DxOMark test: Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM vs. Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR


New DxOMark test: Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM ($1,509 after a $150 rebate) vs. Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR ($2,696.95). DxOMark calls the Sigma lens "one of the sharpest long telephoto zoom on D800":



"On a 24-MPix Nikon D600 the Sigma APO 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 performs very well indeed. Achieving a DxOMark score of 20 points, the lens is one of the highest scoring super-telephoto zoom that we’ve seen.


Compared with its direct rival, the newer Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 ED VR, the Sigma is on a par optically coming just slightly behind in the overall DxOMark score (which is a benchmarking exercise) but can boast slightly better sharpness overall. There is a caveat though. While the Sigma is better than the older Nikon version where it counts (at the tele-end), the improvement in sharpness over this new model is at the less useful shorter end of the zoom range.

The Sigma might not have the build and outright image quality at the longer end of the zoom range of the premium marques, with Nikon’s own offering being recently redesigned and improved in lots of meaningful ways. But, given the extra versatility from the wider zoom and the savings of around $1,000 over the Nikon badged lens, the Sigma is hard to ignore."

This entry was posted in Nikon Lenses and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • DS

    I have used the previous 50-500 on my D3s with no complaints. Time to update to the new lens.

    • DonD

      Don’t believe what you read here. The 80-400 is much sharper than the new 50-500, DxO data be damned. No comparison, IMHO.

      • HappyWithMySigmaOverTheNikon

        I used the Nikon 80-400 for shooting my daughter’s softball games. Returned it after one use. No way will I carry around two cameras. (one with a wide angle zoom and a second with a telephoto zoom) I would not get the shot if I had to constantly switch cameras.
        “Move around to get the shot”. Blah Blah Blah. Things happen way too quickly to mess around with moving back and forth or switching cameras.
        You cannot compete with the zoom range. 80 is just not wide enough for the play at home plate when you are standing right there. Catches in the outfield look great at 500mm. This all while standing in the same spot. Get a photo of the diving catch in the outfield and then the attempt to tag up and take home. Zoom out, snap, zoom in, snap. Both pictures captured.
        I have no interest in the Nikon, no matter how much sharper the images appear to be to some people. It’s not about the camera anyway. It is about your skill.

        • DonD

          It’s not about the camera? What does that mean. Lens sharpness is not about skill either. When determining the sharpness of a lens, one should remove any human use issues. BTW, are you shooting DX? That might explain why 80 is not wide enough for you. I used the 80-400 to shoot and baseball game and could not have been any closer to home plate and 80 was just fine… on an FX sensor… but, hey, it’s not about the camera, is it. Good skill will allow you to shoot wider than the lens allows! Good skill increases the angle of view, right? Thanks for that tip, I’ll get right to work on my skills.

          • DaveyJ

            The 80 short end would be WAY better on the FX format for wide angle so DonD has an excellent point here!

        • Jorge

          Christ, it’s freakin’ softball/baseball. How much action can their possibly be, or how slow are you?

        • DaveyJ

          Pretty hard to believe this response. As lens tests I have my doubts about this one. But “skill as a photographer standing in one spot” doesn’t really sound very much like skill to me, maybe he exact opposite. The response really needed to be more along the lines of I have used them both and prefer the Sigma??

          • Dpablo unfiltered

            There must be some sort of skill that would allow one the use of a second camera…

            • Photo Pete

              DXO have a hopeless scoring and review system.
              I’m sure their raw test data is good, but their interpretation of it is extremely misleading. You do not buy this sort of lens primarily for use below 100mm, and above that focal length the 80-400 is far superior. Nor do you provide lens ratings without rating half of the performance characteristics such as flare control, autofocus, handling etc etc.
              Look at their sharpness field map for the two lenses and tell me how on earth they came up with their ratings for these two lenses. They even caveat their results for the two, which is simply a way of saying “even we don’t believe our ratings for this comparison”.
              I and many others have serious concerns about the testing and review methodology undertaken by DXO. They pass themselves off as a ‘scientific’ organisation but produce automated subjective ratings which have no sense of intelligence behind them.

  • SteveHood

    DxOMark calls the Sigma lens “one of the sharpest long telephoto zoom on D800”:

    But only under 200mm. At 300mm and above the 80-400mm is much better and this is where these lenses are used the most.

    You also noticed that these is not sharpness advantage to go from the D600 to D800 for any of these lenses. They can barely resolve half the D600 pixels so no need to go to the D800 for these lenses.

    • John C

      Good points, plus what I need to know about a lens that will be used for wildlife or sports is how does it perform relative to AF speed? This is a great zoom range for say, daylight high school soccer. I could live with the old 80-400 if it had fast AF. How does the Sigma compare? DxO does not quantify this. AF speed is more important to me on this particular type of lens than how sharp it can ultimately be. If sharpness is the primary concern, you don’t by any of these.

      • SteveHood

        The sigma AF will be slower than the AF on the new 80-400mm

        • John C

          This is my assumption. My point is there is a lot of back and forth discussion over fairly small differences in DxO results, when more important factors exist that are not indicated by the results.

      • DonD

        Well, from my experience with the new 80-400 it is the fastest focusing lens I own. It’s almost scary fast, as in it snaps. I’m afraid the AF motor might break something.

    • DonD

      Well, then Steve, I don’t know how to explain this, but my new 80-400 is sharper then my 70-200 VRII. Shooing with the 80-400 at 400 and then the 70-200 at 200, then look at the 70-200 image at 100% and then 80-400 at an equivalent size to the 70-200 image, the 80-400 image is much sharper and that’s on a D800. Well, no one would say the 70-200 can not out resolve the D600, so how do I explain this?
      BTW, I owned the Sigma 50-500 (yes, the new one) and there is no way in real world use that it is that close to the 80-400. Of course, I wouldn’t be shooting those lenses at 50mm or 105mm.

      • SteveHood

        The 70-200 should be much sharper unless you are comparing the 200 @ f2.8 to 400 @ f8.

        • DonD

          Steve, I think you caught me. Now that you mention it, I was trying to compare shot with the fastest f stop on both lenses, so the 70-200 was at 2.8. I shot a state Track meet in the spring and used both lenese and noticed how sharp the 80-400 was then, but I just brushed it asside. It will be Tuesday before I can get back to that test, but I will do them both at 5.6 and 8.0. I can’t wait. Point is, guys, I’m telling you, my copy of the new 80-400 is unbelievably sharp.

      • AM

        You’re comparing apples and oranges. First off, your “sharpness” test is useless when you compare results taken at different focal lengths.
        A fair comparison is both lenses at 200mm, same f-stop, ISO, and shutter speed. I bet the 70-200mm will mop the floor with the 80-400mm.

        • neversink

          It will. I have tested them both in different lighting situations between 80mm and 200mm and the 70-200 f/2.8 out does the 80-400 by a long shot…. But the 80-400 is pretty damn good for what it is. Much better than the Sigma lenses….

  • n11

    I was just looking at the sigma online yesterday to read a bit more about it. Quite versatile and now I read that its performance is decent as well sounds promising. I may pick it up in the future.

  • zhen

    The test seems to be useless. What’s the point in comparing tele-zooms at the short focal length?

    • Ken Elliott

      Because we use the zoom at all focal lengths. If you only needed the long end, you might be better off buying a prime lens. Now, YOU might be buying it to only use the long end, but it would be bad for DXO to make that assumption.

      • neversink

        Why in the world would you buy this lens if it is soft between 300-500.Why would you want to carry around all that bulk. The 50-500 is a ridiculous lens. And Sigma lenses have been fraught with IQ issues and failures of AF motors. See my post a bit below for my experience with Sigma. Disappointing!!!!!
        At least the 80-400 will focus fast, and I am sure the IQ is better in the longer range than the Sigma or this DX0 test states. I’m not a big fan of DX0 tests. There is some good info there, but not sure their total rating system and point value is objective and scientific. I could be wrong on this assumption concerning DX0 tests, as it is just conjecture on my part.

        • Ken Elliott

          I’m not sure why you are replying to me. All I did is explain why DXO might test a zoom at all available focal lengths.

          • neversink

            Not replying to you directly… Your post just hit a sore point given your comment. Not sure it made any sense to me…. but have a good one. No offense meant.

    • DaveR

      Hi zhen, The DxOMark Score doesn’t just compare tele-zooms at the short focal length. I guess it could be confusing that they note what focal length is best – since that is often at the shorter focal lengths.

      This extract from the DxO web site describes the DxOMark score, it may help:

      ‘The DxOMark Score reports average lens-camera performances over the whole focal length and aperture ranges.

      The DxOMark Score is reported using a gauge that shows the score itself as well as the range of scores over the focal range. WIth this gauge, photographers can view the homogeneity of the lenses image quality over their focal range.’

      • KnightPhoto

        When testing a zoom DxO should do like PhotoZone.DE and show its results at many focal lengths.

        You buy these two lenses for their performance at max focal length. That being said, PhotoZone has unfortunately not tested either of these lenses ;-(

        • zhen

          I’ve read a review of 80-400 by Mansurov and there is a good comparison between the two at the short focal length (50 and 80) and at 400 mm: http://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-80-400mm-vr/5

          I think that might be sensible for the most ‘long zoom shooters’… The DXO’s tests are informative enough when it comes to fix lenses though.

  • whisky

    it’s nice to read that sigma has upped it’s game, as the older 50-500mm is not nearly as sharp at 500mm as the newer 80-400mm G with TC14E.

    if I didn’t need sharper images at the long end, and a faster autofocus, and excellent glare control when shooting into the light, i’d be inspired to ake a look at this sigma and possibly save myself some money.

    • neversink

      Those are three needs that are not even reflected in the DX0 tests. So, the only reason to buy this Sigma lens is to save money??? But if I can’t sell my images to my clients, then I am losing money!!!!

    • Dpablo unfiltered

      The old Sigma lens was sharper than the new one.

  • Did they suddenly launch a new Bigma that I wasn’t aware of?

  • WolfDengler

    And again, the Nikkor is a bit better but is much more expensive. The price-performance ratio of the Sigma is better. AF-Speed of the Nikkor is maybe better, but both lenses are definitely not first choice for sports because of their poor f-stop; but the Sigma offers 100mm additional focal length.

    • AnotherView

      But at least I know I won’t have to test/return the Nikon. VBG

  • Steve C

    I have the AF-S 80-400mm and I can state that it is very fast focusing, even in low light with a 1.4x converter, but I’m not sure if the IQ suffers too much with the converter.
    Certainly a great performer on it’s own.

    • Brian

      I find a TC on this lens is not so great.

  • Mike M

    I have no complaints with my new “smooth” finish Bigma, for less than half what the 80-400 cost my only regret is it’s heavy. If I had the kind of money to throw at the 80-400 AF-S I’d buy it for the weight savings. Sharpness advantages aren’t so spectacular when you can frame 100mm tighter, and frankly, as long as you’re framed tightly the “lack” of sharpness in the Sigma isn’t something you’ll notice at smaller than wall art sized prints.

  • AM

    Sigma, save today, regret tomorrow.

    • Aldo

      I wouldn’t dismiss sigma that easily, especially their new glass.

      • bob2

        My experience correlates with @AM. Mechanically Sigma cuts corners, and repairs and parts are very iffy on anything that is not current.

        I’ve had a 24mm f/2.8 manual focus with an aperture ring that is stiff and tight. Not worth the cost to repair. The lens has seen very light use (I’m the original owner since about 1990–wanted to save a buck back then). My Nikkors have not suffered the same fate.

        I also have an older AF prime lens from the late 90’s/early 2000’s (Nikon didn’t have the equivalent until recently). I’ve been looking for a hood but it’s been impossible to find. Can’t even find the part number on Sigma’s website, as if it never existed. Compare this to Nikon, where info goes back to their first lenses from the 1950’s!

        Same Sigma lens–meters about 2/3 stop under, compared to my Nikon lenses and light meters. A prior copy had AF errors–consistently 6″ out of focus. And corner sharpness on FX is very poor–I keep the lens for DX where it’s got a nice center sharpness and different rendering. Someone told me about decentering being a huge issue for most Sigmas, and being very important to test a bunch to find the ONE–as in testing out a whole boxful to find one good copy!

        I’ve seen a copy of this same lens with the rubbery exterior decomposing into some kind of sticky mess on the lens, soft enough that holding it left thumbprints on the tacky rubber! I wouldn’t want to get that stuff on the actual glass. I suppose my copy will suffer the same fate sooner or later.

        You do save money now, but resale value goes into the toilet. Even if you never resell, long-term viability is questionable. But it’s your money, and YMMV.

        • pellevin

          Sure Sigma has had some issues in the past, but the world is changing and Nikon is the only one who don’t seem to realise it. I own the Sigma 35 f1.4, 50 f1.4 and 150 f2.8. I have not had any issues with them and they beat equivalent Nikon glass hands down. The new Sigma 18-35 f1.8 DX is ground breaking. In the meantime Nikon has not even managed to produce anything faster than f2.8 at 18 mm DX, and that is the overweight overpriced 17-55 mm. A big embarrasement in over ten years of DX. All they do is new versions of old glass, where is the creativity?

          • AM

            Everything you said doesn’t change the fact that Sigma lenses are still a risky gamble as bob2 experienced. Your new Sigmas could be great today, will they be tomorrow? The odds are still against you.

            • pellevin

              Four years later the Sigma 50 mm and 150 mm are still going strong, awesome glass and bokeh. None of the Nikon equivalents have matched it when I tried them. You just have to face it that some Nikon lenses are overpriced for what they deliver and Nikon will decline if they don’t develop any new lenses except slow zooms.

            • Dpablo Unfiltered

              The glass you have been looking through is really just part of your crack pipe. The Sigma 50 beats something, I’m sure, if you’re colorblind and if you only go for one kind of shot consistently. Yeah, and I own Sigma glass and even use some once in a while so don’t go calling me fanboy snob whatnot…

          • KnightPhoto

            It’s pretty clear Nikon must be delaying serious DX lenses until they come with a DX mirrorless camera with shorter flange distance.

            Buy yeah, I have the Sigma 50 and would love to have their 150 as well.

  • itsmyname

    F6.3 sucks doesn’t matter who makes it.

    • Groosome

      F6.3 is fine as long as it’s not F6.3 maximum 🙂

      • itsmyname


  • Alberto Edoardo Lucchini

    Btw…. the real point is… Nikon is crazy!
    that’s all.
    More than 2000 euros just to have 100mm more than 70-300 vr.
    And the lens is not even so bright… bah.
    I am a nikon user too but sometime i pray for nikon managers mass siucide

    • robert

      ~I am a nikon user too but sometime i pray for nikon managers mass siucide~

      Now, more than ever would be great so they can make some changes..so I will ah-ah-men to your prayer.

    • delayedflight

      The original 80-400 was just as expensive when it first came out… Considering Nikon pulled all the stops with this lens short of making it f2.8 it’s not too bad especially as it is rather new.

      Also the SWM motors in the new 80-400 are much much faster.

      Seriously did you guys really expect a state of the art lens to cost you $1000?

      • Alberto Edoardo Lucchini

        YES, why not?
        this nikon lens is NOT aFAST PRIME , it only add 100mm to the cheap 70/300 ….
        Why 80/400 should cost close to the 70/200 f2.8??
        it’s a nikon nonsense

        Nikon is taking joke of consumers and the prove of it is thet he is doing the same with dx lenses.
        Look at the new 18/140 f3,5-5,6….it cost 600 euros… lol

        It seems to me that nikon fanboys always accept every marketing sh.t or product they sell on the market.
        Nikon fanboys accept it.
        Nikon users instead like the product but are also able to still think with theyrs brain and complain about…

        • Mike M

          Probably because it’s made out of basically the same amount of “stuff”. It’s not just coincidence that 400 f5.6 is double 200 f2.8… The entrance pupil of both lenses would need to be the same size, which dictates a lot of the cost related design decisions. Not to say I don’t think the price of both lenses is kinda inflated these days, but also some markets are paying for their bad currency value etc as well.

          • bob2

            “it’s made out of basically the same amount of stuff”.

            I can sell you lenses made out of cola bottles, being made of the same stuff.

            You can’t get filet mignon on hamburger prices no matter how much you wish it so. And even within each cut, there are different grades–run of the mill to super-high.

            • Mike M

              Bob2 how is it you go from basically saying the price is the price, which I’m more or less agreeing with by saying: “The entrance pupil of both lenses would need to be the same size, which dictates a lot of the cost related design decisions.” (Refering to the fact that it’s slightly more expensive than the 70-200 and how that makes sense since they’ll contain similar quantities and sizes of expensive optical grade glass) to bashing me because you apparently can’t understand English?

        • Reilly Diefenbach

          You can’t afford it. What a tragedy!

          • Alberto Edoardo Lucchini

            Mmm… what a clever comment.
            Maybe i can ….or maybe not.
            That’s not the point
            For sure i don’t feel good in doggy style while nikon is at my shoulder. Do you?

            Btw. I think this is a good lens for sure but not at this price.
            I feel a littlebit scammed and abused

            If u are a pro photographer btw, and u need to work with it, than it’s worth buyng maybe

            • bob2

              “I feel a littlebit scammed and abused”

              No one is scamming you or abusing you. Nikon is not forcing you to buy anything. If you are cheap, that’s okay, so am I (and affording things is no problem for me). You are complaining about PERCEIVED VALUE–and you perceive value in price, regardless of other factors, visible or hidden (like quality control or long-term support, which Sigma and other third party makers very sorely lack based on my own experience).

              Try this: tell me if you can get a better deal from Canon, or Sony, or Pentax or anybody else for that matter–you can’t–they are all expensive, or at least more costly than the independents. That’s the cost of a system. That’s how companies make money to continue to grow and innovate. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

              How about the Sigma SD-1–price just recently lowered–from $8,000 to under $2,000–if you bought that camera at those prices, then I’d feel abused and scammed by….Sigma.

            • Chad Hsieh

              If you can’t afford it, don’t complain. Just go buy something else you think is of more value.

        • Dpablo Unfiltered

          Alberto, I really wish you would go shoot that 50-500. Really.

    • WolfDengler

      You are right. Nikon is increasing prices for almost everything that was announced in the past. 2.300 € for the 80-400. The old one was at 1.100 €. And 1.200 € PLUS is ???!!!???.

      I can imagine, what the new 300mm f4 VR will cost: I think it will be at 2.600 €.

    • bob2

      That Nikon is too expensive has been a typical complaint even back in the film days (1970’s and 1980’s for me), where Sigma/Tamron/Vivitar/etc. sold on price (I’ve been there and fallen for the bait). But most third party lenses are long forgotten and worthless, while camera manufacturer lenses still have resale value. Optics takes precision to manufacture and assemble, and that means expensive.

      Of course, you can look at it another way. 2,000 euros is VERY cheap when compared to Leica or Zeiss, and will barely get you one of their small, simple, manual focus prime lenses with no zoom, no VR, no hood, nothing whatsoever. Yet some would say that’s a great lens, others say it’s a rip-off and too expensive. Who’s to say? Price is only one factor among several.

  • SME Expert

    Agree, I am interested in the results at max and near max of each zoom lens.

    Also would have liked to have seen the Sigma 150-500mm tested and the Tamron 200-500mm lens. Those are more comparable focal lengths lens.

    Darn good results for that Sigma, but it overlap to many of my current lens. Don’t need anything from 50mm to 150mm.

    • neversink

      From someone who owned the 150-500mm.
      * The IQ degraded quite a bit and became rather soft between 350 and 500mm (the reason you would want this lens in the first place.) (Personally I think 50-500 is a gimmick lens.)
      * I compared the 70-200 f/2.8 with all TCs and found the IQ to be much better than the 150-500mm in all aspects.
      * Bokeh is harsh and therefore ugly on the Sigma 150-500
      * And worse — Two days into an assignment (God knows why I was using the Sigma in the first place) in Africa, the AF motor died and I just bit the bullet and purchased the Nikon 500mm F/4. (This lens, though tack sharp, does not seem to do as well with TCs) while I was waiting for delivery in the middle of nowhere I settled down and used the 70-200 with TCs and great results.
      Conclusion: I will never by Sigma again. Even if they improve their IQ on some of their new lenses. It’s not worth the stress!!!!

  • jk

    if this test is any reliable , I would get the cheap Sigma 50-500OS.
    but I do not think it is correct , I think there is some measurements error as usual at DXOmark crap.
    they seem to dislike Zeiss or any brand name lenses, but seem to love off-brand craps like Sigma , Samyang and Tamron..

    • bob2

      “love off-brand craps like Sigma , Samyang and Tamron..”

      You can always design a testing methodology that emphasizes certain things while omitting other things, like HiFi equipment that measures well but sounds terrible.

      Things not tested are flare control, microcontrast, perceived roll-off/dimensionality, focus shifting, color uniformity/consistency–things some respected on-line reviewers get into, but these sites don’t (and frankly, high end lenses generally have better microcontrast and often a 3-D look that cheaper lenses just cannot hope to achieve). That’s also why Popular Photography lens and camera testing has no credibility to me–but it’s good for camera p*rn and killing time sitting on the throne.

  • jk

    anyway, I think we need a 400f5.6 or something similar lighter than 1.5kg.
    I think Canon and Sony both have that.

  • jk

    DXO is for people who do not know how to measure or evaluate their own lenses for themselves , their sensor tests are also unreliable but at least a bit better than their really lousy and inaccurate testing only one copy of each kind of optical measurement tests.
    if you want to see real test go lensrental or slrgear, who tests at least 3 copies of each, and I think Roger tests many many actually as many copies of each as he can as he runs a big lens rental business.

    • bob2

      best post of the day!

  • Reilly Diefenbach

    The Nikon utterly smokes the Sigma at 400mm, hanging in beautifully with the D800e. The only zoom in the world which is sharp end to end. Nano coated poppin’ color, too. Another fine example of DXO muttonheadedness.

    • neversink

      Have you tried the 200-400, the 14-24. For sharpness, they both “smoke” the 80-400. Those are two incredible zooms!!!! I agree with your assertion that the”Nikon (80-400) utterly smokes the Sigma at 400mm….”

  • CommonCents

    Just my real world 2¢

    I have a non OS 50-500. Had it for years. You really don’t need OS. Who shoots 500mm handheld? People that dont know how to use a real camera. It’s a heavy ass lens so you really don’t want it dangling anyhow.

    It may be a little soft @ 500 but nothing that can’t be corrected to be acceptable if you know what you are doing in pp. AF Performed very fast on my d7000, is just as quick on my d800. Haven’t had a chance yet to do a serious comparison of sharpness @ 500 on a DX vs FX Vs FX(DX mode)

    • VikingAesir

      Who shoots at 500mm hand held? People with image stabilization who aren’t so weak they need support just to hold a few pounds of camera and lens.

    • Dpablo unfiltered

      And YOUR lens is sharper than the one with the OS.

  • Back to top