Telephoto showdown: $100 Big Mike’s 500/1000mm Vs $1000 Sigma 150-600mm

A few weeks ago we went out to Huntsville State Park to get a chance to take some shots with the Sigma 150-600mm. It was awesome and we got some great photos. I thought it would be a great opportunity to use the 500mm manual lens I bought from Amazon a while back for the lunar eclipse. The day started out a little rough getting used to a lack of autofocus but was much smoother toward the end. I really wanted to do a comparison of this lens against one that is ten times the cost, and see just how good can a person do with a $100 lens. Is it really the way everyone says and the key is not having the best equipment, but to be the best with the equipment you have?

Big Mike’s 500/1000mm f/8 Manual Telephoto Lens for Nikon

Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary for Nikon

2x Magnifier to take the Sigma to 1200mm (click here to read our review of the 2x Magnifier – IT IS A GAME CHANGER.) Also, those links are affiliate links but do NOT cost you anything to click.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm

We started out in a bird blind and that gave me a great opportunity to put my camera on a tripod and get used to how the lens operates. I found it very difficult to get decent shots of the birds we were looking at. Perhaps the 2x magnifier will help? It really didn’t and just seemed to add edge blur to everything. It was always like you were right on the edge of getting a crystal clear photo but the lens just couldn’t do it.

Mike’s @ 1000mm
Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm

We moved from the bird blind and drove to a trail head for a little hike. We had hoped to see some different birds that one wouldn’t necessarily find next to a body of water, but alas they were not to be found. Not to let a good photo opportunity go to waste we began to take photos of the trail, and each other taking photos of the trail, and that’s when I had an epiphany.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm

At the bird blind the subjects were pretty far away, somewhere between 100-150 yards. The images were ok, but lack the detail you would really want from those types of photos. On the trail, subjects were much, much closer. I noticed my images suddenly had more detail and clarity. So naturally, I began to experiment. I found this particular lens, on my particular camera, it may be different from user to user, has a sweet spot around 75-100 ft. It does have an EXTREMELY shallow depth of field, even with the aperture stopped down.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 500mm

If you have the patience, or maybe you want to get better as a photographer, you can certainly get this lens dialed in for some great shots.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm

I found the lens to be very easy to use handheld at 500mm because the lens weights almost nothing. With the 2x magnifier on you need a tripod, or at the very minimum a monopod. After a few hours using it I was actually pretty proficient with it and was able to get some birds in flight. It seemed to do better with more light, the day was somewhat cloudy at times, so it’s probably best on sunny days or with great lighting.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Mike’s @ 500mm

If you are looking for a telephoto lens that doesn’t break the bank, you have the patience to learn how to use this lens and plan out where you will be able to take the best photos for this lens, I would highly recommend it. Of course, I don’t expect to see any photos in National Geographic using this lens, but for social media, I think it will do just fine. All images provided are the RAW file and HAVE NOT been edited for proper comparison.

Mike’s @ 500mm
Sigma @ 600mm
Mike’s @ 500mm
Mike’s @ 500mm

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