Review: Sigma 800mm f/5.6 EX DG APO HSM (Nikon F)

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A lot of refined glass and a lot of engineering were put into the creation of this lens. The Sigma 800mm f/5.6 EX DG APO HSM Autofocus Lens for Nikon AF-D is big–really big. This lens is the third telephoto prime lens from Sigma I’ve reviewed, and it’s certainly the longest one. After working with Sigma’s 300mm and 500mm, this lens had me really curious. I sat there thinking, “Do I need it?” It is not a complicated lens. However, it is a tank cannon.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Comes with a Cordura Padded Lens Case, shoulder strap, reinforced bottom, and side pocket. It fits the lens with a camera attached.
  • Can see ultra-far into the scene due to the resolving details, and I processed my images after doing some long exposure photography. When I looked at one of my images, I could see “Met Life Stadium” which is approximately 15 miles away.

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  • Its bag is fantastic and can handle a lens attached as well.
  • Very sharp

Cons

  • Some people may find this lens too heavy.
  • Traveling with the lens can be a chore at times
  • Can be difficult and time-consuming to mount to a tripod at times
  • Unstable on a monopod.

Gear Used

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For most of the review period, I used my Nikon D700. I also used my Nikon D5100 toward the end. The first tripod I used was my 3LeggedThings Brian, but I needed something stronger to steady this lens so I pulled out my old Manfrotto tripod with my the 3-way Gitzo Rational No. 2 head.

Tech Specs

Via B&H

Focal Length 800 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/5.6
Minimum: f/32
Camera Mount Type Nikon F
Format Compatibility Nikon FX/35mm Film
Nikon DX
Angle of View 3.1°
Minimum Focus Distance 22.97′ (7.00 m)
Magnification 0.11x
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:8.8
Groups/Elements 9/12
Diaphragm Blades 9
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar Yes
Physical
Filter Thread Rear: 46 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 6.2 x 20.5″ (15.75 x 52.07 cm)
Weight 10.45 lb (4.74 kg)

Ergonomic

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The Front Element is huge. When you peer into it, you might actually lose your soul.

We’re kidding…we wouldn’t know because we don’t have souls.

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The distance scale is nice, but I did not use it much due to the fact that a lens like this needs total confirmation of your subject being in focus or not.

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The collar has a screw which allows you to shoot portrait or landscape easily by turning the lens. The focus ring is nice and big as well. It makes it really easy to use and it’s great for my big paws.

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The filters for the lens are internal, like the 300mm and 500mm. This is a very interesting way of using filters.

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This lens has an aperture ring, so it could be used with a film camera. It’s a nice touch if you’re a Nikon user.

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This is the most important button on the lens. If you were worried about focusing on things faster, you can set the limiter switch to either the full zoom range, the closer range or the further range.

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The foot of the lens is ultra strong and can balance the lens perfectly while also working as a handle. Notice the ergonomic finger curves for this application.

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There are three 1/4 20 mounts  and one 3/8  mount that make using a variety of tripod heads and monopod heads easier.

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The carrying care is magnificent. You can carry everything you need to work with this lens in it including a camera.

Did we mention that it is massive too?

Build Quality

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This lens is built like a tank cannon. Built with metal and plastic overall, it is strong and sturdy. It was actually lighter than I thought it would be in real life use though. Everything moves smoothly. I worked with this lens on warm days and cooler days and it was fine and without any temperature issues. However, like the 500mm I believe this lens would absorb heat in the summer–which is one of the reasons why Canon makes a lot of their L lenses in white.

Autofocus

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The autofocus is quick and precise. It is also ultra-quiet due to the hypersonic motor. The limiters help a lot and speed things up even more. Because I tried to be careful with my composition I have I made it easy on the lens. In low light, the autofocus is a little slower but works overall. Manual focus is fine on still objects but the autofocus is just more efficient.

Ease of Use

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At first, the Sigma 800mm f5.6 is not an easy lens to use if you’re not used to super telephoto primes. It takes a bit to get used to it. You have to think about where you are going to compose your shot. With a minimum focus distance of 7 meters, things get interesting.

Image Quality

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The overall image quality of this lens is fantastic. When I had issues with the image quality it was my fault. When hand holding this lens fatigues my arm quickly so that would cause any problems.

 Sharpness

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If you are hand holding, this lens is hit or miss. On a sturdy tripod, this lens is very sharp. With subject near or far, you get a nice clean shot If your subject was moving and you had to pan the lens, the shot remained sharp as long as you had a minimum shutter speed of 1/125. Through the whole range this lens was pretty sharp. I enjoyed the Sigma 800mm F5.6 at F8. I had a few issues panning, but that was when I was hand holding.

Color Rendition

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There is very little color fringing. If there was any, it was due to the optics of this lens. Straight out of the camera, the color is good. There are good skin details with the Sigma 800mm f5.6.

Bokeh

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The Bokeh is fantastic with this lens. When you get your subject between 7 & 10 meter the bokeh is extremely wonderful due to the depth of field and compression.

Distortion

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I did not find any distortion with this lens, and with a telephoto this long we really shouldn’t either.

Depth of Field

This lens has an epic depth of field control due to its focusing range. It is ultra controllable.

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On a DX (Crop Sensor) Camera

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On a camera like my Nikon D5100 the Sigma 800 f5.6 is effectively  a 1200 mm. This allows you to see much farther.  The lens retains its sharpness and image quality.

Recommendations

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  • You need a second camera with a small lens. You do not want to witch lens with this lens a lost.
  • A remote like a Trigger Trap is recommended was well. The slightest movement can ruin a shot with this lens.
  • A strong tripod is needed. Travel tripod like my 3 Legged Thing Brian can hold this lens, but a strong sturdy  Tripod like a Manfroto will keep it still.
  • A Manfrotto 323 RC2 System Quick Release Adapter with 200PL-14 Plate ,which is compatible to most tripods, is also recommended. It will save a load of time when setting up your shot.

A Few More Sample Images.

Shooting with this lens was a great experience. The Sigma 500 mm F4.5  is still my favorite though.

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Conclusions

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It is a very dramatic lens. Its price is dramatic as well. However, this lens can do so much. It turns many heads as you use it. This lens is for those who do not want or cannot be directly in front of their subjects. If you are shooting wild life, sports, the Moon or just have to shoot at locations that are too dangerous to be near, this lens will serve you well. It is not always practical, but some of the results of working with this lens has been spectacular.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.