Sigma 150–600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM S: Sporting a New Look
The Sigma 150–600mm f/5–6.3 DG OS HSM S is the first lens from the company in the new Sports lineup of high-end telephoto lenses. Shridhar Kunte puts it on this month’s test bench.
During Sigma’s press briefing at the 2012 edition of photokina, they had put forward their lens road map with three categories, Art, Contemporary and Sports. While Sigma’s decision to introduce the 150—600mm in two different categories still confuses me, it is a clear indication that the company wants to capture a larger audience and offer them the best on the basis of what they are looking for. That said, considering the pricing, it becomes clear that the Contemporary version of the lens competes with the Tamron 150–600mm, while the premium Sports lens that we are testing in this issue, will be up against the proprietary options from Canon and Nikon.
The lens contains 24 elements in 16 groups (as opposed to 20/14 found in the Contemporary version). To achieve a high degree of light transmission and thoroughly suppress chromatic aberration, Sigma has employed five special elements. Three of these are super low dispersion and two in the rear group, which has an optical quality very much similar to fluorite glass, thus, a low refractive index and low dispersion properties. This property helps maximise sharpness, resolution and contrast. The lens is neither designed nor suitable for close-up work as it offers a poor magnification ratio of 0.2x (1:5).
As you hold the lens in your hand, it instantly gives you a feel of a premium product, in a completely different class as compared to the earlier Contemporary version. The additional weight of about 50% speaks a lot about built quality and optics, the lens weighs 2860g. I tried this lens on two different bodies, the EOS 7D Mark II, and the EOS 6D. When the lens is set to full zoom, the increased length shifts the centre of gravity away from your body. This makes it nearly impossible to use the lens at 600mm handheld for a long period of time.
The focusing ring is rather thin, as compared to the zoom ring, and is located between the zoom ring and the body. The lens is equipped with a tripod collar, which can be rotated around the lens barrel, but it is not possible to remove it. I feel that the length of the collar is not adequate, considering the bulk of the lens. A larger collar would have provided a fuller, more balanced area to place your hand while shooting. In addition to this, a longer collar with contoured finger grips on the underside of the tripod mount would have helped when carrying the lens around.
This lens comes with top notch weather sealing and provides pro grade protection from dust and splash. Water droplets and moisture on the front element can be wiped off easily, thanks to a special coating.
The AF speed is not as fast as the Nikkor and Canon counterparts that are in a similar zoom and price range, but a bit faster than its Tamron counterpart. Those who wish to invest in a high-end telephoto lens of this nature must realise that the choice of camera body is also quite crucial, as the AF speed is much, much better on the 7D Mark II than the 6D. While shooting wide open, sharpness is decent at all focal lengths. Optimum sharpness is achieved at f/8 throughout the focal length. Vignetting goes away at f/8 at the wide end, and f/11 at the telephoto end. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled, with only a hint visible at 150mm.
The performance of this lens really shows its true potential when coupled with an excellent fast camera like the 7D Mark II or 5D Mark III. It’s a very good lens for birders and sports photographers. That said, if you are a Nikon user, the new Nikkor 200–500mm is even sharper, at a much lower price. What the Nikon misses out on, though, is weather sealing, which becomes the only reason for a Nikon owner to look at the Sigma Sport. Canon users would rather go for the 100–400mm L series lens, which is sharper and surprisingly, in India, slightly cheaper. Good lens though it is, consider it only if you are a Nikon user who is shooting in a rainforest or desert and need weathersealing, or a Canon user who really needs that extra 200mm.
IS mode for panning, Custom settings though the dock
Good IS performance, Overall sharpness
Weather sealing, Zoom locking mechanism
Thin focusing ring, Small tripod collar
|Warranty & Support
Limited number of service facilities
|VALUE FOR MONEY||2/5|
|Who should buy it?||Wildlife photographers and action photographers who are shooting in most demanding weather conditions.|
|Why?||Excellent build quality and pro-grade weathersealing|