Sigma 400mm f 5.6 fungus

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Now I blame myself for about 50% for this, it was bound to happen from buying off eBay. Last week I was bidding for another Sigma 400mm f 5.6 APO, I think it was Nikon F mount, and I was wining until the last 2 minutes when someone showed up and started frenzy biding and I lost by 1£ in the last second of the auction. It got my quite frustrated so I started looking for another lens and found this one:

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https://www.ebay.co.uk/ulk/itm/143343764095

The the lens looked a bit dirty I thought it manageable to clean it, and they said it doesn’t have fungus, the price was ok. After receiving it this morning I spent 2 hours cleaning the exterior. It was so much black stuff on it, it looked like it lived in a car engine for the past 20 years. Managed to clean most of the stuff and it looks quite good now:

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The first problem I have right now is the focus ring, it turns ok on fast turns but on slow and precise option, needed to nail the focus correctly, it dry sticky and very hard to do it precisely.

The markings have mostly gone but that doesn’t bother me, I don’t read the hyper focal and I don’t use distance markings to judge focus:

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The biggest issue is the lens has fungus. Right in the middle of the optical assembly the element hips riddled with fungus spots:

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And it does affect the image quality unfortunately.

The reason I got this specific lens was, after researching for a week, most people say that the APO version of the manual focus Sigma 400mm f 5.6 is the sharpest one of the bunch (pre AF model). And I ignored better looking earlier non APO versions in favour of this one (sweet irony). I’m hoping I can get it clean at London Camera Exchange, if it’s under 50£ cost, if not then I’m not sure what to do with it (the seller won’t accept return).


The reason why I wanted a 400mm f 5.6 lens is that I have a 2 weeks and a half holiday coming up after next week and I have found a deer spot that I wish to stalk. I wanted a longer reach then 200mm. I do want to get the Panny Leica 100-400mm but that’s for next year.

Also because of the Panny Leica lens I wanted some practice with the 800mm focal length (I instantly fell in love with the angle of view as soon as I put this lens on) for wildlife and the weight of this lens is just 250 grams more then the Panny Leica lens so the weight is also a good learning platform for handhelding and tracking. Even the size is not that far off either.


Here are a few test samples I made on my way to work (where I am right now), the light was pretty low and the weather in South West right now is windy enough that only this lens combo with big Oly kept me from flying off:

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The first picture I made with the lens, this little bird house was about 30 meters from my window and the sunset light just busted out of the clouds and shines on it. The second I saw the angle of view of this lens I fell in love with it because it’s almost exactly the same way my eyes focus is when I spot wildlife (while the Panny Leica 50-200mm offers a wider angled of view).

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Unprocessed the lens gives a very flat look, with low contrast and soft if not glowey sharpness. I’m hoping to attribute this to the fungus and not the design of the lens.

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This was on the opposite side of a football field, didn’t even noticed the bird on top until after I reviews the picture. The Dehaze feature in Lightroom seems to cut through the fungus haze with good efficiency but it does cause more noise and shift of lights and shadows in the picture

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Unprocessed the picture does lack the warm direct sunset light coming from the right side. Th lens does throw the focus past an infinity point so focusing at infinity does take a bit of time to nail it.

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The weather is really that bad (30 meter tall trees sway like drapes). I see good sharpness when the focus is nailed and the light is direct (also all the rain we have does clear up the air haze for very good long distance subjects). I think this lens has potential to be a good tool.

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For a long time I have never understood why people post pictures with telephoto lenses of rooftops and antennas and dishes .... but then I realised that they are good subject to show the amount of Chromatic Aberrations you can have (mostly in the worst case scenario). I find this amount quite manageable (compared to some 200mm f 3.5 and f4 legacy glass I have seen).

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While pictures at ISO 3200 are not of any use for judging sharpness I am still surprised that at such a medium distance, of 15 meters, the sharpness is good.

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This is what I was most interesting... found a bird party. Unfortunately I missed the focus.

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Having the extra distance from the subject was an instant moment of relaxation for both parties, the animals seemed less stressed about my (not ow close proximity) presence and I wasn’t so stressed about stressing the poor animals and scaring them off.

Now, the pictures don’t have the image quality of what my Panny Leica gives:

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Same place, different bun buns, yesterday evening.

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Same evening as the one above, 2 magpies trying to hold to dear life on the tree as the wind batters the hole side of the country for some days now.

I can’t wait to use the Sigma lens more and hope I can get it fix (as much as possible and within reasonable price). I have added the Olympus HLD-7 to my arsenal in anticipation of his lens and my focus on wildlife this coming holiday, I will make a review and use case for it next month.

PS. If Panasonic can make a 400mm f 4 primes under 2500£, 1.5 Kgs, less the. 25 cm long I would buy that (at some point).
 

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JLGF1

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If this wasn't disclosed in the listing, the seller must accept a return...regardless if they had labeled the listing "no returns accepted". eBay will force them to. All you would need to do is open a dispute case and attach those photos. They will probably cover your return shipping, too. Ask me how I know this.
 

Bushboy

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I had the 400mm 5.6 Apo Hsm, it was full frame quite good. Sharp but flat low contrast images. I chased deer around with it too! In NZ.
That’s the trouble with online auctions, sometimes ya just get a lemon. It’s happened to me a couple times. I had the 70-200 2.8 as well. It used to fog up something awful in inclement weather. I’d just leave it on my vehicle dashboard in the sun for a day, and it’d dry out nicely.
All Sigmas before these models were considered rubbish weren’t they? I could be wrong... the Apo HSM models I’m talking about.
 

jhawk1000

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I owned a Sigma 400mm 5.6 APO for a Nikon mount for a time. It always had a color cast to it and was never quite as sharp as I thought it should be. I sold it to another photographer who thought it was great and bought a Nikon 300mm 2.8 with 2.4X. Much, much, better. Just sold that 300mm and miss it except for the weight.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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If this wasn't disclosed in the listing, the seller must accept a return...regardless if they had labeled the listing "no returns accepted". eBay will force them to. All you would need to do is open a dispute case and attach those photos. They will probably cover your return shipping, too. Ask me how I know this.

I have sent a message to the seller with pictures and samples as proof, as well as made a refund request through eBay, now I need to wait for a reply. That also means I will be limited to 400mm equiv. for wildlife on my holiday, I don't think I can find a replacement in time unless I can get the refund within a week.

I had the 400mm 5.6 Apo Hsm, it was full frame quite good. Sharp but flat low contrast images. I chased deer around with it too! In NZ.
That’s the trouble with online auctions, sometimes ya just get a lemon. It’s happened to me a couple times. I had the 70-200 2.8 as well. It used to fog up something awful in inclement weather. I’d just leave it on my vehicle dashboard in the sun for a day, and it’d dry out nicely.
All Sigmas before these models were considered rubbish weren’t they? I could be wrong... the Apo HSM models I’m talking about.

Don't know about the AF models, possibly? I guess it depends on the user's expectations. While some demand the quality in the value of those Canon/Nikon/Sony monster lenses (that could literally crush you to death) that costs more money than I can dream. Then there are the good enough solutions, like the midrange zooms and sometimes primes, that is affordable for people with mid or low incomes. And then there are those who try to scrape by, using legacy glass that 30 to 60 years ago was enough to make a career (and all of sudden it's not because so many other can afford better options).

For me, learning a new skill means starting from down low and going up, when I reach to the point that I know I can't do more with what I have when I look for what's the next I can afford to get better IF the interest is still there.

I owned a Sigma 400mm 5.6 APO for a Nikon mount for a time. It always had a color cast to it and was never quite as sharp as I thought it should be. I sold it to another photographer who thought it was great and bought a Nikon 300mm 2.8 with 2.4X. Much, much, better. Just sold that 300mm and miss it except for the weight.

I actually learned quite a lot in the just 24 hours (of which I used the lens for about 3-4 hours) that I had it with me:

1) The weight of 1100 grams seems to be the limit of what I would find comfort in carrying in my hand, ready at any moment for that wildlife moment. Seeing that the weight is quite similar (I would guess about 200 grams less if I include the OM adapter) the Panny Leica 100-400mm f 4-6.3 my interest in the upcoming Olympus 100-400mm f 4.5 is decreasing as I don't see how they could make that beast less then 2.5 Kgs. For me, portability is just about everything as I don't have the free time to go out on specific wildlife trips (less so to other countries or continents) than what my local Camera Club can offer (which is less than a handful per year.

2) The 800mm equivalent, or to be more precise the field of view of ~1.5 degrees is just perfect for the closeup that I imagine and wish to get for wildlife. I don't know if 600mm would be enough but I find the Panny Leica 100-400mm f 4-6.3 to be more useful for me as two primes at 300 and 400mm.

3) I need a bigger backpack ... hmm :)

4) Dual IS is an absolute must for such a narrow field of view, IBIS or OIS alone is not enough.

5) I may find the tripod collar more useful than I thought I might (before I was expecting to just take it off and save the weight a bit), but after using this lenses tripod collar with my new Uno B-Grip for hiking and quick access is a lot more valuable and useful than having it to put in my backpack when I don't use it.

6) I have a suspicion that I may like the ergonomics of the taller Panasonic G9 with lenses as long as Panny Leica 100-400mm, Panny Leica 200mm and Olympus 300mm then the Olympus E-M1 Mark I/II as I realized that, after using the HLD-7 grip, the support from my pinky being able to rest on the battery grip releases the strain on my wrist a bit more and I didn't find as much fatigue on it than not using the grip.

I'd also suggest returning it, but otherwise...
1. Sunlight will slow mold growth
2. If you can figure out how to disassemble it, you can probably clean up most of the mold, and fix the focus as well.

I don't think I would risk trying to disassemble it, last time I tried to "fix" a lens I ruined a very beautiful Yashica Yashidon-DX 50mm f 1.4 after I gave up trying to clean some dirt off the inside of the optical assembly and I ended up getting the aperture assembly stuck between f 1.4 and f 4 (won't close down past that) and missing the mark of infinity focus by misaligning it to 10 and a half meters. I can dismantle electronics, I can scavenge and build computers but I can't handle such fine and precise items as lenses (or glued batteries in phones made of 98% glass covers).

I am still curious how the lens performs at its peak condition (possibly somewhere between Panasonic 100-300mm and Panasonic 100-400mm, for sure not to the level of Panasonic 200mm or Olympus 300mm)

If the goods are not as described then the no returns does not apply, inform the seller and give him the opportunity to sort it and contact ebay.

I did, hopefully, it can be resolved peacefully.


Since I can't return it on Sunday anyways I thought I might just as well try to see what it can do. So right after finishing my shift at work, I went to the fields I have grown accustomed to by now. Though I missed a fox because it passed through clearance of only a few meters, I tried my luck in a different field and .... I got very lucky:


Wolfy - 110819 - Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I - 25876.JPG
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She (I assume) was just sitting in the flower field looking for food, didn't pay much attention to me and I tried my best to not move from the spot I decided to freeze upon after lowering onto one knee to have an eye level with the fox. We didn't mind each other's business but I would like to think that we enjoyed each other, brief, company.

The color cast was so hard to manage in this picture, I just gave up and looked for Auto White Balance in Lightroom with 2 extra slider moves towards Yellow (because I love warm tones in my pictures).

Wolfy - 110819 - Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I - 25884.JPG
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I am pretty out of practice with manual focusing on moving subjects, even if it's just sideways movement. Still missed the focus as it seems to have snapped on the poison ivy behind the fox. She was coming towards me but on the side of the field next to a hedge, keeping about 8 meters distance between us.

I pushed the RAW files as far as it would go with +50 Contrast, -33 Blacks, +33 for Texture, Dehaze and Clarity to get pass the hazy output of the lens. Hopefully it doesn't look overdone.

Wolfy - 110819 - Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I - 25927.JPG
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This fox seems a bit older and more mature than my previous (and documented here) encounters. She (I'm still presuming) was reaching the corner of the field, where the hedges cross each other and trees usually spring between them, so the sunlight was passing through tree branches, putting the fox in literal spotlights of the warm sunrise. While none of the pictures are National Geographic level of image quality I am still happy with them because of the mood they seem to convey (and possibly have quite a unique spin because of the lens limitations). They are personal prints viable for sure.

Wolfy - 110819 - Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark I - 25959.JPG
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This is at the minimum focus distance, which is quite long so the magnification is not that good. I would say decent output.

I had a moment where right above my head a crow decided to have an air battle with a kestrel which lasted for minutes, unfortunately, I could not keep pace with them and they decided to fly towards the morning sun so I couldn't track them at one point. I have tried to make a few pictures but none of them are of any use as they are very out of focus. Funnily enough, while they were smashing and trying to grab each other mid-air my brain started playing Star Wars battle songs and X-Wing and Tie Fighter sound effects in my head.

For now, I will keep the lens at home because I am not getting anything better than my Panny Leica 50-200mm (probably even worse, even after cropping) and AF would have been so much more useful with the fox and the galactic battle above my head.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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Update: The seller answered to my message and, as I expected, requested if we can come to an arrangement for a partial refund. I don't know if a partial refund would cover the cost of a clean by a professional, so I haven't answered him yet.
 

RichardC

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How much money are they offering? Depending on the variety of fungus, it will either come off dead easily with Hydrogen Peroxide, or, worse case, the lens coating will come off with it.

For me to even consider buying that lens, I would be taking a chance on it at, say, £30. A strip and clean would be anywhere between £50 and [enter any number here]. Then you have the focusing issue.

Unless it's really really cheap - send it back using the ebay return procedure for goods not as described (they have to pay the shipping). Get someone to witness your packaging. Keep copies of all of the shipping receipts. Make a note of the shipping weight and photograph everything noting the serial number. An unscrupulous seller will claim you returned a box of stones.
 
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archaeopteryx

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She (I assume)
Perhaps, perhaps not. Red foxes are usually quite difficult to sex from casual observation so mostly I just don't go there. Even with substantial supporting evidence my estimates haven't come out any better than random guessing.

The color cast was so hard to manage in this picture, I just gave up and looked for Auto White Balance in Lightroom with 2 extra slider moves towards Yellow (because I love warm tones in my pictures).
Makes your Vulpes vulpes vulpes looks like V. vulpes fulva x vulpes. ;) Considering what the light's going through I wouldn't fuss over it either.
 

bredman

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Update: The seller answered to my message and, as I expected, requested if we can come to an arrangement for a partial refund. I don't know if a partial refund would cover the cost of a clean by a professional, so I haven't answered him yet.
No it wont. If it is a fungus there is the possibility you will be left with etched pits on the surface, and still hazy. It may not be a fungus however, those old 400/5.6s suffer badly from haze caused by lens separation in the focusing group -- If that is the issue here, it cannot be fixed.
 

L0n3Gr3yW0lf

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No it wont. If it is a fungus there is the possibility you will be left with etched pits on the surface, and still hazy. It may not be a fungus however, those old 400/5.6s suffer badly from haze caused by lens separation in the focusing group -- If that is the issue here, it cannot be fixed.

I will return it instead then. I haven’t tried to deal with fungus infected lens so far (in my short decade into photography) as I tried to avoid those lenses, just happened to get a bad one this time around.

I will crop from my Panny Leica instead. It seems that the Panasonic teleconverters are still running quite expensive these days (over 400£ for the 1.4x and 500£ for the 2x), at least compared to the Olympus 1.4x.
 

bredman

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JLGF1

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PakkyT

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Looking at your images again and i reckon that's the element cement failing and not a fungus.

Ya when I saw those photos my first thought was "that's not fungus". Looks bad and I would return the lens. He can tell the seller "no charge for the external cleaning". :biggrin:
 
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