Hello again! So while you were all taking in the review I wrote about the incredible Sigma 85F1.4 Art (which I did pre order btw) I also had in my possession Sigma’s New 500mmF4 AND their NEW 12-24F4. Even though I had both of those lenses at the same event I am going to be reviewing them separately. I’ve had infinitely more folks ask me about the 500F4 than the 12-24, and i totally understand why as it was a surprise to me at least that Sigma would jump into that kind of exotic lens; so that’s why I am doing this one first. For this review, I was also able to arrange the timeframe of the equipment loan to coincide with an assignment I had shooting the Indiana Hoosiers vs the Nebraska Cornhuskers in football in Bloomington Indiana. A new 500F4 is a huge undertaking in R&D as well as to be totally honest Canon and Nikon own that market. In fact I have a Nikon 400F2.8VR that is probably one of the sharpest lenses I’ve ever owned. This Sigma needed to impress me, and I deemed that a BIG 10 football game would be the only way to determine if Sigma truly belonged in the big leagues as opposed to shooting squirrels in my back yard; which I obviously did anyway.
(Canon 1Dx, 320ISO, NEW Sigma 500F4, 1/200th@F4)
First off, as usual I’ll mention that I am not being paid to review or write about these Sigma lenses. Not by Sigma, and not by Roberts Camera which is why sometimes it takes a little longer to get the reviews out (sorry). Roberts Camera did provide me with the Canon 1DX to test the lenses though out of their rental department though. Next I’ll mention that Sigma shipped the lenses to me via UPS, which isn’t important until you learn that I demanded to open the box containing the 500F4 at the store before leaving because it was so light I didn’t think the lens was in the box.
You read that right. I was positive that there was a mistake. So positive that I demanded to open the box in the shop to see what was in it. I felt both sheepish and super amped after it was all said and done because the NEW Sigma 500F4 weighs only 116.7 ounces and is set to cost $5,999.99. Canons newest 500F4 costs $8,999.99 and weighs 112.5 ounces. The newest Nikon 500F4E weights 109 ounces and costs $10,299. A lot of you reading this are probably thinking, well ok they weigh the same, so what? So WHAT? To put that into perspective the Canon 1DX attached to the Sigma 500F4 weighs 54 ounces. That’s only a few ounces shy of HALF the weight of the 500F4. If that’s not enough perspective for you then how about the fact that my Nikon 400F2.8VR (not the most current FL Glass one) tips the scales at 163 ounces. That’s a solid 3lbs more than the Sigma 500F4. What does this mean? I feel like I could have easily shot the football game without a monopod. That my friends; is insane.
I don’t have a Nikon 500F4, but on bottom is my older Nikon 400F2.8VR (the older VR not the new FL one like this one) next to Sigma’s 500F4. They are pretty comparable in size considering that the 500 is 25% further reaching than my 400. The F4 is to thank for that, but there isn’t a 500F2.8 on the market; if there was I bet it would be a monster. With that I’ll say that I’m impressed. After shooting some squirrels and birds in the back yard trying to dial in my auto focus a bit I was ready to go. I loaded the Sigma 500F4 into the car with ALL my other Nikon gear. Admittedly I was mentally preparing to be defeated and have to switch back to my Nikon 400F2.8 for football at the game, but I was dead set to give it a try though and in the end without question I hate to admit that I regretted my decision.
(This is pretty close to a 100% crop on an image out of the 500F4. Canon 1Dx 1000ISO NEW Sigma 500F4, 1/4000th@F4)
I regretted my decision to carry my Nikon 400F2.8 into the stadium at all. Sucker weights 10lbs vs the NEW Sigma’s 7lbs and I never even took my 400 out of the bag. It sat on my desk in the media area taking up a ton of space, and opened the door for copious amounts of heckling at the sheer volume of gear that I had brought with to shoot the game that I did not use. I’m sorry Sigma 500 for ever doubting you. I’d shoot any football game or auto race with Sigma’s new 500F4 in a heartbeat without question. It was that damn good. Not only is it damn good, but it’s got a bunch of little obscure features that I wish Nikon and Canon would have thought of a hundred years ago. (Off topic, but the 1DX made me realize how much I use the backlit buttons on my D4 and D5. Talk about a shock shooting in the dark there). Some of these features include a quarter turn screw head to rotate the lens on the monopod, or the ability to have or not have a click when the lens hits 90 degrees in that tripod ring. Whaaaaaaaaat?! Yup. There is a switch to turn that click on and off. If I had a buck for every time I wanted my camera exactly at the 90, and I was just guessing? Who am I kidding I guess every time and in all reality it’s not something I’d use every day, but it’s nice. Nice like how the screen on my Phottix Indra500s automatically rotate upside down if the head is turned upside down. That kinda nice. Anyway, I know Canon’s 200-400 is notched but that’s the only one I know of, and you can NOT turn the notch off.
(Yes, the white on the left bothers the hell out of me, but the action makes the frame worth it. Canon 1DX, 800ISO, NEW Sigma 500F4 Sports, 1/4000th@F4)
The images produced were sharp, the Autofocus was snappy and it tracked as well as a 1Dx could track. Any issues I ran into were either myself or the fact that I shoot Nikon as my every day body. In your mind you are saying, “well gosh that’s easy to say it’s not the lens if you aren’t shooting your gear” and you are right. Thing you have to remember is that at one point I had BOTH a Nikon NPS membership AND a Canon CPS membership. At the same time. I’m very familiar with Canon’s line of cameras and have shot numerous assignments with them. Any issue I had was because I needed to tweak a few autofocus settings to get them the way I wanted. Second half of the game I had it dialed in, and baby was it dialed.
(Canon 1DX, NEW Sigma 500F4 Sports, 1/4000th@F4)
I did not get an opportunity to try out any of the Sigma teleconverters. I did however discover that the Canon teleconverters do NOT work on the 500F4. After the fact I realize I probably should have asked Sigma about this instead of just trying it as it could have ended my day real quick. Luckly it didn’t. Also my understanding is that Sigma’s lens dock does wonders for changing AF speed and other various settings in the lens. At some point I’ll end up buying a dock since I will have 3 Sigma Art lenses once the 85mm arrives but that means I did not try that with the 500mm either.
(Canon 1Dx, 800iSO, NEW Sigma 500F4, 1/5000th@F4)
SO there you have it. Does Sigma’s gamble pay off? In my opinion that’s a resounding YES. If I was in the market for an exotic telephoto this 500mm would fit the bill without question. Hands down it’s the best 500/F4 for your money right now. I love me some Nikon and Canon, but at $9k, and $10k for their counterparts this is easily well worth the $6k. That includes a carrying case, and a lens strap I’m told, but I don’t have specifics as my sample did not come with that stuff. I’m really curious to see if Sigma jumps into a 300F2.8 or 200F2 next as right now I’m sure they have raised the eyebrows of lots of manufacturers. Their primes have totally blown everybody away including me. I had several Sigma lenses when I got started in photography and I couldn’t get rid of them fast enough. Now? I can’t wait for my Sigma 85F1.4 Art to be delivered. CAN NOT WAIT. I digress. Until then, if you get a hankering to pre order this bad boy, do it at Roberts Camera. The folks with the most kowingest knowings as it comes to cameras. I buy about 95% of all my gear there, and they will do you right. More soon.