This is the second copy of the famed “Sigmonster” that I have owned and reviewed. I have had the first version since its launch in 2002. The new version (APO 300-800 F5.6 EX DG HSM) has been optimized for digital camera bodies.
The only difference that I can see between this and the original lens is a new optical coating designed to reduce ghosts and flare. I do notice a slight improvement in color balance between the two lenses, but I am willing to bet that most amateurs wouldn’t see it.
The lens is huge. Without the lens hood in place, it’s 21.4 inches long and weighs just a hair under 13 pounds. Unless you’re related to the Incredible Hulk, you won’t spend much (if any) time hand-holding this beast.
It’s too heavy for most ballheads as well so I opted to pair the lens with the new Wimberley Head II – a gimbal head which I demonstrate in a video located here on the TWIP site.
The lens has several amazing features. It uses Extra Low Dispersion (ELD) glass, which is very expensive in this quantity. That helps maintain sharp, contrasty images.
There’s a Hyper Sonic Motor which works with Sigma, Nikon and Canon bodies. This speeds up autofocus. They also provide a very solid, well-designed case for the lens that’s large enough to hold the lens with a body mounted (barely.)
Sigma thoughtfully includes a 46mm drop in circular polarizer which fits in the rear of the lens. There is a neat little filter wheel you can easily spin to change the impact of the polarizer without having to manually turn something on the end of the lens.
The minimum focusing distance for the 300-800 is just under 20 feet. That’s very respectable for a lens with this focal range.
The fit and finish of the lens is first rate. It’s well built and sturdy. It offered quick focusing and was easy to both manually and autofocus. I like the fact that the zoom is NOT a push-pull type. This reduces dust on the sensor problems.
The images produced from this lens (assuming good long lens technique) are sharp and contrasty.
While this is a very specialized lens that cost a lot of money and requires additional skill to properly operate, it’s still one to look for if you’re shooting wildlife, sports or anything else that requires a super-telephoto lens. The flexibility of the zoom range allows for quick and easy target acquisition – not something that’s terribly easy to do at 800mm.
Adorama has this lens available at $7999.00. Be careful if you see an offer for much less. It could mean that you’re buying the older version or one that is not covered by Sigma’s one-year warranty.