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.

CONCLUSION

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.

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Join the conversation! 0 Comments

  1. @Scott, Would you have taken a beast like this on your Alaska trip? With that weight and size what would you have had to leave behind to fit that in your bag for those small seaplanes?

    Reply
  2. @Jay I could have taken this to Alaska but it would have been very difficult. I rarely fly with this lens. I often ship it to my destination assuming someone responsible is there to safeguard it for me. I often drive and then it’s no problem.

    Reply
  3. This kind of lens is such a fantasy for a photographer like me. Not only would I have to misplace one of the kids to afford it, I’d have to lose another one to fit it in the car. I’m glad that Scott gets to live the dream for the rest of us. Thank god for rentals.

    Reply
  4. Can you take some moon pictures with it? I want to see what the moon looks like through an 800mm lens :)

    Reply
  5. This lens doesn’t have image stabilization. Do you miss it in this focal range?

    Reply
  6. I would imagine that since it is constantly tripod mounted, IS is probably not necessary (in fact I think it is recommended to turn off IS in many, if not most lenses when on a tripod? I might be wrong on that, hopefully someone can clarify with a more technical explanation! :) ).

    Reply
  7. @Scott – Not that I could ever afford a lens like this, but out of curiosity, could you link us to a gallery of your images taken with this lens? Just think it would be neat to see.

    Reply
  8. @Vlad I don’t miss that. Some of the lenses that do have stabilization make you turn that off on a tripod and I exclusively use this lens on a tripod. It would be a nice feature to have, but I am able to make sharp images with it anyway.

    @Marc go to http://www.avianstock.com. Most of the bird portraits you see there were made with the first version of this lens.

    Reply
  9. Hi Scott, I have a question for you ( and perhaps something that might be worth talking about on the excellent twip podcast ).

    Firstly though I’d just like to say that’s an interesting review. As Kent says, this is a dream lens for many of us, but it’s always nice to dream !

    Anyway, you say in the review “The images produced from this lens (assuming good long lens technique) are sharp and contrasty.”

    My question is, apart from tripod mounting a long lens, using a monopod with IS/VR or a beanbag, what other techniques can you recommend for sharper images ?

    I consider myself an advanced amateur with fairly good technique, but am always looking to raise my game. Personally I always try to using the lowest ISO I can, try stop down a little from wide open, and if possible use at least the same shutter speed as focal length ( but obviously this isn’t always possible ).

    Many thanks.

    Reply
  10. @Dan you’re on the right track. With a big lens like this a gimbal head really helps. Also, pressing your face hard up against the back of the camera and draping your arm over or under the lens for additional support helps. This isn’t really something I want to get into here too deeply since it’s off topic so I’ll create a post about it later.

    Reply
  11. Scott- I would be VERY intrested in a post on long lens technique, please do one!

    Reply
  12. 18-200mm camera zoom lens is best compact zoom for recommendation in any photo.

    Reply

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