My 10 years old girl is in vacation of school for the Christmas and new years weeks and she wanted to visit our local ZOO, the Ecomuseum of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, which is a short drive from my home. It’s not a big ZOO but always fun to go with the kids and they made some improvements this year to the enclosures of some of their animals.
Even in a ZOO i like to use long lenses to concentrate on the animal and not showing the enclosure, so for all the photos posted here i used my Canon 7D with my 400mm/5.6 L. I always try to get as natural looking photos as i can. But in some occasions i did exactly the opposite and showed the fences, not this time, probably next time i will try to do that and show the animals against their limits.
This morning it was -15°C when i woke up, so i went on the shore of a river to photograph ice again before it melts in the coming days because it will be warmer and with rains on December 24th. As usual i got very close to the river, even fell on my butt in the cold water, by chance my winter pants are waterproof 🙂 I tried different angles and lenses, this is my favorite one and i converted it in B&W.
Not much time to shoot this week but got a photo on the shore of a Lake close to my work. Birds are staying later and later now, some even stay here that were flying South some years ago, warmer climate probably ?!?!
This week i was looking for leaves “On” or “In” the ice. One morning i was about to quit my search because i couldn’t found what i was looking for. Then i saw an Oak tree leaf that was partly frozen in the ice, i liked the dark and white pattern of the ice surrounding it.
I wanted to do some updates about that lens since i now have more “in the field experience” with it. In short, i’m now using it more often than my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Macro lens, which was supposed to be my main Macro lens ! There is 2 main reasons for that: more working distance and better looking Bokeh !
The more i use that lens the more i like it, sure it’s not the toughest lens in town but it’s certainly better than a full plastic kit lens. The Sharpness and Bokeh quality surprised me considering the age and price of that lens. Apart from W/O at f/5.6, this lens is quite sharp, i consider it as sharp as my Tamron 90mm/2.8 Model 72E.
One aspect that i was able to test in the field recently is the CA at f/5.6, i was shooting ice lately so i can now say that this lens is very well corrected, see the crop below.
As i said earlier, the Bokeh of this little Sigma is very pleasing, smooth and good looking.
I still don’t like the aperture ring but i’m getting used to it …. sort of. The lens is doing well with my Fuji X-E1 (all the photos posted here were taken on my X-E1) because of it’s size and weight. I just bought an adapter to use the lens on my Canon 7D, i didn’t had the time to try them together but i’m sure they will work well even if the 7D don’t have focus peaking like the X-E1. That Sigma 180mm/5.6 Macro is now part of my regular kit and it’s always in my camera bag, it makes a very good combo with my X-E1 and produces great images !
Yesterday, when i woke-up, it was -10°C and knew where i wanted to go to see if there was fresh ice along a river. As expected there was fresh ice on the rocks and moss in the river. I played with my camera in the water for 2 hours and got some nice photos, but this one is my favorite.
This week was not the most productive, i took some photos of ice and leaves but not what i was hoping for. I went to an Historical site near my home this morning, it was -5°C and very windy, windy days are difficult for photography unless you can take advantage of it. This site is on the shore of the St-Lawrence river, i was hoping to find some ice formations on the rocks in the rapids. There was some ice for sure but the best looking ice was farther from the shore in the river so i had to walk in the river to get there, i had to be careful not to slip on the icy rocks and on the mossy rocks that were in the water.
Finally we had some colder days this week, i was waiting anxiously for below 0°C temperatures for more opportunities, especially frozen waterholes and ponds. I like photographing leaves caught in ice, it’s a subject that you can find easily. This week photo was taken at a pond, what attracted me was the contrast between the pale leaves and dark water and ice. The 2 water drops were frozen on the leaves which added some interest.
Last Monday the temperature during the night dropped to -2°C, before going to work i stopped at a river to see if ice had formed on the vegetation and rocks. There wasn’t much ice on the rocks, not cold enough but on one rock there was some moss covered with ice. I used my 180mm Macro lens to get that close-up of the small moss, i like the color combination of the green moss and blue/purple water in the background.
I wanted to share my Close-up photos in a book but didn’t want to do it gear oriented since there is already a lot of those kind of books. What i did is talk about each photo in the book, explaining why and how i took it, some are more straight and some needs more explanations. Like i said in my book, i’m just a passionate photographer who wants to share and hope that you will learn a couple of things when reading my book.
It’s available on Blurb as a soft cover or you can download the PDF version here:
BTW, you can preview the first 15 pages if you click on the link above also.
This week i found a new pond area which is along a dirt road along the highway close to my work. I’ve already went on that dirt road often but never walked the small trail that start somewhere along that road. I think i will certainly go next spring to photograph frogs, looks like a great habitat for Gray Tree Frog and Spring Peepers !
You’re lucky, you can’t smell the odor of rotten eggs that was in the air that morning, ponds often smell that.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ???
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.
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.
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.
I found this adult Green Frog in a shallow pond covered with autumn leaves, always good to photograph Frogs in different seasons.
This week we had our first night with temperature at the freezing point (0°C), so in the morning there was some frost on the ground and fog in the fields near my house. I took that photo of a small river that is close to my home, i drive by that river everyday and i knew that on cold mornings fog is usually present over the river.
Early this morning i went on a walk in a forested area near my home and found Mushrooms growing on a mossy part of the forest. I liked the sidelight on those 2 growing together.
Usually when we talk about close-up photography we think of using a Macro lens but a WA lens can give you a different perspective. Unfortunately there isn’t that many WA lenses that can focus very close. Sigma is making or have made a 24mm and a 28mm “Macro” lenses but i’ve never tried them, they can focus down to 0.18 Meter and 0.20 Meter respectively and giving a reproduction ration of 1:2.7 and 1:2.9.
The lenses that i have more experience with are two 14mm lenses that focus closer than other manufacturers 14mm lenses … the Pentax DA14mm and Fuji XF 14mm. The Pentax can focus down to 0.17 Meter (repro ratio of 1:5) and the Fuji to 0.18 Meter (repro ratio of 1:8), both are APS-C lenses only. From the official numbers the Fuji doesn’t have a magnification as high as the Pentax, that 1 cm closer focusing of the Pentax makes a big difference or it’s something in the lens design that results in a big loss of magnification. If someone know the answer don’t hesitate to post it below.
A last point, the Pentax have the advantage of having SR (Shake Reduction) in the cameras, i think that any kind of image stabilisation is useful even with a WA lens. Sometimes you’re shooting handheld at arms length and every help you can get is welcome. Sure you can boost the ISO but there is a limit when you want to maintain IQ.
Here is how close the Pentax DA14 is to the subject at it’s minimum focusing distance.
Enough of the technical talking, now in the field with those 2 WA lenses. They are both great lenses at their minimum focusing distance, i used them especially for photographing close-ups of frogs but also for flowers and mushrooms. When i’m using a 14mm lens for taking close-ups of frogs i don’t put the hood on the lens because it almost touches my subject and can scare it away. With some practice you get to know which frog will let you close enough to have a good shot.
This Green Frog was taken near the minimum focusing distance of the Fuji XF 14mm at f/8 on an X-E1.
One from the Pentax DA 14mm at f/7.1, sorry about the dead Red Squirrel but i like that photo because it shows that wild animals are always in danger even in our towns.
Mushroom in it’s habitat taken with the Pentax DA 14mm.
The photo of this Male Bullfrog was taken from a Canoe with the help of my wife and kids to get close enough. (Fuji XF14mm at f/6.4)
Mushrooms growing in a mossy forest close to a big river, taken handheld but braced on my camera bag at a shutter speed of 1/8 sec. at f/6.4. (Fuji XF 14mm)
This photo was taken at my parent’s summer cabin, they are wild young Black Ducks but peoples around the Lake gave them foods since they were very young when they came with their parents. I was able to get really close to them by getting down on my belly. Taken with my Fuji XF14mm at f/9.0, some even tried to eat my fingers or X-E1!
I prefer to use MF at close distances, especially with the Pentax K-01 and Fuji X-E1 because of the Focus Peaking which makes it easy to get perfect focus. It takes some practice to get good composition and don’t forget to get very close to the subject so your shot will have more impact. With a WA lenses you get a lot of things into the frame so you have to pay attention to the background and the corners, because you will see things in your photo later that you didn’t saw when you took your photo, so look carefully in the field to be sure you can remove or recompose to get the distracting objects or plants out of your frame.
So get close and down to the level of your subject and have fun while getting interesting perspectives!
This week is a long exposure photo of boats taken in Beauharnois before sunrise, the street lights were still “ON” so they put some light on the vegetations in the foreground.
I recently bought a National Geographic “Earth Explorer series” Holster bag 2342, it’s a small shoulder bag when i want to carry only my Fuji X-E1 + XF 27mm, see my post here:
But i wanted a bigger bag to carry everyday in which i could fit my X-E1+27mm and accessories and sometimes with an additional lens like my XF 14mm or my Vivitar 100mm/3.5 Macro lens. Also it would be large enough (but not too big) to carry some personal items like my wallet, keys, Cell phone, medications …
Since i liked my National Geographic bag (2342) i looked at other models from this brand as well as other brands. After some research i decided to pull the trigger on the National Geographic A2540 Midi Satchel ” Africa Series ” bag.
In the photo above you can see the size of the bag compared with my Fuji X-E1 + XF27mm.
On this Tag you can write your name, address and phone number in case you loose your bag somewhere.
For photos and dimension of the bag take a look at the link to the official site of National Geographic bags:
The prices on the site or in Canadian dollar but you can select another country. I didn’t pay that price, i found a store here in Canada that was selling them for 50$ (in sale), so i didn’t hesitated very long. I also bought the shoulder pad to go with the bag, … it’s stiff , i tried to bend it and form it to my shoulder but i still don’t find it comfortable .
The bag is made of very tough material and it feels like it can survive anything you can throw at it, so it should be with me for many years to come. The bag is not rated as waterproof but i used it in light rain without any problems, if you need it to be fully waterproof there is a waterproof cover available.
What i like about this bag is that all the pockets and the main compartment are closed with a zipper which is great to protect the equipment from rain and dust, some bags have just the big flap with 2 buckles to close the main compartment. As you can see in the link of National Geographic there is a removable insert bag which contain the camera and lenses and can be removed from the bag to make it a regular bag. I can fit my Fuji X-E1+XF 27mm and my XF14mm (or 18-55mm) as well as some SD cards in a Ziplock bag and a dust blower. Even with the insert in position in the main compartment of the bag i can also fit my Vivitar 100mm/3.5 Macro in the remaining space. Inside the bag there is another compartment to fit an Ipad or a small Laptop. I don’t use it for this but i fit my Extension tubes, cable release and quick release plate just in case i would need one of them.
In the photo above is my X-E1 + XF27mm, in the second compartment it’s my XF14mm, both in the removable padded bag. You can see that there is a place on the far right for another lens, i sometimes put my Vivitar 100mm/3.5 Macro (in Pentax K-Mount).
I’ve been using it as my everyday bag for some weeks now and i really appreciate it, feel solid and for my needs it’s a good size without being too big and heavy. I’m now used to get my camera quickly out of the bag, the zippers feel solid and are easy to operate. When i choosed that bag my goal was also to have a bag that didn’t looks like a camera bag so peoples wouldn’t know i’m carrying a camera with me. So on some occasions i went to the Bank and stores and peoples said to me ” so you just finished working” when they saw that i had my bag they probably thought it was a Laptop inside with papers from my work.
So if you’re looking for a well made, tough and practical bag that don’t look like a camera bag you should take a serious look at the Africa series from National Geographic!
I was cutting the grass in my backyard when i saw a little fur ball running to hide himself under the cover of thick vegetation, it was a baby Cottontail Rabbit. I went inside to get my camera but when i was back the rabbit was not there anymore. I continued cutting my grass and suddenly 2 more little rabbit running again for cover, this time my camera was close and ready and i was able to capture the portrait of one of them. They were very small, around the size of my hand!
Taken with my Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm lens.