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When we stumbled upon the blimp-like Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 full-frame zoom at PMA in Las Vegas last spring, it sat behind Plexiglas walls like the rare curiosity it was. With an estimated list price of $1000 per pound ($35,000), this not-so-jolly green giant looked more like an ambitious science project than something you might one day take pictures with.

Vaporware, we thought. Now, we’re eating our cynical words, because half a year later and just days after sources within Sigma wrote telling us production had actually begun, on-line retailers here are displaying the 28.6-inch monster, posed to accept orders.

Available in Sigma, Canon, and Nikon mounts, the lens offers a number of unusual traits such as:

* A dedicated 2X teleconverter that upgrades zoom range to an autofocusable 400-1000mm (or 620-1550mm on most DSLRs).

* A rear-mounted, 72mm filter drawer that rotates to facilitate use of polarizers and split filters.

* Its own barrel-housed Li-ion power source for AF and zooming.

* A built-in LCD panel that displays focal length and subject distances.

Who will buy such a behemoth? Well, National Geographic and, um, Sports Illustrated! With a street price of $24,500, we’re betting Sigma doesn’t need many more customers to turn a profit.

For more, click here.

—Peter Kolonia
Senior Editor