photography is full of surprises

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve to start accepting JCB credit cards from Japan


Mar. 11—Photography, like many complex hobbies, can involve a great deal of head-scratching, second-guessing, and wishful thinking. So many photographers and those who would like to be photographers rest their hobby on, “If only I had (this lens or that camera)…”

And sure, if I won the lottery… hm. You know what? Before I buy any more cameras, I think I’d buy an airplane.

But that’ll be the day, right? In the mean time, I am, and have been throughout my career, someone who puts hardware into my workflow to see how it will perform. Sure, anyone can shoot pictures of cats and brick walls, but those kinds of images will never tell you what you need to know.

With all that in mind, I got a grab-bag of photo gear before Christmas from an estate sale, and before long, I put all that hardware into action, including the Sigma 400mm f/5.6.

This lens was one of a group of lenses that were made by some third party, then labeled with brand names like Sigma, Tokina, Tamron, Pentax, and so on.

It was obvious from the day I took home those bags of camera gear that no one had made pictures with any of it for years, so it was exciting to use it.

The Sigma, however, comes from an era of sketchy quality control at the company, so I didn’t have particularly high expectations. I put it on my Nikon D3 and took it to tennis earlier this week, and I was able to surprise myself with the result.

The trick with a lot of lenses is that they are often not at all sharp at their largest apertures, and knowing that, I shot with the Sigma set at f/8, one full stop smaller than the maximum aperture of f/5.6, and sure enough, there was a sweet spot. Shooting at f/8, which in any situation is a small aperture, means either amping my ISO to about 1600, or putting up with slower shutter speeds. Even “stopped down,” though, this 400mm wasn’t as sharp as it’s 30-year-younger brethren.

So on sunny days when I want some reach and to carry a lighter piece of kit, look for me with this interesting legacy lens.