The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens review is one of those lens reviews that I enjoyed doing the most. Simply, the focal length of Sigma 150-600mm is so overwhelming that one can think of all the multitude of possibilities with this lens. The Sigma 150-600mm “Contemporary” lens was launched alongside the Sigma 150-600mm “SPORTS” lens. It is downright absurd for a company to launch two different lenses with the exact same focal length but Sigma had good reasons to do that as both the lenses have created a niche for themselves in different consumer base.
The Sigma 150-600mm Sports version is all about build quality whereas the Contemporary lens has been built keeping in mind parameters such as weight and price.
Focal Length – The Sigma 150-600mm
Sigma 150-600mm has its focal length as its USP. To handover such extreme focal length at a price of less than 1000$ is a feat in itself. To make advantage of this even more, one can use a crop sensor body (crop factor 1.5x) to get the effective focal length of 225-900mm. If that does not blow your mind, I do not know what will. We found that while shooting with this lens, most of the times we did not even go below 400mm and were shooting at 600mm almost perpetually.
Up till the recent past, one had to shell out a lot of money if they wanted to clear the 400mm focal length, also the options were quite limited still. The Sigma 150-600mm changes all that. There are 3 such lenses in the market now, which provide the amazing focal length of 150-600mm. These are two of the Sigma 150-600mm lenses (the Contemporary and the Sports) and another from Tamron, the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens.
If you are here, reading this, then it is quite probable that it is wildlife and sports photography which you are after. While the Sigma 150-600mm lens has many other uses, it is sports and wildlife where we mostly find our subjects too far away and hence the requirement of such extreme focal lengths.
One disadvantage that extreme focal lengths can present is that a lot of times objects can just come between the subject and the photographer. Trees, poles, people, you name it! But I assume this is a very minute disadvantage compared to the multitude of advantages. The Sigma 150-600mm also allows you to capture objects more tightly rather than having to crop pictures in post processing later.
If you live near by to a national park or a sanctuary or even like visiting these a couple of times a year, you would be surprised at how many great wildlife shots you could capture with the Sigma 150-600mm. There is a whole different world of animals and birds in the wild and clicking them with the Sigma 150-600mm is ideal as you do not have to get close to them which can potentially disturb them and ruin the moment. Might I iterate that being a wildlife photographer is one hell of a patient job. One has to sit for perhaps hours before that perfect moment can be captured. Unlike humans, animals will not comply if you ask them for a re-shot! Personally I like shooting monuments and landscapes as I am one heck of an impatient person but the Sigma 150-600mm gave me some really amazing results when it came to wildlife and I am really loving this lens now.
If you have ever tried clicking birds with your 18-55mm or 25-105mm kit lens you would know what despair and disappointment really mean. A bird photographer can never have “too much focal length” and thus a lot of professionals even consider using crop sensor bodies while capturing birds to get that extra 1.5x on focal length. Sigma 150-600mm is ideal in this condition where you can capture those graceful yet fast moving birds from a distance thus not scaring them away. Most of us have tried clicking animals in the zoo and somehow the images always come out disappointing thanks to the concrete and the fencing. Sigma 150-600mm lets you click animals tightly hence eliminating these annoying factors. If you like clicking plane formations at air shows, this lens will make you jump with joy. Mind you, the Sigma 150-600mm contemporary lens is a kilogram lighter than the sports lens, thus making hand holding while clicking much easier.
Other capabilities of the lens include it being useful for journalists who have to face restricted access and portrait photographers who like to click their subjects without disturbing their natural poses.
There are of course some disadvantages too, to clicking at such extreme focal lengths. This is something I experienced while bird-clicking at Surajpur Bird Sanctuary near Delhi. Longer focal lengths especially nearby to water bodies such as lakes and ponds can lead to haze and kill your contrast and as the sun rises towards mid-day, heat waves/shimmer can destroy the sharpness of your pictures. Also, filters for this lens are not readily available and at 95mm diameter, can cost a lot.
Max Aperture – The Sigma 150-600mm
If you do not wish to shell a lot for a fixed focal length ultra zoom lens over 200mm, Sigma 150-600mm is one of your best bets. But as the config of the lens makes it clear, the Sigma 150-600mm has a wide open aperture that narrows as the focal length increases. While you are zooming in or zooming out, the lens aperture will keep changing w.r.t. the focal length.
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 simply means that the lens can go upto f/5 at 150mm while at 600mm you can not get the lens to go wider beyond f/6.3
This table shows what Sigma 150-600mm ‘s max aperture step down looks like compared to other lenses in its class:
|Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Lens||70-103mm||104-154mm||155-228mm||229-300mm|
|Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens||70-84mm||85-134mm||135-224mm||225-300mm|
|Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens||100-134mm||135-311mm||312-400mm|
|Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens||80-134mm||135-249mm||250-400mm|
|Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Lens||150-173mm||174-312mm||313-500mm|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports||150-184mm||185-320mm||321-600mm|
|Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C||150-179mm||180-387mm||388-600mm|
|Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens||150-225mm||226-427mm||428-600mm|
Being realistic here, this lens is a champion in good light but sun starts to go down or a cloud cover comes in and with f/6.3 you will be left going to extremely high and noisy ISO levels.
Image Stabilization – The Sigma 150-600mm
If you ever plan to buy a telephoto lens, in this digital age sans any sort of optical stabilization, you must be light in the head. Optical stabilization is one of the greatest achievement in the field of optics and lenses. It can massively help you at 600mm esp on a crop sensor body by stabilizing the viewfinder alone. To be able to frame an object at 600mm handheld with a heavy lens is a difficult task and OS makes life easier there. Sigma has not let out the OS rating for the Sigma 150-600mm but after using the lens I would think it not to be less than 4 stop rating.
It is a fact that when you are using longer focal lengths (which have higher magnification) you are required to click at higher shutter speeds than with a wider lens (with lower magnification). I was able to click sharp pictures down to 1/20 of a second with 1 in 5-7 pictures being sharp while at 1/70 the keeper rate went up to 75%.
The Sigma 150-600mm lens comes with 2 different OS modes.
Mode 1 is for normal shots while mode 2 is for panning shots. Using the SIGMA dock one can configure these modes to one of the following modes:
1. Dynamic View Mode
2. Standard Mode
3. Moderate View Mode
I did not get to experiment with tweaking modes the review unit did not contain the Sigma dock (You have to buy it separately and it works on all of Sigma’s Global vision lenses.)
The Sigma 150-600mm comes with “Standard” mode selected as default. And this is what I mainly used with this lens. There are some clicks which can be heard at OS starting and shutting down. You should also switch off OS while the lens is on tripod. In conclusion, the OS results of the Sigma 150-600mm are really good and this is one of the most important features for such a lens, especially for people who like to click handheld.
Image Quality – The Sigma 150-600mm
It is a general convention that any lens longer than 500mm, lightweight and inexpensive will not be able to perform when it comes to Image Quality (Have you ever seen one of those ridiculous opteka lenses claiming 1200mm !?). Sigma 150-600mm and Tamron 150-600mm are two lenses which broke this age old word-of-mouth law of photography. But clearly, I was very surprised with the results I got , extra points to Sigma 150-600mm C lens.
When we talk about image quality, it is generally the sharpness, contrast and resolution that we talk about. The Sigma 150-600mm delivers a crisp images from 150mm to 400mm after which one can notice a very slight reduction in the sharpness at 500mm and at 600mm the I would say the sharpness is satisfactory, nothing too impressive.
Here are two cases where you can see the image quality at 100%crop :
And you can see the clarity at 100% crop of the bird’s head:
Here is another example of the same, the image been taken at 600mm with Canon 80D:
and this is the 100 % crop of bird’s head : (The clarity is just amazing considering all parameters such as the extremely long focal length and Optical stabilization)
If you wish to get sharper images with the Sigma 150-600mm at 600mm, stop down to f/8 and you will see a noticeable improvement. This improvement dies down if you zoom out towards 150mm but as I said before, from 150-400mm the images are quite good at wide open apertures anyways.
It is important to note that photographers with Full frame cameras will get just above 2 stops of vignetting in image corners while using this lens at wide open aperture at 150mm. The corners then brighten up to around 1.8 stops of shading where max aperture is f/5.6 and f/6.3. Sometimes vignetting can be desirable too, if the aim is to get the viewer’s attention on the subject in the center of the frame. This vignetting can however be removed in post processing.
Fortunately, APS-C (crop sensor) body users won’t notice any vignetting irrespective of the aperture setting. This might as well be the one of the few times that one comes across a few advantages of crop sensor bodies over FF bodies.
Now coming to another annoyance which plagues all lenses, Chromatic Aberration. You can expect to see a modest amount of it on the Sigma 150-600mm at the periphery of the image at wider apertures. The CA is almost negligible at mid lengths of 200-400mm but is modestly noticeable once you go to 600mm. CA is one of the easiest things to correct in post processing especially in a mighty software like Photoshop. The lens also gives moderate flaring, nothing too ugly. But beware, do not look at the sun using your camera at extreme focal lengths such as over 300-400mm as this can not just damage the sensor but your eyes too.
Sigma 150-600mm gives a slight pincushion distortion which reduces as one goes towards 600mm. Removing distortion is easier than removing CA in PP, so this should not be much of a problem.
The Sigma 150-600mm gives decent bokeh and background blur. The lens has a 9 blade aperture which creates some good out of focus highlights like this:
Focusing – The Sigma 150-600mm
The Sigma 150-600mm is driven by Sigma’s own HSM (Hypersonic Motor), which makes sure that the lens has a quick AF system complimented by the type of DSLR that you have. the Sigma 150-600mm OS Sports Lens is fast-focusing out of the box. I say “out of the box” because the focus speed performance attribute can be configured using the Sigma Dock. You can again use the SIGMA dock to set the focusing according to your as it contains two separate modes for the same which are customizable.
The advantage that Sigma 150-600mm has with it going as wide as an aperture as f/5-5.6 is that it does not need as much focusing precision as a ..lets say 400mm f/2.8 lens! AI Servo results with the Sigma 150-600mm were consistent and I found them to be quite satisfactory.
Also is a toggle on the lens which lets you choose how far your subject is. This greatly helps the lens to focus faster though at times i found it cumbersome. The toggle has three options:
2. 10m- infinity
As explained, the 3rd mode will be the slowest as the Sigma 150-600mm lens will scourge through the whole focal length for the object you are trying to focus. Thus getting used to your gear can improve your photography much faster.
The Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens has an astonishingly silent focusing (which will not scare off the wildlife you could be trying to click), though the standard lens groups shuffling can be heard in quiet surroundings. The Sigma 150-600mm encompasses FTM focusing and the front element does not rotate when you are focusing.
The 150-600mm Contemporary Lens’ focus ring is rather small and with only a small amount of raised ribbing on it, it is not the easiest to locate by touch. The 150° of rotation of the focusing ring of the Sigma 150-600mm is potent for precise focusing at wide end but at 600mm it feels a tad too quick. So you will have to spend some quality time with this lens and get used to it.
Sigma 150-600mm lens comes with a 110.2″ (2800mm) minimum focus distance (MFD). Though you can use the Sigma 150-600mm to fill the frame it should not be confused for a macro lens.
Build Quality & Features – The Sigma 150-600mm
Despite its light weight, the Sigma 150-600mm has a nice build quality. Primary lens barrel is made of Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) materials. Technically TSC is a material which combines the qualities of metal and polycarbonate. They have the thermal expansion/contraction similar to that of aluminium.
The Sigma 150-600mm C-Lens has been tightly built with a slight amount of play (which such a large lens would not do without) in the extended barrel.
One of the things that irked me were that while the focusing ring has been made very thin and is hard to locate while shooting, the zoom ring is almost too big, makes me believe that Sigma kept the priority on this lens clear. The ring gives 146° of rotation which is quite comfortable to use and it rotates in the CANON-STANDARD direction (which is opposite to the Nikon standard direction of rotation).
The Sigma 150-600mm lens comes with a rubberized surface towards its end, this is so that the lens can be pulled-pushed to zoom in & out much like the Canon 100-400mm lenses. People have their own choices when it comes to pushing-pulling or rotating for zooming, either is okay.
Something that let me down with the Sigma 150-600mm was that they have advertised this lens as having a dust & splash proof “mount”. Though it is better than having a mount which is not even sealed, it will be wise to avoide dust and moisture with the Sigma 150-600mm.
Gravity zooming is a problem which will happen with a heavy and large lens such as this and thoughtful of this, Sigma has provided a zoom lock switch on the Sigma 150-600mm lens.
The Sigma 150-600mm comes with a tripod ring in-the-box. This is important as balancing a long lens like this one over the ring works better than on the camera, also such heavy lenses put strain on your camera body if mounted using it.
The problem I faced while handheld shooting was that the ring would not let me hold the lens properly. The solution, is that the lens ring can be removed, hence reducing the lens’ weight by 130gms more.
You can remove the tripod ring by loosening the knob lock, rotating the markers to their position and pulling the ring backwards. You can not remove the ring while the lens is mounted to a camera. Want to shed another 130g? Remove the tripod ring. By loosening the lock knob, rotating the ring to the indicator mark and pulling rearward, the tripod ring slips off of the back of the lens.
The Sigma 150-600mm utilizes 95mm screw-on filters. Most lenses out there have a much smaller diameter and hence putting filters on this lens is going to be quite an expensive charade.
The Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens comes snugly fit in a nice padded nylon case with rear and top padding.
Sigma Global Vision and the Dock
As explained in my Sigma 20mm f/1.4 lens review, the Sigma 150-600mm too is a part of this series. Where the latter was an “A” lens, the Sigma 150-600mm is a “C” lens. Sigma has put this lens under the Contemporary lens but I personally feel the lens is of much more use and gives a great “S” performance too.
A stands for ART. C stands for CONTEMPORARY. S stands for SPORTS. These lenses can be configured to personalized taste using Sigma Dock.
Picture Gallery – Sigma 150-600mm:
Price – The Sigma 150-600mm
While the Sigma 150-600mm is not a “cheap” lens, it surely is an “inexpensive” lens from the perspective of an enthusiast wildlife and sports photographer. The lens is a total value for money product. Also, it is practically half the price of the Sigma 150-600mm Sports lens.
Buying a lens not made as tough as the Sigma 150-600mm might leave you wanting something more rugged for outdoor use where as using something well built but extremely heavy like the sports variant might leave you with a shoulder pain. Thus the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens finds the best balance between price, being lightweight and a great build.
The Sigma 150-600mm is priced at Rs 74,900 on Amazon.in
Compatibility – The Sigma 150-600mm
The Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Lens is widely available in Nikon, Sigma and Canon (which I reviewed) mounts.
- Excellent telephoto reach
- Tripod collar and lens hood included
- Effective image stabilization system
- Lightweight (For its class)
- Minute chromatic aberration and pincushion distortion
- Relatively narrow aperture
- Takes time getting used to
- Not weather sealed
So if you are looking for a lens which will bring your subjects close sans you spending a large chunk of money, while at the same time you wish to carry a lens with long focal lenghts for long durations without much tiredness and want to venture in the wild and capture some beautiful moments of wildlife, the Sigma 150-600mm is the perfect lens for you.
People of diverse ages would enjoy playing with this lens, be it at your child’s sports event or a trek with the family into the mountains over the weekend. Except some focusing issues (which are prominent in all the lenses of this class) and low light performance, this lens is one of the best value for money long focal length lenses I have come across. The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens provides for a great focal length in a lightweight yet durable body at a price which won’t burn your pocket.