Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM [REVIEW] - Digital Photography School
Close
Close

Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM [REVIEW]

The Sigma 50-500mm is something of a specialty lens. I say this because, while a 10x zoom seems like a good investment, you really need to have a reason to pick up this hefty, useful tool. The price is moderate for quality glass but the size is something else. Here, take a look:

PeterWestCarey-CameraAwesomePhoto(1)

That’s the lens with hood attached. It’s a two piece hood which helps with packing, some. I’ll get to that.

Who is this lens for? Someone who:

  • Has decent strength (it weighs about 6lbs/2.7kg)
  • Has room in their bag (it’s big, see stats)
  • Wants an awesome range of zoom
  • Is thinking of going on safari in Africa
  • Has a tripod or monopod
  • Shoots sports in ample light

PeterWestCarey-CameraAwesomePhoto(4)

PeterWestCarey-CameraAwesomePhoto(5)

Specifications

PeterWestCarey-CameraAwesomePhoto(3)From Sigma’s site

  • Lens Construction – 22 Elements in 6 Groups
  • APO Tele Converter  -1.4X MF 2X MF
  • Angle of View – 46.8-5.0
  • Number of Diaphragm Blades -9
  • Minimum Aperture -f22
  • Minimum Focusing Distance – 50-180 cm / 19.7-70.9 in
  • Filter Size (mm) – 95
  • Maximum Magnifications – 1:3.1
  • Dimensions -(Diameter x Length) 104.4×219 mm/4.1×8.6 in
  • Weight – 1970g / 69.5oz.
  • Fits Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax

In Real Life

So the lens is big an impressive on the outside, but what is it like to use? First, the lens is big, have I mentioned that? Using a tripod or monopod will be advisable for most. I was silly and used the lens mostly handheld except for a few shots from a tripod. I often braced myself against something. Thankfully the lens comes with Optical Stabilization (the OS in the name) and it works fairly well.

PeterWestCarey-CameraAwesomePhotoThe lens is not cluttered with a lot that isn’t needed. On the side are switches for automatic/manual focus, different Optical Stabilization modes and one more switch to lock the barrel so it will not creep forward while being pointed down, such as when walking with the lens. The two rings control manual focus and focal length. The lens has a rear focusing element, meaning the barrel will not rotate when focusing. This helps when attaching filters to the long end of this monster. Speaking of filters, you will need a 95mm filter, although a step-down adapter to 86mm is available.

The lens comes with an attached lens mount which can be removed when the lens only when the lens is not attached to a camera. Otherwise, the mount can be rotated to a position above the lens and the formed top of the mount actually makes a decent carry handle (see image on left). While the collar moves easily and locks tightly, I would have liked a detent or two to know the lens is dead-on with a 90 degree angle.

As you can see from the image above, the lens is intimidating when looking straight down the barrel. The lens has 22 elements in 6 groups and that creates a lot of the weight. I was able to hand-hold the lens and camera (tested on a Canon 7D) for only short periods without bracing. I’m not a body builder, but I regularly hefty a Canon 28-300mm L lens and am used to shooting for hours with it. This lens is a step above in weight and was found on my shoulder often.

I found the focus speed to be adequate and once within range, it was fast. But with the range involved, it would often take a ‘while’ to get a lock. ‘While’ means there were a couple of times when I took over focus to speed up the process, especially if it missed the mark and then hunted all the way in the wrong direction. I was satisfied with the speed with which it locked on elk and other large targets and the rate at which it held focus on flying birds and planes.

Chromatic Aberration was present in what I found to be acceptable limits. It could be improved but I also know with this many elements and the range it covers, that is part of the compromise. Take a look at the samples below to judge for yourself. I was overall satisfied with the results. While I am not comparing it to a 500mm prime lens (which would be unfair) it is a lens I would like to own and I was not happy having to send it back to BorrowLenses.com.

The zoom function was quite smooth and my lens seemed to be fairly new, which would certainly have an influence. Along the barrel are minimum focus distance listings as well as magnification ratings. These are both useful to take guesswork out of certain aspects of shooting in a controlled manner. The manner in which they are laid out is also uncluttered.

On the downside for this lens are its size and weight. I have covered the weight but the size is also important. I use a f-stop Satori EXP as my main pack and for carting around this lens I used the large insert. Along with my Canon 7D with the Canon 28-300mm L lens attached, this lens was not the easiest to fit in along side this setup. The main reason was the diameter of the lens. It is wide and takes up just a bit more than normal space in a camera bag. It’s not a lot, but if a bag had two spaces, side by side, and you placed two of these lenses in, there would be friction. If your bag space is limited, see if you can borrow a copy to make sure it fits in with your set, so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Samples

All sample shots were shot handheld, except as noted. I have not edited the images to give an accurate representation of what came out of the camera. Click on each image to download a full size JPEG version (all images are Creative Commons Non-Commercial Copyright Peter West Carey). Photos were taken in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Langley, Washington; Everett, Washington and Point Reyes National Seashore, California.

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0306-3294

ISO 500, 413mm, f/6.3, 1/800

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2374

ISO 100, 500mm, f/7.1, 1/800

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2379

ISO 100, 500mm, f/7.1, 1/160

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2380

ISO 100, 500mm, f/7.1, 1/500

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2389

ISO 100, 413mm, f/10, 1/125

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2429

ISO 100, 203mm, f/29, 1/8

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2457

ISO 100, 287mm, f/32, 1/6

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2475

ISO 100, 500mm, f/6.3, 1/200

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2485

ISO 100, 500mm, f/20, 1/10

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2504

ISO 100, 75mm, f/11, 1/250

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2514

ISO 100, 500m, f/13, 1/40

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2548

ISO 100, 50mm, f/8, 1/800

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2562

ISO 100, 203mm, f/14, 1/1000

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2569

ISO 100, 500mm, f/14, 1/1000

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0228-2661

ISO 100, 500mm, f/6.3, 1/100

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0301-3226

ISO 100, 203mm, f/13, 1/200

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0301-3231

ISO 320, 373mm, f/6.3, 1/3200

PeterWestCarey-Sigma50-5002012-0306-3285

ISO 100, 50mm, f/5.6, 1/2000

PeterWestCarey-PointReyes-20120217-092800-0929

ISO 640, 500mm, f/9, 1/800 (Tripod used)

PeterWestCarey-PointReyes-20120217-080524-0717

ISO 100, 500mm, f/10, 1/200 (Tripod used)

Conclusion

The Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM is a capable lens that fits a niche. It’s not for everyone but if you shoot outside and are looking for a longer lens to capture wildlife or distant subjects, this lens is well worth your consideration. I enjoyed using the lens even when it was a drag on my shoulder. Life is compromise and I would gladly carry this lens if I knew I had the subjects to shoot with it.

My copy of the Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM was lent to me from BorrowLenses.com (Canon, Nikon & Sony mounts) for the purpose of writing this review.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Peter West Carey is a world traveling photographer who now is spending a large amount of time going back through 6 years of travel photo and processing them like he should have to start with. He is also helping others learn about photography with the free series 31+ Days Of Photography Experiments which builds off of the 31+ Days To Better Photography series on his blog.

  • http://www.zibri.org Zibri

    Very nice! But Sigma 70-300 APO DG MACRO costs 300 dollars and 1500 for this lens seems a bit too much.

  • Tim

    I bought one of these as a wedding present to myself last year and it has been great for wildlife.
    I use mine quite regularly handheld and you do get used to the weight of it (the OS is very useful at times though).

    If you go this same route I recommend using a sling attached to the tripod mount of the lens and have it slung to one side of the waist with the weight on a shoulder (eg Black Rapid RS-7 style.. I’ve created a DIY style one that does the job rather nicely for £6) – in this configuration I am able to carry the weight on long walks etc but have the camera rapidly to hand.

  • http://www.newearthonline.co.uk Dave P

    I’ve got the sigma 150-500mm, not quite the same range as this, but still a very capable (and imo awesome) lens :)

  • http://www.jaicatalano.com Jai Catalano

    Nice review. I don’t need it but good nonetheless.

  • http://oni-studio-photography.com Victoria – Washington Boudoir Photographer

    I’ve never owned a Sigma before but always heard good things, the picture the lens took of the moon is amazing!

  • http://www.kbaileyphoto.com Kyle Bailey

    I used to own the previous 50-500 and loved it but did not use it enough to keep it. This one with OS would be more useful – perhaps on my to buy list for 2013.

  • http://www.earthandsky.eu K

    Great review. I currently use a canon zoom lens, it is great for photographing things like the moon as well as other astronomical objects. However for most photography I use a wide angle lens.

  • Dylan

    Why isn’t this published under Cameras and equipment? Just curious.

  • http://ellenikphotography.com.au nick hayes

    I own a sigma 120-300 f2:8, not sure how it stands up against the 50-500 but i have found the image quality and feel to be really quite good, where this particular lens fails is in focussing accuracy , it tends to be hit and miss especially if areas around the point of focus are moving, i.e. surf photography, the lens tends to hunt and focus in the wrong area, if sigma can nail this problem they will have one heck of a great lens

  • Marco

    I started out with the Sigma 70-300mm APO DG Macro a few years ago and found it was not long enough, so I stepped into a Tamron 200-400mm that had more reach. I still was not satisfied so I bit the bullet and bought the Canon 100-400mm L lens. This has been my primary lens for a couple of years now. What I found was that the Sigma was very good for the price, but it and the Tamron both often had color casts to the images and the colors were “muddy” to my eyes. I am seeing the same thing here in your images. It really is not fair to compare the Canon to the others except to point out that if price is no object, you can do better. The Sigma cost $209 US, the Tamron cost $299 US and the Canon L series was $1599 US, so it seems you do get what you pay for in most cases. While I really want a 500mm lens, I cannot justify $1500 for a lens that muddies the colors and has all of the other issues you mentioned like size and weight. I will just have to save up longer to get the Canon 500mm prime which is a whole other price step at $7,000 to $10,000 US.

  • http://mohrphotos.smugmug.com Bobl Mohr

    I rented this lens for a recent trip to Miami, FL.. I chose this model because I did not want to carry a tripod, it got good reviews, has a relatively low rental cost, and to determine if I should buy one. As recommended, I shot everything at f8 and varied the ISO. All shots were handheld, but I did not have the opportunity to determine the focus speed on BIF.
    I was so pleased with the results that I am going to buy one.
    I recommend this lens if you can’t afford a 500mm f4 VR

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/frankjkautz2/collections/ Frank

    I just bought one of these lenses last Saturday night. Things have conspired to keep me from getting out with it this week, so I am looking forward to going out and playing with it on Saturday. Thank you for the review!

    Frank

  • http://www.normhamilton.ca Norm Hamilton

    Just thought I’d mention that it comes in a Sigma mount as well. :-)
    Hoping to get one soon.
    Norm

  • Justin

    After reading this review, and wanting a better zoom lens than the cheap one that came in my camera kit, I went ahead and ordered one. Then I tried to find a filter for it locally. Unfortunately, there is no place that I can find near where I live that carries a 95mm filter, so i had to order those too. I’ve played around with it a bit without a filter, but i’m wondering, if using the hood extender, should i attach the filter directly to the lens or attach it to the extender where the lens cap fits in?

  • http://www.friendsofsnakes.org.in Durga Partha Sarathi

    Hi, i am planning to buy Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM. Please post a review about this Lens so that i can compare with Sigma 50-500mm and pick the best one.

    I am using Cannon Rebel T2i with 18-135mm Lens.

  • http://howtotechguru.com/ Ravindra

    I use Nikon D600 and and have recently purchased 14-24mm FX lens which I used when I went to Himalayan trekking near Kashmir in India. Now I want to buy a zoom lens and not ready to spend much on it ;) I like Nikon 80-400mm.. but I also, like Sigma 50-500mm and 150-500mm. People recommend me to go for 150-500 than 50-500mm.. still confused. Thanks for the above information and also for the sample images.

  • marco

    Thanks for the great post. I have this exact setup that I bought on Recycle Planet. I am loving it!
    https://www.recycle-planet.com/en/auto-focus-lenses/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&category=2084261682&q=sigma+500mm

  • Rahul

    @Ravindra, If you are willing to sacrifice 80mm on the long end, you can opt for NIKON AFS 300mm f4 with TC14-E teleconverter getting effective 420mm. Its faster and optically better than the sigma

  • Charles

    Sorry not impressed with the deer photo, rather would stalk it and feel my 400 mm prime Canon lens would do a better job. Even if I had to crop it.

  • Detah

    Well you shouldn’t be impressed with the deer photo, since there isn’t a single photo of deer. Those would happen to be wapiti or elk as they are commonly called. So, if your knowledge of camera lenses is as impressive as your knowledge of wildlife your opinion is totally useless.

Some older comments

  • Ravindra

    October 2, 2013 09:39 pm

    I use Nikon D600 and and have recently purchased 14-24mm FX lens which I used when I went to Himalayan trekking near Kashmir in India. Now I want to buy a zoom lens and not ready to spend much on it ;) I like Nikon 80-400mm.. but I also, like Sigma 50-500mm and 150-500mm. People recommend me to go for 150-500 than 50-500mm.. still confused. Thanks for the above information and also for the sample images.

  • Durga Partha Sarathi

    October 26, 2012 06:51 am

    Hi, i am planning to buy Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM. Please post a review about this Lens so that i can compare with Sigma 50-500mm and pick the best one.

    I am using Cannon Rebel T2i with 18-135mm Lens.

  • Justin

    April 16, 2012 09:40 pm

    After reading this review, and wanting a better zoom lens than the cheap one that came in my camera kit, I went ahead and ordered one. Then I tried to find a filter for it locally. Unfortunately, there is no place that I can find near where I live that carries a 95mm filter, so i had to order those too. I've played around with it a bit without a filter, but i'm wondering, if using the hood extender, should i attach the filter directly to the lens or attach it to the extender where the lens cap fits in?

  • Norm Hamilton

    April 9, 2012 06:07 am

    Just thought I'd mention that it comes in a Sigma mount as well. :-)
    Hoping to get one soon.
    Norm

  • Frank

    March 17, 2012 05:57 am

    I just bought one of these lenses last Saturday night. Things have conspired to keep me from getting out with it this week, so I am looking forward to going out and playing with it on Saturday. Thank you for the review!

    Frank

  • Bobl Mohr

    March 17, 2012 03:25 am

    I rented this lens for a recent trip to Miami, FL.. I chose this model because I did not want to carry a tripod, it got good reviews, has a relatively low rental cost, and to determine if I should buy one. As recommended, I shot everything at f8 and varied the ISO. All shots were handheld, but I did not have the opportunity to determine the focus speed on BIF.
    I was so pleased with the results that I am going to buy one.
    I recommend this lens if you can't afford a 500mm f4 VR

  • Marco

    March 17, 2012 03:07 am

    I started out with the Sigma 70-300mm APO DG Macro a few years ago and found it was not long enough, so I stepped into a Tamron 200-400mm that had more reach. I still was not satisfied so I bit the bullet and bought the Canon 100-400mm L lens. This has been my primary lens for a couple of years now. What I found was that the Sigma was very good for the price, but it and the Tamron both often had color casts to the images and the colors were "muddy" to my eyes. I am seeing the same thing here in your images. It really is not fair to compare the Canon to the others except to point out that if price is no object, you can do better. The Sigma cost $209 US, the Tamron cost $299 US and the Canon L series was $1599 US, so it seems you do get what you pay for in most cases. While I really want a 500mm lens, I cannot justify $1500 for a lens that muddies the colors and has all of the other issues you mentioned like size and weight. I will just have to save up longer to get the Canon 500mm prime which is a whole other price step at $7,000 to $10,000 US.

  • nick hayes

    March 16, 2012 10:51 am

    I own a sigma 120-300 f2:8, not sure how it stands up against the 50-500 but i have found the image quality and feel to be really quite good, where this particular lens fails is in focussing accuracy , it tends to be hit and miss especially if areas around the point of focus are moving, i.e. surf photography, the lens tends to hunt and focus in the wrong area, if sigma can nail this problem they will have one heck of a great lens

  • Dylan

    March 15, 2012 06:45 am

    Why isn't this published under Cameras and equipment? Just curious.

  • K

    March 14, 2012 11:53 pm

    Great review. I currently use a canon zoom lens, it is great for photographing things like the moon as well as other astronomical objects. However for most photography I use a wide angle lens.

  • Kyle Bailey

    March 14, 2012 12:17 pm

    I used to own the previous 50-500 and loved it but did not use it enough to keep it. This one with OS would be more useful - perhaps on my to buy list for 2013.

  • Victoria - Washington Boudoir Photographer

    March 14, 2012 12:05 pm

    I've never owned a Sigma before but always heard good things, the picture the lens took of the moon is amazing!

  • Jai Catalano

    March 14, 2012 12:04 pm

    Nice review. I don't need it but good nonetheless.

  • Dave P

    March 14, 2012 08:10 am

    I've got the sigma 150-500mm, not quite the same range as this, but still a very capable (and imo awesome) lens :)

  • Tim

    March 14, 2012 06:27 am

    I bought one of these as a wedding present to myself last year and it has been great for wildlife.
    I use mine quite regularly handheld and you do get used to the weight of it (the OS is very useful at times though).

    If you go this same route I recommend using a sling attached to the tripod mount of the lens and have it slung to one side of the waist with the weight on a shoulder (eg Black Rapid RS-7 style.. I've created a DIY style one that does the job rather nicely for £6) - in this configuration I am able to carry the weight on long walks etc but have the camera rapidly to hand.

  • Zibri

    March 14, 2012 06:24 am

    Very nice! But Sigma 70-300 APO DG MACRO costs 300 dollars and 1500 for this lens seems a bit too much.

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed