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Old Jun 6, 2005, 12:03 PM   #1
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would this lense be really good for outdoor shots such as sports ect.. It's a big barrel 86mm alot like the sigma 70-200 2.8. Any suggestions would be helpful, i'm thinking of getting it, the availability of a 50mm to 500mm range is really appealing to me and i think with alittle work i can get a fast action shot as well. What do you people think. NHL i'd like your opinon if possible. john
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Old Jun 6, 2005, 12:20 PM   #2
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Using a really big zoom (or any 500mm lens) isn't easy - I suspect that most people who complain about this lens simply don't have the skill to use it properly.

It's a lot like P&S upgraders moaning about how unsharp their DSLR pictures are and thinking they need to upgrade their lens rather than their skills.
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Old Jun 6, 2005, 1:28 PM   #3
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I currently use the Sigma 170-500 Zoom and like it a lot. Of course with any big lens you really need either a monpod or tripod. If you would like to see some of the shots I have taken with that lens go to:


about 80% of the photos were taken with a Canon Digital Rebel and Sigma 170-500. Using the 50-500 should be about the same.
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Old Jun 6, 2005, 2:20 PM   #4
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There are good and bad things about this lens.

50-500 makes it easier to frame your shots. That much zoom gives you a lot of flexability.

As I recall, it focuses reasonably fast with good light. Not amazing, but not badly either.

It is fairly sharp. I know some people who produce really good stuff with this lens.

fairly large and not light. Not very heavy either, but not an easy lens for many people to carry around for a long time.

While you can hand hold it, 500mm really benefits from a tripod/monopod unless you are really steady.

It is f6.3 at the long end. This is beyond the rated aperture required for AF to work on any non-pro Canon camera. FA still works because the camera lies and reports the max aperture as f5.6. So in lower light it has trouble detecting contrast and has problems focusing fast. It works, but for action shots it probably will cost you shots. Prefocusing helps this a lot.

Another problem with f6.3 is low shutter speeds, making stopping action hard. You can over come this by using higher ISO values (which lowers quality, but I'd rather have noise than lots of blur.)

You don't mention which sport you're taking pictures of or if its indoors or not. This makes a HUGE difference. You might not need 500mm.

An aperture is an aperture. Set what you have to f6.3 at the next event you're at. Look at what shutter speed you're getting. That is the same shutter speed you'll get a 500mm with that lens.

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Old Jun 6, 2005, 5:38 PM   #5
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I have the Bigma and love the lens. As already stated, it is a heavy lens and I use a tripod with all my shots. I think the lens is very good up to 450mm and then some shots look soft.
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Old Jun 7, 2005, 8:13 AM   #6
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From many accounts there are a lot of people very happy with this lense - although most of the people I have heard comments from use it for wildlife photography. If your primary reason for getting the lense is sports then I think there are better options. The 6.3 is really limiting in terms of getting the shutter speeds you need to stop action unless you have a bright sunny day. As an example, last year I was trying to shoot a football game with my 28-135 lense at 5.6 (yes it was too short but the only lense I had on me at the time). It was a very dreary day and shooting at ISO 800 I still wasn't getting the shutter speeds I wanted. Yes, you can bump up the ISO - but if you're going to spend big $$ on a lense for shooting sports I think you're much better off giving up a little reach and getting a faster lense so you don't HAVE to shoot at 800, 1600 or 3200. Now, if you only occasionally want to shoot sports then it might not be worth it.Everything is a trede-off
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Old Jun 8, 2005, 10:38 AM   #7
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I have a Bigma. I also have a Canon 500mm F4LIS. Which one is better? Which is the better value? You can doubtless answer both of those questions yourself.

Bigma can produce outstanding images. At 500mm, you need to stop down to F7.1 or F8 for really sharp pictures, which hinders its use as a sports lens. I saw a website somewhere--can't find it right now--by a surf shooter who uses Bigma. Of course, theusual surfing venueis onewithplenty of light. I've used Bigma hand held tracking flying birds. That'll save you a trip to the gym. If you want to get a "feel" for hand holding Bigma, put the body cap on your camera. Then hold it up to your eye with your right hand while holding a 5 lb. bag of sugar in front of it in your left hand. Pan right and left, point up and down, and so on. Do that 30 minutes a day while waiting for UPS ground delivery of your Bigma, and you'll be ready.

On a tripod, Bigma is at its best. Remember on a 1.6 crop factor sensor, the FOV is comparable to 800mm on a full frame 35. That means the rule of thumb for handheld calls for 1/800 as the minimum shutter speed.

Filters are hard to find and expensive for the 86mm diameter, and Cokin has no adapter for that size, either. Of course with a max aperture of F6.3 you are not often going to shoot with a polarizer, although you might wish for one as well as for a grad ND filter from time to time for telephoto landscapes.

Oh, and eric s, it is not the camera that "lies" but rather the lens that lies to the camera. It claims to be F5.6 so that your camera will attempt autofocus--almost always successfully, given sufficient light. Further, if you have a standard (not "Pro") Tamron 1.4x TC, Bigma will still autofocus--even though the actual maximum aperture is now F9!

I am not a sports shooter, although I have done adirt track motorcycle race from the infield. Bigma was not the best lens for that. Too heavy, too shaky (I guess I was the shaky one). The Canon 100-400LIS worked quite well, though, with its "Mode 2" image stabilization, which allows panning while still stabilizing the vertical shake. I know a guy in my photography club who shoots little league baseball with the 100-400.

While the rather impressive 10 to 1 zoom can be really handy, I found that 90% of the time, I used it at 500mm. The 170-500 would probably be just as useful in that respect, and it is somewhat lighter, although from the reviews I've seen Bigma is sharper and faster focusing.Bigma is a Sigma EX lens.

Another thing about Bigma. With extension tubes, it makes a pretty good outdoor semimacro, with close enough focusing for full frame dragonflies, spiders, and other big bugs.

Conclusion. Bigma is an excellent value. I bought mine for $782 from digitalfotoclub.com before the lens became so popular. [Note on digitalfotoclub: Their price increased by $100 within a few days of my order. The original copy I received had a defect--its bokeh looked like that of a mirror lens. Digitalfotoclub replaced it promptly with no problem at all. The second one was OK.]Going price for Bigma now isaround $900 to $1,000 from reputable online dealers. If that lens is the limit of your budget, then you could not really do better than Bigma. Incidentally, a new version of this lens, with a DG designation, will be shipping shortly. You cancheck the Sigma site for the benefits of DG (I did, and I still don't know!)

Alternatives. The Canon 100-400 LIS is F5.6 at 400mm, so it has the same sports limitation as Bigma, although it is somewhat lighter, sharper, and "only" about $300 or so more expensive. At the time I bought Bigma, the spread between those two lenses was closer to $500. The Canon has dual mode image stabilization, which is an aid to handheld shooting. Canon also makes a 400mm F5.6 prime for about the same price as Bigma. It is not a zoom, of course, and it does not have image stabilization.

Also in the same $900-$1,000 price range is the Sigma 80-400 F4.5-5.6 zoom with OS--Sigma's only lens with stabilization. This lens has had some pretty good reviews. Of course, the F5.6 maximum aperture limits low light, as with all the lenses in this price class.


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Old Jun 8, 2005, 11:08 AM   #8
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Here's a test of the 'new' Bigma DG:

... IMO theses type of lenses do not 'lies': The f/6.3 is only a 1/3 stop from f/5.6 while most cameras default to 1/2 stop increments as shipped from the factory (i.e this is a round-off)

-> Set your camera to 1/3 stop increment and everything will be kosher (you'll be able to select f/6.3 in Av as well)
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Old Jun 8, 2005, 12:36 PM   #9
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NHL, I think you are wrong... but the absolute way to tell would require decoding the lens/camera protocols and using an oscilloscope.

My understanding is that if the lens reported f6.3 to the camera body the camera would refuse to auto focus. It isn't that it couldn't... it could do it (just not well.) But it wouldn't because the camera has logic built into it which says "if the lens has a max aperture smaller than f5.6 don't AF."

My reasoning (which may be flawed) is based on how you can use the 1.4TC with the 100-400L. If you cover 3 specific pins on the 1.4TC with tape (so they don't pass an electronic signal) and put it on the 100-400 it will still try to AF. It won't do it well, but with enough light it does work. Covering those pins stops the camera from knowing the TC is there and it thinks it's at f5.6 (at 400mm.)

I believe that if the 50-500 told the camera it was f6.3 it just wouldn't even try to AF.

The spec on the non-pro Canon cameras is not "you have to have less than an f8 aperture to AF." It says "f5.6 or larger aperture for AF." The first statement would mean that f6.3 would work and the second says it doesn't.

But in the end it really doesn't matter... either way, it's at f6.3 and the camera tries to AF if is "should" or "should not" is a different matter.

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Old Jun 8, 2005, 1:39 PM   #10
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Using either the 20D or the 350D, when I attach the100-400 F4.5-5.6I see the camera reportF4.5 as maximum aperture. And with my 28-135 F3.5-5.6 the cameras report F3.5. Seems to me the camera is accurately reporting what it is told. When I mount Bigma and zoom to 500mm, the camera says the aperture is F5.6.

Here's another point. If the 5.6 were a rounding issue, then the first click of the aperture wheel on the camera should make it jump to F7.1. Instead, the 1/3 stop differential is maintained all the way up the scale. At no point is there a jump to "actual", so the lens is lying to the camera all the way to F32.

Bigma was designed to "tell" the camera that is an F5.6 to trick the camera into enabling autofocus. The fact that it does autofocus so well with Bigma and even Bigma with a Tamron Std. 1.4x TC is a tribute to the Canon engineers' overdesign and underrating of its capabilities. And that has been my experience with the 300D, 20D, and 350D.

Now, if we could just get Wasia to hack some of our lenses--get the 28-135mm, for example,to report F2.8 and enable the camera's high precision autofocus!

Incidentally, eric s, I have both the Canon 1.4xII and the Tamron 1.4x. For some reason, the 100-400--with the taped pins on the Canon 1.4x--is a very unreliable autofocus machine, with lots of hunting and frequent lock in the wrong place. Yet with the $80 Tamron 1.4x, the autofocus is almost as though the TC were not there! It's kindof a headache later, when I'm reviewing images and don't have the proper focal length and aperture settings to determine whether a problem was the camera or my own incompetence. Same on those rare occasions when I have a particularly good shot and I wonder if the Tamron was there or not. I guess I could take notes, eh?

Happy focusing.

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