First time with the Sigma 150-600mm

Went for a drive yesterday (Sunday 4th Feb 2018), hoping to photograph Seals at Horsey beach in Norfolk (as had heard mention of them a few times recently) with my new Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary. But when we got there the Seals were nowhere to be seen. Quite a few people about so maybe they took off to find somewhere quieter? I understand they usually only hang around when they’re having pups, and the season is almost over, apparently.

So we headed back homewards and stopped at Africa Alive, a zoo on the outskirts of Lowestoft that we’d never been to before, and having the Sigma with me decided to cart it around the zoo and see what I could do with it.

It was cold (it’s winter) and hardly any animals were outside, most tucked up warm in their houses, as perhaps we should’ve been! On the plus side we arrived just as the Lions were due to be fed, and the Lion enclosure features a raised platform where you get excellent views of the animals. A lady zoo-keeper arrived to do the feeding and gave a little talk at the same time, apparently Lions aren’t that fussed about temperature and don’t mind the cold as much as you’d think.

1/500th / f6.3 / ISO800 / 600mm

Here’s a Lion taken at 600mm, the full extent of the Sigma (900mm equivalent on my crop-sensor camera). At 1/500th of a second hand-held I’d say it’s come out quite well. I’m very pleased with the sharpness of the image (the scaled down image above doesn’t do it justice), and indeed I found all my images very pleasing, a definite step up in quality compared to my other lenses.

However a few thoughts on the Sigma in use :-

  • It’s heavy, but I have it attached to a shoulder strap via the tripod foot, and as such it’s not uncomfortable to carry around for a few hours.
  • It’s surprisingly easy to take photos hand-held despite the weight, at least to balance the lens, hold it reasonably steady, and take a photo.
  • It’s very awkward to adjust the zoom, the zoom ring is rather stiff and I’m afraid if I brace the lens against the camera (i.e. hold the camera in one hand whilst twisting the zoom ring with the other) I’m going to twist the lens off the camera, rather than turn the zoom ring, so I find I’m holding the lens with one hand (by the foot) and twisting with the other, meaning no hands on the camera, so it’s a case of twist and zoom, re-position hands, and then shoot, not quite as smooth as I’d like, but I suspect putting it on a monopod, as I intend to for circuit photography, will help a lot.
  • Although it’s reasonably quick to acquire focus it can hunt around at times if it gets confused about what I’m trying to focus on, for example focusing on the fences around the animal enclosures rather than the animals. It also tended to jump from animal to something else (like a twig!) as animals moved around. I suspect using the range limiter will help, which again I intend to do for circuit photography.
  • It’s mostly overkill for a zoo, at 150mm (225mm equivalent) it’s too long at the short end for anything remotely close up.

Overall I’m impressed with the lens and the quality of the images I can get with it, and can’t wait to use it some more!

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