Sigma 170-500 or 50-500

Discussion in 'Australia Photography' started by 2morrow is another day, Jun 10, 2005.

  1. Sigma 170-500 or 50-500

    I am pondering whether to purchase one of these lens for my Canon 10D
    (hopefully a 20D soon) and was wondering what people thought of them if
    they own either one.

    I already have a Canon 28-135 so I am sort of heading toward the 170-500
    although it is a td slower than the 50-500...but $500 cheaper.

    Good lens ????

    Which One ????
    2morrow is another day, Jun 10, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  2. 2morrow is another day

    unners Guest

    from all reports the 50-500 is a much better lens. haven't used either
    myself but the 170-500 and the xxx-400 lenses are supposed to be crap.

    best to check for yourself though.
    unners, Jun 10, 2005
    1. Advertisements

  3. The 170~500 require you to ballast yourself above the shoulders.
    Simple way to do this is to have rocks in your head as anyone who buys one
    must surely have.

    The 50~500 is quite slow and often dark (as in poor contrast) lens but at
    least it will focus from one extreme to the other in a time slightly less
    than is needed for the dog to get up and leave the room so you shoot only
    the wall! Mileage varies, always wear safety gear when hand holding long
    lenses to avoid the high notes as it swivels down.

    [email protected], Jun 10, 2005
  4. 2morrow is another day

    endeavour53 Guest

    It's interesting to see some comments that are posted. I wonder if
    they have even seen one, let alone used one.

    I bought the 170-500mm at a stage when I was uncertain where to go
    from my 2.8 70-200L series lens on my 10D. I needed something much
    longer but wasn't prepared to shell out lots of dollars for something
    I was unsure about. I picked it up in mint condition on eBay for $475.
    I used it extensively on one day at Calder Park raceway and was
    absolutely delighted with the results. I was initially sceptical as to
    how it would perform, however the only problems in shots are due to
    user, not the gear.

    It is not quite as fast to focus as a Canon USM lens, but is certainly
    not slow. Most of the shots I took were around the 6.5 - 9.5 aperture
    and I would say they are as sharp as anything else I own, which is
    mainly L-series glass. Of course, you need a tripod, or a monopod as I

    I have no experience of the 50-500, but have always tried to steer
    clear of zooms with a large zoom range (10x) as they are never as
    sharp as an equivalent lens with a much lesser zoom range.

    If you want to get yourself a really great lens, then go for the Canon
    100-400 IS, which is what the Sigma 170-500 helped me make the
    decision on. It will complement your 28-135 nicely. Only problem is
    that they are big bucks. That was my compromise as the Sigma 300-800
    at $10,000+ was way out of my price range.

    Have a look on eBay for the Sigma 170-500. They pop up from time to
    time, and like me, I'm sure you won't be disappointed with your
    results, particularly considering the price you are likely to get the
    lens for.
    endeavour53, Jun 11, 2005
  5. 2morrow is another day

    endeavour53 Guest

    Further to my last post, I have just looked at a comprehensive lens
    rating chart that I have. The Sigma 50-500 definitely rates better
    than the Sigma 170-500, which despite the big zoom range, the 50-500
    is a much better spec lens to start off with. It is of course my
    expensive as well as you stated.
    endeavour53, Jun 11, 2005
  6. I agree with endeavour, go for a 100-400L instead.

    I had a whirl with a mates 170-500 and the Canon lens is superior IMO. It'll
    cost you a bit more, but well worth it.

    Works out around $2300 if you import if from the likes of B&H including
    shipping, GST and Customs Fees..


    John Tavendale, Jun 11, 2005
  7. 2morrow is another day

    macropod Guest


    I've used a Sigma 50-500 for a couple of years now, and find it
    fast-focussing, reliable and sharp. Good contrast too. Great for wildlife -
    even handheld (which you often need to do for birds) its not too slow if
    you're careful. While neither of the lenses you mention is as fast as some
    of the prime OEM offerings, both only cost a fraction of what you'd be
    charged for the OEM gear while the 50-500, at least, is capable of
    delivering results that are every bit as good in almost every situation. I
    hear there's now a digital (DG) version of the 50-500, which is the same as
    mine except for the addition of some extra lens coatings to reduce flare
    that might be caused by reflections from digital chips.

    In your post you mention the 50-500 having faster optics (f4-6.3) than the
    170-500 (f5-6.3). I think you'll find the 50-500's only faster below 150mm,
    otherwise they're about the same. The 50-500 does have the HSM electronics,
    though, which makes it quieter and faster-focussing than the 170-500. The
    50-500 is also better built and is more versatile, but it weighs more and
    costs more too. Note: If you purchase over the net (eg (where
    I bought mine) or some of the other eBay retailers), you can save a bundle
    and get Sigma's 1-year international warranty (i.e. valid in Australia).

    You can read in independent review at LoneStar Digital:
    and you can see a variety of user reviews of the 50-500 and 170-500 at
    Photography Review. The Photography Review web addresses are:
    respectively (URLs all one line).

    macropod, Jun 11, 2005
  8. Yes, Ebay is the place all right. I've sold all my Sigma glass on Ebay and
    gotten a much better price than from the dealers I tried to trade it in on.

    [email protected], Jun 11, 2005
  9. Interesting comment.
    I recently sold the last of my Sigma (Canon mount) lenses. The last to go
    was a 100~300 f4 I felt it could take a sharp picture right enough and the
    colour and contrast was good but it fell down in the tracking focus and
    ability to grasp focus on small, moving objects. The fellow who bought it
    was extremely pleased with it.

    My all time favourite Sigma lens was the 120~300 f2.8. Sadly the polariser I
    bought for it cost nearly $200 and any filter was going to be expensive due
    to the saucer size front element. This lens was also sharp and clear but
    disappointed me in it's actually usability. I had to send it back to Hong
    Kong when a few weeks old to get the zoom ring fixed. It froze solid. It too
    had very poor motion tracking ability. Certainly not focusing fast enough to
    keep a race car heading towards you in focus.

    The 50~500 I bought in 2002 was a real shocker. Any shots into the sun
    produced chromatic aberrations on the edges of a subject. It's focus motor
    was just able to hold tracking on the body of a closing pelican but not on
    it's head. Absolutely an F8 shooter. Any larger and the CA's came into it.
    I'd rate this one about 6 out of 10. Definitely the worst Sigma lens I ever
    owned yet the guy who bought it went shooting surfers and loves it.

    I have now replaced all the Sigma lenses I bought to save money when I moved
    from medium format to digital. At the time I saved about $8000. I knew this
    would happen but the extra 8K I didn't have. That is the only compelling
    reason I could offer for buying another Sigma lens -- not enough to afford
    the real thing.

    A 70~200 f2.8 or even an f4 version Canon lens with a 2x multiplier is much
    more usable than any Sigma lens in the same range. The focus motor is silent
    (don't spook birds) and the tracking of the lens on moving objects is just
    superb. No aberrations worth mentioning and it matches Canon cameras
    perfectly. With careful buying you could get an outfit like this for just a
    tad over $2000 and never need to ask: what if I had gotten the real thing?

    [email protected], Jun 11, 2005
  10. Thanks for all the input one and all.

    It has been interesting to say the least. Still, it has left me with a
    dilemma...I think I better save for a Canon 100-400 after a little more
    research completed.
    2morrow is another day, Jun 11, 2005
  11. 2morrow is another day

    macropod Guest


    The Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 L IS USM is undoubtedly a nice lens. At
    400mm it's probably about as fast as the Sigma AF 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX at
    400mm, so you're not going to be gaining anything in speed. The Canon also
    has the advantage of IS, but has a shorter focal length and costs at least
    50% more. The canon also cops a bit of flak for its push/pull zoom, which
    make it easy to get dust inside the lens.

    For the price of the Canon you could get two Sigma AF 135-400mm f4.5-5.6 APO
    lenses, and still have money left over. As an alternative to the Canon, you
    might also consider the new Sigma APO 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 EX OS, which pretty
    much matches the Canon's specs and will save you at least $1,000.

    PhotographyReview has user reviews of the Canon 100-400 and Sigma 80-400
    lenses at:
    respectively. Again, URLs all one line.

    If you're really concerned (as you should be) about possible differences in
    image quality, focus speed & accuracy, hire each of the lenses you're
    thinking of, then go out and take some test shots and see what results you
    get. Just be sure to use a tripod unless you've mastered hand-held 400mm+
    telephoto shots.

    macropod, Jun 12, 2005
  12. Thankyou Macropod.

    the Sigma 80-400 was not an option I was looking at, but I think you
    have changed my mind. Now I just have to find a good price for it.

    Thanks again and I will post when I get one with my opinion.
    2morrow is another day, Jun 12, 2005
  13. 2morrow is another day

    macropod Guest

    macropod, Jun 13, 2005
  14. 2morrow is another day

    macropod Guest

    Hi Douglas,

    I'm curious about your chromatic aberration and slow focussing experience
    with the Sigma 50-500. This certainly goes against my experience, and that
    of any review I've read. See, for example:

    Also, you seem to suggest that stopping down to f8 cleared up the chromatic
    aberrations. However, chromatic aberration isn't a function of aperture, so
    it should have been there whether you used the lens wide open or stopped
    down. The other possibility is that you were seeing the effect of UV light,
    which tends to soften images. Were you using a UV filter? I ask that because
    aberrations are stronger at the UV end of the scale with any lens and could
    cause the effect you saw.

    macropod, Jun 13, 2005
  15. I suppose it escaped you that pictures on that site claimed to be from a
    50~500 Sigma have CA and vignetting? They also exhibit sever colour
    degradation. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and consider that is a
    possibility of poor processing post shoot.

    But then such a concession raises the spectre that if their photography and
    processing is this bad, how reliable are their statements? The Sigma 50~500
    is a very poor tracking lens in servo mode. This could be because of a
    number of things but I really don't care what causes it, I now get fast
    tracking with Canon lenses. For me that's worth the extra cost.

    CA can be produced by flair which itself can be reduced at smaller F stops.
    For some reason I never could define, all the Sigma lenses I once owned
    produced Chromatic Aberrations at some time which my Canon lenses do not. I
    always thought APO lenses were supposed to prevent this.

    [email protected], Jun 13, 2005
  16. 2morrow is another day

    macropod Guest

    Hi Douglas,

    Re you comment:
    "I suppose it escaped you that pictures on that site claimed to be from a
    50~500 Sigma have CA and vignetting?"

    I can't see any evidence of CA in the images there, but given the images are
    low-res and mostly cropped jpegs, whose to say what's CA, what's bokeh and
    what's jpeg artifact. In any event, saying the review found CA makes a
    mockery of the statement:
    "Frankly we were very happy with the images. The were sharp and contrasty
    with good color saturation and no signs of color fringing when examined with
    a 22x loupe on a light table. Subsequent 13x19 prints confirmed these
    initial impressions."

    I'm not saying your lens didn't perform as you described it, but it's odd
    that the person you sold it to "loves it". Maybe you just had a mis-match
    between camera and lens. After all, lenses and camera bodies from all
    manufacturers are made to fit within a set of tolerances. If your camera
    body was at one end and the lens was at the other end, the combination could
    give poor results. Then again, maybe someone dropped your lens before you
    got it.

    At the other extreme, someone will get a combination that performs
    exceptionally well. Most of us, though, will just have to settle for
    excellent results.

    Frankly, if mine performed as you describe, I would have returned it under

    Ultimately, Gary is going to have to make his own decision. Trying before
    buying, as I suggested, should help him decide which of the plethora of
    lenses out there will give him the best value.

    macropod, Jun 13, 2005
  17. Just too many to choose from....arrrggghhhh!!!

    2morrow is another day, Jun 13, 2005
  18. Well that just about covers ever possible reason I found the lenses not up
    to what I expected. Statements like yours and that web site's were what led
    me to ignore advice from seasoned Professionals who had travelled the same
    path before me and buy the lenses anyway.

    I could agree with you that maybe the camera was at fault if there were only
    one body used but I have 5 canon bodies and all produced the (relatively)
    same results. I could agree with you too that such results warrant returning
    the lenses for warranty service. One of them was and the response from C.R.
    Kennedy's service department:

    "You can't expect an autofocus lens to be perfect all the time, these lenses
    work well in most circumstances and this one is within factory
    specifications - you should have your camera checked to make sure it is
    focusing on the point of focus. Our experience is that most focus issues are
    camera related". Nice huh?

    Canon's service report:
    One of the 20D's was focusing marginally past the point of focus. We
    re-calibrated the camera.
    The 1D Mk II has no focus issues.
    The EOS 1V has no focus issues however we attended to.... Blah, blah.

    It seems Macro that you and I have different expectations and goals. Perhaps
    you are happy with a lesser percentage of correctly focused and CA free
    images than I am? Maybe you don't take many photos of backlit birds in
    flight or high speed cars coming out of the sun? Whatever it is, My
    requirements are just that. If a lens doesn't meet them, I get rid if it, as
    I did with all the Sigma glass I bought in the last 2 years. If it means
    anything, I don't now look a zoom lenses as being in any way, shape or form,
    able to capture and image equal to a prime lens.

    [email protected], Jun 13, 2005
  19. 2morrow is another day

    macropod Guest

    Well, if you want to compare the Sigma's performance against a Canon 500mm
    f/4.5L USM, let's just remember that the Canon costs 8 times as much!!

    It might also pay to remember that Gary was after advice about the relative
    merits of various (Sigma) zooms ...
    macropod, Jun 13, 2005
  20. 2morrow is another day

    werdan Guest

    Don't you just love that?

    Q. Which is a better conductor, Aluminium or Copper?
    A. Oh gold just shits on both of them!

    Thank you Donald Trump! :)
    werdan, Jun 13, 2005
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.