I gotta say, I loved using this lens. Sigma has really out done themselves. I know some people say they’ve owned Sigma lenses and the photos were poorthose lenses were the low end stuff; I could say the same about cheap Nikon and Canon lenses I’ve used. Sigma’s newest professional lenses, however, are the amongst the best glass I’ve ever used. I’m talking here about the latest version, not the older one with the gold trim.
I borrowed this one from LensRentals.com to photograph a golf tournament, and it was the best thing I could have done. I got it with the Nikon mount and the Metabones Speed Booster. This setup is what really convinced me I could use the Panasonic Lumix GH4 as my main professional camera. I had my Nikon in the bag just in case, but I planned to use the 120-300mm on the GH4 all day, and it didn’t let me down.
Wait a MinuteManual Focus?!
Yep, when you use a Nikon mount lens on a Micro 4/3 camera autofocus is not available, and that’s daunting, especially when shooting sports. However, if ever there was a sport for manual focus, it’s golf. The action largely takes place in one spot, so after focussing, my subjects rarely moved out of focus. Now, I would never try to manually focus on my Nikons; there’s a focus indicator telling me things are in focus, but I’ve never trusted it that well. On the Micro 4/3 cameras, however, we’ve got this wonderful tool called focus peaking. It puts a colored outline on everything that is in focus, and it’s marvelous. It even shows you how deep the depth of field will be in the picture. Did I miss focus on some of the pictures? Yes, but not a lot more than I miss when using autofocus.
What About the Crop Factor and Depth of Field?
Don’t read this part if you hate thinking about the math and the boring numbers of lenses. Skip to the next section.
Here’s the thing: the Metabones Speed Booster is a powerful tool. It not only allows me to mount a Nikon lens (or whatever adapter you get) to an MFT camera, but it also reduces the crop factor and increases the aperture. Normally, MFT is a 2 times cropso a 50mm lens on an MFT camera gives a field of view like a 100mm on a full frame DSLR (here’s a comparison I did on that fact). An APS-C camera, like a Nikon D7100 or a Canon 7D, have a crop of as much as 1.6, so a 50mm lens has a field of view more like a 75mm lens on a full frame DSLR. However, the speed booster reduces the field of view to .71 times the original. That means it takes a 50mm lens to 35.5mm. Then using the 2 times crop for the MFT we end up with a 71mm equivalent field of view. That makes the Speed Booster + MFT crop factor less than the crop factor of the APS-C cameras. So, my 120-300mm gives a field of view of 170-426mm. That’s pretty nice reach for most sports, and perfect for golf.
The Speed Booster also opens the aperture one stop, and the MFT increase the depth of field two stops. So, the aperture of the lens goes from f/2.8 to f/2.0, but the comparative bokeh to full frame would be f/4. Again, not bad, and that bright aperture makes it really easy to focus.
How’d It Perform?
This was a great setup. The reach of the lens, the bokeh, and the focus peaking in the camera were all terrific. On top of that, the GH4 has a silent shooting mode which makes it perfect for golf for two reasons. First of all, it’s terribly rude to click a shutter while a player is swinging (and may get you thrown off the course), so the silent shutter (and it’s totally silent, not just quiet) is essential. Secondly, in silent shutter mode, shooting jpegs, it’s gives 40 frames per second in manual focus. Yes, that’s 40fpsCanon’s 1DX maxes out at 14fpsand yes, that’s me bragging about my awesome new camera.
This camera and lens combo was really ideal for golf. I could zoom wider when there were more people in the frame, and zip in tight for the closeups. With a 400mm f/2.8 lens, I’d just have to have a second camera with a wider lens to get some of these shots, but the 120-300mm gave me great versatility.
Is It Only For Sports?
This setup is ideal for portraits, too. The wide aperture combined with the long reach make for a very shallow depth of field, and a super creamy dreamy bokeh. Did I mention that this lens’s stabilization is excellent? I had no trouble hand holding this lens all day and making sharp pictures. I’d use this for all kinds of portraits, if I owned it.
Will I Buy This 120-300mm Lens?
Let’s consider whether I should buy this lens. I’m a generalistfor instance, this month I’m shooting for Utah State University at all their satellite campuses. I’d probably use this lens 3-5 days out of the month for my work. I could rent it from LensRentals for $165 for 5 days. Let’s say I used it 3-5 days every month of the year, that’d be 12 rentals from LensRentals: $1,980 dollarsmore than $2000 with shipping. So, if I used it regularly, I could pay for it within two years of use instead of renting it (retails for $3600). However, I’d have to fork over the $3,600 all at once if I bought it.
And really, I don’t think I’d be using it 5 days every monthit’s just too long for most of my paid work. If I were a sports shooter, there’s no doubt this would be in my bag. Basketball with this zoom range would be awesome! But I’m not a sports shooter regularly. Even if I shot high school football every year, I think I’d do better to rent it as needed rather than buy it. Keep the money in your pocket, and let your clients pay for the rentalthey’ll appreciate that you can get the gear, and they’ll appreciate that the whole cost of owning isn’t included in your overhead all the time.
The Sigma 120-300mm with Metabones speed booster on a GH4 performed really well for me shooting a golf tournament, and I’d highly recommend renting this setup to anyone. The sharpness and stabilization were incredible. Because I don’t shoot sports all the time, I’ll keep my thousands in my pocket and rent this incredible lens as needed from LensRentals.com