Generally, photographers follow the third-party telephoto lens path as the same-make versions are out of their budget range. Third-party lenses can also offer features, functionality, and focal lengths not covered by the same-brand variants.
Even though third-party versions are very cost-effective, many top-end models still come in at a high price point. This is why we’ve whittled down the best Sigma telephoto lenses under $1000 for those in this price range.
Sigma has been focusing its efforts of late on their highest-version primes and zooms. This means as today’s rundown is about telephoto lenses, the list may be smaller than usual but still with highly capable choices. Benefits in this category include long focal reaches and, in some cases, added features such as image stabilization.
1. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary (Overall Winner)
For those out there who need a long reach lens, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary covers a significant amount of range in a quality package. When this Sigma lens is strapped to APS-C models, it provides a very impressive 240-960mm equivalent focal length, enabling it to capture the most skittish of wildlife.
To cover such a long focal range, the optics comprise of a good deal of glass which includes 20 elements arranged in 14 groups. The optical arrangement also includes one F Low Dispersion and three Special Low Dispersion elements for increased clarity and to reduce lens anomalies. A Super Multi-Layer Coating has been included to reduce the likes of ghosting and lens flare, along with increased contrast and color neutrality.
At longer focal lengths a highly efficient autofocus motor is needed, which in this case is Sigma’s Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM). The motor includes a full-time manual override, which in reality is both quick and quiet with the system only tripping up at times in very low light conditions.
The lens barrel itself features a zoom lock switch to prevent any unwanted zoom adjustments. The whole outer shell is dust and splash resistant with a water and oil repellent coating on the front element.
The lens itself is quite a heavyweight beast at 1830g with an impressively large 95mm front filter. When you consider all the quality glass included in the focal range, the weight is a small price to pay.
As the aperture on this lens is variable between f/5-6.3, it needs a good deal of light for the cleanest of images. Within this range the lens exhibits very good sharpness levels, really coming into its own at f/8. At this point, the lens is super sharp, providing plenty of definition for the likes of wildlife or action photography.
The image stabilization system is a great help at the longer focal lengths, meaning that at this price point, the Sigma 150-600mm provides a huge amount of quality considering the range it has to cover.
2. Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary
Even though the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary doesn’t cover as much range as the lens above, it still features all the lovely optics found in the Contemporary series. The Sigma 100-400mm can be used on crop sensor camera bodies with an equivalent focal length of 160-640mm which should provide plenty of possibilities from sports to wildlife images.
Internally, the optics are arranged around 21 elements in 15 groups, with a variable aperture of f/5-6.3 and four Special Low Dispersion elements. A Super Multi-Layer coating has been applied to all lens elements to improve clarity and definition, while the front element has been treated to a water and oil repellent coating.
Although the lens weighs in at 1160g, it’s quite lightweight considering its overall reach, and while the lens barrel isn’t fully weather-proofed, it is made from the usual for the Sigma range Thermally Stable Composite material, with rubber seals added to the lens mount.
As with the 150-600mm above, this lens needs plenty of light for optimal results, but with decent light levels at your disposal, this lens can provide wonderfully sharp images, especially at f/8.
Image stabilization is included with two modes of operation and unique features such as a push-pull zoom mechanism, lens lock switch, focus limiter, and custom modes. The IS system works wonders at the longer focal lengths, while bokeh is very easy to achieve with a nice transition of colors.
The price point of this lens is one of its appealing factors, providing plenty of quality which you would generally expect from a higher price zoom.
3. Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM
If you’ve already looked at the price of the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM, then you’re probably already shouting at the screen that this thing costs over $1000. However, we found a version for the Nikon platform for under $1000, which slots nicely into our price range.
Optically, the lens is wrapped around an Apochromatic optical design with four Special Low Dispersion elements and a Multi-layer coating applied to each element. Sigma’s highly efficient Hyper Sonic motor has been included with full-time manual override, along with optical stabilization and a very useful nine-blade rounded diaphragm. This zoom is also compatible with APS-C models, providing a 75-750mm equivalent focal length.
For such a wide-ranging lens, the AF system is remarkably accurate in good light. Plus, the overall weight of 1970g may seem heavy to some, but it’s surprisingly lightweight if you compare it to similar lenses.
If you can snag a good deal on this telephoto lens, it covers an extraordinary range while providing fantastic image quality.
4. Sigma APO MACRO 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM (Budget Winner)
The Sigma APO MACRO 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM doesn’t just fit into the telephoto lens bracket, but it also shows an example of a prime lens with some extra juicy features. The lens is equally capable on APS-C sensors providing a 225mm focal length with image stabilization and a true 1:1 macro facility.
Optically the Sigma has 19 elements arranged in 13 groups, with a Super Multi-Layer Coating applied to each element, while the stabilization system offers up to four stops of handheld compensation.
The macro workings on this lens provide a full-sized rendition of a small subject, with a working distance of 15 inches. And while the Hyper Sonic Motor does a respectable job with this subject matter, manual focus is always a great option for the clearest detail.
As a standard lens, the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 will work great for the likes of portrait work. It’s a good option if you need that extra reach over a standard 85mm portrait lens and you fancy a focal length just a bit out of the ordinary. The lens comes with a very substantial lens hood and well-padded carry case.
Zeroing in on the Best Sigma Telephoto Lenses Under $1000
There’s always going to be a juggling act between the best value and quality with zoom lenses under the $1000 price point. Because zoom lenses require a large amount of glass to cover all the optical corrections, large price tags are usually a given. There’s also the fact that many photographers who specialize in this focal range want either the high-end quality of an f/4 or f/2.8 version for the most versatility and light gathering capabilities.
However, if you don’t mind a variable aperture and slightly less weatherproofing, you can still buy into very good optics without breaking the bank.