Being on the spot when news is breaking has been one of the abiding tenets of my long career as a photojournalist. And last week’s dramatic Pacific Palisades fires in the Santa Monica Mountains proved an irresistible draw. I just had to load up the gear and get on the road.
The fires were also an opportunity to put two of my recent telephoto lens acquisitions through their paces. Sigma makes both. I am increasingly impressed by both the build quality and performance of Sigma’s current lineup. The two lenses in question are the Sigma Contemporary 100-400 F6-6.3 DG DN OS for L-Mount and the Sigma Sports 60-600 F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM for Nikon.
I headed over to the danger zone with a friend, the Chinese photojournalist Quian Weizhong—it’s always a good idea to have company in case something unexpected happens in these fast-changing and unpredictable fires.
When we arrived, we were not allowed to get close to the fire line. So we sought out a high point, and that’s where the amazing L-mount 100-400 mm lens came into play. I also carried a Nikon-mount Sigma 60-600 mm Sports lens, but the 100-400 worked marvellously.
These two Sigma lenses are my go-to for almost everything I do these days. The 100-400 is also much lighter than competitive telephotos, so it is easier to carry. Yet, it still has a useful range and benefits from optical stabilisation—something which is particularly useful since I am using the Typ 601 SL rather than the later SL2 with in-body stabilisation.
Overall, I am delighted with the results from these two lenses, and not just for the dramatic fire shots. It also comes into its own for candid wildlife photography, as you can see below. When setting out on a wildlife mission, I usually travel with my long-time friend and community news photojournalist, Raul Roa, who also happens to be the photo editor at the Los Angeles Times Daily Pilot.
This year, we’ve planned outings to capture some of the rarer creatures around, including California Condors and the California endemic Yellow-billed magpie. Raul has been using a Canon-mount Sigma 60-600 for more than two years now, and he’s done some amazing with it.
Whichever way you look at it, this is a thoroughly versatile telephoto for L-mount. Use it on Leica’s APS-C CL or TL2, and you get a 50-per-cent longer range—in this case, from 150 to 600mm. And, if you stay with the full-frame sensor of the SL or SL2, Sigma provides two teleconverters. The TC-1401 produces a focal range of 140-560 mm at f/7-9, while the TC-2001 expands the range to 200-800 mm at f/10-12.6. Incidentally, similar teleconverters are available for the Nikon-mount 60-600 mm.
Both these lenses work well for daylight photography as long as you know how to use them, and they are some of the best you can get. I would certainly recommend the L-mount Sigma lenses to anyone who cannot justify paying the price for Leica lenses but will need excellent performance.
All images ©Nick Ut
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