The Siggy at 600mm

Posted on 11 March 2012, 20:18

One of the main reasons I bought the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS was to use it with a 2x. Is it any good?

Well – for the second time (it happened with the Sigma 1.4x I bought from MPB Photographic too) – the used 2x I bought from them was DOA but they did right by me again, and I was only without a 2x for a few days.

I specifically wanted the lens and 2x to be usable wide open: stopping down is all well and good, but it was important to me that I could use them at 600mm and f/5.6.

I’ve had precious few opportunities to definitively test it on birds – it seemed promising when leaning out of the front door and shooting chimney stacks and parked cars – but I did find time to point it at the swans on the water feature of the local golf course (a rather pretty little pond completely wasted where it is), and I have to say that I’m really rather pleased.

The following are some typical examples – nothing special, but a reasonably persuasive indication of the potential of the lens/TC combo handheld at 600mm.

Mute swan, Blyth

Mute swan, Blyth

Mute swan, Blyth

Mute swan, Blyth

They’ll do for me. And as I suggested in my last report, the AF with the Sigma 2x in place is really snappy and accurate – almost “bare lens” fast, I’m delighted to say.

The orange staining on these birds is iron oxide, incidentally – a result of the golf course being on a reclaimed colliery, with minerals leaching into the water table.

Because I’ve been struggling to find the opportunity to test the lens I’ve been reduced to clicking away at greenery (albeit not exactly green greenery, sometimes): again, these give some indication of performance at 600m:

Rhododendron, Blyth

Ivy leaf, Jesmond Dene.

All of the images here are only lightly processed – definitely “undersharpened” when compared to the 100-400mm, using my usual sharpening regime of Smart Sharpen to taste on a duplicate layer, erased from where it’s not needed.

I also use the Topaz Detail 2 plugin very lightly (“Small Detail” slider at 3, “Small Boost” slider at 3) to bring out the texture and surface detail of the leaves, and the skin texture and feathers of the bird images.

I still really need to get used to the additional saturation the Siggy gives over the 100-400mm though. The last Swan picture was converted in Capture One 6, and the colours are much better. I don’t doubt that I can come up with similar rendering in Lightroom, but there’s definitely an inherent quality to Capture One conversions, even though Lightroom has far better demosaicing, highlight control and noise reduction: but at normal ISOs and in good light, Cap One’s hard to beat.

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