With the intention of doing some climbing photography during a climbing trip to Thailand (and the desire to own a huge-ass lens) I recently picked up a Sigma 120-300 f2.8 telephoto. Part of the attraction over the amazing Ef 70-200 f4 I currently use for landscapes was its ability to blur backgrounds, isolating the climber on the wall... at least this was my perception at the time. A 50mm f1.4 is great for this at close range, but i wanted to acheive this from 20-30m away!
So, I got a great price on the second-hand Siggy, and a new backpack to lug the 2.8kg beast around (a Kata.. more on that another day!)
My first impression of the lens was one of awe... while the focal length overlaps with my 70-200, its a completely different lens. Im used to stopping down to acheive edge to edge sharpness for landscapes - with this its almost the opposite! Ive found myself shooting at 2.8 almost exclusively, trying to blur everything but the crisp plane of focus enveloping my subject...
Samson on Lion King 6c+ @ 'Dums Kitchen', Tonsai
I found the lighting one of the greatest challenges with shooting climbers - In Thailand its far too hot to climb in full sun, so most of the activity happens in shady areas with flat lighting. While this is something I intend to address with remote flashes in future, on this trip it made me even more reliant on the shallow DOF of the fast tele to bring interest to the shot.
Fabian on Lion King 6c+
While the lens is heavy, I found it managable to hand-hold for all the shots taken here (there must come a point where a lens is virtually stabilised by the inetria of its own mass!?). I definately recommend a good backpack if you plan on walking any distance with this lens.. but even then, it took some commitment to shoulder it for day-trips out climbing!
Optically the lens is amazing - at 300mm @ f2.8 pixel contrast between light and dark edges is incredible... Its as sharp as all the rave reviews suggest... the crop below shows the gear in the first shot.
The one weakness ive found is flare. Im not a fan of lens hoods - or rephrased, ive never HAD to be a fan of lens hoods (with canon L lenses), but with this thing its not really optional. If the sun is shining on the front element, you get a big white ghost, and you can forget shooting with the sun in-frame! Thankfully, the Sigma metal hood generally fixes this issue, and lives happily reversed over the lens.
Ok, well thats enough about the lens... heres another shot...
Mick on an 8a+ route on the beach wall ive forgotten the name of...