Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM Sports lens vs. Nikon 500mm f/4E FL ED VR lens comparison review




Brad Hill has posted a detailed comparison review between the Sigma 500mm f/4 DG OS HSM Sports lens ($5,999) and the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR lens ($10,296.95) on his blog. Here is a summary:

The differences in AF performance of the Sigma Sport 500mm f4 and the Nikkor 500mm f4E VR are so subtle that they are unlikely to be noticed under normal day-to-day shooting; both lenses show a very snappy initial focus acquisition, both shift from closest focus to distant focus very fast, and both re-focus quickly and smoothly enough that they rarely miss focus on even fast moving subjects. Repeated trials of continuous high-frame rate shooting on a rapidly moving subject showed "keeper rates" of almost 90% for both lenses, but with the Sigma Sport having a slightly higher rate of sharp shots. Both lenses exhibited high focus accuracy on all 55 selectable focus points of a Nikon D5, but the Sigma Sport 500mm f4 showed a higher degree of focus accuracy on several of the outermost focus points on a Nikon D500.

There was extreme similarity in the shutter speeds at which I could hand-hold the Sigma Sport 500mm f4 and Nikkor 500mm f4E VR at and still obtain both very sharp shots and slightly less sharp "keepers" when shooting bursts of 3 shots. When I shot several longer (10 frame) bursts of shots using the various stabilization settings on the two lenses I did find some differences between the effectiveness of the settings and the lenses. I obtained a slightly higher number of sharp shots and overall number of keepers with the VR settings on the Nikkor 500 compared to the OS settings available to a Sigma 500 user without access to a USB dock and Sigma Optimization Pro software (i.e., when using the default OS "view" settings on the Sigma lens), but this difference disappeared when I used the Sigma lens with one of its OS customization settings (OS Moderate View).

I have NEVER tested any two competing lenses that are so absolutely similar in image quality (at all distances, apertures, and with or without teleconverters) than the Sigma Sport 500mm f4 and the Nikkor 500mm f4E VR. Image sharpness, quality of the out-of-focus zones, and the progression in increasing sharpness from wide open through to about f5 (where both lenses approach maximum sharpness) is virtually identical between my copies of these two lenses.

For more information, check the full directory of the test/comparison:

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  • doge

    That’s good news. Save a boatload of money with that Sigma and buy another Sigma, or 2 more Sigmas.

    • hje

      that might be bad news, too.
      I expect nikon to price the successor of the d810 between 4000 and 5000$ because cross-subsidization from lenses is less successful (and the smaller market).
      😉

      • Innovation in quality & price competition has never been bad news for the consumer.

        • hje

          innovation in quality is indeed most often good news for the consumer

          price competition can be both. bad news or good news (or even no news).
          Claiming that “price competition has never been bad news for the consumer” is over-simplified .

          But yes, I do like what sigma is doing.

          But I won’t join the upcoming shitstorm on nikonrumors about nikons pricing of new products.

          • Eric Calabros

            The irony is if Sigma keep gaining more market share, they have to become bigger. and when they become bigger, they inevitably will price their products like bigger companies.

            • Allen_Wentz

              Nah. Pricing is not a function of size, it is a product development and marketing decision. If Sigma builds a pricing model that works they would be unlikely to shoot themselves in the foot by changing it.

            • Eric Calabros

              They have to. Like Huawei in smartphone industry. for years they were like today Xiaomi, “same performance, way cheaper” strategy, but after expanding the business, which lead to larger user base and higher demand for customer service, they started to increase their prices.

            • ZoetMB

              I can’t speak to why Huawei increased their prices – it could simply be greed or what the market would bare. But if you sell more units, while it’s true the company might become bigger and need to offer more customer service, that’s offset by lower costs per unit due to the increased quantity.

            • Eric Calabros

              Glass business is a bit different from semiconductor industry.

            • Athanasius Kirchner

              Actually, Sigma growing in marketshare can only be positive. Since they sell more mid- and high-end lenses than Canon and Nikon combined by this point (probably, CIPA is very murky about this), they can offer optical marvels at excellent prices. This is, to me, nothing but good news (just make some lenses smaller, Sigma, please – I get why the Arts are YUGE, but the lower-end zooms will benefit from a smaller footprint).

          • TheMeckMan

            Nikon is bloated. If they shed their failing divisions and restructure they wouldn’t have to cross “subsidize” less profitable divisions and could be more price competitive.

        • Look at the cost of Indian engineers… They used to be 20-30% the cost of US/EU engineers of similar education… Now they are 70%/80%… open market will always see that successful competitors’ prices are… erm… competitive.

          But what several posters are missing (when they state -correctly- that Sigma will probably raise their prices to near Nikon levels if they become a bigger player in the market) is that Nikon will have to have adjusted their prices downwards in response to the pressure from their competitor… and Sigma would not likely adjust their prices ABOVE Nikon…

          So on average, prices will be lower with Sigma present.

      • MB

        I seriously doubt any Sigma lens will work on D810 successor…

        • Owen Perry

          Maybe not 100% compatibility right away, but I think it would be silly of Nikon to do such a thing. Too many professional photographers using Sigma glass these days. Would dissuade such customers from buying the D810 successor.

        • Viktor

          That would mean less customers to buy that following D8xx…..

        • CERO

          firmware update brother.. all newer sigmas are compatible with the dock.

          • MB

            Yeap, but firmware updates only works because Nikon tolerated that so far but if they decide to stop it they will find the way for sure … I also have Sigma lenses and would hate for this to happen but Nikon is heavily wounded company and lenses are maybe the last remaining really profitable business for them … desperate times call for desperate measures … lets just hope they do not do it …

            • Rudi

              Nikon has to tolerate it by law! I think that’s no difference in the US.

            • ZoetMB

              I don’t think that’s true in the U.S. No company has to make their products compatible with another company’s products – look at Apple. If Nikon makes a change that renders third party lenses unusable, that’s their business.

              Remember when Real Audio sued Apple because Real Audio files wouldn’t work in iTunes? They lost.

              Having said that, the patents on the earliest AF Nikkor lenses should begin expiring no later than 2019, although it’s the mount that matters, not the lens technology itself. Although Nikon has changed some things since, many of the mount patents have to be expiring if they haven’t expired already. And reverse engineering is permitted in the U.S.

            • Apple finally had to accept WINDOWS OS

            • ZoetMB

              Apple didn’t “accept” Windows OS. Windows OS wouldn’t run on the PowerPC processors that the Macs used to have. Once the Macs moved to Intel processors, Windows would run on a Mac with a hard drive partition and Apple didn’t just accept it, they promoted it with the use of Parallels Desktop and similar programs.

              And Macs always read data files created on Wintel machines. They just couldn’t run the executables.

              However, Apple doesn’t permit the opposite. While some people have built their own “Hackintoshes”, you can no longer buy an install CD or download a copy of the MacOS. You can only download it to install it on the current Mac.

        • d2xman

          for “nominal” fee, I believe Sigma can swap out the lens mount if one decides to switch system, i.e from Nikon to Canon. Therefore, don’t have to worry about depreciation/cost of switching systems.

        • Sigma offers users the option of converting their lenses to other mounts, so if Nikon (or Canon) choose to fence them out with firmware trickery, they may be hurting themselves more than Sigma.

        • Eloise

          (Some) Sigma lenses may not work on the D810 successor; or D750, D610, D500, D5 successors too… But don’t think Nikon would do that deliberately, it would just be a case of Nikon not caring.

          Never attribute to malice what is most likely down to ignorance / incompetence.

          • MB

            No offense but that is just naive …

            • Eloise

              No offence … but your attitude is just wrong.

              Nikon don’t care if their cameras work with third party lenses, they will put things in place to provide improvements which may block third party lenses, but they won’t block them from working deliberately. To do so would risk Nikon lenses not working either.

            • Eloise

              You say it’s naive … but perhaps you could enlighten me when Nikon have *deliberately* stopped third party accessories working in the past!

            • MB

              So … Nikon is ignorant and incompetent company that does not care about anything and occasionally and totally accidentally makes a firmware tweak that stops third party accessories to work … OK … that is another way to look at this …

      • Mike A

        hje: I’ll take that action – there’s no way Nikon’s going to price the D810 successor anywhere near $4,000.00 – $5,000.00…

        • ZoetMB

          I predict $3600 in the U.S. The D800 originally listed for $3000, the D810 for $3300. Nikon almost always builds in a price increase for themselves, regardless of the dollar to Yen conversion rate. That’s the main reason they release new models, especially when they just have incremental improvements – it’s a way of getting a price increase without consumers screaming that they’ve increased prices. Personally, I think they’re pricing themselves out of the non-pro market (and maybe some of the pro market as well).

      • Mike Simian

        $5000 won’t happen as Fuji’s GFX 50s is $6500 and customers would move in droves. I know I would. Even a $4000 price tag would likely push some Nikon loyalists towards the Fuji.

        Also, Nikon can not successfully price much above the Canon competition. 5DS is $3700 with a street price of $3500.

      • fanboy fagz

        its true that 3rd party offerings is killing nikon fast. but if they do price that high..not even cameras will sell and many might jump ship. that will be their downfall. there is more then enough excellent used nikons to buy. this isnt the d200/300 era where the cameras werent high level and every model was a big jump. even from D800 to 810 wasnt that significant. and a D810 is still VERY relevant for many years.

    • DSLR MAn

      Yeah keep buying the same sigma lens because they don’t last long.

      • doge

        What cave did you crawl out of to make all these nonsensical comments?

        • Paul Marks

          A few years ago I went to a camera show and stopped by the Sigma booth. From Sigma’s stock, I installed a lens onto my D810. It felt like there was sand in the barrel. If they can’t keep their display products in great shape, what chance would I have in the field – so I bought another Nikon. Were I going on safari, I might buy a Sigma 500mm, but only because the price difference is enough to buy a nice car. YMMV

          • I purchased two Nikon 35 1.8 D DX lenses… they both had god-awful LOCA from misaligned internal elements… Shockingly bad… If Nikon can’t even get a “Nifty Fifty” equivalent prime right, what chance would I have in the field? – So I bought a Sigma Art…

            • Paul Marks

              So a $200 Nikon didn’t meet your standards, and you didn’t send it back to Nikon for replacement or repair? What Sigma Art lens could you get for the same $200? A 35mm Sigma Art lens is at least 4 times the cost. Your post is very troll-like. And, I’d never consider taking a lens “into the field” without having tested it well before taking any important shot, and I’ve owned dozens of Nikon lenses with only one failure: A $100 toy at least 20 years ago that got rough handling, and developed a scratchy feel – lie the Sigma I tested.

    • Mansgame

      Have you ever owned a single Sigma lens? Try it and then see.

      • doge

        I own several and they all work perfect.

        • Mansgame

          Consider yourself very lucky.

          • Me, too… I have used the USB dock to tweak a few in the (relative) comfort of my own shop … Yet had to send my Nikon 70-200 and D810 back to have them tweaked by Nikon Ginza which took both time and money…. The sooner Nikon allow their customers to tweak their lenses, the better… Not likely since they can charge ¥10,000 to “tune” a body and lens, when they should have worked from the outset…. The cynic in me sometimes even thinks that Nikon purposefully lowers their QA targets to enable this aftermarket income…

  • Paul H.

    $4300.00 is one hell of a Nikon tax…

    • Eric Calabros

      Here is half full thinking: fewer people will pay that tax, so fewer of this lens will be made, so fewer of them will be available in the market, so its price will stay higher, especially after a decade.

      • True, that’s part of why it will maintain it’s resale value. But the real reason these lenses stay so expensive is because most of the buyers are rental houses, who’ll easily recoup their loses and still sell them for a profit when they upgrade to the next gen version.

      • d2xman

        600mm f/4 G was $11k 4 yrs ago. now used on fm is about $4.5k.

    • DSLR MAn

      lol go buy your siggy and see if it still works after 6 years and what the resell value is.

      • Brian

        What will be the resale on the Nikon after 6 years?

        • DSLR MAn

          I have gotten most of what I paid for all the Nikon lenses that I’ve sold. With the 80-200mm f/2.8 lens lens, I bought it used, got my use out of it for 3 years and sold it for exactly what I paid for it. During the same time, Sigma’s 70-200mm f/2.8 lens had 2 or 3 different models that dropped like a rock in value.

          In a few cases, they’ve even increased in value since I bought it like with the 14-24mm

          • Viktor

            You are talking here about old style/philosophy Sigma not the new current Art/Sports series…. Have in mind its like talking about two different companies. Sigma is now not the Sigma it used to be years ago 😉

            • Mansgame

              I don’t know, I’ve been burnt by Sigma before. It will take years before I can trust them again.

            • Viktor

              I have never used them before they came with 35Art. In those years I was only Nikkor user. But since that 35mm….. I am on the opposite site…. it might take me years before I return to Nikkor, Sigma and Zeiss lenses are heavy, but for me the optical quality is worth it.
              If I would be using ZOOMs their trinity is really something excellent, but I am prime lenses user…..

            • Mansgame

              I tried them when Nikon didn’t have many cheap DX lenses and my camera didn’t have an AF motor and it was not impressive at all. I’m sure they’re better now that the market is bigger but I decided it was going to be Nikon or nothing for me and I have never been let down yet.

            • This… there were signs and portents of future greatness even in their “HSM” years. I loved the 12-24 on my old F4 and the DX equivalent 8-16 DG is glued to my DX camera historically from the D70 – D90 – D7000 – D7100… and when I get the D7200 I’ll probably use it on that, too…. That is a beast of a lens and cost me only ¥48,000 s/h… Incredible…

          • Viktor

            It is possible to buy and sell for almost the same price, but….
            It depends on how much you rely on the lenses. In case you are professional and you have responsibility to catch a moment then I would not want to depend on a lens someone treats like a plain piece of his business – walking in rain etc. eg. I do believe especially 500mm is very prone to such circumstances as it is mainly for sport and wildlife – rain, dust, laying around summer or winter….. good luck 😉

        • I never buy new… Problem solved… Bought my D800 for ¥130,000 in a shop about 2 years ago… sold it for ¥108,000…. cheaper than leasing.

          Similarly, I bought a second hand Sigma 12-24 HSM for 50,000…. sold it 4 years later for 48,000 when Nikonrumors told us the newer II version would be coming out…

          I fail to see the point of whether it’s a Nikon or a Sigma…

          If you buy at the right time and sell with forethought, you will be rewarded with stupid low costs (barring damage) over the lifespan of your gear…

          In terms of reliability, I have spent FAR more repairing Nikon than Sigma… my AF-S200/2 VR cost me ¥58,000 just to replace the AF motor….

      • d2xman

        interesting…hmmm a 600 VR G was about $11k 4 years ago. Now, you can find in on FM for about $4500. so much for retaining resell value

        • harvey

          not quite true – the last one sold for that price but they are quite rare so the previous one to that sold for $5400.

          • d2xman

            one just listed today for $4500. of course, that’s a nice price and you don’t see it too often. But I have seen it in the $4800 range as well.

            • harvey

              it sold in 7 hours. But the background story was it was a Canon guy selling it for his sick neighbour who had pressing medical bills. The lens and a D800 went for cheap for a quick sale.

        • DSLR MAn

          So buy that lens instead of the sigma. Besides, your point is moot since you have no sigma to compare it to.

  • Bill Ferris

    In his final blog post in this series, Hill will announce which lens he’s keeping and his reasoning for the decision. I think most folks who’ve been following the series expect Hill to announce he’s keeping the Sigma. In an early blog post, he seemed to genuinely prefer the ergonomics of the Sigma to the Nikon so, count me in the “Sigma” camp.

    If he chooses the Nikon, I suspect it will be for the weight savings. The extra cost could potentially be written off as a business expense. Packing the extra weight of the Sigma for miles through rugged backcountry isn’t something to be written off.

    Regardless, I suspect the Sigma will sell very well both to professionals and enthusiasts with pockets deep enough to support such a purchase.

    • Anjitha Senarath

      Funded by Sigma 😀

      • Tony

        This is not true and is unfair to Brad. In his post of 12 Dec 2016 he has a “Statement of Objectivity” in which he clearly states that he bought both of these lenses himself (and will sell one of them at the end of his tests).

        He has done an incredibly exhaustive and objective comparison of the 2 lenses, concerning all aspect of their performance (except, of course, for long term reliability). It is a very fair and authoritative comparison.

  • zombietimeshare

    Two questions. While optically they are similar, how does the build quality compare? And, for a few years down the road, how would resale prices compare?

    • Eric Calabros

      Forget the resale price, I can’t even sell used third party lenses in my country. I may have to wait for several months until a potential buyer appears from nowhere. Normal primes with affordable MSRP are easier, but a $6000 tele? No way.
      Though US is different.

    • Athanasius Kirchner

      Well, the Sigma is priced much lower to begin with, so any value loss will be proportionally smaller…

      • Brian

        It’s kind of relative…if you get just 1/2 or $3K for the Sigma in 6 years you used the lens for 6 years at a cost of $3K.

        Let’s say you get $7 for the Nikon (which I’m not so sure) then you used it for 6 years for $3K or so…

        Less cost up front could mean less interest on a CC etc…

        • Athanasius Kirchner

          Maybe I wasn’t so clear, but that’s what I meant. If one sells the Sigma for 2/3rds of its price later, and the Nikon for 4/5ths, one has lost more or less the same amount of money. And that scenario is unlikely, as I’d expect both to be devalued by similar amounts given equal use and condition.
          The much lower price of the Sigma, however, will make it the *only* choice for a lot of people.

          • fanboy fagz

            and im certain t here will be just as much demand for a used sigma as a nikon since many people still wouldnt have the amount of money for a used nikon or even a new sigma.

      • d2xman

        exactly!

    • Spy Black

      I just don’t see the point of considering the resale value of a product. I buy gear to use it, not to try and recoup a greater price I should ever sell it down the line.

      • DSLR MAn

        You’re missing the point. Resell value of a product determines how long it will last as well. Nikon lenses have high resell value because they can work for decades. Think of it Toyota vs. Chrysler. How many 80’s Toyotas do you still see on the road? How many Chryslers?

        • Spy Black

          Um, no.

          • DSLR MAn

            Troll.

            • Spy Black

              What’s the matter, can’t see a point of view other than yours?

        • Gregory Roane

          So… I can buy a $5k Sigma and have it last *only* ~10 years forcing me to purchase another NEW $5k Sigma for another ~10 years thus giving me 20 years of shooting (with a refreshed replacement after a decade) for less money than the Nikkor (with little if any loss in build or image quality)?

          What is the argument here? It isn’t like the Sigma is falling apart after you unbox it or that it blocks all colors except red and green, you are saying that it is better to spend more than twice for the same tool by different manufacturers just so you can resell it DECADES later at a higher percentage (maybe.) Lenses are not investments, they are tools; big, fragile, expensive tools. If you were told by someone to treat lenses as investments, you should fire your financial advisor.

          If all else is equal, you just use the cheaper tool until the thing detonates and then go buy another new tool.

          • fanboy fagz

            lets entertain the the ridiculous idea that it will die in 10 years..why buy a new one…why couldn’t it be repaired if the motor dies ?

            • Gregory Roane

              Yeah, that too. Still save over the Nikkor…..

      • d2xman

        agreed

      • peter w

        For an amateur – you don’t write off stuff at home if it doesn’t wear – resale value is a serious point. I bought a second hand 500 F4 AF-S first version in 2006, and sold it for the same price when I bought the first VR version. This means I saved for the VR lens while making photos. That is a nice prospect and reduces the cost of the hobby to a large extend. (So I can put the money in ever evolving camera’s).
        Buying new almost always means losing on resale value, except for a few products that grow to be collectors items. But, also these days some AF-S Nikkor-lenses hold their second hand value very long.

        We have to see how the newer Sigma’s will hold their value. A matter of Sigma service and durability of the lens. A guy I know totally wore down his Sigma 300-800 F5,6 within 10 years time of intensive but normal use. An abused AF-I / AF-S Nikkor may well survive long after official service has ended.

        Sometimes lenses are bought for photographic projects of only a short period. For projects the Sigma could be ideal. And, could very well be, for more than that.

        • Spy Black

          If it floats your boat, that’s cool. That’s just too much work and consideration for me. I buy, I use. I’m concerned with the gear and what it can do for me NOW.

          • peter w

            You are possibly eighter a tiny bit richer, or a professional photographer. Happy floating to you too.

    • DSLR MAn

      Resell values of Sigma are dog crap. I can sell my Nikon lenses within hours on ebay or craigslist but it took me almost a month to sell my old sigma lenses and it was at 40% loss.

      • d2xman

        $11k 4 yrs ago and $4.5k used today . wow over 50% loss for the Nikon 600mm f/4 G VR

        • harvey

          that was a one-of sale. the previous one sold for $5500 on FM. Somebody priced it low to sell it quick. If somebody priced a D810 at $1000 because they needed the money fast, that is not the new price, it is an outlier. You have to look at averages. EBay averages are about $5500-6000.

          • d2xman

            one was listed today for $4500. There was one on FM for $4800 few months back too. Was on there for more than a week. So while you don’t see them at $4500 too often, but you can get them that low after 4-5 years. I don’t care much for ebay. That place is way overpriced anyway. If one willing to overpay on ebay…go for it – not me. Good deals can be had on FM quite easily.

      • fanboy fagz

        and it took a month…so? you that desperate for money?

    • Russell Ferris

      I won’t buy another squeaky Nikon lens that only has one mounting option, the 24-35 and 120-300S are the most precise pieces of glass I own. They even rival my 645z in some regards like wide open shooting which I don’t do on the Pentax. If you get a chance giv a Nikon a good rattle and hear all the plastic crap jangle around

  • stevieg

    3.3Kg Nikon vs 3.0Kg for Sigma, not much of a weight difference is it? Absolutely accept that £3k GBP IS a difference, but could be written off as business expenses.
    Really losing faith with Nikon now.
    Is the D5/500 offering all they can come up with to celebrate 100yrs? I really hope there’s something more later this year….

    • CERO

      well, they do have nice lens caps for you 😉

      • Athanasius Kirchner

        But-but-but gunmetal D500! Leather vanity straps! And the metallic hot shoe cover! Can’t forget those.

  • SM

    the most important thing is the micro contrast from the nikon nano-coating. To me that’s more important than resolution, as long as the resolution is fairly close.

  • Viktor

    Looks really great…. that Sigma…. however too long focal for me, I am looking forward if they make 300/4 – maybe one sunny day 🙂

    However their 120-300/2.8 is also great.
    Today it is a day of 500 users 🙂 Enjoy your choice 😉

    • Spy Black

      “…looking forward if they make 300/4…”

      Hopefully without a Fresnel lens.

  • Photobug

    Eye opening and at the lower cost.

  • Amir

    Is Nikon failing?If this process of making highly qualified lenses from Sigma continues,eventually Nikon will give up its lens making section for camera bodies,laying off more people,increasing current lenses price tags every few months,and will stand up again! This is their saying:”Nikon: we plan to concentrate on 1)mid-to-high-end DSLR and 2)mirrorless cameras and 3)…(I believe that missing dots are lenses!!).

    • What I want to know is how much is Nikon and Sigma making off their 500mm lenses. Maybe Sigma is loosing money just to make a name or maybe Nikon is making a huge profit on their version and they can go down in price. I guess we will never know.

      • Rob

        I’ve always wondered how many of these fast super-telephotos they actually sell. Professional sports and nature photographers would need them, and a few affluent amateurs would buy as well, but I would guess that the sales volume is so low that they would have to make a fair amount on each one in order to justify making them.

        • EnPassant

          Since the introduction of D3 in 2007 sales of Nikon’s very long tele lenses doubled!
          Nikon from 2007 have sold 1000 or more lenses each from the long and big 400/2.8, 500/4 and 600/4 lenses.

          Sales for 200/2 is a bit lower as it is more specialised, and even more so for the 800/5.6 with only 400-500 sold every year.
          The bestseller have always been the 300/2.8 with around 2000 sold every year going all the way back to the early 80’s!

          These lenses are a real cash cow for both Canon and Nikon because they totaly dominate that market. Also see my answer above.

          • ZoetMB

            How do you know how many Nikon has sold? Are you an insider? Serial number analysis? Because this is not public information. Only the total number of lenses Nikon has sold is public and that will be about 4.5-4.6 million this fiscal when it’s over.

            • EnPassant

              I don’t have exact numbers. But http://www.photosynthesis.co.nz/nikon/serialno.html
              have a pretty good record of all consumer lenses made by Nikon.

            • ZoetMB

              Yeah, when I wrote “serial number analysis” this is the site I was thinking of, but it’s very hard to determine recent sales out of that. Also, units aren’t necessarily shipped or sold in serial number order. I can tell you this: for the first time in five years, every single Nikkor lens (with the exception of the manual AI-S 20mm) is in stock in a U.S. edition at B&H. That has never happened before. That either means a) Nikon is doing a much better job of maintaining inventory -or- b) sales are in the dumper. An industry analyst has told me it’s the latter. Whether this is due to product issues, pricing issues, the competition, the previous generation of high-end lenses being good enough or worries about Nikon’s future is anyone’s guess. IMO, Nikon should be seeing the most consistency at the highest end of the product line, but maybe even pros are now limited by what they can afford to purchase as there’s downward pressure on what clients are willing to pay, except perhaps for the few “A-List” photographers at the top.

            • EnPassant

              My numbers were of course just a very rough estimation. While the data for the current lenses naturally have some lag Roland Vink, the owner of the photosynthesis website, do update it fairly regularly.

              I don’t know exactly from where he get all his information, except that he is regularly tipped (I’ve done that myself!) about older lenses carrying higher numbers than in his lists. But if you check his profile you will learn he works as an Analyst/Report Writer so I assume he knows better than most people where to find information!

              For current lenses there is naturally some lag when it comes to the lates sales and shipments. But as Nikon fairly recently updated several of the long lenses the numbers for the older lenses should not be that far off. And when I looked at lenses produced I looked back as far as 35 years when doing my calculations (In my head!) and noticed the trends which seem to hold also for the current lenses. You can of course do the same thing if you don’t trust me. But while you may get more exact numbers using a calculator I don’t think they will be far of my rough estimation.

              I would agree with the analyst you spoke to. The problem for Nikon F and all other old mounts still used for digital cameras are all the old lenses, many of them very capable today that can be bought much cheaper used than new lenses.

              While there are customers who don’t want to go to the used market the other customers must be persuaded by lenses being better than previous generation or offering something more.

              Another thing that helps selling new lenses is technological development making the older generation half obsolete. The F-mount started with a Fork coupling in 1959 and in 1977 moved to Ai-coupling and later to the current Gensesis generation without an aperture ring. AF started with a screwdrive coupling but is now since long AF-S on all lenses. Finally aperture control was mechanical from the beginning but is now moving to Electronic for the new lenses.

              As for the increased sales of long lenses I think I have an answer for this.
              With D3 Nikon finally had a full frame digital camera that could make full use of good lenses for best results. That was a great push for full frame lens sales, especially for very expensive ones.

              But it was not only pro’s who were buying. Many rich amateurs also discovered it now was so much easier for them to also take high quality photos. And the arrival of D700 increased the interest even more.

              As to me I am no analyst by profession but did play competitive chess for more than 35 years (even meeting a couple of Bobby Fischers old opponents in competitions) and so to speak have an analytical mind in a general sense. And I live in the same country as your brother! ;o)

      • EnPassant

        My guess is that Nikon make at least $2K profit from each 500mm lens (and all the other 500+mm lenses), maybe even much more.
        Considering Nikon since 2007 are selling around 1000 500mm lenses each year that would make a cool $20M profit!
        And that for only one lens. But as said I am only guessing.

      • Nikonland

        Sigma is a much smaller and leaner company than Nikon that simply does not waste money on trivial things or to pay a lot of useless managers. Yamaki said several times that they are focused to do everything in-house, without throwing away money. This allows them to keep prices competitive.

      • KnightPhoto

        Priced in Canada the Sigma 500 f/4 is coincidentally the exact same price I paid for my Nikon f/4G nine years ago. That is interesting. The 500E is 5 grand more. That is a big differential. I’d still pay a decent differential due to Fluorite, weight, and it being a Nikon for longevity/quality – let’s say 25% differential. The 38% difference is a bit steep, hoping the Canadian dollar eventually recovers somewhat and Nikon Canada stops hosing us on exchange rate.

        I suspect the 200-500 and 150-600’s have done a great deal of damage to the 500/600 prime market. Most enthusiasts I know use one of these zooms nowadays. Still a few hold outs like myself with the big primes but I don’t often hear of someone who is going to get one. I’ll bide my time, keep shooting the 500G. I’d like a 500E or 600E for the weight benefit. Better yet would be a 500 and 600 PF of course.

        I am considering a Sigma Contemporary 150-600 for the weight, more or less strictly for use during guided international birding trips. Since the focus of these trips is more birding than photography, something pretty darn light like the Sigma C would allow me to keep up with the other group members. I’ve seen the Contemporary locally for just over $1,000 gray market. Not interested in the 150-600 Sport, rather have the big fast E or PF primes if I’m going to go that heavy.

    • Mansgame

      Nikon is not failing, geez. Stick with Pentax.

      • ZoetMB

        Nikon is failing. That doesn’t mean they’ll go out of business. But they are losing substantial market share as well as revenue and earnings. At one time, Nikon held over 40% of the DSLR market. Now it’s 27.3%. They’re predicting revenue of 380 billion Yen for this fiscal (it will probably be less). It was 520 billion Yen last fiscal, 586 billion Yen in fiscal 2015, 685.4 billion in fiscal 2014 and 751.2 billion in fiscal 2013, so Nikon (Imaging) is now half the size it was just four years ago . If that’s not failure, I don’t know what is. Would you buy the stock?

        It’s easy to blame it all on smartphones, but Nikon is losing SHARE. That means they’re doing worse than their competitors. That’s a failure by any definition of the word.

    • Bill Ferris

      This is not an instance of Nikon failing; it’s yet another example of Sigma delivering a product that’s every bit the equal of Nikon and Canon equivalents. This time, Sigma is hitting them where they live: the exotic prime market. At some point, Robert O’Toole or Roman Kurywczak will show up at B&H to give a talk about shooting with the 500 f4 Sports and that video should be an hour of non-stop wildlife lusciousness.

  • Brian

    I tried this lens back in the fall and was impressed with image quality and lightness…could be a winner.

  • ninpou_kobanashi

    Hmmm.

    “BUT…One Noticeable Idiosyncrasy!”

    ” Sample 1 (Sharp in facial region): Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.3 MB)
    • Sample 2 (Softer in facial region): Download 2400 pixel image (JPEG: 1.3 MB)”

  • Elvin Tan

    The Nikon 500/4 has a protective front element built in. (Not removable, except at the repair facility) while the Sigma’s is optional (and removable). Its the LPT-11 ~ https://www.sigmaphoto.com/wr-protector-lpt-11-for-500mm-f4-sports-185

    I have the SIgma 500/4 and absolutely love it. Could not afford the nikon version, so the price point with almost similar quality is the plus point. My only gripe is I have to get the sigma TCs as the nikon TCs dun work as well.

    • ben132401

      hi.. i was seriously considering to get the sigma but i realized it doesnt have a protective glass.. the optional front glass isnt sold in my country.. sad. anyway.. does the sigma have fluorine coating at least?

  • Just Me

    I’m guessing folks in the market for either lens have more than one body so…which one do you fine tune the Sigma’s AF for? I wish Nikon or third party lens manufacturers (whoever has the ability) would fix the problem of Nikon not being able to adjust multiple third party lenses. I’ve had to limit myself to one lens from each manufacturer, except for Rokinon.

    • Coastalconn

      You basically zero out the Sigma or Tamron lens with the dock for 1 camera. With your other camera you only need to make one adjustment because the lens will the same throughout the range…

      • Just Me

        I’m not sure I understand. If you have two Sigmas, you can only make one adjustment for both of them. As for zeroing it out for one camera, each one could contribute to the adjustments required. Could you elaborate?

  • Mike Gordon

    Sigma is taking a page out of Sony’s book with the paid reviews. To say the Sigma focuses better than a Nikon is just not believable. Sigma is reverse engineering…

    Brad’s blog is priceless, about nothing until he gets the Sigma and nothing but blogging about the 500mm lens since November. Yup, paid.

  • Mike Gordon

    Sigma is taking a page out of Sony’s book with the paid reviews. To say the Sigma focuses better than a Nikon is just not believable. Sigma is reverse engineering…

    Brad’s blog is priceless, about nothing until he gets the Sigma and nothing but blogging about the 500mm lens since November. No nature photog is all of a sudden going to spend that much time writing about two lenses. Yup, paid.

  • Tony

    That sounds a very random, Trump-like, accusation. Brad’s blog of 12 Dec 2016 has a clear “Statement of Objectivity” in which he indicates that he has received no incentives and has bought the lenses himself (and will sell one or both of them). Sure, he has spent a long time producing an exhaustive and informative comparison, but that is no reason to mistrust his integrity. I choose to believe that he has expressed his honest opinions.

  • The fact that they’ve caught up with Nikon in terms of focus tracking, for the most part, is awesome.

    However, I still do not trust Sigma lenses’ overall construction to be as robust and “indestructible” as Nikon or Canon’s. Each of their Art primes that has been around long enough to be heavily abused by a wedding photographer for 10-15+ hours a week has begun to show issues in the overall construction / integrity of the design. I’ve personally encountered at least two 35 Arts where the mount simply started to come unscrewed, and at least one 50 Art where some other major internal loosening was occurring.

    Sigma does build their lenses like tanks, but for some reason they still manage to be prone to falling apart under heavy abuse.

    The same thing went for Tokina, they have a long history of using a lot of metal in their lenses, long before Sigma Art was even a thing, and yet Tokina’s mostly-metal ATX-Pro series lenses would sometimes “rattle apart” after a couple years of heavy use.

    I hope Sigma’s newest lenses buck this trend, because the niches they’re filling with these particular optical designs are impressive. Even though some of them are a bit too much “trophy lens” for my shooting style and budget.

    • I think the “metal is awesome!” trend may actually be the culprit here; Nikon’s mostly plastic f/1.8 G prime lineup has been fantastically durable, I abused an 85 1.8 G for many years and it literally stayed absolutely flawless both mechanically and optically. And the only thing that eventually forced my 50 1.8 G to require repair was, of course, a few grains of sand in the inner workings. 🙁

      • Russell Ferris

        I poorly packed my luggage in a way that my sigma 120-300S absolutely smashed the shit out of my 85 f.18G, both went away for treatment but the sigma was fine. The 85 needed a whole new PCB

    • bgbs

      You can’t trust them when they are half off? Come on man.

      • Half of is great, but if I abuse a lens heavily enough to destroy it every ~2 years, it does not make long-term financial sense as a career photographer.

        I do have confidence that I can simply take better care of my Art lenses, though, and get them to last 3-4 years before needing “just” $150-300 worth of service, which makes them still a bargain compared to a name-brand lens that might go 4-6 years before needing service…

  • bgbs

    If you take price into account Sigma has wiped the floor with Nikon.

    • Just Me

      With this lens…maybe. It could be, as others have written, Sigma is taking a loss on it to get a foothold in the supertele market which is odd since they’re already known fairly well for their supertele zooms.

      • Coastalconn

        I see it the other way around that Sigma is calling out Canonikon for price gouging.. If they can’t make a profit on a 6k piece of glass, plastic, metal and $2 worth of electronics maybe they need to reconsider their manufacturing process..

        • Just Me

          Perhaps. I’m not sure what R&D costs or how many lenses they need to sell to recoup it. I assume it’s less than when they were designed by hand.

          • peter w

            Your comment made me thinking for a moment, what it would feel like to have to be paying for tailormade devellopement software that actually works… autsch. Yet, you are certainly right.

            • Just Me

              Years ago, when I did programming, the company I was working for wanted me to develop custom software that was only mildly more specific to our needs than off-the-shelf software. I successfully convinced them to abandon the idea.

      • Carlo

        Or Nikon is just overpricing it’s lens. …In Switzerland you buy a low cost brand new car for the price of the new 500 mm. Friends of mine were saving money to replace their old 500mm with the new Nikon one. Now, seeing the price difference, they want to test the new Sigma.

        • Just Me

          Fair enough. My car cost twice what my sons did but they do pretty much the same thing.

  • Mohd Shamsul

    A fanboy will never admit that a third party can make just a good a lens at half the price.

    • Just Me

      “just as good” doesn’t really mean anything except possibly in this case. Generally, they’re different…not better or worse.

    • Allen_Wentz

      Lens RELIABILITY when subjected to heavy usage/abuse is an area that no cheap lens vendor has been able to, overall, come even close to mid-to-upper end Nikkkor lenses. Ignoring that _critical_ parameter makes “just as good” a disingenuous statement.

      Day-in and day-out no knowledgeable user will call Sigma reliability just as good as Nikon.

  • fanboy fagz

    that sigma is ugly as feck!. why the need for the step.

    • MY OB

      $4297 cheaper fanboy! Similar, superb optics….

      Looks like a gorgeous, sexy siren calling me to task.

      • fanboy fagz

        Yea go for it. Dont know why they dont put effort to aesthetics of the lens. The 85 is also an ugly ass lens.

  • fanboy fagz

    “5. Sigma Sport 500mm f4 VERSUS the Nikon 500mm f4E VR:These two
    lenses could easily exhibit the exact same trends in optical performance
    (shot native or with teleconverters) but still differ in absolute
    sharpness. But if they DO, I was unable to find ANY differences in
    sharpness (at any aperture) OR in the quality of the OOF zones. To be
    clear, the lenses performed virtually identically (optically) under the
    controlled conditions the images were captured under. Optically my two
    copies of the lenses (at this distance) were like clones.”

    damn! sigma has come a long way. all art lenses better nikon primes..and canon.

  • Alexandr Darius Maximilian Rad

    I bought a Sigma lens twice, always having various focusing issues on different Nikon bodies, even despite the lens being serviced by a Sigma service center, despite using the Sigma dock for fine-tuning the autofocus.
    So maybe I have a bud luck, maybe others have very good luck, but I stay away from Sigma. Tamron is OK, but I still prefer Nikon lenses 🙂

  • Sigma do it again… These guys are smokin’ at the moment!!! 500mm/f4 Nikon equivalent for less than ¥650,000 NEW is crazy… That’s cheaper than the Nikon SECONDHAND!

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