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

We listed some affiliate links above – they do not cost YOU anything to click.

Review: Mcoplus macro extension tube set

I recently purchased this set for Christy for Valentine’s Day. We rented a macro lens a few weeks ago and she really enjoyed using it. We thought about purchasing a dedicated macro lens – until we saw the price. I just wasn’t sure I could justify the cost of a lens like that, especially since we are just hobbyists. A quick scroll through Amazon though led me to these tubes, and I thought why not. I wasn’t sure how well they would work, or if they really could make ANY lens a macro lens, but I thought it was worth trying out and writing a review so anyone on the fence about purchasing them could get some firsthand info.

Mcoplus Macro Tubes for Nikon. <– affiliate link

My initial thoughts are that they are plastic, VERY plastic. They are pretty light and seem that if you dropped them on a hard surface they might break. The metals that are used look a little cheap. Not super cheap but definitely not high quality. The steel tabs to unlock the lens from the tube are smooth and deburred making them easy to push down. That is a plus point for me, nothing like pushing down on little razor blades to ruin a day of shooting. All of the little tabs for the autofocus seem to be the same quality as the camera and lenses. Installing the tubes to the camera body or a lens to the tube has a gritty feeling to it. It’s rough and actually takes a little bit of effort. On the plus side they are very light, and don’t take up much space. All stacked together they are the size of a small lens.

Shooting with the tubes is as straight forward as you would expect. I set up a little photo shoot with different items using various textures, materials and sizes. Adjusting the camera for each tube change wasn’t too bad, they all worked around the same settings. I tried to stay around the same aperture setting for the lenses to see how they react with the different tube lengths. I was shooting at dusk so the fading light proved to be the most difficult task.

Nevertheless, I was able to get off 50 shots with various lenses. I used a Nikon D3400 and the Nikon 18-55mm kit lens, Yongnuo 35mm f/2, Rokinon 85mm f/1.8 and the Nikon 70-300. I tried to use the largest range of lenses to see if you really could use any lens.

Yongnuo 35mm f/3.5 12mm tube

I found that smaller focal length lenses will give you the most “macro” effect, but the smaller the lens is the closer you have to be to your subject. With the 35mm I was right on top of whatever I was shooting. The bottom of the lens housing was often touching, thus I was unable to get a shot with anything under 35mm.

Yongnuo 35mm f/3.5 12mm tube
Yongnuo 35mm f/3.5 36mm tube

The autofocus worked ok on most of the lenses, it was super fast on the 70-300. With the longest tube, or a combination of tubes it didn’t work at all with most of the lenses, but it was just easier to move closer and farther from the subject and fine tune with the manual ring.

85mm f/3.5 12mm tube

At smaller focal lengths the different tubes do add a bit of a magnification giving your shots that macro look.

Nikon 18-55@55mm f/5.6 12mm tube

At longer focal lengths they just seem narrow or widen the field of view. they do allow you to focus much closer to the subject than without them, it’s just not the same look as the smaller lenses.

Nikon 18-55@55mm f/5.6 36mm tube
Nikon 70-300@100mm f/4.8 12mm tube

All in all they work really well and give some pretty darn good images. If you are shooting something stationary and want a really close shot a smaller lens with the longer tube would be my recommendation. If you are shooting insects or perhaps something that might run away if you get too close a longer lens with really any tube, depends on what you want in the image, would probably be your best bet.

Nikon 70-300@100mm f/4.8 20mm tube
Nikon 70-300@100mm f/4.8 36mm tube

I would definitely recommend theses tubes to anyone looking into them. They are a great option for any amateur, hobbyist or budget minded photographers like us. I had such a fun time doing this shoot, maybe it’s just because I’m one of those people that enjoy the process over the product, and I can’t wait to take them out and use them again.

Mcoplus Macro Tubes for Nikon. <– affiliate link

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Buffalo Bayou Park Cistern

For Valentine’s Day this year, we took a tour of the Buffalo Bayou Park Cisterns. I’m almost hesitant to share our experience because it was such an amazing time that I want to bottle it up and keep it as my little secret.. but alas. We reserved our tickets for the cistern (which is at 105 Sabine St, Houston, TX 77007) online here. We opted for the history tour which is FREE on Thursdays. I wish we could have done the art show too but tickets went too quickly. (SIDE NOTE: The white blocks in the photos are part of the art exhibit.)

Fun facts:

  • Unused for years, the 87,500-square-foot expanse includes 25-foot tall, slender concrete columns set row upon row, hovering over two inches of water on the reservoir’s floor.
  • Holds 15 million gallons of water when functioning at capacity.
  • The cistern was only accessible via small hatches that open to 14-foot ladders creating enormous logistical difficulties in viewing and navigating the area.
Yongnuo 35mm

I loved the Rokinon 14mm for this space. I think the wide angle worked really well and I was able to get a lot of the pillars. The water reflection was great, it was so perfectly still! I really am still loving the Yonguo line of lenses too, I used the 50mm. Dustin used the 35mm a lot and took some great images of the skate park that’s directly above the cisterns.

Rokinon 14mm
Rokinon 14mm
Nikon 18-55mm
Rokinon 14mm
Rokinon 14mm
Rokinon 14mm

We got some great pics of the city and the bayou after. The bathrooms are fantastic and there are a ton of prime picnic spots!

Rokinon 14mm
Yongnuo 35mm
Rokinon 14mm
Yongnuo 50mm
Nikon 18-55
Yongnuo 35mm

What are your favorite landscape/city lenses? Do you stick to a prime lens? Let us know!