Part 4 of Sigma 150-600 S Review: Performance with Sigma 1401 and 2001 Teleconverters

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onasj Forum Member • Posts: 91
Part 4 of Sigma 150-600 S Review: Performance with Sigma 1401 and 2001 Teleconverters
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This article is Part 4 of my Sigma 150-600 S review. The previous parts of the review can be found here:

Part 1: General impressions: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/54669115

Part 2: Performance at close subject distances: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/54676669

Part 3: Performance at long subject distances: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/54694447

Part 4: Performance with the 1.4x Sigma TC-1401 and with the 2.0x Sigma TC-2001 teleconverters

I recently received my Sigma TC-1401 and TC-2001 teleconverters.

1) The TCs are packaged beautifully in small white boxes, with wonderful small black nylon zip-around cylindrical padded cases for each TC. The outer dimensions of the black cases are identical, but the case for the shorter 1.4x TC has a larger base cushion so the fit is ideal (i.e., slightly snug) for both cases. Bravo Sigma; these are much nicer cases than the cloth bags provided with the Nikon TCs.

2) The TCs handle and mount just like the current generation (eIII) Nikon equivalents. They seem well-built, and sturdy. Based on their heat conduction and weight I suspect they are mostly or entirely metal. The mounts are metal.

3) You CANNOT stack the Sigma TC-1401 and the Sigma TC-2001, in either order. In fact if you try, the front and rear elements of the two TCs will collide. So don't try Yes, that's the sound of your 1680-mm dreams crashing and burning in the swamp. Don't worry, you would have needed a small star to illuminate your target at 1680 mm f/19 (which would be a wide open 600+both TCs) anyway.

4) Both TCs perform very, very well overall. In fact I think the TC-2001 might be better than the Nikon TC-20eiii, which is already very good. And the TC-1401 seems to only barely degrade performance even wide open, similar to the outstanding Nikon TC-14eiii.

5) The Sigma 150-600 S + TC-1401 when shot at 600 mm creates EXIF data that lists the focal length at 850 mm (not 840 mm). I'm fairly sure that 600 x 1.4 = 840, so either the TC is actually a 1.42x teleconverter, or it's not accurately reporting information to the body. Other than that, the lens + TC combinations report data as expected to my D810.  New AF fine tune "slots" are created by the D810 for the 150-600+TC-1401 and for the 150-600+TC-2001 combinations, just as with the Nikon lens + TC combinations.

6) In a major pleasant surprise, the 150-600 + TC-2001 autofocuses just fine in Live View (but not using the viewfinder), despite Sigma's spec sheets stating at this combination with not autofocus. The 150-600 + TC-1401 autofocuses just fine either way (in fact for my copies the viewfinder AF seems to result in slightly sharper images than live view AF, for reasons that I don't understand).

6) Testing methodology: Nikon D810, two Nikon SB-910 speed lights illuminating the targets, 150-600 S carefully AF finetuned as described in Part I of my review, sturdy carbon fiber tripod, VR off, AF-S, remote trigger of shutter with 3-second exposure delay to minimize vibration, shooting at 40 feet distance from the subject. Images were shot as 14-bit lossless compressed raw (NEF) files, then converted to JPG at highest quality settings using ViewNX2 and default settings. No sharpening, beyond what ViewNX2 might do with its default settings, was applied. I shot the Focal target (printed on a crappy inkjet printer so the fading of the black rectangles is the fault of the printer, not the lens) in the center, left edge, and right edge of the frame, as well as a very cooperative bird. So cooperative that the bird sat in the exact same place inside my warm home even while it's dark and freezing outside. Fine, it might be a carved wooden bird, but it's an unusually finely carved one (see pictures below). But this bird lets us directly A/B compare different lenses and settings, which a real bird would not. Plus it's dark outside. And freezing.  The targets were shot at ISO 400.  The birds were shot at ISO 64.

Results:

A) Focal target, 150-600 S at 600 mm + TC-1401 ("850" mm), wide open (f/9), center of frame, then left edge, then right edge. All images below are 100% crops. Again, the fading of the black rectangular shapes at their bottom edges is the fault of my inkjet printer, not the lenses.

850 mm, f/9, center

850 mm, f/9, left edge

850 mm, f/9, right edge

The performance of the TC-1401 is very good, and if you compare with the images taken wide open in part III of my review you'll notice only a small degradation of image quality.

B) Focal target, 150-600 S at 600 mm + TC-2001 (1200 mm), wide open (f/13), center of frame, then left edge, then right edge. All images below are 100% crops. Again, the fading of the black rectangular shapes at their bottom edges is the fault of my inkjet printer, not the lenses.

1200 mm, f/13, center

1200 mm, f/13, left edge

1200 mm, f/13, right edge

I consider these results to be excellent. Maybe even superb. After all, these are 100% crops of a 36 MP image shot at 1200 mm! They are sharper and more free of CA or other optical defects than I could have hoped for.

C) Comparison of 150-600 S at 300 mm + TC-2001 (600 mm effective focal length) versus 150-600 S at 600 mm with no TC. Wide open for both (f/11 versus f/6.3). Left is the 300 + TC-2001; right is the 600 w/o TC:

300 mm + TC-2001 = 600 mm f/11 (left); 600 mm, f/6.3 (right)

The 600 mm without TC wins, of course, but not by much. Sorry for the different WB-- my earlier tests bounced the speedlights off the ceilings and walls, which tinted the lighting a bit; today's tests used more direct lighting, which is whiter.

D) (Wooden) bird in the center of the frame, wide open, 850 mm f/9 or 1200 mm f/13, AF with viewfinder for 850 mm, AF with Live View for 1200 mm. The distance of the eye of the bird to the tip of its beak is 1". The bird was shot at a distance of 37 feet. All images below are 100% crops.

850 mm, f/9, center

1200 mm, f/13, center

My first impressions were something like "these images are sharper than a 850 or 1200 mm wide-open image has any right to be". Now that I'm somewhat calmer, I think they are just very, very good.

E) (Wooden) bird in the center of the frame, stopped down 2/3 of a stop, 850 mm f/11 or 1200 mm f/16, AF with viewfinder for 850 mm, AF with Live View for 1200 mm. The distance of the eye of the bird to the tip of its beak is 1". The bird was shot at a distance of 37 feet. All images below are 100% crops, except the last image which shows the full frame.

850 mm, f/11, center

1200 mm, f/16, center

Entire frame, 1200 mm, f/16 (not a crop).  The bird is about 4" long from the tip of the beak to its tail.

Stopping down seems to yield more detail, though I suspect diffraction on the D810 sensor at these apertures may be limiting acuity here.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the performance of the 150-600 S + TC-1401 or TC-2001. Keep in mind that these 100% crops show only about 2.5" of a (fake) bird shot at 37 feet away! Next up, when I have time... astrophotography.

All raw (NEF) files, full-size JPEGs, and crops can be downloaded here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/90d6ulkt7d8wbks/AABajDDoh4Gu6Aqm0kF7Jupca?dl=0

-Onasj

Nikon D810
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