The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens is one of those dream lenses which a wildlife and sports photographer would love to use. I have been using this massive yet portable Sigma lens since last 15 days and have been to places such as bird sanctuary and zoological park to put this beast to test.
This lens caught my attention when I got to know that Sigma has released a hyper-telephoto lens with a focal length range from 150mm to 600mm with a price tag of only $989 (approx INR 65,000). The Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens comes at the same price, though I have still not tried the lens to comment anything on it. Now one does not have to spend $10,000+ in order to click photos at 600mm when you can grab a lens at less than $1,000. I am not saying that the output would be the same, but if you are satisfied with the fact that you can shoot at 600mm with decent quality output, what else do you want.
Before i get into details, let’s first have a look at some attractive features of the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens:
- Lightweight and compact lens which makes handling easy
- Water and oil repellent coating on front glass element
- Dust proof and splash proof mount
- Built-in OS (optical stabilizer) to compensate camera shake while shooting handheld
- Built-in HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) for fast and quiet autofocusing
- A rounded 9 blade diaphragm
Build Quality and Handling
The Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens weighs 1,930g, sounds heavy but is actually justified as it is a hyper-telephoto lens. The lens comes with a tripod socket made up of magnesium, so the lens can easily be attached to a tripod or a monopod to shoot sharp images at longer focal length.
The first thing you notice in this lens is the large rubberized zoom ring which is almost two-inch wide and the rotation of which is smooth as butter. To prevent the lens from extending, Sigma has introduced a zoom lock switch which lets you lock the lens at any of eight demarcated focal length, which the brand claims that the lock can be applied at any focal length.
Sitting behind the large zoom ring is a thin manual focus ring which is a bit hard to use as it is located closer towards to camera. The rotation of the ring is perfect, neither too smooth nor too hard.
The Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens features a brass bayonet mount which results in high accuracy and durability.
Talking about the switches placed on the lenses, the Focus switch has three modes – AF, MF and MO. The MO mode lets you set the focus manually even though the lens is on autofocus mode at the same time. Placed below this is the Focus Limiter switch which lets you set the range of focus on this lens. There are three modes on this switch – 2.8-10 meters (to look for close subjects), 10 meters – infinity and full (covers full range). The third switch is the Optical Stabilization (OS) switch which also has three modes – Off, 1 and 2. The ‘Off’ mode lets you switch off the optical stabilization to reduce minor shake within the lens and should be used only when the camera is mounted on a tripod or monopod. ‘Mode 1’ is ideal for situations when shooting stationary subjects and ‘Mode 2’ while panning the lens to shoot moving subjects such as a bird. The Custom switch has three modes (Off, 1 and 2) which can only be used with the help of a Sigma USB Dock, an accessory which allows you to adjust focus, adjust the timing to switch to Manual Focus when rotating the focus ring and much more.
All over, the build quality of this lens is impressive and looks sturdy.
The built-in Hyper Sonic Motor indeed makes the focusing fast and swift. This lens focuses way faster than I expected it to, during bright daylight. I somehow felt that as the light decreased, the lens took some time to lock the focus on the main subject. Being a f/5-6.3 lens, it does a great job shooting birds and animals during daylight, whereas shooting at low light might not be a great idea using this lens as the hunting takes some time.
Moreover, the autofocus motor is quiet and you will hardly hear the focus changing within the lens. Trust me, this lens is a gem if you love shooting videos at higher focal length, as it will record minimum noise made by the focusing ring.
I am in love with this lens when it comes to sharpness. I always felt that shooting handheld that too using the 150-600mm lens would result in not-so-sharp images, but the Sigma 150mm-600mm lens proved me wrong. All the shots shared in this article are clicked handheld and i personally feel that the sharpness is great. While shooting between 150mm – 500mm the images are sharp from center to corners but as you move from 500mm towards the 600mm focal length, the images become a bit soft and less sharp. In order to capture sharp images at 500mm-600mm, I would advise to close the aperture by a stop or two and shoot at f/8 or f/11, make sure you have required available light.
As i mentioned above, while shooting in low light conditions, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens tends to under-perform as it cannot focus on the subject that too using minimum aperture value of f/5-6.3. As the light entering the camera is very limited because the aperture cannot open up wide enough, the AF system of the camera tends to get confused. But i think that if you are going to invest in this telephoto lens by Sigma, it would be for the purpose of shooting sports and wildlife, which would usually be done during daylight or under bright stadium light.
As of now there is only one competitor to the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens which is the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD lens. I have not yet tested the Tamron lens, but as per the features it looks as if i twill give tough competition to the Sigma variant.
If you want to go advanced, there is the Sigma 150 – 600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports variant available which looks impressive and costs almost $1000 (INR 65,000) more than the Contemporary variant.
The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens is by far the best lens i have used in terms of focal length, sharpness, and built quality considering the fact that the lens comes at a price of only $989 (approx INR 65,000). The sharpness is a bit soft when you go above 500mm, but it can be improved by using f/8 or f/11 (if available light is good enough). The zoom ring is big and makes it easy to change the focal length with soft rotation. The only minus point i observed about this beast lens is that the manual focus ring is a bit small and too close to the camera which makes manual focus a bit of an issue. But if you do not like to focus manually, then this lens is just perfect for you.
I would definitely recommend this lens for budding and enthusiastic wildlife and sports photographers.