This is a quick review of the Sigma 50-500mm OS HSM (Nikon mount) that I rented from my favorite rental house, LensRentals.com. I had the lens for 5 days, having time to take many, many photos with it. I rented the lens primarily for birding. I had hoped to rent the 150-500mm instead, as I don't have a need for anything short of 300mm. Maybe Sigma will make a 300-500 f/5.6, or even an f/4. PLEASE!
WHAT I LIKED
There's no way around it, 500mm is nice. Subjects are around 70% larger in frame than with my 300mm telephoto.
Images with this lens are quite sharp, certainly sharper than I expected from a superzoom at this price.
+ Build Quality
It's stout, solid, heavy, with no sloppy movement in the switchgear or control rings.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
– Zoom Ring Direction
I've been shooting Nikon for a year now, with many years of non-DSLR cameras since I last shot Canon. The Sigma 50-500 had Canon-style control rings even on my Nikon mount version. It goes without saying, that this slowed me down a lot. Catching a bird in flight at 200-300mm and trying to rack out to get him full frame was often a frustrating experience. Fine tuning focus with the focus ring was so frustrating that I stopped attempting all together.
– Weight, Kind Of.
For a zoom lens starting at 50mm, this is a heavy lens. For a lens that has a 500mm reach, it's not so bad. I hand held this 90% of the time and was fine for shooting. However, while birding I often have to keep the lens pointed a bird for a long period of time waiting for the shot. After 10-15 minutes of keeping this held in front of you on target, it will wear you out.
Let's be honest, f/6.3 is far from ideal for the usual subjects that you buy a 500mm lens for. Coupled with the fact that f/6.3 is imposed at a rather short 244mm.
SO, WOULD I BUY THIS?
Despite it's price, which allows access to 500mm for the rest of us, and the solid image quality, I just can't get over the control rings. The reversed control rings are a major hassle. Having one lens in the arsensal that doesn't operate like all the rest will only frustrate me when I switch lenses.
I can see myself renting this again in the future. I love my Nikkor 70-300 VR, it’s sharp, light, and 300mm gives me a pretty long focal length on my D7000 crop body; however, it's really nice to have the extra reach. I’m planning on renting some serious Nikon glass later this year to see how it compares to the Bigma.