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Nikon 500mm VR or Sigma 500mm?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by dond, Jul 26, 2009.

  1. I know this has been discussed before, and there's a difference of about $3500 between the lenses. However, I need some help on making a decision. I have the money to buy the Nikon lens. Not sure on whether I need it, as I have a Nikon 200-400 zoom, but always seem to want a bit more reach.

    I'll be traveling to Ecuador In Feb. 2010, specifically for hummers and other birds, and was wondering if taking a 200-400 and 500 is overkill??? I'll be using D300 bodies.

    It's been posted here before about the "value" of the sigma lens and that it's quite sharp. I have looked at the post about the 500mm lens photos, and I swear everytime I see photos posted from that lens, I tend to drool all over my keyboard.

    Any help is appreciated, as well on where to buy the lens, as most dealers seem to have it on backorder. What about USA vs. import??

    Thanks, Don

  2. jonathan has great success with the sigma
    you already know about the nikon
  3. DW Brewer

    DW Brewer Guest

    There are not a lot of good used Sigma 500 f4.5 HSM lenses available, because most people who have one do not intend to part with it. I know it will be a cold day in you-know-where before I part with mine. I scored a fantastic bargain on mine (as did Jim Thiele) when Adorama was "dumping" the older non-DG models to make way for the newer DG models (at the newer price). So mine was bought new for $3000; best $3000 i've ever spent.
  4. The Sigma is an excellent lens. Quality control seems pretty good on the lens, if you read the Fred Miranda reviews, people are quite happy with the lens. Mine has seen it's share of field use and it's still holding up quite strongly.

    My particular copy is sharper than my 200-400 VR even wide open. I have no qualms shooting this lens wide open if need be. Making use of the limiter switch is the best way to gain the optimal focusing speed. I have a modded Nikon 1.4 TC, but I don't use it often. It works, but not great on focus tracking.

    If I were you and want the best price on this lens, you better start watching ebay. I've seen several clean, mint copies sell for under 3 grand. I've compared my lens to the Nikon 500 AFS-I/II lenses, and I cannot tell much difference in image quality. VR/OS would be nice, but this lens responds to proper technique and delivers.

    Pros - Smallest, most compact 500 and best price value (mine fits perfectly in my carry-on luggage case)

    Cons - Sigma finish is weak Lenscoat recommended, hood has very weak screw mount, f/4.5 aperture limits TC use
  5. Hi Jonathan...

    On this one aspect, I don't think I'd be too concerned. For example, with my 200-400 f/4 AF-S VR, I regularly use the TC-17E converter. That gives me a "net" f/6.8 (not counting Health Care Reform math. :eek:  )

    Now, the Sigma 500 with its f/4.5 and a 1.4 converter mounted comes in at a "net" f/6.3.

    So, we're kinda' looking at a slight advantage for the Sigma in net aperture (f/6.8 vs. f/6.3). Since I regularly use the 200-400 with TC-17 in very good light, I generally (rarely) have problems such as "hunting," etc. And, so I would think, the Sigma 500 should be just as good regarding AF as the Nikon, but in never having used or even seen the Sigma, I guess I just can't say for sure.

    I do know that if I ever felt I needed that focal length, I wouldn't for a moment hesitate going for the Sigma although it's probably the only Sigma I'd ever consider buying. I guess I'm just far too happy and content with the Nikon glass I have and I find the remainder of the Sigma lens line-up to be unimpressive and far too prone to QC issues.
  6. It's the Achilles Heel of the Sigma f/4.5 aperture, using TCs just doesn't work that well. I have the 200-400 VR and the 1.7 as well, and that combo still works better than the 500 and modded Nikon 1.4 TC. I'm not saying it's bad, it's fine for stationary objects and using proper lens support. Image quality is also satisfactory. But when trying to focus with pinpoint accuracy and far off subjects, a native f/4 aperture will work better.

    Also worth noting I've been getting errors using the Sigma 500 and Nikon 1.4 TC with a D3. No problems with the D700 and will need to test with the D300.

    For those looking to buy the Sigma 500, buy into it knowing it's limitations. There is no question though that lens is tack sharp :smile:

  7. + 1 on that :smile:

    I sometimes wish I had not sold mine :mad: 

  8. If you intend to use TC's (and use AF with these, I'd think about the Nikon). Although I have a modified Nikon TC that works with the Sigma, focussing is mostly slow due to AF stuttering.
    I first thought is was due to the loss of light, but f4 vs f4.5 isn't such a big difference. After having such issues also on good light and knowing how well the AF itself performs in low light, my conclusion is that there is some software/firmware incompatiblities/shortcomings between camera/TC/lens which results in that stuttering AF using the TC.
    At least Sigma didn't intend to use AF with a TC at all with that lens, so that may explain that also.

    I have a pre-DG version of the lens, so I don't know if the DG version behaves the same.

    With the lens itself I'm quite happy. For use with a TC and AF, I sometimes wish I had the Nikkor.
  9. Have you given thought to just renting the lens since youre not sure that you need it?
  10. Actually, I have thought about just renting the lens. That may be another way to go in the interim.

    I found a seller in Canada who has a Nikon 500mm VR for sale. He says it has a 1 yr. international warranty and a 3 year Canadian warranty, but would prefer one with a USA warranty. Guess if something goes wrong, I'll need to send it to Canada to get fixed????
  11. DW Brewer

    DW Brewer Guest

    Interesting discussion about the Sigma lens and the modified Nikon 1.4TC. I use a Kenko Pro 300 1.4 TC with my Sigma 500 f4.5 and don't have near the problems you all are reporting. The Kenko doesn't report the EXIF data correctly, but the AF is okay. Not a problem in my book.
  12. Have you tried the Nikon? It is noticeably better. I also have the Kenko and a taped Sigma 1.4, the Nikon 1.4 is by far the best in terms of image quality.
  13. If the price is right go for it. I think people really get hung up on warranty issues here. If you can prove you purchased it in Canada, you can still have the lens serviced state side under warranty. Worst case scenario, if the lens starts acting up general lens service is about $200-250 and major physical damage type repairs are about $500 (impact damage).

    Nikon Repair will even repair gray market, it's not some sort of deathly situation buying international.
  14. That is interesting because that Kenko was the TC I tried initially since it wouldn't have needed any modification. However with the Kenko it didn't focus at all. A few little twitches, that was all. That, however, with the non-DG version of the Sigma. Is yours the DG version? Maybe they improved the firmware in between.
  15. I bit the bullet!!! Bought a Nikon 500mm AF-S F4 VRII lens this morning on ebay. A tad over $7800 for a brand new lens. Was shipped out this afternoon by FedEx. Hope to have it in a few days and do some testing :D 
  16. mike367


    Mar 22, 2008
    Congrats Don, enjoy it. Mike
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