Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sport - Australian Hands on Review with sample shots

December 02, 2014  •  20 Comments

The Disclaimer

So this 'review' is based off my first impressions of this lens after only using it for one afternoon in fading light. The vast majority of these sample images are handheld, and I have never used a lens this long before, so there is probably user error in these shots. Many were taken with high ISO, so you will have to excuse the noise, but I guess as I get better I should be able to use slower shutter speeds and run lower ISO. Another factor was it being so late in the day, many of these were backlit or in the shade. I should note that my Canon 6d was set to RAW with all settings at neutral. I have not modified these in any way. Imported into lightroom and exported as jpegs.
 

The Unboxing

If you want to see my first ever unboxing video you can check out the youtube clip here:
 

Why this lens? (The Ramble)

So my hunt for the ultimate affordable wildlife lens started with the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM. It seemed like the most versatile and a really good option... Until I looked at the Image Quality sample charts. Much to my surprise when the Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD was released it was sharper than the Canon throughout the 100-400mm range then you had a bonus 200mm to play with! While the sharpness dropped off in the last 200mm, I figured I could just shoot up to 400mm in most circumstances and I am still better off than the Canon (just without the grey lens brag factor). I stopped just short of putting down a pre-order on the Tamron (still hard to get in Australia) when I heard there was a chance of a new Canon 100-400 being announced at photokina. A month passed, photokina happened but to my disappointment no announcement. But an unexpected surprise, A new contender from nowhere the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sport and Contemporary were announced. It seemed that unlike the tamron the sport would have full weather sealing, and from what I could tell from any sample images/reviews/tests I could scrounge up on the web, the image quality was amazing. Beating the Tamron hands down in all but Vignetting. Getting impatient, I couldn't wait for the contemporary, and with new canon announced I put down a pre-order on the new Sigma beast. Not long before my pre-order was shipped Canon announced the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM. Ahhh my dream lens (well maybe). There are still no decent tests online and very limited number of sample shots.. It does look like an amazing lens. I am particularly envious of the short focus distance and portability of this lens. It would work for portraits and potentially macro, as well as sports. It is certainly something I will keep my eye on, but after playing with the Sigma on my full frame 6d, I think for wildlife at least 400mm would be limiting.
 

The Practicality

While it is heavy, I did manage to fit it ok in my Lowerpro Flipside 400AW camera bag, and hand held it fine for over half an hour. Sure the Canon 100-400 would fit much easier, and be a stack easier to handhold. But on the full frame, I found myself shooting at 600mm most of the time, and even with that trying to creep closer to animals.
 

 The Good bit

The focusing was really good, was able to shoot through fences and focus on animals, it was fast and responsive. Hardest thing is being able to position the focus point on the eye/head at 600mm. The minimum focus distance is a little lacking and quite noticeable (260cm) in comparison to the canon. Will be interesting to see if it works with macro tubes.

The lens collar is awesome, well balanced (albeit a little front heavy at 600mm), it turns and clicks into place every 90 degrees which is nice. It was easier to use on top of my manfrotto 055 than I expected, and the ball head was able to lock the heavy lens in any angle i wished.

The Manual override focus worked quite well, while I didn't use it much, it was handy for the bee shot or anything which was very small that I wanted to focus from close range. I haven’t played with the focus limiting switch much yet, mostly because I didn’t really have many issues with the camera getting focus quickly.

The instructions indicate OS mode 2 would stabilize in the vertical plane only. This was a bit of a disappointment to me as I had hoped it would sense the direction of motion like some of the canon lens’ do. I haven't tested, but I assume this means i couldn't track an object moving vertically.

[UPDATE - Sigma America have read this review and informed me that OS 2 does in-fact detect vertical or horizontal panning and corrects accordingly] :)

 

 

 

Sample images with explanation

So rather than ranting on, I think you all agree that the proof is in the pudding, or the images at least. I will share a bunch of sample shots here, with their 100% crops (ie. Actual pixels, zoomed in to 100%), with no modification at all to the RAW, simply saved as jpeg straight out of lightroom.


Note: mouse over each image to see details of the shot
 

Zoom Test

The reach and versatility of this lens is awesome. Below is comparison of the lens shooting on a tripod from 150mm (widest), and 600mm… Thats quite a bit of reach! :)

Sparrow

This is one of the few images that were shot with direct front lit sunshine. It shows in the 100% crop, this lens is amazingly sharp when paired with 100iso. Just imagine this one if I shot it at f8 ! :) This shot also highlights how good the autofocus is that I could find the spot through the twigs and focus on the bird without issue... Handheld.

Sigma 150-600mm - Sparrow with front lit by afternoon sun. Amazing image qualitySigma 150-600mm - Sparrow with front lit by afternoon sun. Amazing image qualityCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/250, ISO 100

100% crop of Sigma 150-600mm - Sparrow with front lit by afternoon sun. Amazing image quality100% crop of Sigma 150-600mm - Sparrow with front lit by afternoon sun. Amazing image qualityCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/250, ISO 100

 

Bee

This shot shows off its ‘macro’ ability.. It has a 1:5 magnification ratio. This shot was taking in fleeting light, fully shaded as the sun went behind the hills. Its taken about 1cm from its minimum focus distance (260cm) handheld. (yeah, it was one of about 15 attempts :) )

Sigma 150-600mm - Honey Bee macro testSigma 150-600mm - Honey Bee macro testCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/250, ISO 4000

100% crop of Sigma 150-600mm - Honey Bee macro test100% crop of Sigma 150-600mm - Honey Bee macro testCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/250, ISO 4000

 

Moon

I have always wanted a lens that could shoot the moon. Hrm, I wonder how it would go with a 2x converter! This one was taken on a tripod. The moon was high in the sky right at sunset. It was a good test to use the zoom lock and stop the lens creeping back down when pointed over 45 degrees. I just love the detail in this shot! yay :)

On the downside, it does show one of the few flaws of this lens. The quite strong vignette. This doesn't really worry me though, its one click in lightroom to add the lens profile and fix this up. I tent to add vignette to most of my images anyway.

Sigma 150-600mm Moon test shotSigma 150-600mm Moon test shotCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/250, ISO 100
100% crop of the Sigma 150-600mm Moon test shot100% crop of the Sigma 150-600mm Moon test shotCanon EOS 6D, f/9 @ 600 mm, 1/50, ISO 100

 

Solar Flare

This lens deals fairly well with solar flare. At least at 600mm pointing directly into the sun. Loses a stack of contrast and has some artifacting, but nothing that really put me off.

Sigma 150-600mm Solar flare testSigma 150-600mm Solar flare testCanon EOS 6D, f/10 @ 150 mm, 1/500, ISO 400

 

Shoot through fences

These little wallabies posing ever so nicely behind some cyclone fencing.. No worries, at full zoom, you can shoot straight through and wouldn't even know it existed!
 

Sigma 150-600mm test ability to shoot through fenceSigma 150-600mm test ability to shoot through fenceCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/160, ISO 2500

 

On the move

This handheld shot shows the ability of the Sigma 150-600mm lens to focus and capture moving subjects in low light. It's also testament to the Canon 6d's low light ability. Oh and that's not ice. It's the N of the 'MOUNT PANORAMA' sign (kinda like our version of the hollywood sign, lol).

Sigma 150-600mm test - On the moveSigma 150-600mm test - On the moveCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/500, ISO 8000

100% crop of Sigma 150-600mm test - On the move100% crop of Sigma 150-600mm test - On the moveCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/500, ISO 8000

 

I think it's hit its target

With all these 600mm wide open shots, I thought I better show one in the more mid range. This is Handheld at 210mm. It also shows off some colour reproduction in the fleeting light.

Sigma 150-600mm test image. Mid range colour and DOF testSigma 150-600mm test image. Mid range colour and DOF testCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 210 mm, 1/250, ISO 2000

 

Bokeh!!!!!!!

Wow, how cool is this handheld shot.. Its pretty much a solid colour background, who would have guessed there is paddocks and trees and kangaroos back there. I haven't played with really long lenses before, but wow, what a pleasing result :)

Sigma 150-600mm Bokeh testSigma 150-600mm Bokeh testCanon EOS 6D, f/6.3 @ 600 mm, 1/500, ISO 640

 

The End bit

Well I really hope you enjoyed this Hands on review. It took a while to put together so please show the love by linking to this blog post from your website, sharing on social media, and generally getting the word out. It's a fantastic lens, please feel free to comment below and ask any questions, or request any more sample shots. I am happy to upload some various combinations or try things out to help with peoples decision to buy. I was told that I was one of the first to pre-order and the next batch is likely not due till next year. Not sure if that will be the case across all stores so if you are on the hunt good luck. Oh and if anyone has already got the new Canon 100-400mm please get in touch, would love to hear your thoughts!
 

The specs:

Lens Construction     24 Elements in 16 Groups
Angle of View 16.4º-4.1º
Number of Diaphragm Blades 9
Mininum Aperture f22
Minimum Focusing Distance 260cm/ 102.4 in
Filter Size (mm)   105mm
Maximum Magnifications 1:5
(Diameter x Length)    121x290.2mm
Weight   2860g
Canon mount (others available)  DG,OS,HSM
          

Update - Use with Canon EF 2x III Extender (teleconverter)

Well to summarize... I don't see the point. I'm sure teleconverters have their place, and obviously people get some great results. But in my sort time with this lens, body and teleconverter, I found the results underwhelming. I think I would achieve results just as good simply heavily cropping my images without the tele.

Build Quality

First of all, I was worried about the stability and weight of so much gear hanging off this lens, but that was unfounded. The camera body is relatively light, and the 2x extender is well built, It felt solid locked in, no dramas there.

No Autofocus

The second major issue is no autofocus.. I'm not saying it's bad.. It's non-existent, it doesn't even try. Having said that, chances are if you are shooting at 1200mm you will be on a tripod, and is manual focus that bad if you are on a tripod. I find myself usually using the live view at 10x and manually focusing anyway when mounted on a tripod shooting a static object.

Sporadic Errors

Now this is a borrowed 2x converter from a friend. They have not reported any issues with it. However on this lens probably 40% of the time I connect it, the aperture zeros out. After disconnecting and reconnecting its normally fine and I can control aperture again.

The nature of the beast

As with any teleconverter on any camera/lens setup you lose light. A 2x converter loses you 2 stops.. That means the widest aperture this lens can shoot at 1200mm is f13. Unless you are shooting in bright sunlight, you will be pushing some pretty high ISO values. Something nice is that the minimum focus distance does not change. I could still shoot at 260cm but with a much higher magnification level.
 

Ok enough talk, where are the sample images

You will remember this view from the start of the review (with a little less bark on the tree). I took this shot on a tripod with manual settings on each shot, all I changed between shots was adding the teleconverter (I didn't even have to change focus, checked after snapping the image). Well that's pretty sweet, a lot more zoom!
 
 
 

Ok, lets compare the crops

I have included a 100% crop of the 600mm shot, then the 50% crop of the 120mm teleconverter shot (i guess you would call it a 50% crop, it's the same content area as the 600mm shot then resized for comparison. Finally the 100% crop of the teleconverter image. Hover over image for details. This is where things start getting a little ugly. Personally unless you are a bokeh hunter, i think the quality of the image without the teleconverter is better even when digitally zoomed to the same level.

100% Crop - Sigma 150-600mm -  NO Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter)100% Crop - Sigma 150-600mm - NO Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter)f13 @ 600mm 1/200, ISO320 no extender

 
 

Another subject, narrower aperture

Ok, perhaps that wasn't entirely fair as f13 is effectively wide open with the teleconverter. I stopped these next shots down to f16 1/320sec ISO640 same process / order as above. This seemed to perform much better. Some of the image in the comparison shot is sharper in the teleconverted image though the depth of field is narrower. In retrospect a comparison between no teleconverter at f6.3 vs with the teleconverter at f13 would have been interesting..

Sigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) testSigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) testf16 @ 600mm 1/320, ISO640 - no extender

Sigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) testSigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) testf16 @ 1200mm 1/320, ISO640 - with 2x extender

100% Crop - Sigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) test100% Crop - Sigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) testf16 @ 600mm 1/320, ISO640 - no extender

50% Crop - Sigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) test50% Crop - Sigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) testf16 @ 1200mm 1/320, ISO640 - with extender

100% Crop - Sigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) test100% Crop - Sigma 150-600mm - Canon ef 2x iii extender (teleconverter) testf16 @ 1200mm 1/320, ISO640 - with extender

Finally, an example of a post processed image taken at 1200mm with the 2x converter.

Bad Moon Rising - Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaBad Moon Rising - Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaTaken at 1200mm with no photoshopping. Only enchanced brightness/contrast etc.

 

Sigma 150-600mm with Canon 2x Teleconverter conclusion

Well, each to their own, but I won't be buying one. End of the day, the downsides far outweigh any benefit. Perhaps the Sigma teleconverter would perform far better, or the 1.4 might be a nice compromise. I'm pretty happy with the lens as is. There are moments when I wish I had more than 600mm, but not with all these caveats.

 

Update: a great resource

So my favorite resource for researching new lenses has been updated to include the Sigma 150-600 S, C and the Canon 100-400 II. Super cool. Looks like the C is a touch sharper at the 150 end, can the S is a fair bit sharper at the 600 end. The Canon 100-400 II is WOW. Super sharp across the whole zoom range. The cool thing is, the website also tests with teleconverters on. At 560mm which is the max zoom of the canon with the 1.4x its softer than the Sigma at 600. Its minimum aperture is f8 and the sigma allows you to go back to f6.3 which is about equal sharpness or a tad softer. The faster the better at those distances. It is a tough call which lens to go for. If weight/size is an issue then the 100-400 is a no brainer. If reach is important, then perhaps the 150-600 is for you. TBH I think the vast majority of my shots with the sigma is at 600, so I am not having too much buyers remorse. :) 

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=978&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=7&API=2&LensComp=972&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=5&APIComp=2

 

 

Update usage data

So now I have had this lens for quite a while I thought it time to update you all with some usage data. I have reviewed all the meta information on my photos taken with this lens and the numbers speak for themselves. You can never have too much zoom! I shoot a bit of everything with this lens, landscapes, portraits, sports, wildlife, you name it. The vast majority of my shots taken on this lens are at maximum zoom, 600mm. I skipped through my photos at 600mm and most looked to be sports and wildlife. At 150mm which is the other big category is a real mix of subjects.

So whats this saying.. Well, it's a really versatile lens. I often find myself wanting to go wider than 150mm and even tighter than 600mm, usually the latter. I think that for me this lens has been a good investment. Yes its heavy, yes its bulky, but the numbers speak for themselves. 50% of the shots I have taken with this lens were >400mm (ie. what I could get with the Canon 100-400mm II). 

Sigma 150-600mm focal length usage data over 10,000 photos taken

Sigma 150-600mm usage over 10000 shotsSigma 150-600mm usage over 10000 shotsThis chart shows my usage at different focal lengths over 10000 shots. the 600mm focal length is by far the most used

 

 

Update with some more shots (post-processed)

Thought I would share some of the images I have been taking with this lens... Enjoy.

Silvereye having a bath.

600mm f8 250sec IS2000 handheld

Bath time! - 
Silvereye - Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaBath time! - Silvereye - Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaThis is a photo of a Silvereye bird having a bath in the fountain in Machattie park taken by Bathurst Photographer David Roma

Pot of Gold

600mm f/11 125th sec ISO100 Tripod

Pot of Gold - Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaPot of Gold - Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaTelephoto shot of the end of a rainbow by Bathurst Photographer David Roma

Wait up Mum!

600mm f/6.3 250th sec ISO640 Handheld

Wait up Mum! - Machattie Park, Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaWait up Mum! - Machattie Park, Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaOne of the many ducklings in Machattie Park at the moment. Taken by local Bathurst Photographer David Roma

The Coalition

600mm f/8 125th sec ISO320 Tripod

The CoalitionThe CoalitionThree Cheetahs sitting in a group when one spotted me. Taken with my Sigma 150-600mm lens at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo

 

The 8138 - Train outside Molong

150mm f/7.1 1000th sec ISO200 Handheld (rested)

8138 - Train outside Molong8138 - Train outside MolongA simple shot, of a cargo train near Molong NSW Australia

 

Rotorglow - Bathurst 12hr 2015

490mm f/6.3 125th sec ISO640 Handheld (panning with vertical IS)

Well, finally got to try out this lens with motorsport.. And well, it rocks. I had so many nice sharp photos from this session. I shot pretty much all handheld. Its heavy but I rest between shots, and consider it a free gym session :) Autofocus seemed to track cars nicely even when cars coming toward me. 150-600 gave really good versatility to capture cars pretty much full frame from most places on the circuit. 

Rotorglow - Bathurst 12hr 2015Rotorglow - Bathurst 12hr 2015The new lap record holder Laurens Vanthoor in the Phoenix Racing's Audi R8 around Mt. Panorama at sunrise getting the brakes glowing red hot coming into the chase.

 

Nissan wins Bathurst 12hr

150mm f/5 800th sec ISO200 (Handheld)

Makes for nice lanscapes too :)

Nissan wins Bathurst 12hr!Nissan wins Bathurst 12hr!Godzilla is king of the mountain once again!

 

Foreign Exchange - Gold Coast, Australia

600mm f/10 400th sec ISO640 (Tripod)

One of my favorite images, a seascape taken with a telephoto! :)

Foreign Exchange - Gold Coast, AustraliaForeign Exchange - Gold Coast, AustraliaCargo ships near the horizon off the Gold Coast taken with the Sigma 150-600mm by David Roma

 

Timon

309mm f/6.3 160th sec ISO160 (Handheld)

Did someone say sharp!?

Timon - Dubbo, NSW, AustraliaTimon - Dubbo, NSW, AustraliaPhoto of Meerkat on the lookout at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, taken by David Roma Photography

 

Floating Farm

150mm f/10 640th sec ISO100 (Handheld)

Even nice for landscapes every now and then :)

Floating Farm - Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaFloating Farm - Bathurst, NSW, AustraliaOne of my favorite views is a foggy Bathurst viewed from Mt. Panorama just after sunrise.

 

King Parrot

600mm f/6.3 400th sec ISO2500 (Handheld)

Nice and sharp, nice bokeh, even with high ISO on the 6D.

King Parrot - O'Reilly's, Lamington National Park, QLD, AustraliaKing Parrot - O'Reilly's, Lamington National Park, QLD, AustraliaWhat a beautiful King Parrot enjoying the rainy weather.

 

Red-browed firetail in the snow

600mm f/6.3 640th sec ISO250 (Handheld)

Nice and sharp, even with a heavy crop

Bird in the snowBird in the snow

 

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Comments

Chris(non-registered)
Great review, very interesting and useful information glad I read through it. I ordered this lens about a week ago, supposed to be here today. I already have a Yellowstone trip for the 2nd week of January scheduled and am looking forward to some great shots. Thanks !!
Jens Haetty(non-registered)
Dave,

I read this review after ordering this lens on a Father's Day related impulse. Now I am even more impatient to receive and try out this lens. Thanks for wetting my beak!!
compare?(non-registered)
Hi David,

I'm in a battle. I've been looking to upgrade my canon 100-400 L and was thinking of the sigma 150-600. I find myself saying if only I had 600mm... but at the same time, based off the digital picture, the 100-400 II seems much sharper than the 150-600 and the 100-400 L seems sharper at 400... Is this really an upgrade or am I just paying for the extra 200 mm and letting the IQ go? That would be a problem... Thanks a lot! It's hard to get great answers.
Peter(non-registered)
Hi David,

Excellent review! Very tempting..

I've been thinking of getting the Canon 100-400mm II. Have you had a play with that one? If so, how would you compare this to the Canon with a 1.4x TC?


Thanks!
David Roma Photography
Hey All, Thanks for the comments. I just wanted to let everyone know that I have been replying directly to peoples emails rather than on the blog where they will not get notified...

One of the questions that seems to come up... "is it worth the extra money over the Sigma 150-500mm" I would say YES.. I really don't rate the 150-500mm, its very soft. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, go the Tamron 150-600mm or wait for the contemporary in my opinion.

The digital picture is an amazing resource. It's rare I buy a lens without checking here first (unfortunately they don't have the sigma 150-600). Check out this link for a comparison between the Tamron 150-600 and the Sigma 150-500mm.. Speaks for itself.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=683&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=4&API=0&LensComp=929&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=3&APIComp=1
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