Let’s face it, huge zoom lenses are fun to use. Having the equivalent of a telescope strapped to your camera is all very well, but the bigger the focal length range, the more drawbacks in optical quality. That’s doesn’t mean big focal ranges can’t be useful in the right context. So, in steps the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S (yes, lens name needs to shorter), which is quoted as having very good optical quality, fast focusing and solid construction. Its also placed at a great price point considering the focal length this lens covers.
Firstly, the lens is available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts. As usual, make sure the lens is fully compatible with your choice of camera. When you first pick up this lens it’s clear there’s a lot of glass inside. At 3kg it’s not exactly lightweight, but you wouldn’t expect less from a lens this big. It has a tripod mount, but when attached to a full sized DSLR the lens is well balanced, but not as much so with smaller camera bodies. The feel of this lens is extremely solid and is more pro-like than initially thought.
Being in Sigma’s ‘Sports’ range, it has a dust and splashproof construction with a high-quality matte finish added to the thick plastic barrel. All focusing is done internally, so various filters can be fitted to the substantial 105mm filter thread. Internally, there are 24 elements in 16 groups, 2 FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) glass elements, and 3 SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements. Inside are 9 rounded diaphragm blades for achieving some nice circular highlights and a list aperture of f/22.
The lens barrel has a nice and chunky manual focus ring which is very smooth to operate. The same goes for the zoom ring which is accompanied by a zoom lock switch to make sure focus is locked in place. The other four switches on the lens barrel consist of the image stabilization switch with two modes, One for general photography and the other for panning. A manual and autofocus switch, focus limiter switch and Custom C1 and C2. A basic distance scale is also provided.
Image stabilization is rated at roughly 3 stops, something that is very much needed with such long focal lengths.
For a lens operating at f/5-6.3 and such a wide focal length, the overall quality was better than expected. At the shortest length of 150mm, center sharpness is very good and hits ultimate sharpness at f/8. At 300mm and 600mm there is only a minuscule amount of drop-off in sharpness but everything comes together again at f/8. In fact, the lens is sharper than expected across the range.
Chromatic aberration and vignetting are also very small, with anything showing easily corrected in postproduction. The provided hood helps with any unwanted flare, with a good amount of contrast across the focal lengths. Autofocusing is very fast and quiet with the HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) only starting to struggle in low light. Bear in mind, the widest aperture of f/5-6.3 isn’t the fastest, so you will need some help in very low light conditions which is where the image stabilization comes in.
The huge amount of glass in the lens as well as the Low Dispersion glass, which is similar in operation to fluorite, helps a lot with correcting any issues. Chromatic aberration and distortion levels are reduced and the elements definitely add more contrast to the images. As far as background blur goes, longer focal lengths give a reasonable quality of bokeh, but this is just an added bonus considering the narrow minimum aperture.
As far as image quality goes the lens definitely produces sharp images across the range, just not as nail-bitingly sharp as the best out there. However, it’s always in the back of the mind the total focal length of this lens, which means anything that comes out good to very high-quality almost seems a surprise here.
How Does It Compare?
This will depend on the make of camera you stick this lens onto, but there are near equivalents out there. Canon produces a 200-400mm f/4 L IS USM Which comes with a 1.4x teleconverter, making 560mm at f/5.6. It’s made with Canon’s L series of quality and this is matched by its very high price tag — costing four times the amount of the Sigma.
Nikon produces a 200-400mm f/4 with fantastic image quality, but this is also very expensive compared to the Sigma. Lastly, Tamron produces a 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens which is comparable in price and quality to the Sigma. There are more budget options such as the Tamron 200-500mm Di f/5-6.3 lens, but you’ll start to feel the difference in image quality and facilities like image stabilization. In other words, when you are going down the route of extreme focal lengths, you do literally get what you pay for.
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM||Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD L|
|Diaphragm blades||9 rounded||9 rounded|
The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM S works surprisingly well with great image sharpness. It used to be that buying a zoom lens with this amount of focal length from a third party maker provided less than ideal results. Times have moved on a lot and Sigma has produced a long lens which could do very well for areas such as sports and down to the closest focusing distance of 2.6m.
Color rendition is very good and with low levels of distortion chromatic aberration, this lens could easily be taken on sports or wildlife assignment and produce good results. The quality isn’t as pin sharp accurate or rich looking as the best zooms out there, but everything has to be considered for what you get in this package for the price. Considering the price point and the quality of the lens, it’s definitely worth shortlisting if you need a long telephoto lens, which doesn’t go super wide open. If you also consider the price point of the top end long zooms from Canon and Nikon, the Sigma feels even more cost-effective.
Slow maximum aperture
Focus ring can move