Back in October, 2011 we went with some friends on a boat ride on the Hudson. This is one of the other passengers. He was wearing a straw hat and soon as I saw him I was taken by the magnificent beard and the expressive wrinkles around his eyes. This was taken at f10 at the extreme end of the zoom range (450mm equivalent) and I was using a monopod.
Generally speaking I haven’t been all that impressed by the lens I was using – A Sigma 70-300mm f4.5-5.6. I bought it because I wanted a longer focal length than the kit lens but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. I realize now, however, that many of the problems were with me rather than with the lens. OK it’s not a brilliant lens but it’s definitely possible to get better results that I was getting. On the plus side the lens is solid and has decent out of focus areas. From 75-135mm it’s pretty good wide open. From 200-300mm f8 would be better. Autofocus is a bit slow, particularly in bad light. You really need lots of light with this lens. Either that or some way of stabilizing it (e.g. a monopod or a tripod). Of course if you end up using a slow shutter speed then action shots are pretty much out, which is fine for me as I rarely take them.
I’ve heard of people having trouble with stripped autofocus gears. I’ve had the lens for many years and haven’t experienced any problems (but then I haven’t used it much either). I looked a bit closer and got the impression that the problem occurs more with later model Sony DSLRs, which have both a slow and a fast focus speed. The fast speed is too much for these Sigma lenses and Sony recommends setting the camera on the slow speed. My camera (an old Sony Alpha 500) only has, as far as I can tell, a single speed.
All in all for casual use without paying a lot of money it’s not all that bad.