New Sigma 2.8/120-300 Sports first experiences
I own a 2.8/400 IS which is too large and heavy for traveling. Therefore I was looking for a more compact alternative for my wildlife shooting, which allows me to reach 600mm in good quality. There is not much out there which fits these criteria. I looked at the new Canon 2.8/300 IS II, but I think the price is simply not justifiable for a 300mm lens (it's $ 9000 list here in Switzerland!). The only real alternative to reach 600mm at f5.6 is basically the Sigma 120-300.
I got my Sigma 2.8/120-300 OS Sports a few days ago. To make it short: I am really impressed whith this lens. Build and optical quality are very close to the big white Canons! Much better than the "plasticky" old version I tested a few weeks ago.
The lens is all metal (as far as I can tell). The mechanics are very smooth and with excellent fit. The tripod foot is very sturdy and can be removed (which saves 360g weight for handheld shooting). The lens hood is metal with a rubber front part. It's a bit fiddly to put on, especially in the reversed position. However the Canon supertele hoods are not better in that regard. Overall a mechanically very solid package, more or less at Canon L level.
Now the most imortant part - the image quality. I tested with a 1D Mark IV and a 7D. In the center the lens is as sharp as my 2.8/400 IS from 120 to 300mm. Sharpness is a bit lower in the corners, however that's hardly a concern, especially with the 7D, where it's limited to the extreme corner. CA is very limited, of no concern. I did not test distortion since that's irrelevant for wildlife shooting.
For me, performance with teleconverters is absolutely crucial to get the reach I need. Since I do not own Sigma converters I tested with the Canon Mark II converters (looks king of odd due to the white color...). To make it short: The 1.4x adds a bit of CA, sharpness is still excellent. The 2x degrades contrast and and sharpness a bit wide open. Closing one stop to f8 brings the quality back almost to the level without teleconverter! Only CA/fringing is higher, especially at high contrast borders. All in all a great performance with teleconverters. This lens is offering perfectly usable quality as a 5.6/600! AF is slower with both converters, but still ok, especially on the 1D IV.
Without converters, AF is on par with my Canon 100-400 - not as fast as the 2.8/400, but not far away. It could follow some flying harriers without problems (handheld!).
The IS is hard to judge but I feel it's on par with my Canons.
The only problem with the lens is in my opinion that it is too large (looks almost like a 4/500, especially with the 2x converter) and too heavy.
Overall I would highly recommend this lens. You get alomst the same quality as with a 2.8/300 at half the price plus you can zoom!
I have been awaiting this lens for Nikon. You say the sharpness is on par with your 400mm 2.8? If so that would be amazing. Do you have any sample pics to show the sharpness vs the 400mm 2.8?
I've had the prior version of this lens for the past year and a half and been using it my 7D with great results. I'm really glad to hear that Sigma has stepped to the plate and the upgrade on this lens appears to be well worth the additional $400.00 over the prior version. Now having a focus limiter combined with the ability to custom tailor the operational specs throught their new USB hub makes this lens a real player in the super tele market.
Anyone new to this lens will find themselves wondering how they got by with just a fixed focal length super tele as I have gotten many shots with this lens I never could have with my 300 f2.8 or 400 f2.8. With the APS-C sensor on the 7D this lens w/o TC has an effective FOV of 192-480mm giving me plenty of reach for most sporting events I've shot wuithout need for a TC.
No worries, I found a nikon one available and pulled the trigger, should have it tomorrow Only bad part is the dock was not available and from what I am reading you really need it to address any focus issues the lens may have... We shall see...
I hope you will be happy with your new lens!
I did some further testing today and found that while focus is perfect with my 1D IV, I need to use a -10 correction for the 7D to get optimal sharpness at infinity. This seems not to harm close focus sharpness, though. Interestingly, the correction is not needed if I put my 2x TC between lens and camera, which seems not very logical to me. To sum it up I could correct the (minor) focus issues with the 7D setting, whithout using the Dock.
I did some further image quality testing. Although quality with the 2x TC wide open is impressive, I found that closing the lens just by 1/3 f-stop improves micro-contrast quite a bit.