60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports Impression
The new “60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports” is the successor of the famous “APO 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM.” However, it is more than the “successor” because of the significant improvement.
This lens belongs to the Sports line, realizing the wide zoom range to deal with all kinds of situations, the high speed for faster shutter speed, as well as the fast accurate AF. For this report, three photographers shot three types of subjects: bicycling, trains, and wildlife.
Freedom of framing in sports photography provided by 10X zoom
(Photography & Text by Wataru Nakamura)
In order to photograph sports scenes up close, we must shoot inside so-called “rope”, open exclusively to the media people with the press pass. Most people, on the other hand, have to shoot from a long distance. In this sense, the 600mm focal length at the tele-end is extremely useful. A high speed fixed-focal ultra telephoto lens is nice, but I am attracted to the degree of freedom in framing realized by the 10X zoom ratio because it assists me to find “sports scenes” beyond mere sports photography.
I first zoomed in to the 600mm end to capture the subject, then zoomed out to around 450mm to fine-tune framing. Only with a zoom lens, I can pull and crop like this.
With the combination of 600mm tele-end and 10X zoom ratio, you can shoot almost anything in a distance. All I have to do to include the beautiful line of the road is turn the zoom ring.
I once owned the first generation of the 50-500mm. I am impressed by the dramatic improvement of image quality, which is beyond what we expect from the zoom ratio.
Even when using fixed focal lenses in severe conditions, this zoom lens will come in handy as a sub lens to enhance the variety of photographic expressions.
Finding railroad scenes between 60mm and 600mm
(Photography & Text by Juzo Iwaki)
Although I do not know much about railroads, the new 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports from SIGMA inspired me to shoot railroad scenes. I decided to photograph the Tadami line which runs between Aizu-Wakamatsu Station in Aizu-Wakamatsu City (Fukushima Prefecture) and Koide Station in Uonuma City (Niigata Prefecture). After studying about several shooting positions, I followed the Tadami line from Fukushima to Niigata.
This is the shot taken at my first shooting point. I should have been able to drive to this point, but the road was closed along the way due to the construction. From there, I had to walk carrying the camera and a tripod. Soon after I arrived in a sweat and prepared, a train started to cross the iron bridge. I zoomed in to 600mm and fixed the focal plane on a short distance from the iron side frame of the bridge.
After taking several shots at 600mm tele-end, I zoomed out all the way to 60mm wide-end to show the difference of the angle of view between the two ends. As I was going to use the 60mm focal length when the train comes to the middle of the bridge, I practiced turning the zoom ring quickly in advance! Of course, this was also a necessity because the number of train service is extremely small and I had to make the most of the limited opportunity. As I did not change the camera position, the composition may seem imperfect. Yet, the image looks very sharp. The contrast and color reproduction are just right. This image turned out to be the last one shot under the sunshine.
The Tadami line is running in a quaint village. Surely, you don’t see it. Soon after I fixed my equipment, the train came. I am sure it came because I heard the sound. But, everything including the train and the village was covered by the clouds. I took this shot in bitter regret through the gap between the clouds. In my mind, there goes the Tadami line painted beautifully in white and green. The advantage of a zoom lens is the range between the two ends, rather than themselves. When the shooting position is restricted, you will appreciate the ability to fine-tune composition by as little as 1mm or 2mm. This is something that a fixed-focal lens can never do.
In fact, the Tadami line has a closed section which is about 30 kilometers long, due to the disaster in 2011. This means that the line runs in the very steep valley. As I took the Route 252 that goes along the Tadami line, I was really scared because I was forced to drive along the bluff in the mountain area of the prefectural border. How did they construct the railway in a peak like this? This shot was taken in the Niigata side, across the closed section. This point was not in my list of shooting points, but thankfully, the 60-600mm zoom lessened my burden.
This is the penultimate train of the day, shot at my last shooting point. It was already dark and I had to decide if I should pursue faster shutter speed or use a lower ISO sensitivity. I finally decided to use ISO 100 accepting subject blurring. What really impressed me is the sharp rendition of the point light sources at the crossing and the poles besides the track. The image also reminds me of the smell of the heavy rain, even though it was not captured clearly.
An encounter with the "Mountain God"
(Photography & Text by Satoru Korenaga)
After hearing about the focal length between 60mm and 600mm, the first thing that came to my mind was the place called “Kamoshika-daira,” or Serow Plateau. I can think of some wild animals that I can watch near the Kanto region, but I have also heard that we can watch Japanese serow, one of Japan’s official natural treasures, in Kamoshika-daira. But, what are the chances of seeing them? It is a natural treasure, not something I see in the cattle ranch. But, I had to go because I have no chance of seeing them unless I go there.
Before going to see the serows, I practiced shooting in the zoo. This not only gave me an opportunity to check the AF performance and the possibility of handholding (an important issue for a big lens) but also allowed me to prepare for the worst case scenario: I may not be able to see the serows at all.
I entered the zoo right after it opened and started to look for animals for subjects. Only elephants and Japanese monkeys are not caged. I shot moving monkeys to check the AF tracking ability. It kept tracking the subject without fail at the AI SERVO mode as well. There is a net in front of the white stork, but I could get very close taking advantage of the short minimum focus distance. The practice was successful. All I hope now is seeing the Japanese serows.
I left my home at 3:30AM to head for Kamoshika-daira near Mt. Asamayama in Nagano Prefecture. I saw no people in the trail because it was a weekday after the Obon vacation. The temperature was 16 degrees in Celsius and it was chilly. But, my legs started to shake because of the steep trail and I had to breathe hard. Including some breaks in every 20 minutes, it took me about 2 hours to get to Kamoshika-daira. According to the master of the mountain hut, I should be able to see them if I waited for a half day, though it is not easy to find them behind the tall grass and the female rarely appears because of nurturing.
But, where are the serows? For 2 hours I searched for them going back and force on the same trail, but they were not even in the air. I did see some traces of wildlife, but could not find the serows. They are just as we would expect from a natural treasure. Maybe it is time to give up. As I started to go down the mountain, I felt something looking at me. Slowly, I turned around. There it is! One Japanese serow was staring at me from the grass about 20 meters away. It was much bigger than I expected and started to stomp with the hoof in a threatening attitude. I was wrong. Serows are not “cute” at all. Overwhelmed by the pressure and power, my heart started to beat faster. I see. This is a wild animal. It somehow realized that I was not hostile and did not come closer. But, the eyes looked completely different from the ones of the tamed animals in the zoo. Dignified and divined, I would say. I came to myself and pressed the shutter button gently. Looking bored, the serow disappeared into the forest as if to say, “you pitiful coward!”
The images speak louder about the rendition quality. Though I shot with this lens handheld, a tripod is recommended to be more practical. As usual (isn’t it safe to say it by now?), this lens is enormous. But instead, the image quality leaves nothing to be desired. It may be a mere chance that I saw a Japanese serow, but amazing results are always guaranteed as long as you own this lens.