One of the outstanding technological advancements for nature photographers has been the use of lens technology that reduces the effect of camera movement on image quality. Camera movement or "shake" during exposure is a leading cause of a lack of sharpness in photos. Now, Sigma has introduced its Optical Stabilizer, or OS, in a high-quality, APO-design, affordable telephoto zoom: the 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX. The lens is available in Canon, Sigma and Nikon mounts.
At 3.8 pounds and measuring 3.7 x 7.5 inches, this lens has a bit of heft to it, but it sits well in the hand. That's important, since OS really is mainly a handholding assist. The 80-400mm range is excellent for wildlife, sports and telephoto landscapes. With a small-format digital SLR, you can get the equivalent of up to 640mm, which offers remarkable capabilities for a lens of this physical size and maximum aperture.
The lens includes two SLD (special-low-dispersion glass) elements in the front lens group and one in the rear, promising true apochromatic quality for correcting chromatic aberration. I found the lens to produce crisp images of high sharpness. But this long a lens does make close-ups and extreme telephoto shots (at the 640mm equivalent) a challenge. Even with OS, don't expect miracles at slow shutter speeds under these conditions.
At reasonable speeds, however, I saw excellent sharpness in conditions in which I'd never have been able to handhold a non-stabilized lens. Handholding a long lens has never been my forte, so this lens really helped me.
The Sigma 80-400mm ƒ/4.5-5.6 EX lists for $1,499, with a street price of around $999.
Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigma-photo.com.
Focal Length: 80-400mm
Max. Aperture: ƒ/4.5-5.6
Min. Aperture: ƒ/22-32
Size: 3.7x7.5 inches
Weight: 3.8 pounds
Lens Groups: 20 elements in 14 groups
Special Glass: 3 special-low-dispersion glass elements
Filter Size: 77mm
|1 Optical Stabilizer (OS) means sharper handheld photos
2 Excellent zoom range of 80mm to 400mm
3 APO optical design for crisp, high-quality images