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Archive for October, 2014

Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro, my first impressions.

Why this old and slow Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro lens ?

When i bought a Fuji X-E1 it was to have a smaller and lighter system, so i try to keep the lenses small and light as well without compromising the IQ. The Fuji short registration distance is an advantage when you want to adapt older lenses. I already own a Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro (1:1 ratio), so i wanted a longer Macro lens for photographing frogs or subjects that are difficult to get close. Then i remembered that Sigma did produced a 180mm/5.6 APO Macro in the film days. I was lucky to find a  MF version in Olympus OM mount in good condition but without the lens hood, so i bought a rubber hood for it. I paid around 170$ Canadian for it, a good price for a Macro lens that long.

Sigma didn’t produced many of these probably due to the slow maximum aperture which was not that useful in film days when slow films were the norm to obtain better IQ, the f/2.8 version was probably more popular. But now with digital sensors a slow lens is more manageable, especially for a 180mm Macro lens that will be stopped down anyway to gain some DOF.

At only 435 gr. and a filter size of 52mm it’s a surprisingly small lens, if you compare it to my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro (model 72E) which is a 1:1 repro ratio lens and weights 403 gr. with a filter size of 55mm.

Both side by side, the Tamron is at infinity focus so it’s at it’s shortest length.

Here is the specifications of both lenses:

Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro:


Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro model 72E:


Handling and built quality

It’s clear that in those years Sigma lenses were not the best made lenses, i’ve owned other Sigma lenses made in the same years as this one and they all felt like this one. Good but not as well made as Pentax, Fuji or Canon that i’ve used. The aperture ring is not smooth in operation, but i can live with it, if i drop that lens i think it would not survive unlike some of my older Pentax lenses especially the Takumar M42 lenses !

The positive thing is that the focusing ring is large, which i like to have on my lenses, i hate those tiny small focusing rings that some AF lenses have. On my lens the focusing ring is not constant, when i turn it it goes from smooth to some tension and then back to smooth, maybe it would need some tune-up of the focusing system inside. In general it’s easy to use with the OM adapter on my X-E1 because it’s a lightweight lens, if i would have bought the newer 180mm f/3.5 version the combo would have been bigger and heavier.


Usually Macro lenses are sharp and choosing from one or another one is a matter of functionality but also of focal length. This Sigma certainly can deliver images with very good details when stopped down. At f/5.6 i think it’s the weakest aperture of that lens, but from f/8 to f/16 the lens produce very good images. Being an older lens that was design before the digital era, the contrast is lower than modern Macro lenses but it’s easily corrected in PP.

Just for fun i decided to take some test shots with this Sigma 180mm and my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro (model 72E) to really see how good it really is. I found dead leaves in my backyard as my  subject and started at f/5.6 then f/8, f/11 and finally f/16. I was not surprised to see that the Tamron was the winner at f/5.6 since it was already stopped down 2 stops and the Sigma was W/O, if needed the Sigma can be used at f/5.6 since it’s good but not as good as the Tamron here. From f/8 to f/16 the Sigma closed the gap but i think the Tamron can still produce a little more details, but the Tamron 90mm Macro is one of the best Macro lens, in any of it’s versions that was made. Even then i think that the Sigma is more than sharp enough from f/8 to f/16 to be used without any problem, you just need a little more PP to bring some contrast in the photos.

As for the color reproduction, the Sigma has a colder rendering than the Tamron but again now with PP it’s easily corrected to your preferences. The Sigma can produce images with beautiful rendering and the Bokeh is not too bad either probably due to it’s 8 blades diaphragm.

This Green Frog was taken in a shallow pond, my tripod was nearly all in the water to get that view. I printed that photo at 8×10 inches and there is plenty of details, sharpness is very good for that size and i wouldn’t hesitate to print it bigger than that. Taken at f/8.

Here is a crop of the eye of the frog from the above photo after some PP, very good details in the eye.

For this photo i used a Polarizer to cut some reflections off the leaves. Taken at f/13 on a tripod.

Leaves frozen in ice with frost. Taken with the help of a 10mm extension tube at f/11 on a tripod.

Taken at f/13 on a tripod.

Crop from the above photo after some PP.



That’s it for now, they are my first impressions after some weeks of using it in the field, i will post more photos in future articles. So, if you need more reach in your Macro work but don’t want to break the Bank, give this lens a serious look. The Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro might not be the best in any department but certainly can deliver sharp and beautiful images when you have learned how to use it at it’s best settings. Sure the newer f/3.5 and f/2.8 versions from Sigma would certainly get you sharper photos but at a big cost in size, weight and price (especially the new f/2.8 version). So if you’re on a tight budget or don’t want a heavy 180mm Macro lens this f/5.6 version can be a very good option.


Weekly photo, 26 October 2014

I took this week photo along a river that is on my way to my work, i had about 30 minutes to find a subject and get a good shot. I finally found that moss covered rock with the river in the background.

Fuji X-E1 with XF 55-200mm with tripod.

Weekly photo, 18 October 2014

I went to a small pond where i knew i could found some Green Frogs and sometimes Bullfrogs at this time of the year. In just a small part i found about 6 Green frogs and was able to get the portrait of this one posted here.

Fuji X-E1, Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro, tripod.

Fuji XF 55-200mm, field review.

Telephoto zoom lenses are very popular because of their versatility and space saving compared to having several prime lenses to cover the same range. I’ve owned some of them in different mounts, so when i switched to Fuji i wanted to cover the maximum range with the minimum lenses. So i bought the 18-55mm and not long after i bought the XF 55-200mm because of it’s attributes (aperture ring, built quality and OIS) and IQ. Sure the XC 50-230mm is smaller and lighter but i wanted the better IQ and built of the XF 55-200mm.

I will be talking on how this lens performs in the field as a Nature photography telephoto lens, covering landscape, close-ups and some wildlife. Telephoto zoom lenses in that range are very useful in my photography, a big part of what i photograph is covered by the XF 55-200mm.

This was the first photo i took with the Fuji XF 55-200mm in the field. It was before sunrise and the grass on the right side of the frame was lit by the street lights. Lens set at 67mm, 85 seconds at f/10, ISO 200, tripod.

Here i isolated a part of a bigger waterfall with the lens set at 55mm and selected f/11 to obtain a long exposure to blur the water.


Currently i’m using it on my X-E1 and mostly on a tripod, i would say that this lens is the limit in size and weight that i would use on this camera, bigger than this lens and it would require an X-T1 with a grip (which i plan to buy eventually). One of the reason i went with Fuji is because they have designed their system like the old days with an aperture ring on the lenses and direct dials on their cameras. As already pointed often in reviews and by users the aperture ring can be accidentally knock off from the aperture you had selected, but i don’t think it’s too bad as i always check the info in the EVF or on LCD before shooting to see my settings. With some time now after using it in the field i’m used to the balance of the lens on my X-E1 and it’s not too bad after all, sure not the best combo but worth it.

The lens hood have some play when installed, i bought a JJC hood but it also have the same loose fit, so Fuji still have some work to do on the lens hood locking system. Another thing is the zoom ring that is not too smooth, it’s on the stiff side but i prefer that than having a zoom ring that is too easy to turn and having a lens that suffers from zoom creep …. i really hate zoom creep because i’m mostly a tripod shooter so i’m pointing the lens up or down quite often to get the compositions i want in my photography and i want a lens that keeps steady during the exposure. On the plus side about the Zoom ring, i really like it’s rubberized finish, easy to grip and to differentiate it with the focusing ring. I would have liked the focusing ring and aperture ring to be like the XF 14mm but i guess we can’t have it all !


The lens focuses relatively close at 1.1 meter which is about the same as the Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8 and Canon 70-200mm/4 L that i was using before i switched to the Fuji X system. You can get some good “close-up” shots and still maintaining good IQ (see crop below), the lens also performs really well at normal and long distances, for a zoom this is very good indeed.  Sure a good prime lens in the same range might resolve more details at wider apertures but the convenience of that zoom wins over ultimate sharpness. Up to now i like how the lens performs in terms of color rendering and sharpness. That lens have nothing to envy to other brands top quality lens, i’ve owned Pentax DA*50-135mm/2.8, Canon 70-200mm/4 L and Sony 70-300mm G Series Telephoto zoom lenses and the Fuji is as good as all of them.

XF 55-200mm at 200mm, f/11, ISO 200, polarizer, tripod, RAW.

Crop of the photo above after PP, not bad at all.

I was walking in an ATV trail after a rainy day and night when i found those Raccoon tracks , it was like walking in butter in that Clay soil ! Lens set at 105mm, ISO 200 at f/11, tripod, Polarizer.

Here is a Crop of the photo above, you can see the details in the leaves, so quite good even at f/11 and with a Polarizer.

This photo of a Chipmunk was taken from inside my house, i slowly opened my door just enough to pass the tip of the lens. It was a good test for OIS, sharpness at f/4.8 and Bokeh. Taken at 200mm, 1/28 sec. at f/4.8, ISO 640, handheld with OIS.

Here is a crop of the Chipmunk photo, not bad, i missed the focus on the eye just slightly.

The lens produce nice details of my younger girl’s face after a long day outside. This is a crop of the photo taken at 55mm at f/3.5, ISO 1000, handheld.

With Extension tubes

Well, when i bought it i was hoping to use my extension tubes with that lens to photograph Frogs when they are in the water and are difficult to get close. After using it on some occasions the results are not as good as i was thinking it would be. I tried the lens with my 2 extension tubes (with the 10mm or with both for a total of 26mm) to get closer focusing when photographing Frogs. The IQ in the center remains very good but even the in-focus areas in the borders and corners looks smeared, (see below the crop from the border of a photo of a frog) … btw the eye of the frog is perfectly sharp. I don’t know if it’s because the lens was designed to be close to the sensor are it doesn’t work well with extension tubes. I’ve never had such problems when using FF lenses with ext. tubes on my Pentax or Canon cameras, maybe it’s because it’s an APS-C lens or OIS and as the lens gets farther away from the sensor IQ of the corners suffers more ???

This adult Green Frog was hiding in the leaves in a shallow pond, as you can see it was in autumn. I used a 10mm extension tube, the lens was set at 190mm, at f/11, ISO 800, tripod. The Frog is sharp but because of the extension tube the borders and corners suffered and are not that sharp, they look smeared.

Here is a crop from the border that is in focus but looks smeared.

The next 2 photos of a small river near my home were taken on a cold morning (0°C), in fact it was our first time that we had frost on the ground during the month of September this year. It shows how useful is the XF 55-200mm for landscape photography because you can quickly change the composition, especially with fog it’s important to work rapidly because when the sun start to warm it up, the fog will quickly evaporate.

Taken at 55mm at f/11 on a tripod.

At 128mm, f/11, tripod.

Taken on a foggy autumn morning, it’s an Old Canal for boats that is now closed. I tried to keep the mood of the moment when i did my PP so i added some contrast but not too much. Taken at 86mm, f/9, ISO 200, tripod.

Same place as the shot above taken just the day after, nothing special but it was a good occasion to test lens flare, the lens did quite well and i would say that it is better than my Canon 70-200mm/4L was in those situations. Also taken at f/9.

This is the kind of photo i like to do, isolate a small part of the subject, the XF 55-200mm is a lens that is perfect for these shots. Taken at 200mm, 6.9 seconds, f/11, ISO 200, tripod, Polarizer.

To photograph those mushrooms growing on a dead tree my tripod was set at it’s maximum height and my lens zoomed to 200mm. I used an aperture of f/9.


For the price i paid (550$ Canadian in sale for a brand new one) i think it’s a great buy ! Fuji did an excellent job with that lens, a good compromise between IQ, size, weight and maximum aperture. It’s a lens that i really like and is doing very well in the field when i need some reach for my landscape photography but also “close-up” and some wildlife. I don’t know if i will switch to the new XF 50-140mm WR when it will be available because i think i would probably miss the gap between 140-200mm ….. i was missing that gap when i was shooting with my Pentax DA*50-135mm.

This lens might not be for everyone, some will find it too big and heavy for their taste or use, but for me it ticks most cases. I would recommend that lens to any Fuji users because it’s a versatile lens backed by a very good IQ and renders beautiful images.

This photo of the Rouge river taken on a cold foggy morning is one of the main reason i bought that lens, it’s to zoom-in to isolate part of the landscape. At 200mm, f/11, ISO 200, tripod.


The Rouge River, another beautiful autumn morning.

For some years now, i like to take a day off to drive the dirt road along the Rouge River in Grenville-sur-La-Rouge to photograph the colorful autumn display ! The night was cold (around 1 °C), clear and with calm winds, so everything was set for a good foggy morning over the river. I woke-up early since it’s a little more than an 1 hour drive from my home and arrived at least 45 minutes before sunrise.

For sure there was fog everywhere along the river and the surrounding mountains as well, great photo opportunities to come 🙂

The fog was very thick, at times i couldn’t see the shore on the other side of the river. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.


The light level was very low, i liked the trees hanging on the rocky shore. Fuji X-E1, XF 14mm, tripod.

Close-up of an Oak Tree seed amongst Cedar leaves and Pine needles in a rock crevice. Fuji X-E1, Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro, tripod.

I always look on the ground for interesting subjects, i saw that there was a lot of Pine needles on the ground, so i looked around to find something and finally found those 2 Maple Tree leaves on needles in a shallow waterhole. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

Along the road small rivers comes down from the mountains to finish in the Rouge river, i always stop at one of them for more intimate landscape of a river running in a forested area as well as some close-ups of leaves on rocks.

As you can see in the forest in the background, fog was also present in the forest. Fuji X-E1, XF 14mm, tripod, Polariser.

A vertical version of the same scene but this time i put a rock covered with leaves and Pine needles. Fuji X-E1, XF 14mm, Tripod, Polariser.

One of the thing i like to do in autumn is to explore the wet rocks in the river to find colorful fallen leaves. The rocks are very slippery, so you have to be careful while walking on them but it’s worth the risk. When setting a tripod in the flowing water you need to raise the ISO to get a faster shutter speed because the water causes vibration and your shots will be blurred. Fuji X-E1, XF 18-55mm, Tripod, Polariser.

Here the fog was very thick, i decided to do a B&W conversion since the color version looked almost B&W anyway. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

As the sun got higher the atmosphere became warmer and the fog started to evaporate, from now on i had to shoot quickly before all the fog would dissipates.

The sun came out and the fog was quickly evaporating. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

The fog is almost all gone, after i finished shooting those Aspen trees and got back to my truck it was completely gone. Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm, tripod.

After the Aspen photo i decided to head back to the small river in the forest to see if i could get some Macro and close-up shots of small subjects. There was many red Maple leaves fallen in a secondary shallow channel of the river, after some not so good photos i finally found a good composition.

I didn’t use my Polariser here because i wanted the fastest shutter speed and also keeping the reflections on the flowing water. Fuji X-E1, Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro, Tripod.

My last composition of the day, 2 dead leaves on a rock with reflected yellow trees on the water in the background. I had some difficulties positioning myself and my tripod to get that one, water got into my knee high rubber boot ….. that water was so cold ! Canon 7D, 400mm/5.6L, a 20mm extension tube, tripod.

This was a fun and productive 5 hours photo session, i will go back for sure next autumn, i might go back in November when there is no snow but it’s cold enough that ice will have formed in the rivers making for new interesting subjects !

Weekly photo, 13 October 2014

In the Autumn i like to go to Grenville-sur-La-Rouge and drive the dirt road along the Rouge River, it’s a beautiful place ! Along that river there is also smaller rivers and i always look at them to see if something interesting is worth shooting. This shot was taken when the sun was high enough to illuminate the yellow leaves of distant trees that reflected on the water surface.

Taken with Canon 7D + 400mm/5.6L + a 20mm extension tube, tripod.

Weekly photo, 05 October 2014

I found this adult Green Frog in a shallow pond covered with autumn leaves, always good to photograph Frogs in different seasons.

Taken with Fuji X-E1, XF 55-200mm with a 10mm Extension tube, tripod.