Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Started Nov 14, 2012 | Discussions
Kokeen4231 Contributing Member • Posts: 613
Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Hi all,

I am considering which lens is better for birding. I normally shoot birds at dawn or dusk where light might not be too bright hence aperture is important. I also heard the 120 300 is much faster than the 120 400 which does not surprise me. However, I already have used lenses up to 300mm and want to take the next step up. So can anyone who has experience tell me which would be better? Is the 120 300 so much better than the 120 400 that I could sacrifice the extra 100mm(150mm with crop).

I am open to other reccomendations too. Particularly the 300mmF2.8 or 50 500.

Thanks in advance.

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happysnapper64 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,417
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

I have the 120-400 OS & I am happy with it, given that I am fairly new to photography & my technique probably needs considerable improvement. I have heard good reports of the 50-500, IQ is said to be better than the 120-400 & 150-500. Plenty of reviews online.

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Brev00
Brev00 Veteran Member • Posts: 8,707
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

There is quite a range to your budget!  From the 120-400 to the 300 2.8.  I am no bird or wildlife expert, but, with my limited experience, I would want to have more than 300mm if I were going to specialize in this area.  My 70-300 is fun for this purpose but is limited more by its range than its aperture imo.  Of course, there are those excellent stalkers who do get by with shorter fl's.  So, in the end, the answers will come from you:  prime or zoom; fast or variable; telephoto or super telephoto; os or supported; really heavy or just cumbersome; costly or budget busting.  If you can cross out one choice at a time, you will have your answer:  a 500 f 4!

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OP Kokeen4231 Contributing Member • Posts: 613
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

If I get the 300mm F2.8, I would probably have to sell of some year. I prefer lighter zooms as I am not a camper but more a stalker. So I guess IS is important.

So of the zooms, which would you recommend? The 500 f4 is too much.

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Brev00
Brev00 Veteran Member • Posts: 8,707
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Kokeen4231 wrote:

If I get the 300mm F2.8, I would probably have to sell of some year. I prefer lighter zooms as I am not a camper but more a stalker. So I guess IS is important.

So of the zooms, which would you recommend? The 500 f4 is too much.

That was a joke, taking you outside the budget of most people, I would think.   I have no direct experience with these lenses.  NPhoto magazine had a nice review of many of the contenders a month or so back.  They gave the 150-500 the nod in points over the 50-500 but mostly because they consider value in the scoring.  The 120-400 was also well received.  They found the focus speed to be more than acceptable in all three models.  If I were making this decision, I would want  length, os, and zoom.  The weight would not be a make or break issue since it is supposed to be a long lens, but I would like to be able to hand hold it on occasion.  Considering my need for value over optimal quality, I would strongly consider the 150-500.  Tamron has a 200-500 that some think is sharper than the Sigmas.  It is lighter and does not have os (vc).  I would probably want to rent my final contenders to help me reach such a decision.  If a rental service is available to you, I would recommend it.

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NancyP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,329
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

What's your camera? Canon has a reasonably priced 400mm f/5.6L (non-image-stabilized) with very snappy autofocus, and a very nice( but slightly less speedy autofocus ) 300mm f/4 (previous generation stabilization). I can't help with Nikon.

How good is your camera's high-ISO performance? You may do very well with a not-too-wide aperture (f/4.5-f/6.3) if you have good high-ISO performance.

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OP Kokeen4231 Contributing Member • Posts: 613
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Haha thanks. I guess I would try to rent the lens, for a few days or so. Its down to either the 120 400 or 150 500. It would be hard to rent a 50 500 as I cant find a place that does so. I see the 50 500 is newer and has greater zoom. So if the 120 400 or 150 500 is not up to expectation, I think I would bite the bullet and go for the 50 500 second hand.

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OP Kokeen4231 Contributing Member • Posts: 613
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Yeah I use canon. I feel I need IS as I would be movind around tailing animals and birds. Have you tried the 400 IS version? Or the 100- 400?

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Altan Ozcandarli Regular Member • Posts: 273
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Kokeen4231 wrote:

Haha thanks. I guess I would try to rent the lens, for a few days or so. Its down to either the 120 400 or 150 500. It would be hard to rent a 50 500 as I cant find a place that does so. I see the 50 500 is newer and has greater zoom. So if the 120 400 or 150 500 is not up to expectation, I think I would bite the bullet and go for the 50 500 second hand.

I think lensrentals.com has it.

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Yukonica New Member • Posts: 6
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Currently I use Canon's 100-400 and find it does quite well but I am really drawn to the F2.8 of the 120-300. Have only held one; it's heavy. I would already have bought this lens but the return rate suggested by a lens renting company turned me away. Maybe the 2013 generation.

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Yukonica

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mike Regular Member • Posts: 184
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

I have the Sigma 120-400 on my 7D.  I love it.  I haven't had it very long, nor have i had a chance to use it a lot, but i am very happy with it.  For what it"s worth, When i bought it, a friend (with Nikon equipment), said, "Return it and get the 150-500" which i did think about, but, I was slightly past the return date, the 400 is a little lighter, slightly faster F stop, and after viewing a website, that shows the different focal lengths, with a slider, i didnt feel, there was that much difference between 400 and 500, and if I can't crop an 18mb camera a bit, I'm in trouble, plus, he's a Nikon Guy! what does he know!(just kidding) Actually, he is a pro, and a very good one at that,  and has probably forgot more, than I've ever learned.  He is also very happy with the 150-500, so I don't think, you can go wrong with either.

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/post/50201703

Here are a few shots I took about 5 weeks ago at the Syracuse, NY Zoo with the 120-400

Mike

Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,417
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

I have 120-300 OS HSM (3rd generation, not the latest one just announced weeks ago, i's MTF is identical to the 4th version, without AF limiter). I almost use it with exclusively with Sigma 1.4xTC, on Canon 7D. It's very heavy but still handhold-able for half day outing (I hardly use tripod thanks to it's effective OS), sharpness is really good, with TC, stop down to f5.6 you get tack sharp image. AF is reasonably fast, no problem for BIF at all. If you are thinking of that lens, you should go for it.





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OP Kokeen4231 Contributing Member • Posts: 613
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Woah these photos are sharp. Are the results much better without the 1.4x converter?

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Amateur Sony Shooter Veteran Member • Posts: 5,417
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Kokeen4231 wrote:

Woah these photos are sharp. Are the results much better without the 1.4x converter?

Not really, both situation give you sharp image but bare lens has wider aperture (f2.8) that give you shallow DOF thus make it desirable as outdoor portrait lens:

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OP Kokeen4231 Contributing Member • Posts: 613
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Nice pics! I heard the 150 500 is much softer at the tele end than the 120 400 rights?

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OP Kokeen4231 Contributing Member • Posts: 613
Re: Sigma 120-300/400 for birding

Yeah, didnt think of that. Maybe with the TC, I dont need the extra reach of 100mm in the 120 400. Just that there would be extra cash needed to spent.

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