For the Falconers

My wonderful sister recently lent me a Sigma APO 400mm f/5.6 that she wasn’t using. While it sounds like it’s seen better days having taken a bit of a tumble some years ago, it still seemed like a solid telephoto lens!

Want to unstick your sticky Sigma lens?
On a side note, one of the problems with her lens is that it was sticky! Apparently, for several years, Sigma applied a black rubber powder finish called “Zen” to all of their lenses. Unfortunately, this finish is notorious for becoming a horribly sticky mess after 5-10 years of natural decomposition.

So if you’re worried about your sticky Sigma lens permanently fixating itself to your hand, I was able to remove it fairly easily with some isopropanol (the 99% kind from the pharmacy) and a little elbow grease. Pour some in a dish and rub it on with a paper towel, but be forewarned that the isopropanol might also remove the lettering on the lens.

Blurry-Back? or Blurry-Everything?
I had a chance to try out the lens this afternoon. I was mostly experimenting with different aperture settings, since the general consensus on the Sigma 400mm is that photos taken as low as f/5.6 stop aren’t as sharply blurrybacked as you’d expect. But, while I couldn’t get a super sharp image from this distance, I’m not convinced this is the result of the aperture, so much as my lack of skill. 🙂

So what might improve the photo quality?

  • Remote. While the Manfrotto is a solid tripod, I can still see slight movement whenever I press the shutter button. This lens is fairly old so doesn’t have any sort of vibration reduction mechanisms. So the movement caused by the shutter movement, in addition to the mirror rotation, can easily contribute to blurriness, especially at such large zoom levels.
  • Increased Shutter Speed. I was using 1/200s when I probably should have used something much faster, like 1/500s or 1/1000s. The ISO would need to be correspondingly increased, as well.
  • Clean Lens and Filter! I later realized that both the filter and lens were quite dirty…which might account for some haziness in the photo.
  • Get Closer Perhaps I was a bit too far from the hawk to take a good photo of it. It was in a pretty tall tree that was about 3 blocks away from my house.

Anyway, there just hapened to be a red-tailed hawkwatching over the neighbourhood today…

Red-tailed Hawk. Shutter=1/200s, Aperture=f/8, 400mm, ISO200

Nanaimo Seagull. Shutter=1/200s, Aperture=f/5.6, 400mm, ISO200

Nanaimo Seagull. Shutter=1/200s, Aperture=f/5.6, 400mm, ISO200


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