Sigma Sports 150-600mm OS – First Impressions

By November 23, 2015 Reviews 4 Comments
Birds 216 - Closeup ~ Painted Stork

Updates: 11-Nov-2016

On a Full Frame Camera in Field: To get an idea about the details this lens can capture, auto focus performance, bokeh etc in real world please check the photos taken with Nikon D750 at Gujarat

This lens is also rocking on my new Nikon D500 :)

Updates: 18-Mar-2016

I recommend the latest firmware update for faster auto focus, I can see improvement on my age old Nikon D90 with focus limiters and significant improvement in speed when “Full” is selected with focus limiter switch.

This lens sweet spot is f/9  where it produces remarkably sharp images, somehow majority of the reviews are not testing/providing the information at this aperture. Ideally when shooting at 600mm focal length, we need more depth of field (DOF) so we need to stop down the aperture around f/8 or f/9 and in some cases to f/11. The most positive aspect of this lens is, it is sharper/sharpest at these apertures (f/8 and f/9) unlike few exotic primes where their performance is not the best :)

On a Crop Sensor Camera in Field: To get an idea about the details this lens can capture, auto focus performance, bokeh etc in real world please check the photos (post processed) taken with Nikon D90 at Bharatpur bird sanctuary.

Updates: 5-Dec-2015

Test on Nikon D750 Full Frame Camera:
No post processing is performed on below sample images, some of the images were shot at Bangalore Zoo on an overcast day.

Optical Stabilization (OS):
Shutter speed of the sample images in below features give the idea of Optical Stabilization (OS) in Normal mode (OS1).

Auto focus in Very low light (at 600mm, f/6.3, ISO 25,600, Handheld) :
One has to use proper Auto focus modes in Camera as well proper focus limiters in this lens to get the optimum focus speed.

  1. Case 1: When the View Finder is Complete Dark (subject is not initially visible in view finder and try to locate through view finder)
    Initially this lens will hunt for 4-5 seconds moving the elements back and forth but locks if it finds even little contrast in subject and there after never looses the focus (a positive aspect).
    Sample Image (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 25,600, 1/25 sec, Handheld)
  2. Case 2: When the View Finder is dark and subject has little contrast and is visible
    Focus locks within 1-2 seconds and never looses the focus subsequently
    Sample Image (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 25,600, 1/25 sec, Handheld)
  3. Case 3: When the subject is visible through view finder but a Dark Subject
    Focus locks immediately and never looses the focus subsequently
    Sample Image (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 25,600, 1/20 sec, Handheld)
  4. Case 4: When the subject is visible through view finder but not a Dark Subject
    Focus locks immediately and never looses the focus subsequently
    Sample Image (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 25,600, 1/15 sec, Handheld)
  5. Case 5: Subject is lit by a torch light
    That’s too much light for auto focus, you can try with a candle again :)
    Sample Image (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 25,600, 1/125 sec, Handheld)

Auto focus in overcast condition (Birds-in-flight) & Vignetting:

Auto focus is fast and reliable with good acuity, Vignetting is more but easily correctable in one step using Lens profiling through various software.
Sample 1 (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/2500 sec, -0.3 Ev, 100% Crop, Handheld)
Sample 2 (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, 0 Ev, Handheld)
Sample 3 (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 800, 1/2500 sec, 0 Ev, Handheld)
Sample 4 (500mm, f/6.3, ISO 640, 1/2500 sec, 0 Ev, Handheld)
Sample 5 (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 560, 1/2500 sec, -0.3 Ev, Handheld)
Sample 6 (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 200, 1/4000 sec, -0.3 Ev, 100% Crop, Handheld)

Chromatic Aberration:

Yet to find an instance where I can see this even on a full frame.
Sample Image (600mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 1/400 sec, 100% Crop, Handheld)

Bokeh:

Very pleasing and uniform
Sample Image (600mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 1/800 sec, 0 Ev, Handheld)

Shot in drizzle, Cage Mesh is transformed beautifully!
Sample Image (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 3200, 1/40 Sec, -0.3 Ev, Handheld)

With both foreground and background elements
Sample Image (600mm, f/6.3, ISO 3200, 1/200 Sec, -0.3 Ev, Handheld)

Details & Corner performance:

Pretty good with no complaints at all.
Sample Image 1 (Center extreme bottom, 490mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 1/800 sec, -0.3 Ev, 100% Crop, Handheld)
Sample Image 2 (Image Center, 600mm, f/6.3, ISO 3200, 1/2000 Sec, -0.3 Ev, 100% Crop, Handheld)
Sample Image 3 (600mm, f/8, ISO 3200, 1/1250 Sec, -0.3 Ev, Handheld)

For ART

We can use this lens to produce some ART images
Image Link (Post Processed – Converted to B&W,  Removed Vignetting, Removed Noise and Applied Sharpness)

 

Date: 23-Nov-2015

Please Note:

  • All the below are with reference to Nikon D90 (released in the year 2008) APS-C Camera.
  • No image in this review is post processed other than Cropping/Resizing to 1300 pixels using Adobe Camera Raw/Photoshop default settings, WITHOUT lens profile correction too.
  • This lens went through a torture test and came as a winner (Indoor images posted below in sample images)
    Please check the below

    • All the indoor images (Monkey carving out of a single coconut, Kerala men art) were shot at night with mixed light
    • Used 5 seconds timer on a tripod
    • Long exposures starting from 4 seconds to 30 seconds were used and majority were shot at 600mm from f/6.3 to f/29 in Aperture Priority at ISO 100
    • Such long exposures at an effective focal length of 900mm (APS-C body) is a real challenge to get Sharp shots even on Tripod but this lens produced really good images.
    • Generally, a photographer needs 1/600 sec at 600mm on a non-demanding 12MP body to get sharp images (even Optical Stabilization (OS) requires good hand holding technique on Super telephoto lenses)
  • Outdoor images are shot in HEAVY overcast conditions where I never used to shoot with Nikon 70-300mm VR on Nikon D90, but with this lens I am now comfortable and getting excellent colors and contrast.

Most Important Observations:

  1. Excellent High ISO performer: Wondering that this is not a camera but Excellent ISO performance? Yes, not all the lenses can produce excellent image quality (IQ) at high ISOs, few lenses show excessive noise. This typically suggests that this lens is built with high quality glass.Image quality is excellent even at ISO 3,200 on a 7-year-old sensor, Nikon D90 camera.
    This is one thing that is very important for Wildlife photographers.
  2. No need to Turn OFF Optical Stabilization (OS) when shooting long exposures on tripod unlike Tamron 150-600mm VC lens.

What’s Very Good:

  1. Custom settings C1 & C2
  2. Focus limiters (3 options)
  3. Push-Pull Zoom also along with a rotating Zoom ring
  4. Build Quality with Weather Sealing
  5. 2 stabilization (OS) modes along with “Off” option
  6. Zoom Locking at multiple focal lengths
  7. Sigma USB Dock support (for firmware updates, Custom settings & Auto Focus(AF) fine tuning, OS settings etc)
  8. FREE Sigma’s lens cleaning brush & cloth!

What’s good to me:

  1. Fits in my Kalabhai Digi-cabi AD-060 Dehumidifier
  2. Fits in my Lowepro flipside AW-400 Backpack
  3. Compatible with my Manfrotto Tripod
  4. Lens profile for this lens is available in Adobe Camera Raw to apply quick lens corrections
  5. Lens Firmware update hardly took 5 mins. at home using the dock!
  6. Best part – Working fabulously on my Nikon D90 – Out of The Box!

What’s biggest challenges:

  1. Zooming when Hand holding – Because of small Zoom ring and its placement & tripod collar length
  2. Tripod mounting & Hand holding due to front heaviness when zooming towards 600mm

Image Quality:

  1. Nice Colors and Contrast
  2. Smooth Bokeh
  3. I did not observe any Chromatic Aberration (either green or purple) yet
  4. Sharpness, in simple words, at 600mm (general weaker side of zoom lenses are towards longer focal length), perfectly usable from f/6.3 through f/29 (yes f/29) on a 7-year-old technology Nikon D90 camera.

Generally, when shooting around 600mm, the DOF is required little more compared to shorter focal lengths.
Hence f/8 to f/11 is better before the diffraction takes the toll on sharpness.
Majority of the super telephoto lenses perform very well from f/8 to f/11 and the same case here too with this lens.
As mentioned above, this lens performs excellent on Nikon D90 even at ISO 3200.
So slow apertures are not a problem on modern cameras and one can get sharp images.

Auto Focus:

  1. I was able to shoot birds-in-flight with a 11 point focus 7-year-old technology AF system on a Nikon D90 camera without any AF fine tuning at 600mm at f/6.3
  2. 7-year-old technology AF system on a Nikon D90 did not miss even a single shot of an Action Sequence I shot using Continuous AF (AF-C) due to focus.

So this lens overall has a very good AF system and performs even better on recent cameras.

Optical Stabilization:

  1. I am able to get TACK Sharp Pictures at 1/13 second at 150mm when OS is ON in Normal mode (OS 1) when Hand holding
  2. I am able to get Sharp Pictures at 1/60 second at 600mm when OS is ON in Normal mode (OS 1) when Hand holding
  3. This lens supports OS for Panning too (OS 2) and can also be switched off

(Vs) Tamron 150-600mm VC

As an ex-owner of this lens, I feel the following are some differences I can quickly figure out.

Favorable to Sigma:

  • Sigma is far more reliable in focus for Birds-in-flight than Tamron
  • Acuity is more than Tamron, hence post processing sharpening could be minimal and keepers are more
  • Focus quickly than Tamron
  • Push-Pull Zoom also along with a rotating Zoom ring
  • Sigma’s metal lens hood quality is fabulous compared to Tamron’s very bad plastic one
  • Sigma lens build quality is far more superior and feels robust & even better weather sealed compared to Tamron
  • Sigma’s image quality wide open is better than Tamron’s
  • Sigma’s dock compatibility is notably a great feature
  • No need to worry about leaving “OS On” on Sigma while shooting on tripod in very low light and long exposures compared to Tamron (where we will lose almost every shot due to shake)
  • Can lock the lens at multiple focal lengths and a simple twist releases the lock compared to Tamron
  • Supports Tele-converters
  • Lens strap & a nice carry case !

Favorable to Tamron:

  • Almost costs half !
  • Light weight & smaller size compared to Sigma
  • Easily handholdable for longer durations & quickly Tripod mountable than Sigma
  • Removable tripod collor which reduces weight further for hand holding shooting
  • Lens caps are easily fixable and feels more secure
  • Bigger zoom ring and well balanced while hand holding & zooming
  • FREE Software for image editing

(Vs) Nikon 200-500mm VR

Favorable to Sigma:

  • 150mm more reach (100mm on longer side and 50mm on shorter side)
  • Push-Pull Zoom also along with a rotating Zoom ring
  • More consistent focus
  • Birding lens which also accepts 1.4 Tele Converter supporting Auto focus on few high end camera bodies
    (Cameras supporting auto focus at f/8 like Nikon D750, Nikon D810 etc.)
  • Build & Weather sealing
  • Supports older generation camera bodies like Nikon D90 with full Auto Focus, OS & Metering etc.
  • No need to send back to Service center for firmware upgrades like Nikon (like recent AF issue of Nikon 200-500mm VR),
    can be done at home within 5 mins using Sigma dock, a huge advantage saving lot of time
  • More customizable using Custom settings C1 & C2 which can be done using Sigma dock at home
  • Mount replacement service if changing the Camera system, no need to abandon/sell the lens

Favorable to Nikon:

  • General purpose telephoto lens with lighter weight with good IQ & Focus
    (though sometimes little longer for Mammals at 200mm & shorter for Birds at 500mm)
  • More consistent exposures on cameras like D3s, D4 & D4s etc.
  • Very smooth bokeh as per many online reviews
  • Costs pretty less

(Vs) Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm OS

  • No company cannibalize their own sales of the higher end lens giving such a quality for a lower end lens which costs almost half releasing on the same day. Hence the Sigma Contemporary 150-600mm OS is more equivalent to Tamron 150-600mm VC (a direct competitor) than this Sports version.

Using Sigma Dock for Sigma lenses calibration & configuration:

Software Required: Sigma Optimization Pro
Instructions: LINK or Direct Video

 Sample Photos (100% crops)

Sharpness wide open at 600mm (f/6.3, ISO 1600)
Bokeh wide open at 600mm (f/6.3, ISO 1600)
Birds In Flight wide open at 600mm (f/6.3, ISO 560)
Colors & Contrast wide open at 600mm (f/6.3, ISO 1600)
Chromatic Aberration wide open at 600mm (f/6.3, ISO 1600)
at ISO 3,200

Sharpness Test: All at 600mm at 12 feet distance – I have chosen this subject to emphasize the importance of DOF at 600mm when shooting close

Full image resized to 1300px at f/22 (Out of the camera JPEG) at 600mm for an idea about the subject

100% Crops with Adobe Camera Raw:
f/6.3 & 4 seconds exposure
f/7.1 & 5 sec
f/8 & 6 Sec
f/9 & 6 Sec
f/10 & 8 Sec
f/11 & 13 Sec
f/13 & 15 Sec

Another set at:
f/16 & 25 Sec
f/22 & 30 Sec
f/29 & 30 Sec (little darker as I restricted exposure to 30sec)

External Links:

Which Telephoto lens?

Birders (budget not limited)

  • Nikon 800mm f/5.6 VR or Nikon 600mm f/4 E VR
  • Canon 800mm f/5.6 L IS or Canon 600mm f/4 IS II
  • Sigma 800mm f/5.6
  • Sigma 300-800mm f/5.6 (Sigmonster)

Budget Birders

  • For Full frame cameras – Sigma Sports 150-600mm OS
  • For Crop sensor cameras – Tamron 150-600mm VC

Mammals (budget not limited) – Primary lens

  • Nikon AF-S 200-400mm f/4 VR II
  • Nikon 400mm f/2.8 E VR
  • Canon 200-400mm L f/4 with built-in TC
  • Canon 400mm f/2.8 L IS II

&

  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II (For closer proximity)
  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II (For closer proximity)

Mammals (With a limited budget)

  • Nikon AF-S 80-400mm VR
  • Canon 100-400mm L IS II

&

  • A Kit lens like 18-XX (For closer proximity)

Professional Sports (Typical)

  • Nikon 400mm f/2.8 E VR
  • Canon 400mm f/2.8 L IS II
  • Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II
  • Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS II
  • Nikon 200mm f/2 VR II
  • Canon 200mm L IS
  • Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
  • Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II

For those weight is a BIG constraint

  • Nikon 300mm f/4 pf VR
  • Canon DO lens lineup

300mm lenses are short for bird photography in many situations without a tele-convertor and always using a tele-convertor is not the right technique as it suggest you need more reach which indicates longer tele lens is required.

Even on APS-C (crop sensor) cameras 300mm + 1.4 TC (420mm) is ~630mm effective focal length (considering 1.5x instead of 1.6x/2x for easy understanding) and 600mm on a crop body is ~900mm effective focal length. Hence lenses with 600mm reach are recommended against 300mm+TC combination.

500mm is again falls short for birds and longer for Mammals sometimes, so it is a compromise lens especially a prime, zoom lenses till 500mm are useful for Mammals but Birds they are a compromise unless use hides or proper technique. Again frequent use of a tele-convertor on 500mm Prime indicates a longer reach is required so better to use a Prime 600mm or 800mm (careful use) as already 500mm Prime is lot of money.

So I personally do not recommend these interim 300mm/500mm focal lengths (other than special case of compromise on weight & size).

Please feel free to agree/disagree on my findings.
Thanks for all your valuable time. Have a great day.

Thanks,
Sravan

4 Comments

  • Kartik says:

    Very nice review. Am considering this lens and will have to save up before I buy. Still not decided between the Nikon 200-500 and this one. How is the colour rendition of this lens compared to Nikon? Warmer? Cooler?

    Thanks for taking the time out to do this.

    Kartik

    • #$ravanPh0to says:

      Thank you Kartik ji.
      Sigma Sports 150-600mm is a quality lens in all fronts and better than Nikon 200-500mm in few areas as mentioned above.
      On the Color, I felt the colors are very natural retaining good contrast. Sharpness is awesome.

  • jitendra says:

    Excellent work friend, very detailed review. Very useful. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

19 − 1 =