Sigma APO 120-300mm F2.8 EX DG HSM
Posted 14 January 2009 - 11:47
Posted 14 February 2009 - 01:42
I have posted my experience elsewhere (December 08 in "Lenses for Nikons") and I encourage people to read that post.
I think it is very difficult to give an overall rating for this lens as the quality from Sigma is so variable -- you can get one that is spectacular or one that does not focus at all, which is outrageous for something aimed at the pro sports market at about USD2500 at B&H.
The good side is that there is nothing similar by any other maker. If you need 300m F2.8 zoom, then it is the only game in town. Add a teleconverter ( I use a 1.4 Kenko) and with the crop factor you have the equivalent angle of view of a 600 F4 at a quarter of the price.
Do not under any circumstances buy this thing without having unlimited exchange priviliges as you may well have to use them. This is not a candidate for mail order, just go to your very friendly local store and be frank.
I think the optical formula has been the same for at least 6 years, other than the addition of "digital coatings" in the latest DG version. What has changed has been firstly the beefed up tripod collar which is removeable and works well, and the DG coatings plus some external cosmetics.
Web comments are quite variable and Fred Miranda's site has quite a few, but mostly for the Canon mount. They vary from spectacular to crap with repeated comments about the AF motor failing. There have been some comments about lack of contrast. My experience with three lenses has been that with two of them the contrast appeared quite good, but the third and my keeper is very good.
I had the opportunity to do an indirect comparison with the Nikon 500 P and I like the Sigma better. I know a professional landscape photographer who shot Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland on Velvia with an F5 and a 500P. My shot using a D300 and the Sigma, when printed using Qimage on a Z3100 at 16x24 (the same size) comes out sharper with more detail. This is probably an unfair comparison but bottom line it is the print that counts. I should add that this was with my second copy, the loaner lens, not my third the keeper.
It is heavy at 6lbs, but that is to be expected for F2.8. It is not a lens to hand hold for very long. The external coating is soft and marks easily. OOF areas show up as sharp multiple images -- not very attractive. Focussing manually is very fast and I suspect that this may have something to do with the AF failures.
Using AF from near to far focus ends up with a solid clunk from the lens and some visible vibration. There is a lot of mass moving inside this thing and perhaps the stops are inadequate. Anyway my first copy failed out of the box, as did three others I know of. The tech admitted that the whole batch had a problem and I had to wait for a brand new batch to be made. Previous AF problems seemed to be mount specific, with Nikons being more prone to faults than Canons, but this latest problem was not brand specific.
Bottom line is that I really like the one I have but would find it difficult to recommend the lens without the exchange priviliges mentioned earlier.
It seems to have a home amongst sports photographers who need the zoom and the wide aperture. I use it for shooting performances in the low light conditions of theatres and church choirs for which it works very well.
To gauge my comments, normally I use a D300 with some of Nikon's best -- 10.5, 85 F1.4, 14-24, 24-70, 80-200, but for serious stuff I use my RZ.
Posted 02 April 2009 - 16:43
Several other sports shooters have this lens and I lucked into a very good used copy (DG) w/ the Siggy TC1.4 & TC2.0. I find it odd that Sigma doesn't offer a TC1.7.
If you have an opportunity to purchase the early release (pre-DG) then make sure you get the updated lens foot (TS-41, ~US$135); the first rendition was too weak for this lens.
I have been very pleased w/ the lens on my D300. The only thing I have to adjust to is the zoom action is the reverse of Nikon's. But, having the flexibility of the zoom is a huge plus. I'm surprised Nikon hasn't entered this niche in the marketplace.
It is heavy, I have mine on a Bogen/Manfrotto 680B with Bogen/Manfrotto 234RC Swivel/Tilt Head for Monopods.
Ultimately, the Nikon 300f2.8 IQ is superior to the Siggy....but I'm happy w/ mine.
Here's an example of the Siggy w/ TC1.4...420mm FL
Posted 06 April 2009 - 16:42
The small foot isn't the best but I have used it effectively with a monopod.
I have no issue with the sharpness or BOKEH from my lens, and both are quite nice for me. I also have the 1.4x Sigma Tc which works great and is a really nice 420 f4 lens. The contrast isn't up to the 300 Nikkor primes, but this is a zoom, so it isn't exactly a direct comparison.
I have no focus motor issues and the AF works quite well for me on all of my Nikon AF bodies. HSM isn't quite as fast as AFS, but then again, it's a lot of glass to move and focuses fast enough for then field sports I use it for.
Posted 24 January 2010 - 14:35
Overall, if you handle this lens like a raw egg, you may like it. But watch don't let it drop, even a few inches onto a padded surface or it will be ruined.
Posted 21 November 2010 - 17:45
I bought it used for $1500 and it performs well, although not having ever tried any Nikkor supertele lenses, I don't know how good (better) things could be.
I would not be able to justify anything more expensive anyway...
I have been satisfied with AF speed and accuracy. Whenever I did not get what I was hoping for, I am pretty sure it was due to insufficient skill from the user.
When everything goes according to plan, the parts in focus are sharp and the OOF ones are rendered in a pleasing way, as long as the lens is stopped at least to f/4.
At f/2.8 images can be usable, but much softer - at least for my sample.
Added: as noted above, also in my case the zoom ring is a bit stiff. This is not a problem in normal temperatures, but it becomes really a problem near freezing or below. I guess the ring could do with a different grease.
I like the performance with Sigma's dedicated 1.4X EX TC. Everything performs virtually as without a TC.
The performance with Sigma's dedicated 2X EX TC is disappointing under all respects. I do still use it but I really wish I could have something else - no I'm not buying a longer lens, I just cannot justify the expense.
My disappointment with the 2X EX TC leads me to the following question: does anybody know if Nikon's TC-20E III can be mounted on the Sigma 120-300?
I read that the TC-20E III is excellent (in fact it costs a lot!).
Unfortunately Nikon's modern TC's can only be mounted on AF-I or AF-S lenses - there is something like some metal tab that prevents them being used on other Nikkors.
I am wondering, given that Sigma's HSM is similar to Nikons AF-S, if the teleconverter therefore could be mounted on the 120-300.
I would really be interested to know if it is possible, and in that case how does the combo perform.
Posted 14 January 2011 - 21:38
Having been used to handholding my 70-300VR, I'm definitely missing the lack of VR, but I'm now becoming much more familiar with my monopod and tripod! But I will definitely be trying the recently announced updated version with OS when it arrives.
I had considered the Nikon 300 f4 prime, but I've had a 300 prime in the past and I often preferred to use a 70-300 zoom for much of my shooting despite the quite large drop in IQ. The choice of the Sigma was based upon my hope of combining the best of both worlds, so far I've been pretty impressed with the lens, including use with the 1.4x TC. I haven't done enough with the 2x as yet to make any meaningful comments.
Here's a crop from a shot at 120mm/f4.0 - Link to image at 100%
Here's a shot with the 1.4x TC, 420mm/f5.6 - Link to full size image
Posted 29 October 2011 - 15:14
It is heavy and bulky, but no surprise there, either. It appears well made and solid. There is not any noticeable backlash, binding, or slop in the focus or zoom mechanisms. It is not as smooth as the focus helical on any Leica lens. Time will regarding the quality of construction, but I think sports photograpy can be rough on lenses, laying the camera and body on the grass or dirt, carrying it around by the lens mounted on a monopod, etc.
Overall, it is the only lens with this unique range and speed. I would consider the Nikon 200-400 F4 zoom as a possible alternative, but it is double the price, although likely even better in terms of manufacturing quality and image quality. A head to head comparison would be interesting. So far I'm happy with the quality of manufacture, ease of use, and image quality as well.
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