Saturday 31 December 2016

Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Contemporary Zoom Lens

Just returned from a Christmas break in the UK. Norfolk mainly but with a couple of days in London. This was a family trip with no birding except for a couple of walks. I was delighted to receive a Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens as a Christmas present. This is not a review per se, there are plenty of in depth reviews out there, rather the impressions of an interested amateur. So, here are the preliminary results. . . .

The New Cut near Stoke Ferry in the early morning frost and light mist. This lens certainly works for landscapes. The three images below are uncropped with no post-processing (taken at f6.3, 1/800 s and focal lengths of 150 mm, 150 mm and 280 mm respectively).

I didn't want this lens for landscapes so how does it do for birds? Here's a Goldcrest cropped from a larger image. The original image was taken at 500 mm, f6.3, ISO 800 at 1/200 s. Considering that the rule of thumb is to never use a shutter speed lower than the lens focal length this is a pretty good image. Well pleased.

No problems either with this Robin at 1/320 s.

A 1/320 s was too slow for this Goosander but my technique is to blame here.

A Whooper Swan at 1/250 s. Once again, I'm impressed.

Canada Goose at 1/800 s. No problems and the  D7200 sensor seems very capable of handling the water contrast.

 Pleased with these Gadwall too (1/800 s).

A blonde (leucistic) Mallard.

The following three images are at 500 mm - pleased with the detail on these static subjects.

Back to the fantastic light of Israel and a Long-legged Buzzard. The eye is not totally in focus but once again I think that it is my technique that needs improving here.

A few Golden Plover (Itay Herling put me on to these) - the birds seem nicely centered in the focus plane. 

Finally, a couple of Black-shouldered Kites near the kibbutz. The images are a bit soft, probably due to a shutter speed of 1/800. 

Conclusions: I think a lens should be judged by the images it produces (rather than by comparison to other lenses) and so far I'm happy with the results. For me, this is a very capable lens that should give me results I can be proud of. I like the feel of the lens - it is not too heavy and the barrel action is very smooth.  More importantly Sigma have added a hard stop at a few focal lengths to prevent barrel creep. I like working at 500 mm (750 mm with 1.5 x sensor crop) so this feature is very useful for me. As for autofocus speed - I found it to be good and accurate, ditto vibration reduction (see photos of Goldcrest and Robin). Many people have commented that the lens collar is too short to use it as a grip and I agree with this - the one on my old 150-500 lens was much more comfortable and secure. That's my only gripe and by no means a show stopper. I look forward to using this lens and sharing the results.

Friday 16 December 2016

Besor Reservoir updates

Checked Besor Reservoir this morning to see how it had filled after the rains earlier in the week. Not much is the short answer, but enough to hold a WaterRail and a few Pelican (unfortunately flushed - they decamped to the upper reservoir).

Of far greater interest were three Reed Buntings. Passing through or wintering? I hope the latter as I hardly ever see these uncommon visitors.

As I was leaving the site I hard the distinctive call of Penduline Tit. This is a perfect wintering ground for them and I have been looking/listening for them every year. So far without success until now! A great patch tick. I heard three calling from the reeds in front of me and later two from across the reservoir bank in the main wadi so possibly five in total. They resolutely refused to show themselves but I'll be watching this patch very carefully.

Later a single Pallid Swift joined the resident population of Barn Swallows over the upper reservoir.
The black plastic banks of this normally birdless expanse of water held good numbers of Pochard, Teal and four Wigeon.

On the way back to the car I heard Cranes calling. Such an evocative sound - winter. Definitely time to make a trip north to the Hula to see the 25,000+.

Drove home via the Urim pylons - only one Long-legged Buzzard and a very distant eagle visible from the road. The field tracks are far too muddy for my car so I didn't venture in to look for the Sociable Plovers (Lior Kislev reported 20 earlier in the week!). Consolation prize - a road soaring Black-shouldered Kite.

Saturday 3 December 2016

Local updates

Some updates from the last fortnight. Probably the best sighting was a trio of Fieldfare in the experimental plantation to the south of the kibbutz. These are uncommon and sporadic winter visitors - some years I don't see them at all, the last time I saw them here (2014) there were four in the same patch of trees.

The young Eastern Imperial Eagle was replaced for a short time by this adult (with attendant Kestrel and Hooded Crow).

What looks like a juv/1w Ferruginous Duck on a local reservoir - would be exciting if they were breeding arond here!

A very late Redstart. This was taken on the 26th of November.

A couple of Golden Plover in the fields,

along with many Lapwing. It's a good year for them (in this area) with seemingly every field containing a few. No large flocks but, as said, many small groups spread around the fields.

The following few photos are of various Black-shouldered Kites in the area. Today I saw four. There's plenty of food for them here so there's no reason for them to move on.


Not terribly bothered by the harrassing Hoodie.

This one was hunting in the potato fields this morning. You can make out the prey's foot in the kite's claw.

Winter walks are so much more fun with our dog.

Finally, a Chameleon from the Besor wadi.

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