Inspiration

Two days with the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports

Two days with the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports

- Gerry van der Walt

SIGMA 50mm F1.2 DG DN | Art, SONY α7R III, ISO 100, F1.2, 1/200s

As a wildlife and nature photographer I travel around the world to photograph species ranging from polar bears and walrus to Africa’s big five. Apart from image quality one of the things that has become more important, for both myself and the clients I travel with, is convenience.

Long gone are the days where a telephoto lens meant that you would have to have two camera bags and carry a huge amount of weight with you while you travel to the amazing destinations we visit to photograph nature.

The new SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports is one of SIGMA’s latest offerings and has the potential to change the way you photograph wildlife. Weighing only 1,365g this new prime lens is incredibly easy to handle out in the field.

Not much bigger than a 70-200mm F2.8 lens, the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports makes it possible to use this lens for various different types of images as it is small enough to very easily handhold and manage whether you’re doing a self-drive safari, sitting on a safari vehicle with other guests, or walking in search of wildlife.

* The images without photograph data have been created with lenses other than 
SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports

Over the course of two days, I took the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, attached to a Sony α9 II, on a self-drive safari and the two things that immediately struck me were the exact two things I was hoping for.

The first thing was how easy the lens was to use even while driving my own vehicle through the bush. While I was driving, the lens sat very comfortably on my lap or on the seat next to me; and whenever I found a subject to photograph the small size and lightweight made it very easy to grab my camera and line up the shot.

On one or two instances I was out of the vehicle photographing birds and, for the first time that I can recall, I was able to hand hold a 500mm lens very close to the ground while flipping up the screen on my camera, and capture low angle images without having to lay down flat on the ground. For photographers spending a lot of time on foot or in photographic hides this is absolutely priceless, as the angles you can more easily create will definitely make a difference not only to your photography but your overall portfolio.

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/1250s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/4000s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/4000s

At one of the photographic hides that I visited there were a number of terrapins down in the water. The size and weight of this lens made it possible for me to get very unique angles and images of a species that is normally very difficult to photograph, without any fear of dropping the lens. The ability to move a long telephoto lens like this quickly and easily is of huge value to any wildlife photographer both to capture moving subjects, and also to recompose while shooting.

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/1000s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/2000s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/1250s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/2000s

Another thing that struck me was when I got home and then downloaded the images, the sharpness of the lens impressed me. Whether I focused on a subject very close or used the lens to create an animal environmental landscape of the subject that’s very far away, the image quality holds up every single time. The lens also had very natural contrast and color tone, and overall there was nothing more that I could’ve wanted from the RAW files.

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 800, F5.6, 1/400s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F6.3, 1/800s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/200s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 800, F5.6, 1/2500s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/500s

The focal length combined with the F5.6 maximum aperture gives you more than enough depth of field to play with in order to blow out the background and get emotive portraits and the lens renders a beautiful soft bokeh.

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/1600s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/1250s

During my two days I took the opportunity to use the lens to manual focus on some of the subjects. This can sometimes, especially with bigger lenses, be a difficult thing to manage but again, the size and weight of this lens made it very easy without feeling at all awkward or unbalanced.

I’m quite sure that the ease of use of this telephoto lens was a big part of me getting the amount of images I could get during a two day period. Being able to very easily change positions and create new angles was refreshing,and it made for new creative possibilities.

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F5.6, 1/2000s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F6.3, 1/2500s

SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports, Sony α9 II, ISO 500, F6.3, 1/2500s

Photography is about creativity, and the tools you use should support you in this process. This new SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports brings to the table incredible image quality and remarkable ease of use, thanks to its very small size and very light weight for this focal length. It is really well built and I’m sure it will be able to add incredible value to any wildlife or nature photography trip that you might embark on.

From a travel, creativity, convenience and quality point of view I would most definitely love to have the SIGMA 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS | Sports in my camera bag whenever I head out to photograph wildlife around the world.

Having been in the photographic safari industry for 20 years, it excites me that my guests will have the opportunity to use a lens like this to not only create quality images but also once again enjoy the experience of nature photography.

Gerry van der Walt
Wildlife and Nature Photographer

International Expedition Leader
Co founder and director of Wild Eye 

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