Question about the Sigma 500mm f$4 Sport lens

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Antal I Kozma
Antal I Kozma Veteran Member • Posts: 3,195
Question about the Sigma 500mm f$4 Sport lens

Hi to all,

Due to a stupid accident my Nikkor 500mm f4E FL is history now. I am about to replace it. However, I am debating whether I should replace it with the Sigma 500mm f4 Sport lens. Simply because of the significant price difference.

I have read Brad Hill's excellent article about the Sigma 500mm f4 Sport vs Nikkor 500mm f4E FL. He choose the Sigma over the Nikkor, found the two optically equal for his wildlife photography. Since then he sold the Sigma 500mm to make place for his latest tool of choice, the new Nikkor 180-400mm f4 1.25x TC lens.

So, logic would dictate that if the Sigma 500mm f4 was good enough for Brad then it should be equally good for everyone else invested into nature photography. I agree with this line of thought. However, I have had second thoughts about the Sigma after reading reports about AF inconsistency in burst mode. Brad also made a passing note about some out of focus images when shooting bursts. Apparently his lens in his application was not badly affected so he kept the lens and used it for over a year.

My primary interest within nature photography is small songbirds. Like warblers, vireos, phoebes, etc. I find it more challenging to show fine feather detail in these small birds than in bears, which I also photograph. Also, my main birding kit, up till now, was the Nikon D500 + 500mm f4E FL, very often paired with Nikon's 1.4x TC III. I was absolutely satisfied with the performance of the 500mm Nikkor wide open, with and without the TC. So, to me the Nikkor is a known and tried tool. I also need the "reach" of the 500mm with the 1.4x TC on the D500 or cropped D850.

I also need to mention that f4 is my preferred aperture for birds. A 500mm f4 with the 1.4x TC is still plenty fast at f5.6 for bird photography under often poorly illuminated environments. Therefore, the Nikkor 500mm f5.6 PF lens is not in my interest for bird photography since with the TC it slows down to f8 which in return affect AF performance and subject isolation. Warblers and such are extremely agile birds and top tier AF performance is needed to get most of the shots in focus. At lest that is how it works in the environments I often photograph.

No back to the question. How is the Sigma's AF consistency for birders chasing warblers, kinglets, etc. in the woods and shrubs? I'd like to hear from those fellows who have been using the Sigma for some time. Does it still exhibit focus shift when shooting a burst? Brad asked Sigma whether they would have a remedy but they apparently never answered his question straight in a meaningful way.

I would not mind getting the Sigma over the Nikkor, resale value is not my consideration. I rather would invest the savings into a D6 or something else. However, if in doubt then I will fork out the high price for the 500mm f4E FL. I do not want to take chances on saving a few thousands but not getting the tool that I would be satisfied with.

Thanks in advance for all Sigma 500mm f4 Sport users who can report on the lens regarding to AF performance and optical quality.

Best to all, AIK

 Antal I Kozma's gear list:Antal I Kozma's gear list
Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR Phase One Capture One Pro Nikon D500 Nikon D850 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED +20 more
Nikon D500 Nikon D850
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