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Old Apr 9, 2006, 2:28 AM   #1
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For my second lens (on a Nikon D50), I have been using the Nikon 55-200. Although this lens seems to generally reported as 'nothing special' (ie fit for purpose), I have been producing some good keepers and like the fact that it is a compact and light lens.

However, I wanted something with a little more reach for wildlife and noticed that people were generally commenting on the Sigma 70-300 APO Macro as though it delivered more than it‘s budget tag suggested. So I bought one - thanks largely to the posters here and a sensible review (ie not written by a lens snob) published in a UK magazine. By the way - I had already gone through the ‘18-200 single lens solution' argument in my head, which while attractive, would not have covered all of the shooting situations that I expect (or hope) to find myself in.

The Sigma lens cost me £200 from local store (Jacobs). The immediate advantages over my Nikon was the extra 100mm reach (becomes extra 150mm due to sensor size) and the macro ability, which has a ratio of 1:2 which appears pretty good for a budget lens.

This is a new lens from Sigma, specifically designed for digital, having additional anti-glare coatings on the lens. A thin red band around the front of the lens denotes that it is the new model. It is not the cheapest lens at the budget end, Sigma do the same version for almost half the price without the APO glass and the magazine review that I read said the cheaper lens was fine (fit for purpose) but that the APO version with the better glass was slightly noticeably better.

Compared to my 55-200, this lens is noticeably bigger and heavier. The front glass is bigger, capturing more light, allowing this thing to keep the same aperture range of the Nikon (f4 - f5.6). When opened to the 200mm to 300m end, a macro switch can be enabled, giving 1:2 enlargement. I have only tried this on flowers so far but I like the results, the images were sharp and nicely isolated from their background. I am expecting that at the 300mm end, the macro will give me some nice dragonfly shots.

I have not tested the lens against moving wildlife so cannot comment on this. My Nikon could take sharp shots of flying ducks, I expect this lens to be at least as good.

Indoors, results are nice. We have a long haired teddy bear that is helpful for testing how well a camera resolves detail. The results were crisp but natural looking since the camera does not over sharpen. Magnified on the computer, there is plenty of detail in the fur and its softness and subtle shading has been preserved.

Outdoors, I shot into bare trees (winter) against a clear sky and a weather cock on top of a church to test for purple fringing and my pictures were clean. The local church that has an alarm on the wall, which I use to test new purchases. My old Panasonic FZ5 could pick up the telephone number at the bottom of the alarm (hand held) which said amazing things about the image stabilisation of that thing but it was clear that it was using strong ‘in camera' sharpening to make numbers clear enough to read. My Canon S2IS could also capture this info but the final image was softer - still amazing though for a small handheld.

On the D50, my Nikon 22-200 could make out that there was writing on the alarm but at that range, could not resolve it. The Sigma (on a monopod) with my D50 gave the best result. The number was easily readable and it looked good, was not over sharpened and was easily within the capability of the lens. I then tried it hand held (fairly bright day on ISO 200) and still got better images that my previous prosumers had given.

These are just first impression but my bottom line conclusions are; for me this is a good alternative to my Nikon 55-200 (which for me is still a very good carry around lens), it has good resolving power with an absence (to my eye) of distortion and purple fringing. Top end prosumer cameras have a lot to offer since they often have a powerful lens, image stabilisation and macro ability. I feel that my D50 with this sigma lens has moved me on to the next level from my prosumer cameras, especially since it has higher and cleaner ISO to fall back on and the images are just nicer. Hope this helps anyone thinking about this lens.
norm smith is offline   Reply With Quote
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Old Apr 15, 2006, 4:56 AM   #2
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 85

Thank you for a well written lens test from a normal user's perspective. I myself am going into the dSLR era by getting a D70s and quite possibly this lovely lens.

Hope to see great things from you.
Particle_Man is offline   Reply With Quote

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