Few years ago I was for the first time in the Danube Delta by kayak, and I immediately fell in love with the narrow and wild canals and the small lakes packed with birds where motorized boats can not reach. Unfortunately, I was the only photographer in the group and I was not able to move to my pace, so I missed a lot of good pictures.
This spring I decided to go back. I went on a tour exclusively by kayak, exploring the wild areas and also seeing what such an expedition would technically and logistically imply.
Sigma 150-600 F5-6.3 DG HSM OS Contemporary is ideal for such an adventure.
Sigma produces two 150-600 mm. The Sport variant, which is more expensive and distinguishes itself through a more robust construction with a metal body which meets the needs of a professional photographer. Contemporary is cheaper. They enjoy the same optics, but the body is made from plastic. This is the version of this review, I chose it because of its low weight and lower price.
Sigma 150 – 600 mm Contemporary specs
Available mounts: Canon, Nikon and Sigma
Focal length: 150-600 mm
Maximum aperture: f / 5-6.3
Number of diaphragm blades: 9
Filter diameter: 95 mm
Minimum focus distance: 2.8 m
Focus Type: HSM (Hyper Sonic Engine)
Weight: 1930 g
Three shots 150 mm, 300 mm and 600 mm
The lens body is made of plastic. I started to appreciate the plastic lens more and more. It seems to me that the producers are starting to work with better materials, which is what happens with this Sigma. It does not look like an inexpensive product, the texture is pleasant, ensuring a firm contact to the touch. It is 1 Kg lighter than his Sport brother.
The zoom ring is also successful, the rubber is thick, with easy-to-clean channels. The ring moves quite hard, but it is good that the push-pull can also be used. The mount is metallic and has a rubber gasket for protection against moisture and dust. Sigma says it is weather-resistant, but it does not show us an exact diagram of how to position the internal gaskets as it does in the Sport version, so I would not abuse it as I would do with Canon’s L-series.
The focus ring is not that successful, it’s very narrow.
The buttons are positioned OK, but they do not seem so durable.
The tripod ring is included (nor can it without it), even though I shot without a tripod, it helped me keep it more firm.
The lens hood takes time to fix it, but once mounted, it sits very well on the lens.
On my Canon 6D with a 20M pixel sensor it is sharp everywhere, I can not say for higher resolutions. Most of the time I used it at 600 mm and for many images I used the crop.
I mounted the lens on an 80D with a crop sensor, here things are changing, there’s a degradation of the image to the long end, but let’s not forget that the 600 mm becomes 960 mm.
The colors are neutral and the contrast is only acceptable. Image processing helps a lot.
Vignetting and distortion
It vignetts a little on the entire focal length. Obviously, it is accentuated to the end of the body. If we close the diaphragm, the effect improves, but the truth is that we have little to close.
Distortions are not great, but I have not photographed brick walls to highlight them.
Chromatic aberrations are not pronounced, and I photographed against the sun without any annoying flare.
It’s great, especially when the subject is up to 10 m and the background is distant.
I find it extraordinary how customizable this lens is. With the USB dock you can change the preference how stabilization works, the focus limiter that has 3 positions, even the focus of the focus ring. C1 and C2 modes allow us to save two different sets of preferences. It would be great if Sigma would make an Android / iOS compatible application to make changes on the spot without having to use a computer.
Also with the dock you can make focus adjustments at 4 different distances. Many complain that it’s complicated. Yes, it will take you a whole day, but you can make the focus perfect by maximizing the lens optics.
The stabilization is 4 stops, and has the panning mode. My opinion is that they do their job well, and I can say that I stressed it to the maximum as I shot from my kayak out of my hand.
The focus is silent, fast and very precise, but if you use it properly, I’m referring to the limiter in particular. I have to remember you that I used the 6D that has a very weak focus system. Practically you can use the center point and tracking is inexistent especially on small subjects like birds. I missed many shots because of this and I am convinced that the lens can do much more.
Focus quickly and accurately
Customizable with the Sigma dock
Easy for this focal point
The decent price
The zoom ring is rather stiff
The focus ring is very narrow
Button panel looks weak
95 mm filter
I have avoided third party lenses. But it seems to me that these companies have made the most progress in recent years.
The ability to calibrate lenses with USB docks seems to me a great advantage.
Sigma and Tamron with their 150 – 600 mm have offered us the opportunity to use some focal lenses that we only dreamed of before because of the exorbitant prices. It’s true, they’re not very bright, but let’s not forget that the sensors have evolved. At ISO 3200 – 6400 you can take perfectly usable pictures and the newer body go even higher.
For wildlife enthusiasts it’s great. For sport photography it’s OK, for large focal points such as surfing. Even for landscape photography, it can bring out some unique perspectives, but in this case I would rather recommend a 100-400 mm due to the small dimensions and the fact that at 500 – 600 mm we have problems with the clarity of the atmosphere.
Personally I was glad I could use it successfully from the kayak. Originally, I was scared about the size and how difficult it would be to keep it in my hand from the kayak which is in a continuous movement, but after a day I got used to it.
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