Firstly, this review will not focus on product images, a listing of specifications or MTF charts - there are plenty of those around on the web.
It is based solely on a couple of months shooting sports and wildlife in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia.
Hover over images for a listing of body, ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
In the world of the exotic super-telephoto lenses, the first party manufacturers (Nikon, Canon and Sony) rule the roost.
They have been making these for a long time, have the heritage and history to back up the huge price tags.
Post goal celebrationEven with a heavy crop, the Sigma 500mm Sport delivers great detail (Nikon D4, ISO450, F4, 1/1000th)
Recently, I have been shooting sports and wildlife with my 20 year old, second hand Nikon 400mm F2.8 AFS-II.
This is well known to be a lens that is capable of producing amazing images, and I found this to be the case in the short time I got to use it.
However, it broke - and given its age parts were no longer available from Nikon so it was written off.
What to do?!
I certainly couldn't go back to a zoom - once you've shot with a high end prime telephoto, its extremely hard to go back.
So my options were as follows
In recent years, Sigma have been making big leaps forward in their lens lineup, since moving to the "Global Vision" lineup with the Art, Contemporary and Sport lines.
On price alone, the Sigma 500mm Sport piqued my interest, could something nearly 1/2 the price of the comparable Nikon lens really compete?
I did a lot of reading, including the very thorough in-depth review by Brad Hill, a Canadian wildlife photographer (http://www.naturalart.ca/)
The focal length for what I like to shoot (primarily Motorsport, Australian Rules Football and wildlife), the weight and fast aperture made it a relatively easy choice considering the price.
It also takes a 1.4x teleconverter (Mine is on order).
While no 500mm F4 lens is going to be what you call small, the lens is surprisingly light.
Its more portable than my older 400mm F2.8, and even handholdable for short periods - however i primarily use it on a Manfrotto monopod for longer shooting sessions.
One thing i'd like to mention is the bag/carry case.
This is just awesome, well padded, shoulder straps so you can wear it as a backpack and you can carry the lens with a full size body attached.
It even passes most airline carry-on size limits - which for me is important if i want to travel to cover an event.
The lens is marketed as weather sealed - I did get caught out briefly in a rain shower which the lens handled without issue, but I do recommend a high quality rain jacket.
I use the Thinktank Hydrophobia 300-600mm model which works a treat with this lens.
Simply put, the autofocus is outstanding.
Its fast, accurate and with a pro level body (I shoot D4, D500, D800 currently), its just a knockout.
You will need to ensure that you have your level of focus "stickiness" and focus mode set to ensure that its not so fast it switches to the background however.
The focus limiter options also work well, with a slight increase in speed when set to the zone you want to focus on
The USB dock also allows some customizability with regards to focus speed as well as fine tuning focus - a great purchase for the price.
The lens offers a number of stabilization modes - I tended to stick with the default mode, except when doing heavy duty panning.
I found that the stabilization was the equal of the latest generation OS in my Tamron and Nikon zooms - which are all very good.
OS operation is again customisable via the USB dock
This lens has simply blown me away with its image quality.
Razor sharp wide open (who really buys an F4 lens to stop down to F11 unless they have to?) and really nice bokeh in both the foreground and background.
Even with a heavy crop on a relatively low megapixel body, the sharpness delivered is fantastic.
I have found no issues with flaring in the situations i've used the lens, likely due to the very deep (mmm carbon fibre) hood, and newest coatings on the lens.
I cannot comment directly on the competing Nikon (or Canon) 500mm lenses - I suspect they are also very good in all the ways that the Sigma excels.
However I do find it very hard to believe that they are delivering twice the value of the Sigma Sport, which is pretty much what you are paying.
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any queries regarding this lens, more than happy to answer :)
Some additional images: