10 out of 10 points and recommendedOptics, build, AF speedWeight
I've bought this lens on June 1, 2004 as a improvement over the 80-400 f/4.5-5.6 VR lens. At first I missed the extra focal length that the 80-400 offered, but then I embraced the overall quality and AF speed.reviewed October 25th, 2005 (purchased for $1,450)
Frankly, I under-utilize this lens, but mostly because of the types of photos I generally take. My activity is fairly evenly split between landscape/macro/wildlife. But when I've worked with subjects at medium distances, this lens is a honey; both for interiors and outside.
The AF works very well with the Kenko 1.4X and 2X converters. With the 1.4X, images are very sharp; with the 2X there is a hint of softness that creeps in when used with wide apertures, but that is not due to the Nikkor, strictly due to the converter.
The VR capabilities greatly assist when shooting in lower light and handheld. It is a heavy lens to handhold, but the controls are easy to learn and operate without much confusion.
Truly, this is one of Nikon's finest lenses. Worth every penny. I just need to mount it more often.
10 out of 10 points and recommendedOptics, build, AF speedWeight, not made for "snapshots," reversing lens hood for storage
This is my primary landscape lens, and darn good for portraits too. I have owned this lens since August 2003 and it is just an incredible performer.reviewed October 25th, 2005 (purchased for $1,330)
I find this lens to be the perfect companion for the 70-200 f/2.8 VR. In essence one has a continuous 28-200mm of focal length ALL at f/2.8. Yes, there are smaller 28-200's available, but the sharpness of those zooms will nowhere meet the quality found with these two.
I'd say that more than 90% of the photos I take with this lens are tripod mounted. It is comfortable handheld and easy to operate. But its not a lightweight lens for strolling the park or zoo.
One minor drawback, which is strictly a convenience factor and has nothing to do with image quality, is the nasty way the lens hood fits when storing. It essntially nests, facing backwards, and I'm always having a time of it to get it to nest "in the groove" properly. No problem when placing the hood in shooting mode, just in this reverse/storage mode.
Otherwise, a top performer with a sharpness not found very often. Worth every penny.
9 out of 10 points and recommendedLight weight, optically sharp, useful for both digital and film bodiesflares, vignetting with filters, big (physically)
The latest rage in ultra wide-angle zooms is currently for the DX-type of lenses, i.e., those specific for digital SLRs, especially in the 12-24mm range.reviewed October 29th, 2005 (purchased for $550)
When I bought this lens, at the end of October 2002, DX wide-angles hadn't saturated the market (note too that the Street price of this lens is now around $500). But I haven't regretted buying this lens at all, mainly because it is very usable on both my digital and film cameras. In fact, I think it really shines on the 35mm film camera. The wide angle at 15mm is mighty wide with only a tinge of corner fall-off. One has to make sure that the tripod legs aren't in the photo!
I couldn't quite go with e "10" rating on this lens because it is just shy of the level of "perfection" I've experienced with some other lenses. The optics are, for the most part, very fine, but they are susceptible to lens flares, especially when pointed in the direction of sun, even with the sun outside the image. The front element on this lens bulges out a fair bit (about 3/8 inch) and the internal optics are such that they are quick to produce flares.
There are three rings on this lens. From camera body outward, these are: aperture ring, zoom ring and focus ring, I don't use the aperture ring much since I set the aperture through the camera. The zoom ring is a little more than 1/2 inch wide, and requires about 45 degrees of turn to zoom from 15 to 30mm. Smooth in operation, and, as it's operated, the front element retracts into the built-in hood. The focus ring is about 7/8 inch wide, with smooth operation as well, and features internal focusing elements. The focus ring slides fore and aft, setting it for manual mode or AF mode.
I gave the build quality an 8 because it lacks a rock-solid feel. Its a tight lens, faithful and predictable, but the all-metal casing just feels light and not very substantial. But on the positive side, although about the same physical size (length and diameter) as a Nikon 28-70 f/2.8, it is considerably lighter. This lens is easy to carry to the edge of a canyon, in order to capture that sweeping view in one shot.
The lens cap is made of two pieces: a ring that fits snugly around the diameter of the petal hood (providing 82mm filter threads) and a "pinch-cover" typical of many of Sigma's lneses. Since I do not own any 82mm filters, I usually just take the who two-piece combo off when shooting. On other web sites, you'll sometimes hear the complaint that the filters cause some vignetting at 15mm folcal lengths. In my experience, I can't verify that assertion.
Given the going price, and the optical features of this lens (f/3.5-f/4.5), it is a terrific buy. The 12-24's run $710 and $900 for the Sigma and Nikons versions, respectively. Are those bottom-end 3mm really worth $210-400 more? For some it might. For those on a budget, don't overlook this lens—its certainly worthy of consideration.
9 out of 10 points and recommendedFast AF, easy access to controls, capable of sharp imagesAF irratic with 1.4X converter, f/4.5 max
[Please note: this review is for the previous version of this lens. The review below is for the Sigma 500mm, f/4.5, EX APO HSM lens, with aperture ring. The current marketed lens has a DG designator. It is very similar in design and construction but lacks an aperture ring.]reviewed November 7th, 2005 (purchased for $2,200)
This is a well made lens, what I call "a poor man's 500." I bought it, used, in September 2003. It has been a joy to operate. The Hypersonic Motor is as fast and quiet as the AF-S motors on my Nikon lenses.
My experience has been that it is very capable of sharp images, but you do have to be spot-on with what you use as your focus target. Because of this lens, I have learned to use the AF-lock feature of my camera. Once the focus is set and locked, then recompose the shot. I normally operate this lens at f/4.5 and it performs admirably, with nice bokeh often resulting, even from busy backgrounds.
The foot is solid and well made, with rotating collar that is easy to operate and adjust. The lens hood (not shown in this illustration) is a bayonette type of mount with thumb screw to lock it on. The lens hood reverses for storage. The Sigma soft case for this lens is just fine in its construction, offering ample protection.
Filters can be used via a drawer located near the mount end of the lens. The drawer rotates which makes it easy for use with a circular polarizer.
You'll need a good mount for this lens. I opted for a Gitzo Pro Studex 1325 CF set of legs and placed a Wimberley head with quick release and P50 plate for the lens. I also put a Manfrotto 3502 level head between the legs and mount, just to make set-up that much easier. I spent just more than half the price of the used lens for the mount and its been worth every penny.
Concluding—I'd really prefer to have a Nikon 600 f/4, but given that I lack resources to own such a lens, I opted to go with the Sigma 500. I've not regretted it, and, after I win the lottery, I'd still keep it as an adjunct to the 600mm dream lens.