Sigma 50-500mm OS HSM "Bigma" Lens – Featured User Review

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Sigma 50-500mm OS HSM Bigma Zoom Lens ReviewThis is our first user review for Sigma’s new “OS” image-stabilized 50-500mm “Bigma” zoom lens. The Bigma is popular with wildlife photographers who want an economical and reasonably sized alternative to big telephoto prime lenses. I’ve been waiting for a review of this lens because the OS image stabilization makes it a much more compelling superzoom option. Cara’s review is a good one, too – detailed and well written. It also highlights the fact that you can rent lenses if you’re not ready to buy them.

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Featured Review: Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM “Bigma” Zoom Lens

by CaraRose (Intermediate)

Price Paid: $0.00 from
Review Date: April 27, 2010
Used product for: Less than 1 month

Overall Rating: 5 of 5
Value Rating: 5 of 5

I’m currently in my second two week rental of this lens. Note that is second rental, not second week of the first rental. I think from the fact that I opted to rent it again, you may be able to guess that I rather like it.

First, let me say I never used the original Bigma, so I can’t compare to that lens. I’ve rented the Canon 500mm f/4 L IS and the Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS. I own the little brother of the 300mm 2.8– the 300mm f/4 L IS. In terms of long lenses these three are what I can compare to.

So, in my experience is the Bigma OS as sharp as the 300 2.8? Okay, if you really think the answer to this will be “yes,” you obviously have never used the 300mm 2.8 L IS… I mean, that may very well be the sharpest lens Canon makes, and even with a 2x converter I think it beats the Bigma. Nor is the Bigma OS as sharp as the 500mm f/4 L IS. But again, if you thought it would be, you’re expecting way to much. The reach might be the same as the Bigma’s long end, but really, those two are completely different animals. The 500 f/4 is a big, heavy lens, 18″ long and weighs 9 pounds, and lets not forget that it costs $6000. The Bigma OS is relatively lightweight, meaning you can hand hold it and hike with it– something I don’t recommend with the canon 500mm f/4, unless you have a pack mule or a sherpa– and its affordable enough to have been put on my “Save For” list of lenses.

So, no, not as sharp as the 300 2.8 or the 500 f/4. Nor is it as sharp as the 300mm f/4. It is, however, sharper than the 300mm f/4 with a 1.4 teleconverter. This is a very sharp lens, despite it not living up to the level of some of Canon’s best and sharpest (and most expensive) lenses. What you get with the Bigma OS is quite a sharp lens, well sharper than any consumer lens, an amazing range, and stunning bokeh in a (relatively) lightweight and inexpensive lens.

The lens is quite sharp through its entire range. It is very anti-flare resistant… which I learned trying to get some shots for the April “Lens Flare” project from the photo project forum. In high contrast situations, you tend to get some chromatic aberration, but generally these are in situations where you’d expect it, and it is easily adjusted in post.

Auto focus is responsive and fast. It does have some difficulty finding your subject in if there’s a lot of clutter. As I discovered trying to get shots of some small birds moving around in shrubs. It rarely hunts though, even in low light it would find and lock on to a small subject as long as there was a clear view of it.

The OS is quite good and I’d agree with their claim that it’s four stops. I shot handheld at 500mm at 1/125 and got sharp photos. That said, I usually tried to keep it above 250 handheld, just to be sure a little much of my unstable hands wouldn’t push it over the line.

There are a few nitpicky things that bug me about it. The two that bug me the most is the filter ring is behind the zoom ring, which is opposite of pretty much every lens I have ever used. I will often switch to manual focus and grab the zoom ring by accident, which is rather annoying.

All and all, I recommend this lens to anyone.

Sharp at all focal lengths.
Stunningly good bokeh
Good AF.
Outstanding OS.
Killer Range.
500mm handheld!
Lightweight (relatively speaking)

Only f/6.3 at the longest focal length
Still somewhat heavy when compared to say, the 300mm f/4. That said, you get a lot more reach with the Bigma OS.
Some minor chromatic aberration, especially in high contrast situations
AF has trouble with cluttered shots (brush in front of the subject).

Similar Products Used:
Canon 300mm f/4 L IS
Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS
Canon 500mm f/4 L IS

Related Content:
All Sigma Zoom Lens User Reviews
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Sigma Web Site

About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Bob says:

    Thanks Cara, I was waiting for your review and it did not disappoint.

  • Sharon says:

    Thanks Cara for taking the time to write a review. I appreciate anyone who is clear and concise with their writing and also prepared to help others who are trying to work thru the maze of camera equip. out there.

  • Lee says:

    Interesting thanks Cara
    i have had the old Bigma 50-500APO since it was first launched & I have contemplated changing to the OS version but now I have changed camera to a D7000 the lack of stabilisation is not such a problem as I can up the shutter speed due to the D7K’s excellent higher ISO abilities without image deteriation.
    The Bigma is very good value it may not be up to the proprioty brand of long FL lenses such as Nikon & Canon but with those most people cant even afford to buy one .
    It is a bit of a soft performer on overcast days but even in the few years i have had this lens with the software improvements you can correct the images a heck of a lot in post proccessing.
    It is a lens that for its price performs brilliantly & can produce stunning action shots that many users would not be able to afford to take with the high price of other lenses in this focal length.
    4lbs plus the weight or the camera is a lump to cart around but how many lenses give you the added bonus of a great arm work out while taking pictures. I do mainly airshows with my bigma, hand held pan shooting all day and im nearly 60 years old so the next time someone says they are too heavy I can only assume they have some muscle wasting problem or are 6 years old.

  • Don says:

    I have a technical question on the OS as it pertains to being able to shoot at slower shutter speeds.

    The writer said this: “The OS is quite good and I’d agree with their claim that it’s four stops. I shot handheld at 500mm at 1/125 and got sharp photos.”

    I’ve always learned that whatever focal range you are set at, you should be able to hand-hold a shot at the inverse – so for 500mm, I would want to be at 1/500 shutter speed. So wouldn’t the writer’s claim of shooting at 1/125 be only two stops slower? I thought you halved the shutter speed each time for 1 stop.

    Thanks to anyone who can clarify this for me.

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