if you are like me and go out to do birdwatching - the photo subjects are there, and you use it and accept that it is OK.  If my focus was photography rather than birdwatching, then my ambitions and opinions of this lens would almost certainly be quite different.

I am very much aware that there are better lenses out there, but frankly it is a balance between how important crisp and clear your photos are and how much money you are prepared to spend on a lens.  

For me the journey of walking/experiencing/hearing the birds is, at this stage in my life enough. Would I upgrade if I had the cash?  Well yes I would, and the 150-500 would not be my choice of lens.  As I stated above, it is a compromise, and one I can live with.

Some cameras will allow you to optimise focus for particular lenses.  A few systems are out there for you to do this.

here is one:  http://www.reikan.co.uk/focalweb/

and another  http://spyder.datacolor.com/portfolio-view/spyderlenscal/

Are they any good?  I actually don't know, but the links are just some I came across in my research about lenses and focus problems, so you need to make your own assessment.

Tim

rozkidd
rozkidd's picture

  I also have a Sigma 150mm-500mm lens which I bought in 2010.  I didn't use it much until recently,

when I took it to Darwin and used it all the time I took about 1000 photos.  When I returned home it suddenly

became difficult to use and on a "bird watching" outing, it just would not autofocus at all.  I have taken it to the

agent in Melbourne and they are now looking at it and I am waiting on a quote to fix it.

PS The agent in Melbourne is C R Kennedy and they have been terrific to deal with.  I now have  the quote to fix the lens, it was a lot cheaper than I was expecting.
 

Cage
Cage's picture

Ah Birdie, I feel your pain.

I too am an enthusiastic amateur in search of perfection in my photography. Often I think my quest is like the song from Man of La Mancha, "To dream the impossible dream" but I keep soldiering on, chipping away at my inadequacies and hopefully learning from my mistakes.

I am a Nikon user so I can't talk specifics on Canon gear, but a lot of things are the same across all brands.

OK, first up, have you fine tuned the lens to your camera to eliminate back and forward focusing issues. It doesn't matter how right you get everything else if the lens is focusing a couple of centimeters in front of, or behind your focus point.

Are you happy that your shooting stance is as stable as possible to eliminate camera movement, as even with VR you don't want it to work any harder than necessary. I do 90% of my shooting off a tripod, and 100% of my bird shots, but I do use a Tamron VC off a monopod quite succesfully.

Your settings on the wren shot look close to what I'd use in that light although I'd have probably used all the 8's. As you know they are very twitchy little beggars and the faster you can get your shutter speed the better.

This brings us to PP. What software are you using? I ask because I had a quick play in CS6 with the above two shots and there is still recoverable detail to be had. I'll post the Cormorant shot that I've slightly oversharpened to demonstrate. Oh, and I couldn't really see the haloing you were concerned with except on the neck in my re-work.

Finally it doesn't matter how much you spend on gear and how well you use it, you just aren't going to get it right all the time, particularly with flighty little birds. I'd say my keeper rate from the field would be about 15%.

Hang in there and keep chipping away.

I'm new here and still learning the ropes so you will have to click on my image to enlarge it.

Cheers

Cage

Hunter Valley NSW

robwill
robwill's picture

That PP is awesome. I'm surprised no one has commented on the improvments you've made Cage!

By the way Birdie I know this post is last year but how did you go with future shots with this lens.

Rob. 

birdie
birdie's picture

Wow this is from a long time ago ..... I am still having probably even more troubles with the lens but rarely go out to shoot birds these days.

That PP looks crisp , but it is still much smaller than mine. I always try not to oversharpen in PP . I think it seems that others I have spoekn to recently always use higher ISO than me and shoot at f8 to get the best results.  If I get around to finding a bird that will sit still enough for my old reflexes I will post it!!

Cheers

Adrienne

Sunshine Coast Queensland

robwill
robwill's picture

That's always the issue with birds. They move just at the wrong time. I don't like high ISO but it's neccessary with the longer focal length to keep speed up. I find the humble house sparrow to be good practice. They are flighty and always moving. 

Rob. 

Willskrills
Willskrills's picture

Hi guys im thinking on getting a Canon 60D with a Sigma 150-500 mm lens for bird photography, is that agood choice? I dont want to spend over 1.5 grand. any advice?

William.S

birdie
birdie's picture

Willskrills I think it would be a good kit to get.  I have seen some wonderful shots from this lens by others lately on other forums online. Your 60D would have more  features than my 600D and if finance is an issue then get the best you can lens wise for the price.

Cheers

Adrienne

Sunshine Coast Queensland

timrob
timrob's picture

@Willskrills,  that is exactly the first DSLR kit I started with when I resumed photography after a break of a few decades ( after a couple of point and shoots and a mirrorless) and added it to my interest in birds.

The 60D is a fine camera imo and the only time I wished I had something better was in low light - but then low light is difficult no matter what body you are using.  It has a nice multi-frame shooting speed and is easy to learn and manage.

Off topic a little but I recommend that you buy the fastest SD cards that you can afford.  I used San Disk extreme class 10 and found them to be excellent for multi-frame shooting.

The 150-500 is a good buy given your price bracket.  I took perhaps 30 000 photos with mine before wear in the collimation started to show it's ugly head.  You have to remember that it is a consumer lens so cannot compete physically with the "pro" or "sport" lenses that have prices to match.

The combination is light enough to carry for long periods of time if you use a harness rather than a neckstrap, and I strongly recommend that you do.  I personally use one of these http://optechusa.com/dual-harness.html and it has served me well, with my binos on one side and camera on the other.

I have have no hesitation in recommending the combination to you and would be very surprised if you were disappointed with it.  I'll also bet that some time in the future you'll want to upgrade the lens - I certainly did!

Tim

Willskrills
Willskrills's picture

Thanks alot guysyes Looks like this is the kit i'm gettingsmiley appreciate your help. Can't wait to get some nice photos 

William.S

birdie
birdie's picture

So you resurrected an old post to drop in a link to advertise mirrorless cameras Stevebarret81???. Clearly it is not a mirrorless as stated above .. get lost and advertise somewhere else .  To those who asked... I am still using the Bigma. Still not all that keen at times, still have the same kit, just do not take bird shots much these days.  Getting older and shakier I guess.

Cheers

Birdie

Sunshine Coast Queensland

birdie
birdie's picture

So you resurrected an old post to drop in a link to advertise mirrorless cameras Stevebarret81???. Clearly it is not a mirrorless as stated above .. get lost and advertise somewhere else .  To those who asked... I am still using the Bigma. Still not all that keen at times, still have the same kit, just do not take bird shots much these days.  Getting older and shakier I guess.

Cheers

Birdie

Sunshine Coast Queensland

dwatsonbb
dwatsonbb's picture

Hi Birdie glad to see your still around. Stevebarret81 was obvioulsy a spammer, and appears admin got him. Think sometimes we just need to ignore these people, or report them to admin. Appears a lot of them are deleted fairly quickly, somsomeone is keeping a good eye out!

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

birdie
birdie's picture

HI Dale

Yes, I had a fair idea he wa, but was kind of thinking as I hadnt been around for so long that he may have been a new member so I thought I'd tell him anyway :)

Sunshine Coast Queensland

2xmaddoc
2xmaddoc's picture

Hi,

I've just brought a secondhand Sigma 170-500 mm (f5-6.3) and am working on the best way to use it. So far, I've discovered that I need good light and perhaps a tripod to get the ISO under 1000. 

The willie was taken hand-held (1/1000 sec, f 6.3 at 500mm ISO 800) and the swan was taken on a tripod (1/500 sec, f10 at 500mm ISO 2000). Both pictures have been sharpened a little.

Michael, Beenleigh Qld

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