Huge telephoto lenses seem to always make other photographers envious. Before you start getting all Freudian about this point, large telephoto lenses do usually imply high quality, which is no different a point with the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8. For those times in life when you need to capture far-off wildlife, action shots, or fast-moving events, there’s nothing like the fast workings of a long telephoto zoom lens.
This particular model is equally capable on crop sensor cameras, providing a 192-480mm viewpoint. This, when coupled with the rest of its features, could make the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports a one-stop solution for all your long telephoto needs.
The first thing to note with handling top-end telephoto Sigma lenses is that they are not exactly lightweight. The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports tops out at a sumo-sized 3,390g, which means this lens needs to live on a high-quality tripod most of the time. (Think professional, like the VILTROX VX-18M.)
Handholding this lens is entirely possible, but you’ll soon realize you’ll need biceps and front deltoids like Arnie in his heyday on an all-day shoot.
As this lens has to cope with such a long focal range, it houses a fair degree of glass in the form of 23 elements arranged in 18 groups. As part of the optical makeup, the lens also features two FLD and one SLD element, plus a super multi-layer coating to reduce lens flare and ghosting.
Sigma’s highly efficient, hypersonic autofocus motor has also been included, with full-time manual override via the very substantial focusing ring. Also needed at the longer focal lengths is the optical image stabilization system with four stops of compensation, along with an integrated tripod for the most accurate shots.
The OS system can be controlled on the lens with two modes of operation and an on/off switch. There’s also a focus limiter switch with two settings, which should speed up autofocus abilities. The last of the multitude of switches consists of a custom mode with three settings that can be customized to your own preferences. The whole lens barrel is made from a thermally composite material which is dust and splashproof.
The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports in Use
Close and tight focusing is the name of the game with this type of lens, and the Sigma 120-300mm provides a 20.4-degree viewpoint at 120mm and 8.2 degrees at the 300mm range. For those who like to manually focus, the large focusing ring is ridged for easy gripping, with hard stops at either end. Autofocusing is also extremely rapid for fast-moving subjects, with only a few cases of focus hunting experienced in very low-light conditions.
This lens also handles chromatic aberration extremely well, in the form of blue and purple fringing. Small amounts of chromatic aberration can still be seen in very high contrast areas when the aperture is set to f/2.8. Fortunately, this effect can easily be gotten rid of in the likes of Lightroom.
Vignetting can also be seen in the corners when the aperture is wide open at both ends of the zoom range. However, stopping down to f/5.6 cleans up any light falloff in the corners quite nicely.
One effect that a long telephoto lens can achieve quite easily is bokeh, which this lens can provide readily. The f/2.8 aperture helps largely in this respect, especially at the longer focal lengths, which is a seamless way to separate the subject from the background.
In terms of overall sharpness, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports really needs to be perched on a solid tripod, where it provides very respectable center sharpness at f/2.8. The best results across the frame come in from f/4 and upwards at 120mm. In the middle of the zoom range at 200mm, the lens still provides commendable sharpness at f/2.8 in the center of the frame, with more or less the same results as at 120mm. At 300mm the sharpest results come in from f/4, which is to be expected with a long telephoto zoom.
There’s definitely no faulting the lens when it comes to neutral colors and contrast, which is as fine as we could expect from this type of lens. Coupled with an autofocus system that is very quick off the mark, it definitely lives up to its ‘Sports’ title, allowing you to rattle off endless shots with precise detail.
Does It Hold up Against the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD?
Covering the exact same focal length from another third-party provider doesn’t unveil any obvious examples, which is why we have gone with the Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD to cover the same focal range and more.
You do lose a little bit at the wide-angle end, but this is more than made up for at the telephoto end. This lens has image stabilization and doesn’t weigh anywhere near as much as the Sigma and also costs far less.
In terms of overall optical quality, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports is slightly better at both ends of the range. Plus, the f/2.8 aperture is far more capable than the variable version on the Tamron. However, considering the Tamron is half the price of the Sigma, it’s nowhere near half the lens. We put this competitor through its paces in our Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 review.
|Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports||Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD|
|Min. Focusing Distance||1.5m||2.2m|
The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Stands Its Ground
At this price point, you would expect not just a highly-capable zoom lens, but also one that would rival examples from manufacturer brand versions. The Sigma 120-300mm is definitely up there, offering an extremely fast and capable zoom with a good deal of reach. The Sigma is extremely well made, with a highly useful image stabilization system and very quick reactions.
The lens is also extremely sharp where it counts, with the best performance coming at the wider focal lengths and not that far behind at the longest range. For the majority of shots, you won’t be disappointed with the detail this lens can provide. When you need the best overall detail, at f/4 the Sigma is still a very fast machine.
The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports definitely has a hefty price tag, but when compared with comparable zoom offerings from Nikon and Canon zoom lenses, the lens is respectably-priced while also providing solid results. For those who want an all-encompassing telephoto zoom lens with more reach than what is provided from a standard 70-200mm zoom, the Sigma is a very high-quality choice, indeed.