Getting closer to nature with the SIGMA 500mm F4 Sports lens

Getting closer to nature with the SIGMA 500mm F4 Sports lens

- Martina Abreu

This pieces was originally created by Martina Abreu for SIGMA Corporation of America for


When I first received the SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports lens and took it out of the box, my excited thought was, “How in the world am I going to navigate this glorious beast?!”

I quickly found out it is remarkably easy to handle and I can hand hold this lens while shooting without issue! The bag it came with is perfect. It holds the lens with a body attached, very securely. I am easily able to hike creeks, mountain paths and the countryside without worry.

Handholding the SIGMA 500mm F4 Sports?

No problem!

When I first shot with the lens, I was instantly smitten. I had previously shot with a few different telephotos, but never a prime hyper telephoto. Right away, I found this lens to be superior to the others I had used. Its easy hand-holding ability, large constant aperture and quick, quiet focusing all allow me to capture wildlife quickly and easily, without disruption.

An Eastern Painted turtle rests on a muskrat lodge, on a large pond. Taken from my kayak. Perrysburg, NY
SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/1600s, F4, ISO 250

Chipmunks were running all over the forest floor in the late day sun. One stopped and looked at me long enough to capture this moment. Taken during a hike through the woods in Perrysburg, NY.
SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/1640s, F4.5, ISO 800

I have this lens on my Nikon DSLR 90% of the time. Not only do I shoot wildlife with it, but I’ve pushed it beyond wildlife captures and have photographed landscapes and flora, successfully and beautifully. I continue to be impressed by its capabilities.

SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/8000s, F10, ISO 800

I kayak and canoe often, and this lens almost always comes with me. I regularly shoot handheld from both types of boat, capturing dragonflies, birds and other wildlife. The boats get me on the water and the 500mm F4 Sports lens gets me close to my subjects.

Hand on tripod collar, elbow on knee, good posture, steady breathing and optical stabilization… it all adds up to sharp wildlife shots from a boat.

A large osprey landed on a branch right above my head while I was taking a quick lunch on the bank of a river. Shot handheld! Cherokee, NC.
SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/4000s, F4, ISO 1000

The quick, quiet and accurate focusing is the reason I use this lens most, but there’s more to love about the 500mm F4 Sports. The beautiful separation it creates between subject and background — from F4 until about F8 — is simply dreamy. It really showcases the subject matter and wonderfully highlights the focal point of every shot.

One of my hanging baskets attract hummingbirds. This shot was taken standing on my deck! South Dayton, NY.
SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/5000s, F4, ISO 2000

One of the best features, for how I shoot, is this lens’ Optical Stabilization (OS) system. It has two different modes for your specific needs, OS1 and OS2.

OS1 is general stabilization for handheld use. I use this option for my subjects that still or moving slowly. For example, a bird sitting on a branch or flowers on the bank of a pond.

OS2 is the option I use most, especially when I am in my kayak or canoe. I use OS2 for panning and when the wildlife or my subject is in constant motion. A hummingbird hovering over a flower, an osprey in flight, birds jumping from branch to branch, and the like.

The OS system engages quietly and easily with a slide of the switch and a partial press of the shutter. I am amazed by the job it does at stabilizing my shots at the time of capture.

SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – composite of 3 shots of osprey in flight.

Some of my other favorite features of the 500mm F4 Sports are:

• The option to turn off the focus beep, with a quick slide of the switch on the lens.

• The focus limiter. This switch is also on the lens’ body. I find it a great addition for even further accuracy when focusing on your subject. With a quick slide of the switch you can choose the focal distance you would like to use. It has full, 10m-infinity and 3.5m-10m options. So, depending on how far away your subject is, you can choose which to use. For example, the 3.5m-10m position is my favorite for dragonflies and flora, and the 10m-inifinity is best for subjects like grazing animals.

• The carbon fiber lens hood, which I always have attached. Not only does it prevent light leaks from affecting my images, it acts as a “bumper” when I have to lay the camera and lens down in my boat, when I am on the water, and at my side when I am walking to my next location. The hood is remarkably lightweight but strong! It does not affect the weight of the lens, and with an easy release of the screw, it locks securely into place.

• The heavy-duty tripod collar. When I do use a tripod, the tripod collar fits easily onto my quick release tripod shoe. I attach the shoe tightly, attach it to my tripod and I am ready to go! And when I’m shooting handheld, the collar doubles as a handy grip to help keep my lens steady.

A Halloween Pennant Dragonfly came to rest on a reed right in front of my kayak. I quickly grabbed this shot before it flew off. Perrysburg, NY.
SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/1600s, F5, ISO 640

A baby elk grazing on purple clover. I came upon this baby in a field, off the roadside in Cherokee, NC.
SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/2000s, F4, ISO 640

The construction of this lens is not only aesthetically pleasing, it is well-designed with all its functions easily accessible for the quick changes I may make during a shoot. It is very durable, yet lightweight.

The SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports is my #1 go-to lens when I am on wildlife or nature shoots. It helps me capture the beauty of this world and so accurately expresses my mind’s vision.

I wanted to single out this tall sunflower, and the F4 aperture of this lens made it stand out proud! Collins, NY.
SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/2500s, F4, ISO 400

I would highly recommend any serious photographer to consider adding this lens to their arsenal! It has quickly become one of my favorite Sigma lenses, and I use it for almost all my wildlife images. Its quickness, quietness, light weight and reliability helps me capture those fleeting wildlife moments easily and accurately.

An adult Cedar Waxwing landed on a branch near me while I was paddling my kayak. Perrysburg, NY.
SIGMA 500mm F4 DG OS HSM Sports on Nikon D800 – 1/640s, F5.6, ISO 1000

Martina Abreu

Martina started her journey in Professional Portrait and Nature Photography after graduating from NYIP (New York Institute of Photography) in 2000. Over the years, she has been awarded numerous merits for her work and was also one of the faces of the PPA. Her work has been regularly published and she successfully sells her portrait and nature photography. Today, Martina lives in the beautiful hills of Cattaraugus County in Western New York with her four children, where she operates a photography studio and travels all over America for her nature work. In addition, she holds photography workshops and does one-on-one mentoring for those who want to further their knowledge in the photography field.


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