Given the opportunity to check out the Sigma version of this exceedingly useful focal Range, I set out early for the Brogborough Windesurfers’ Lake, and duly set it up on the Heavy Gitzo tripod; it was at this point I realised that since it is designated the ‘Sports’ version, it was designed for being counter-balanced by a camera body with a battery pack, so since I was using my 7D MkII, when fully racked out to 600mm, I was not completely balanced on the gimbal head, I was lacking that expected weight. My current Arca Swiss Bars were just that bit short, but it was not a deal breaker, but worthwhile learning!
I already knew that my Digital Holster was not going to hold this lens on my camera body, where the Tamron was just a neat tight fit and yet still very compact and a reasonable weight.
I knew from the lack of sufficient wind, I was not going to capture any jumpers, but found that the day was given over to the ‘Sea Vets Club’ and there were to be a series of races around a course marked out by buoys (I later learned from Barry Rivett, that these buoys had been dragged quite a good distance from where he had placed them earlier that morning!)
I set up the tripod and lens and was able to take a few shots of the non-racers who were on the water when I arrived. I certainly noticed that the weight meant that generally this was beneficial in terms of stability, and had the wind been as strong as the recent visit by ‘Doris’ it would have definitely been less affected than the lighter Tamron lens. Purely incidentally the sturdy metal and rubber-covered lenshood was quicker to attach than the plastic one from Tamron, and gave more security.
I was investigating whether the lens would give me better quality of sharpness over the Tamron, and handholding it to shoot low-flying red kites at Westcott near Aylesbury, it certainly seemed that it was likely, but the extra weight and my general unsteadiness proved that this was not ideal when handheld; really the minimum would be to use a monopod, whereas I can hold the Tamron for reasonably lengthy periods satisfactorily, when necessary. Shooting the windsurfers was always going to be from a tripod, and the Gitzo gives a really firm platform.
What do I look for when testing a lens like this? Well, the windsurfers provide me a really good idea of how a lens performs by how highlight detail in the foam and spray that is inherent in such images is recorded, and how much or little I have to adjust to make this convincing. It will always be difficult on a dull day, but a well-performing lens will still make the wake and waves realistic with a small amount of careful tweaking of exposure. I was luck this Saturday, that the sun was often out, and I feel this lens does just have the edge, but it is a close run. It is really solidly built and it is far heavier, but since I want the ultimate quality, I feel I need to find the wherewithal to make this purchase.
For the Gallery of shots taken from the boat on the water
Once I had shot enough images to judge the quality I could expect of the Sigma long lens, the opportunity to go out in the boat and take shots of the racing surfers at close range and from the water, I packed up the long lens and grabbed my 5D MkIII with the new 24-70mm f/4 lens to put myself in the picture from an often moving boat for lower angle shots. The boat was pilotted by an accomplished windsurfer who also happens to be a photographer, so he was able to place me in good positions without proving to be hazard to the racers, yet close enough to get interesting shots, and get wet! My trousers were thoroughly soaked, but only in one shot did I see two obvious blurred blobs from water splashes! My camera, when at speed and rushing headlong into waves, was held aloft with my right hand and the strap was often wrapped around my left!
Some of the time I did have some sunshine and from a good direction, but not all the while, but the shots have a different feel when taken closer and from a lower level than when ashore, and having a knowledgable pilot certainly helps.
I hope I might get another chance, but only if I have my waterproofs on! It was a thoroughly enjoyable time, and I do now have good idea of how the Sigma performs, which was the point of the visit, but I also know that the 24-70mm f/4 is very competent for close-quarters work, but I did often hanker for my trust 24-105mm for the extra length when out out on the water.