Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sigma 400mm f/5.6: Adorama and Test Shots

This morning I was already planning out some bad things I was going to say about Adorama in a post today. Specifically, they seemed to forget about mailing it out (I e-mailed them on Wednesday after ordering the lens on Sunday and asked why I did not have a tracking number yet; miraculously I didn't hear anything until it was in the mail the next day, UPS 3-day instead of ground!) and they gave me the wrong information on whether the lens suffered from the Err 99 problem.

Then, I e-mailed them this morning, and my tune changed significantly.

Here's the e-mail trail:


I received the lens and it is in good shape.

Except -- before bidding, I asked if it was fully compatible with a 20D and you said it was. This was the conversation:

Me: "Does this lens work on a 20D?"
You: "Yes, it is compatible with Canon 20D."
Me: "So, to be completely clear, this lens does not have the Sigma incompatibility that causes Err 99s on a 20D, 30D, etc. It has been rechipped (or didn't need the rechip) and works perfectly on newer cameras?"
You: "It should work fine."

But, I tried it out and it will not stop down, throwing an Err 99 on my 20D whenever I am in a mode other than A or M and whenever I try to set an aperture other than wide open in those modes.

I'm a bit unhappy about this -- not that the problem exists, because I was aware that older Sigma lenses have some incompatibilities, but that I wasn't given a straight answer about the condition of the lens so I could adjust my bidding accordingly. I would expect that a used camera dealer like Adorama would know the status of a lens or at least have the resources to verify if the problem exists. I bid on this lens with the understanding that it was fully compatible with my 20D and I am disappointed that it does not.

Is there something that can be done? What are your return policies? Is there a possibility of a partial refund if I was to keep it and save the return shipping (maybe 10% of the price)?


Good Afternoon Sean, We apologize for any inconvenience this may caused you. Would you be happy with $50.00 dollars as partial refund? Best regards Louis

That was way easier than I thought. Of course, I had them over a barrel and they knew it -- I had clearly asked about the Err 99 problem, they had given me the wrong information, and I had bid more than I normally would have. I just did not expect them to respond within an hour and offer a partial refund (my preferred method to resolve it) for more than I had asked for. More than fair!

As Louis said (if you contact them ask for Louis!), "Our customers are very important to us."

So, yeah, I feel like I got a decent deal on this lens now. And while I thought Adorama was a little slimy before, my tune has totally changed now. Their quick response to this issue was very commendable.

Oh, and for those of you keeping score at home, note the importance of establishing a communication trail and the importance of protecting your rights and recontacting the seller if anything is wrong. EBay really is a buyer's market -- don't let yourself get abused!

* * * * *

Anyway, I was able to get some sample pics from the lens today. I was looking for a bird to shoot, but all I found was a nest!

The macro capabilities of the lens are pretty decent, but the inability to stop down (plus the really long and unwieldy focal length) make it non-ideal.

Still, though, I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness and contrast. I'd love to be able to stop it down 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop to sharpen it up even more and gain some depth of field, but it really is pretty sharp wide open. The HSM is really fast and snappy and definitely on par with the USM in my Canon 70-200 f/4. Obviously, the thing is a tank and heavy as hell, and the slow aperture (f/5.6) makes it difficult to get good frame rates, but it worked well on the monopod.

Most of these shots were ISO 400 (with some ISO 200) and minimal editing other than a bit of contrast. If you doubt, here are some straight from the camera 100% crops (from RAW, default settings):

In my mind, camera shake and focus is going to effect the sharpness way more than the optimal ability of the lens. For the shots I nailed the focus and didn't have any shake on, the sharpness was quite good and the contrast and color were beautiful.

More on this lens in a couple of weeks when I have a chance to put it head to head vs the Sigma. I also put the Tamron-F 1.4x teleconverter on it and results were pretty good.

If you've got questions, leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer it.

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