These trips are not easy on the gear, especially during transport. Fortunately, SIGMA has designed a reinforced bag for the 500mm. Placed inside, the lens is immobilized by a thick fleece. A space at the top can even hold a housing. Practical and reassuring, especially since it can be carried like a backpack and its size allows me to keep it in the cabin.
After a long trip, flying to Nairobi and a grueling 4×4 ride over rough tracks, we finally reached the banks of the Mara River. It is here, in Tony Crocetta's camp, that our group of wildlife photographers and African wildlife enthusiasts will settle for ten days.
Break time won’t be too long, it’s already time to deposit our luggage in the tents, set up gear and quickly restore. Shortly after, we embark in the 4×4. Driven by our guides, we set off on the tracks of the Masaï Mara.
For this first field trip, I worked with a Wimberley pendulum head. The 500 mm mounted on my camera can be screwed or unscrewed in no time at all. It allows me to gain stability without losing reactivity. This working comfort is further increased thanks to the notched foot collar, which makes it easier to swing from horizontal to vertical in an extremely fluid manner.
We come back to the camp hours later with full memory cards. In spite of the accumulated fatigue, we are eager to view the photographs on our laptops and we take over the press room. The 500 mm made an excellent first impression on me. Now I can't wait to see the result in Lightroom!
The photographs of a leopard, shot when the light had started to fade, confirm the quality of this lens. Sharpness is undeniable, and the bokeh is soft, aesthetic. AF, tested notably on a young jabiru flying near the ground, had been perfect. The focus was maintained on the moving bird, without being disturbed by the surrounding vegetation.
The next day, we get up well before dawn to enjoy the first light. Facing the sun, we start to see silhouettes appearing in the horizon, like shadow puppets. They are antelopes crossing the landscape and the 500 mm, mounted on the Wimberley, easily manages to capture that.
Using a 500 mm on a pendulum head offers a clear comfort. But even if our guides are excellent, it's not always possible to position the 4×4 in the exact conditions that one would wish. In this case, the Wimberley - which limits our field of action to one side of the vehicle - becomes a constraint, and grasping a scene freehand becomes the best solution.
Freehand, the lens is pleasant to use. Its weight, well distributed, puts the muscles to work without being exhausting. And its stabilization effectively compensates for the slight trembling of the forearms, which eventually occurs after several hours of use.
After ten days spent in the plains and marshes of the Masaï Mara, it is time for us to return to France. And I have to admit that during this stay in Kenya, the 500 mm F4 Sports has never ceased to convince me of its quality. In the end, it is a lens that I will not hesitate for a moment to carry on all terrains, including photographing wildlife in the Mercantour mountains.