White-breasted Nuthatch, Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S ———

I made an overdue update of the firmware for the SIGMA 150-600 Sports lens today. Thanks to the USB dock and optimization software from SIGMA I can customize the lens to my shooting preferences and create two presets for autofocus and optical stabilization (aka vibration reduction), or even correct the focal point if necessary (although I never had to correct the focal point yet). This sounds complicated but is very easy to do. After the presets are created on your computer screen and transmitted to the lens you can choose either customized setting by just flipping a switch on the lens barrel or you can leave it off. For example, I can switch from a more dynamic autofocus and optical lens stabilization that I use quite often during bird photography, where fast movements of the subject are most likely, to a smoother focus and stabilization behavior with slightly better accuracy.

In order to test my new presets I just stepped outside and looked for a bird. The White-breasted Nuthatches are permanent residents here all year long, they are just fun to watch, and seem to be the perfect subject for such a test. It looks like the nuthatch was sitting on this branch forever but this was just a couple seconds that the bird remained in this pose. Their movements are usually fast and erratic, and it is a challenge to get them in focus while handholding the camera with the relatively heavy SIGMA 150-600 Sports lens attached. I liked the focus behavior of the lens before, but after reviewing the first few images, made with new firmware and refined custom settings, I could already tell that the focus speed and accuracy, as well as image stabilization were even better. Don’t take me wrong, I still believe that proper hand holding and constant practice with such a heavy lens are the basics for a sharp image, but it is nice to have confidence about the technical side of the gear. If my photos are out of focus I can only blame the pilot…