I took the following shot on a morning just before going to work, at first I was looking for Frogs but came back with that backlit shot of a Fly. I liked the fact that it was upside down.
I just switched back to Pentax just in time for the 2015 frog season, i carefully selected my lenses to be useful for photographing frogs. I bought lenses that have a good minimum focusing distance or repro ratio so that i can use them to take the portrait of my little friends.
Here is my Pentax lenses which will be useful on my tripod but also handheld with the help of the SR:
– DA 16-85mm WR for bigger frogs that will let me close enough to use that lens to show them in their habitat kind of shot.
– DA 55-300mm WR that i will use mostly from 100mm to 300mm.
– Tamron 90mm Macro will be my main working lens especially for the Gray Tree frog and Spring peeper frog but also to take close-up shots of the bigger ones.
– Takumar (6×7) 135mm/4 Macro, this lens have a 1:3 ratio on a 6×7 camera and will give me more rech than my Tamron 90mm Macro.
I still have my Canon 7D and will be able to use my 400mm/5.6L with and without extension tubes when frogs will be out of reach of my Pentax DA 55-300mm WR. Also i have a Sigma 180mm/5.6 APO Macro that have a 1:2 repro ratio that i will use on my 7D for more reach but still can do Macro shots.
I’m excited at the coming season that should start in a few days, i will be trying to vary my POV and came-up with different perspective and atmosphere. I will also explore new ponds this summer so that will help vary the environment in my photos.
Here are teaser photos from last year to give you an idea of the coming season 🙂
Finally the Canada Geese are back here in Canada, it’s just the beginning but it’s one of the best sign that spring is here. I visited some places i knew where they like to stop during their migration to see if i could get some photos. I come home with not so interesting photos but always fun to be out and observe that spring migration after a long winter.
The most interesting photos i made were taken with my 90mm Macro lens of the carcass of a dead Canada Goose. In the coming weeks i will be concentrating my photography on Canada Geese while waiting for the frogs to come out. This year i will try to show them in their habitat when possible to show how much they are during the migration.
BTW, all the photos were taken with my Pentax K50 and Tamron 90mm Macro.
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.
My first Macro lens i bought back in 1992 was the Tamron SP 90mm/2.5 (1:2 ratio, Manual Focus) , i really liked that lens, very good for the price. I used it until i switched to digital in 2006 and found that it was prone to sensor flare. After that over the years i’ve used many Macro lenses from Nikon, Olympus (OM and m4/3), Vivitar 90-180mm Flat Field but mostly from Pentax. Before switching from Pentax to Canon i was owning 3 Macro lenses: Pentax DA 35mm/2.8 Macro Ltd, SMC Macro-Takumar 50mm/4 and Pentax DFA 100mm/2.8 Macro WR. The Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR is my favorite Macro lens that i’ve ever used, so when i switched to Canon i wanted to have the same advantages …. Weather sealing and IS (IBIS for Pentax) since i like photographing frogs i often shoot in wet and muddy habitat and also often handholding my camera because a tripod is not always practical.
At first, i wanted to buy the Canon 100mm Macro IS L, price, size and weight were cons for that lens compared to what i was used with my Pentax (FF lens also). Then i found that Tamron was making a 90mm Macro with VC and weather sealing (Unfortunately not available in Pentax mount), smaller and lighter than the Canon. Sure it does not feel as solidly built than the Canon and especially the Pentax which the barrel is made of metal, but it’s good quality plastic and should be able to survive regular use in the field. A Canadian store had a good rebate on the Canon but especially on the Tamron (600$ CDN) … more than 400$ cheaper than the Canon! So after reading reviews and user opinions i finally pulled the trigger on the Tamron 90mm Macro VC USD, as a bonus here in Canada the Warranty from Tamron is 6 years.
For the moment i will be owning only 1 Macro lens for my Canon kit so a lens in the 90mm-100mm range was my choice. A longer Macro lens is helpful for insects that are difficult to get close, for the moment i will use Ext. tubes on my 70-200mm/4 L if i need more reach when photographing Frogs.
This lens is Weather sealed but couldn’t find a definitive answer on how much weather sealed it really is, so i did sent an E-Mail to Tamron Canada and the next day i received the following answer:
“The weather sealing on your 90mm F/2.8 VC lens is provided by the gasket on the rear of the lens. There are no other gaskets or seals in the lens.”
Compared to the Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR, which have several gaskets inside the lens also, the Tamron can’t be used in constant rain like the Pentax can, but there is no gap between the focusing ring and the plastic barrel, so maybe it can take some light rain, the weak point might be the switches. The seal around the lens mount doesn’t look as tough as the one on the Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR but i will have to wait and see how well it will hold-up in the long term.
I made a short video showing the gasket on the rear mount of the lens:
The lens is made of plastic but feels solid, i like tha it’s an IF lens, it will not extend when getting close to my subjects. The focusing ring is large and easy to grip. I would have liked the focusing ring to be more progressive, by that i mean taking more turn from infinity to minimum focusing distance (it takes 1/2 turn from minimum to infinity). Because of that, at close range, just a little turn of the focusing ring and it makes a big difference on where the focus is made, compared to the old Manual focus lenses it’s not as easy to use … but most of the AF lenses suffers from that unfortunately.
On the lens you will find 3 switches (focus limiter, AF/MF and for the VC On/Off), all 3 are easy to use and i have no complaint about them.
Before going to results in the field i want to talk about a little thing that i like about that Tamron lens …. the lens caps ! They are the best i’ve seen on a lens, thick enough and easy to use with a good firm lock, easy to use even in winter with cold fingers, same for the lens hood. Compared to the Canon front lens caps which are the worst i’ve used , too thin and difficult to use.
Results in the field
Modern Macro lenses are all very good, the choice of one over another is based more on features and focal length. Depending on your needs and the subjects you want to photograph there is a Macro lens that is more suited for the task.
The lens also performs very well at normal shooting distances, like this shot of a frozen waterfall, taken at f/11, tripod.
I finally had some time and opportunities (spring was late this year and subjects were difficult to find), this lens performs really well and IQ is very good. I have no doubt and use it at any aperture, sure there is a little drop of resolution as you stop it down to f/11-16 but still very usable, wouldn’t use f/22 as the drop in IQ is too much for my taste.
The Bokeh looks good even if there is some Bokeh fringing (green in the OOF background), which is not that evident at normal viewing distance, i can live with it. In the photos posted here the OOF area are smooth and doesn’t distracts the eyes from the main subject.
This lens is bigger and heavier than my previous Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR but it handles quite well on my 7D and T3i and it works well for ground level subjects with the VC and the articulated LCD of the T3i.
Tamron produced different versions of this 90mm (f/2.5 and 2.8) over the years and they all have a very good reputation for delivering great results and this one is no exception, Tamron did another great version of their 90mm Macro. It may not be as weather sealed as my Pentax DFA 100mm Macro WR was, but it’s a great lens that fits my needs and at a very good price. If you’re looking for another option than the Canon, Nikon or Sony brand Macro lens in that range this one certainly deserve a good look before taking a final decision. I will post updates when i will have more experience with that lens for photographing Frogs at my favorite pond.