Review Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports (C FF)

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The Sigma 120-300mm Sports is unique in several ways. To start, this is the first lens in the Sigma Sports series. With the lenses in this series, you can, using a USB-dock, customize the settings for AF speed, AF fine-tuning, focus depth and image stabilization. You can read about our experience with the customization in the Sigma USB-dock review. On the other hand, the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 Sports, like its predecessor, is unique as a bright zoom lens because the Sigma 12-300mm 2.8 is the only 300mm f/2.8 lens that you can zoom out to 120mm. This lens offers the same zoom range as a 70-200mm f/2.8 OS with a 1.4x converter, a combination that has f/4 as its largest aperture. The Sigma 120-300mm Sports offers a constant f/2.8 throughout its zoom range. The extra stop and the built-in image stabilization are valuable if you work with a telephoto lens.

Sigma120300

Sigma120300sampleimaheSigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS Sports @ 300mm, f/3.5, 1/400, 100 ISO, no tripod
The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 Sports weighs nearly 3 kg, so you will probably prefer to use it with a tripod. The lens comes standard with a solid tripod mount. With highly mobile projects, I prefer to work without a tripod, such as with the picture above of an otter.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports @ Canon 5D MK2

Construction

 
The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 Sports is big, heavy and breathes solidity and reliability in every respect. That starts with the matte-black finish of the lens body that we know already from the Sigma Contemporary and Art lenses. The Sigma 120-300mm Sports is especially well-sealed against dust and water splash. The large, matte-black hood is made of metal.
There are several switches on this lens. The most noticeable is the Custom switch with C1, C2 and off as choices. This switch is for use in combination with the Sigma USB-dock. There are also switches to limit the AF-range, a choice between AF and MF and between the different image stabilization methods (off, 1, 2).
Specifications
Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports
Image Stabilization:+
lenses/ groups:23/18
length x diameter:121 / 78
filter size:105
Weight:2950
Lens hood:+

Autofocus

 

The Sigma 120-300mm 2.8 II has a traditional viewing window, where you can read the distance that is in focus. The drive of the autofocus moves quickly, even in low light. I haven't tested them against each other, but I have the impression that the AF of the Sigma 120-300mm Sports is slightly faster than the AF of its predecessor. Roger Cicala tested the AF-speed of his Sigma 120-300mm Sports: from 1.5 to infinity in 0.95 seconds. Most of that focus is from 1.5 meters to 10 meters. In practice, therefore, focusing is much quicker because your subjects are usually at a distance of 10 meters or more.
The HSM motor is fast and quiet and can be manually overridden at any time if you want to focus on a different point from the AF. For manual focus, it's nice to work with both broad rings for zooming and focus. They are set close to each other, so that you can operate them both with the same hand. Once you get a little skill at that – because the lens also rests on the same hand – you can work quite quickly even without the AF.


When working with the Sigma USB-dock, I discovered that the minimum focus distance varies from 150 to 250cm, depending on the focal length.

venster

Image stabilization

 
We have not measured the effectiveness of the image stabilization of the Sigma 120-300mm Sports. Given the size and weight of the Sigma 120-300mm Sports, we generally expect that the gains from image stabilization will depend more on the photographer than is the case with the image stabilization of smaller and lighter lenses that we usually test.

Resolution Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports

 

This lens delivers sharp photographs at all focal lengths and all apertures. At full opening, the center sharpness, particularly for 120mm, is visibly sharper than in the corners. You get the highest sharpness for all focal lengths at f/5.6. Above that, the sharpness drops off slowly.

A bright telephoto lens makes high demands of the photographer in terms of sharpness. At full opening, the depth of field is quite small and you see it immediately if you have not focused on the right spot. That's why in making the photograph of the otter at the top of this page, I aimed the central focus point on the body of the otter. You have little choice, because they're lightning-fast creatures. Each drop of water on the fur of the otter is crystal clear. But if you look at the photo full-size, then you see that the eye of the otter is not quite perfectly sharp. Better luck next time!

Resolutie
Sigma 120 300 sample imageSigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS Sports @ 300mm, f/4.5, 100 ISO
Click (2x) for a high resolution version of this image.

Vignetting

 
As might be expected for a bright zoom lens with a large zoom range, there is visible brightness loss at full opening. For the shorter focal lengths, the vignetting is gone after one aperture stop. At 300mm, you need an extra stop for that. The numbers that CameraStuffReview gives are based on, "What you see is what you get," meaning no differentiation is made between different sensor sizes. Therefore, the score for vignetting is low, just as for many other full frame lenses. Of all the lens reviews on a camera with a full frame sensor, the Sigma 120-300mm Sports scored relatively high in terms of vignetting.
In the jpg files, the vignetting is higher than in the RAW files. That is not a property of the Sigma 120-300mm Sports lens, but a consequence of the in-camera conversion from RAW to jpg by the Canon 5D MK2. It could be an argument for shooting in RAW more often. I expect that the target audience for this lens primarily does that already.
RAWvignet

Distortion

 
The distortion of the Sigma 120-300mm is sufficiently low for all focal lengths that you will probably never experience it in practice. It's possible that some distortion would be visible if you made an architectural photograph with a focal length of 300mm. In that case, the distortion is simple to correct with software. RAWdistortion

Bokeh  Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports

 

The Sigma 120-300mm Sports delivers a nice, round, creamy bokeh, as many telephoto lenses on a camera with a ful frame sensor do.

Virtually all fast lenses can, at full opening, show some longitudinal chromatic aberration, or color bokeh. At full, you can occasionally encounter a trace color bokeh, whereby green edges behind and purple edges in front of the focus point are visible. Move your mouse over the image for an example of color bokeh. Color bokeh disappear if you adjust the aperture. At aperture 4, the color bokeh is no longer visible.

bokeh

Flare

 
The Sigma 12-300mm Sports comes with a large, heavy, metal hood. Even without the hood, this lens is very resistant to backlighting. The picture shown here is a detail out of a landscape photo that was taken directly against the sun. Even close by the sun, there is no reduction in contrast visible, and we did not encounter ghosting in any of the practice shots. flare

Chromatic aberration

 

Lateral chromatic aberration is so low for all focal lengths that you will never be bothered by it in practice. Longitudinal chromatic aberration, color bokeh, you may sporadically encounter at f/2.8, as we show in the section on bokeh.

ChromAb

Conclusion Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports review

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See our overview of tested lenses or our overview of tested lenses with a Canon mount to compare the performances of this lens with other lenses.

 

ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
120
135
8.1
7.8
8.7
6.0
8.3
200
200
7.4
7.2
9.0
6.0
7.1
300
300
7.5
7.4
8.9
6.0
6.6
Overall
Overall
7.4
7.2
8.9
6.0
7.2
ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
120
135
8.3
8.0
9.4
9.1
8.5
200
200
8.0
7.9
9.3
8.9
7.2
300
300
8.6
8.8
9.4
8.2
7.0
Overall
Overall
8.2
8.1
9.4
8.7
7.7

Pros

Cons

  • Very high image quality, high resolution, little distortion and vignetting, very low chromatic aberration

  • Fast AF
  • Very well built and nicely finished
  • Built-in image stabilization
  • Metal hood
  • Big and heavy
  • A price that is consistent with the high quality offered
The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports is a unique lens, for which we can only imagine the dimensions and the price as obstacles to deciding to get one. The only direct competition for this lens, with a constant brightness of f/2.8 in combination with a 120-300 zoom range, is its own predecessor (Sigma AF 120-300mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM DG OS). I have the impression that the AF of the Sigma 120-300mm Sports is slightly faster. The USB dock is also an attractive extra that the Sigma 120-300mm Sports has to offer. In the end, it would not surprise me if the Sigma 120-300mm II is more resistant to flare than its predecessor. All Sigma Contemporary, Art and Sports lenses perform exceptionally well with backlighting.
The mechanical quality of the Sigma 120-300mm Sports is comparable to that of the professional lenses of other brands and the image quality of this lens is also very high. Thanks to the fast AF and the consistently high sharpness at all focal lengths and apertures, you will come home with many beautiful photos if you use this lens. With a list price of just below 4,000 euros, the price/quality ratio is very high.
Ivo Freriks
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.

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