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Sigma 150mm


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#1 james

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 10:35 AM

Hi Folks,

Here are my impressions from my second trip w/ the Sigma 150mm macro. The first trip, my housing was too heavy to use with this lens and I didn't have a magnified viewfinder.

This past weekend, I dove the Sigma 150mm with Canon 500D diopter with a neutrally buoyant housing, and using the Seacam S45 and S180 viewfinders. So I was able to use manual focus, * button, etc.

Here's a sample photo, taken at f16 @ 1/250th:

Posted Image

A 100% unsharpened crop from the 1DmkII at ISO250. This camera is a little "soft" right out of the camera but sharpens up nicely:

Posted Image

The AF is almost useless in anything but strong daylight. It was madenning in fact, because my usual technique is to AF and then let go when the focus is close, but not perfect, then tap the AF again to get sharp critical focus. With the 150, when I pressed to refine the focus, it would go right past every time and all the way out to the limit, then back. Frustrating!!!

Going to the CF4-3 helped a lot. I would get close w/ the AF, then use the MF over-ride - which was VERY nice. With the Seacam magnified viewfinder, I found aquiring >1:1 subjects and getting critical focus was easy - it was an eye-opener for me. I tried the S45 and the S180 and I decided I like the S180 better for my shooting style.

For a full frame or 1.3x cropped camera the Sigma 150mm HSM is a great high-magnification lens. On a 1.5x cropped camera, this is going to be an extreme lens, but fun to use. I never took off the 500D diopter because it has a very good working range - from about 2 feet in to almost touching the port.

I'd welcome thoughts from other users in this thread.

Cheers
James
Canon 1DsMkIII - Seacam Housing
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#2 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 10:43 AM

I want to be a user of this lens! Worried to hear about the AF performance - especially on a camera as good as yours. Alex

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#3 james

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 10:54 AM

AF on the frogfish photos and the feather dusters was not a problem. Plenty of light and good contrast. I had trouble in green water (Stetson) and on the night and morning dives.

Cheers
James
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#4 bmyates

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 11:00 AM

...I dove the Sigma 150mm with Canon 500D diopter with a neutrally buoyant housing, and using the Seacam S45 and S180 viewfinders...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Great stuff, James! I actually love the cup coral shot - wonderful detail, depth color AND composition!

May I ask how you went about making the housing (especially with that lens and either of those viewfinders!) neutral? :D

BTW, I, too, prefer the s180 to the s45 viewfinder. I used the s45 on about 50 dives, and just never got used to the angle, especially at night!

Bruce Yates
www.UnderwaterReflections.com
Canon 5DMkII in Aquatica, 1DsMkII in Seacam, G15 in RecSea...Inon Z240's...too many lenses
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damned fool about it." WC Fields


#5 james

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 11:11 AM

Hi Bruce,

I've designed and built a streamlined closed cell foam buoyancy module that fits over the macro port and lifts and balances the whole rig. Even with my macro strobes all the way out in front the balance is still good. Because of the shape, you can't even tell the ring is there, and it doesn't add any drag.

I'll be posting a review here at Wetpixel soon.

Here's a photo of the rig during testing - it hasn't been painted black yet:

Posted Image
Photo Dennis Fanning

Cheers
James
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#6 bmyates

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 11:23 AM

I've designed and built a streamlined closed cell foam buoyancy module that fits over the macro port...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Oooh...I want one! B) Are you going to make and sell them? I'd say the number of potential buyers is roughly equal to (or should I say exactly equal to) the number of Seacam housing owners...at least the ones using the S45 and/or S180 viewfinders... :D

Bruce Yates
www.UnderwaterReflections.com
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"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damned fool about it." WC Fields


#7 james

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 11:46 AM

The first one was a lot of work to make. I haven't decided if I'm going to do a "production run" or not yet. Maybe if I did 5 at once it would be easier, but not much...

Cheers
James
Canon 1DsMkIII - Seacam Housing
Dual Ikelite Strobes
Photo site - www.reefpix.org

#8 bmyates

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 11:53 AM

The first one was a lot of work to make.  I haven't decided if I'm going to do a "production run" or not yet. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Well, if you decide NOT to make more for sale, would you mind posting do-it-yourself hints (materials, cutting and forming tips, attachment method, etc.) for those of us who'd like to try it ourselves? It's a GREAT idea, and sorely (as in sore wrists! :D ) needed by anyone with that rig!

Bruce Yates
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"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damned fool about it." WC Fields


#9 herbko

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 11:55 AM

The AF is almost useless in anything but strong daylight.  It was madenning in fact, because my usual technique is to AF and then let go when the focus is close, but not perfect, then tap the AF again to get sharp critical focus.  With the 150, when I pressed to refine the focus, it would go right past every time and all the way out to the limit, then back.  Frustrating!!! 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


I had similar issues with the Sigma 105mm. The Canon 100mm focuses much better even with an 1.4x teleconverter. It would be interesting to see a detailed comparison of the image quality of the two.
Herb Ko http://herbko.net
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#10 james

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Posted 18 July 2005 - 12:01 PM

Herb,

Thanks for the feedback - I used the Nikon 105mm with teleconverter and the AF was just as bad. I have used the 100mm by itself and the AF is good, but I haven't tried it w/ a TC.

I like the Sigma because it's f2.8 so I was expecting better AF performance. I'll talk to someone who has used the Canon 180mm and see what they think.

Bruce: I'll cover all you need to know in the review for a do-it-yourself job.

Cheers
James
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Photo site - www.reefpix.org

#11 bmyates

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 05:54 PM

Bruce: I'll cover all you need to know in the review for a do-it-yourself job.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


James,

1. Regarding the buoyancy collar described in your (excellent) review, I ordered all the same stuff you used and created (out of 1" 6lb foam) what might be termed the "ugly bastard children" :D of your elegant design -- a four-piece system that can be mixed and matched as needed: a thin (1/2") single (i.e., 1" thick) ring, a wide (1.5") single ring, a 3/4" double ring (two layers of the 1" foam) and a 1" double ring (two layers of foam). I sealed and painted (black) all of them.

Since I won't have a chance to try any of them out until my upcoming Indonesia trip, I'm not yet sure which combinations of rings I'll use with which lenses/ports, but I know they will significantly help me keep my Seacam rig more neutral than before (my wrists already thank you! :D )! I'll post results when I return. Anyway, thanks again for posting the detailed inx -- making the rings was time consuming, but not terribly difficult, thanks to you.

2. I purchased the 500D diopter for use with my Sigma 150mm lens, and I know that will limit the working distance of the lens to a few feet, but -- having never used a diopter with a macro lens before -- I'm not sure which of the 3 "range" settings on the lens itself to use with the 500D. Does it matter?

Bruce Yates
www.UnderwaterReflections.com
Canon 5DMkII in Aquatica, 1DsMkII in Seacam, G15 in RecSea...Inon Z240's...too many lenses
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damned fool about it." WC Fields


#12 acroporas

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 06:22 PM

Use the full range or you will really be limited to very small subjects(if you select close range) (and selecting far range would defeat the purpose of using the 500D in the first place). I have gone in twice(accidentally) with the switch set to the close only setting and regretted it both times.
William

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15FE | 24/2.8 | 35/1.4 | 85/1.8 | 150/2.8 macro

#13 Chris Bangs

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 06:54 PM

James san

I use a very bright Ikelite PCA spotting light mounted on the top of the housing on a jointed arm for focusing as well as helping me with my less than perfect vision find the stuff. the intense and very narrow beam does a great job.

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#14 james

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 06:58 PM

Hi Bruce,

Good luck! You should try it out in a pool to find out what works best, and work out the kinks. Yes, set the lens at full when using the diopter. The lens will think it's focusing at infinity, but it will really be less than one meter away.

With the diopter, your focusing limit will be just about the same as the limit of what your strobes can light and water conditions allow, so don't worry about using it. You'll never want to shoot any farther away anyhow - especially in Indo.

You'll probably want to use manual focus, or at the very least the * button.

Cheers
James
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Dual Ikelite Strobes
Photo site - www.reefpix.org

#15 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 05:23 AM

I have this lens and I don't like it. I would recommend it for people with full frame digital cameras (but not film cameras - because the working distances are too long) but I would strongly advise against it for APS-C sized sensor cameras. James's 1d falls in the middle, and I would think the lens is fine with this setup.

I know James loves his lens. And will give me a hard time for my views. But I am sticking to them. This lens is too long for underwater shooting and 9 times out of 10 you will be wishing that you had a 100mm lens instead.

I took the lens all the way to Bali and used it once and put if back in the kit bag. This wasn't a fair test really as I favoured my 60mm macro to the 105mm in Bali anyway. So the 150mm was a step in the wrong direction. I then took it all the way to Cayman and forced myself to shoot it. It does have its role and I will be keeping it. But it is a niche lens for certain small subjects - a 100mm lens is far more useful.

The other drawback of the longer working distances of this lens is that you need lots of flash power. I usually shoot my Subtronics on 1/4 power - but I would always used them on full power with the 150mm. As a result of the longer working distances you get more backscatter with this lens than you need.

Finally the lens can be tricky to fit in some housings. It fits in my Subal fine - but it took some lateral thinking to do it.

Positives are that the lens is sharp. In my opinion it is as sharp as my 105mm Nikkor. And the AF is very good - never had any problems (although my camera is rather good too!).

But as Giles can attest - I generally came out of the water berrating it in Cayman! It works well, really. But my concern is that it will be seen as the next must have lens for underwater photography. It is not.

Alex


p.s. I will dig out some pictures and post a gallery of my pictures from this lens to illustrate.

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#16 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 05:35 AM

I'd temper my comments above with two further ones. First there may be an element of odl dogs and new tricks here. I am very used to shooting with my other macro lenses and maybe I need time to adjust my technique to this lens.

The other point is that I do not yet have the 500D dioptre. I have one on order. I know from James that this transforms the lens. But only for shooting at more than 1:1 - and that is not the only reason why I bought this lens.

Alex

p.s. sorting out pix as I type.

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#17 james

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 06:09 AM

I would never - and have never - shoot this lens without the 500D diopter. With the diopter mounted, it has just about (IMO) the perfect working range for macro. From the port tip to about 2 feet out.

Cheers
James
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Dual Ikelite Strobes
Photo site - www.reefpix.org

#18 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 06:11 AM

When I was in Cayman I found out that one of my Subal ports that I had lent to a friend on the island is actually longer than the other one I had - so I can now fit the lens and the diopter!

Gallery will be up in a second. Been distracted by pesky work!

Alex

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#19 MikeVeitch

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 06:21 AM

Do you gain that much more with this lens than the 105? I throw on a +1 on my 105 and can fill the frame with a Christmas tree worm more than James did on that first shot up top. I pretty much shoot the 105 from less than 1 foot as i am usually shooting super macro stuff anyway when using it. And sometimes the lack of DOF is rather annoying, i would assume the 150 would be worse...
I love my 105, haven't tried the 150 or even seen it but who knows...Chris Bangs does get some rather cool super super macro stuff...maybe i will drag his butt down here and try out his rig before i comment properly

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#20 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 06:22 AM

Ok, here is the gallery of images taken with this lens during the last month. Most of these are destined for the bin. So please don't judge my photography on the basis of these samples.

http://www.amustard.com/150/

Alex

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