Sigma 170-500 vs 50-500


Sigma 170-500 vs 50-500

Sigma 170-500 vs 50-500
Introduction – Sigma 170-500 vs 50-500

For those who don’t have a budget for a Canon or Nikon lenses ( Canon 400mm f/5.6 L or Af-S Nikon 300mm f/4 namely) or the Tamron 150-600mm these two lenses can be a budget option, used. I wouldn’t buy these lenses new, I would buy a used Canon or Nikon instead, which is much better. One thing is important though: I don’t recommend to buy the lens if you actually cannot check, because many bad or damaged copies can have in the used market. I recommend to check optical quality, autofocus operation, before you buy if you like it or not, sunny weather is required to judge the actual value of these long lenses. The interesting thing in these lenses the 500mm focal length which perhaps 460-480 in reality. The 170-500 possible to get for 300 Eur, the 50-500 for 500 Eur used, not mint condition, but used. Other options are the new Tamron 150-600 but not in this price range (and the new Sigma 150-600mm ), and the discontinued Sigma 100-300mm f/4, which is much better. Also there is a new Sigma 150-500mm os or not os which is perhaps similar of this two lenses.
See also the reviews of the two lens:
Sigma 170-500mm f/5-6.3 review
Sigma 50-500mm f/4-6.3 review

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Differences – Sigma 170-500 vs 50-500

The Sigma 50-500 is approximately 0.5 kg heavier. The 170-500 is app 1.3 kg, while the 50-500 is 1.8 kg.
The 50-500 has f/4. 170-500 f/5 at wide end
The colors and contrast seem better on the sigma 50-500.
The 50-500 autofocus is hsm which is much better, quicker, and more silent than the micromotor af of the Sigma 170-500.
The manual focus is more usable on the Sigma 50-500
Seems the 170-500 has more focal length (not measured).
The Sigma 50-500 is more expensive used.

Both of these are a budget lens, you want better lens if you have a budget for it, especially for birding or wildlife. You can make an image but won’t be as outstanding as with the Canon 400mm f/5.6 or the Nikon 300mm f/4 af-d. For the new price of the Sigma 50-500mm I would expect superb build and optical quality, which is not the case. If you can choose better to put these lens on a Nikon cameras which has less noise in high iso sensitivites, like a Nikon d7000. No af can occur with entry level bodies (Nikon d3xxx and Nikon d5xxx series) I think, needs to check, as no motor in the body for the 170-500 with newer bodies can be compatibility issues as well.

Soft at long end, does not have a “bite.”
Heavy, huge
Build quality is not what you prefer. The matte finish coming off if the lens is heavily used.
86mm front lens elements, very expensive filters
Slow f/6.3 aperture at long end
almost useless in not sunny weather, unless for really close distances where more possible to make a sharp shot on a tripod.

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Sigma 170-500 pros and cons

Cheap this is the point for this lens, if you on a tight budget better than nothing
Range, wide range, zooming, 500mm at least theoretically
500g lighter than the Sigma 50-500, much easier to handhold
Sharp at 170-300mm, not as sharp afterwards
At 500mm f/10 seems sharper, than the 50-500, seems not all copies are equally sharp
At f/6.3 perhaps also sharper, seems not all copies are equally sharp
The general opinion of many that the 50-500 is sharper. It means mostly better contrast, and better sharpness in the 300-400mm range.


Slow, micromotor driven autofocus
Awkward manual focus
Stiff zoom action, some real power needed to turn the ring
Soft at 400-500mm

50-500 Pros and cons

HSM quick and precise focus like Canon’s USM.
Great versatility with the wide range
Wide range (50-500) if you like it, I better like the 170-500 idea, as don’t find 50mm particularly interesting
Colors, contrast seem nice, but not outstanding as prime lenses
Good sharpness at shorter focal lengths, not bad at 500mm f/8-f/10


Heavy, much heavier than the 170-500, more of a tripod lens, you feel your muscles working
More expensive
Zoom ring still little stiff


The Tamron 150-600mm is the first which comes to my mind first or the Sigma 150-600mm. The Tamron is in different class than these two lenses, even better the Canon 100-400mm Mk I version, or easily beats the Nikon 80-400mm.

Other option for more money if you prefer zoom, not price is the new Nikon 200-500mm (1400 USD, much better) or the upcoming Canon 200-600mm f/4.5-5.6 , which price is not yet known.

Another version is the Canon 200mm f/2.8, my favorite lens. This lens at 200 and 280mm easily beat both Sigmas with a huge margin, with a 2x TC is about the same, but the Canon has nicer colors. If you check the Canon without the teleconverter, to so how it works, you have never will even think about Sigma lenses :), because the difference is night and day. The Canon has much less weight, even with a 1.4x and a 2x converter together is 1105g (measured). But you cannot zoom with it, and perhaps will have a hard time if ever comes to sell it in favor of an another lens, which will be much easier with the Sigmas.

The Sigma 100-300mm f/4 is also an interesting lens, the weight is similar to the Sigma 170-500mm, but it is sharper, but still has the soft look of the Sigmas at an extent. Not bad with the 1.4x converters, but my impression is the Sigma 50-500mm is better built, and has better af. I read in several forums people can easily correct contrast in post processing, I don’t think so, it will not match the Canon 400mm f/5.6 no matter how much post processing.

 Posted by at 11:47 pm