Review Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary

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Just like the Tamron 150-600 mm, the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary is a telephoto zoom for amateur photographers. They are high-quality, extreme telephoto zoom lenses with a list price just above a thousand euros. As far as zoom range and brightness are concerned, the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary gives nothing up to the more heavily built Sigma 150-600 mm Sports, which we reviewed previously.
The Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary will be delivered with a Canon, Sigma or Nikon mount. For now, the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary is only available with the Canon mount. We tested the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary on a Canon 5D MK3 (full-format sensor) and on a Canon 650D (APS-C sensor; review appears in a few weeks).

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Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary vs Sigma 150-600 mm Sports

700mankeySigma 150-600 mm Contemporary @ 600 mm f/6.7, 1/500 sec, ISO 1000
(Click (2x) on the illustration above for a larger version.)

In order to prevent motion blur, you will usually choose a higher ISO value at the longest focal distance with a large aperture of f/6.7. Even then, the high sharpness at full aperture shines. 

Portability vs professional build and image quality

Together with the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary, there also appeared Sigma 150-600 mm Sports for about 700 euros more. The Sigma 150-600 mm Sports not only has a more complex optical design (24 lens elements in 16 groups vs 20/14), it is also built for use under the most extreme conditions. Both the front lens and the rear-most lens element are provided with the same kind of moisture- and soil-repellent fluorite coating, like the most expensive Canon and Nikon telephoto lenses. The Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary is only treated on the front lens with this special coating. Just like those professional lenses from Canon and Nikon, the Sports version of the 150-600 mm is extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater. The Contemporary version only has an extra rubber seal by the mount. The tripod collar of the Sports version is more heavily built and fixed to the lens. With this tripod collar, you can also turn the lens 90 degrees without having to remove the lens from the tripod. The tripod collar of the Contemporary is much smaller—a bit too small for my taste, so that you can less easily carry the lens by the collar than the Sports version. The tripod collar of the Contemporary can be removed from the lens.

The focus ring for manual focusing on the Sports version is broader and therefore much more comfortable to work with than the small focus ring of the Contemporary design. The sun cap of the Contemporary is made of plastic. The sturdy sun cap of the Sports is made of metal. That is seldom seen, even on professional high-end lenses from other brands.

All these differences are arguments on the grounds of which many professional photographers will prefer the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports above the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary. On the other hand, the price, more compact dimensions and the lighter weight (1 kg lighter) will appeal to amateur photographers. The filter size of the 150-600 mm Contemporary is impressive at 95 mm, but still small in comparison with the 105 mm filter size of the Sports version.

Build and auto focus

The build quality of the Sigma Contemporary lenses is nearly the same high level as that of the Sigma Arts or Sports lenses. The lens has a metal mount that, thanks to a special treatment, is stronger and more wear resistant.
A weight of nearly 2 kg and a hefty length at the longest focal distance makes this no lens with which you will shoot by hand long or often. But it is possible, as you can read in the image stabilization test.
Large zoom lenses have the tendency to zoom out when you point straight down ("creeping"). You don't need to have trouble with that from this lens, because with the help of a switch, you can lock the focal point to one of several focal distances marked on the lens (150, 180, 200, 250, 300, 400, 500 and 600 mm). As soon as you turn the zoom ring, the zoom lock is switched off, and you can choose another focal distance. If you do not use the zoom lock, then creeping is nearly unavoidable with this kind of zoom lens.
The Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary is delivered including a luxurious lens bag, sun cap and shoulder strap.
Specifications
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG HSM OS Contemporary
Image Stabilization:+
lenses/ groups:20/14
length x diameter:260 / 105
filter size:95
Weight:1930
Lens hood:-
The unique "mount conversion service" from Sigma makes it possible to switch your trusty Sigma 150-600 mm lens for use on a camera of another brand in the future, without having to sell all your lenses. All Sigma lenses of the Contemporary, Sport or Art series can be converted to another camera mount. This telephoto zoom is also suitable for the new generation of Sigma teleconverters, which were released simultaneously. With Sigma's unique USB dock, you can install firmware updates yourself simply or fine-tune the AF.
ReigerSigma 150-600 mm Contemporary @ 468 mm f/7.1, 1/160 sec, ISO 160
(Click on the illustration above for a partial enlargement at 100%.)

Vignetting

The Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary is—just like the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports—designed for use on a camera with a full-format sensor. Even so, the front lens is 95 mm; one centimeter smaller than the 105 mm of the Sports version.

jpgvignet

Optical Stabilizer

Usually we test the image stabilization at a focal distance around 100 mm, but for an extreme telephoto zoom, that is naturally pointless. We therefore tested the Optical Stabilizer especially for this lens at 600 mm. It is thus not possible to directly compare the results obtained with tests of image stabilization that we have conducted for other lenses.
On our Canon 5D MK3 test camera, we achieved a profit of 4 stops at a focal distance of 600 mm.
VRtest
We shot equally sharp pictures by hand with image stabilization with a shutter time of 1/30 of a second and without image stabilization with a shutter time of 1/500 of a second. That is even a bit better than we achieved with the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports. I suspect that could hold the combination more still thanks to the more compact dimensions and the lower weight of the Contemporary. For the test shots made without image stabilization, 1 remarkably sharp lucky shot produced a kink in the green curve.
Sample Image Image Stabilisation test Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary

Click on the illustration for a partial enlargement. Enlarged to 100%, the water droplets on the breast feathers of this drake are no longer razor sharp, but you would never expect that this shot was made with a focal distance of 600 mm and a shutter time of 1/40 of a second.

Distortion Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary

The distortion across the entire zoom range is less than 0.9 % and pincushion shaped. On this point, the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary loses out to the 150-600 mm Sports version. Given that these extreme telephoto zoom lenses are not so often used for critical architectural shots, but more often for nature photography, most users will not be much bothered by that. Should it ever be needed, any distortion is simple to correct with software.

Distort

Flare & chromatic aberration

All large telephoto lenses are more sensitive to internal reflections than lenses with a focal distance between—usually—28 and 200 mm. With such large glass elements and a design with 24 lens elements, it is practically impossible—certainly if you do not use a sun cap, regardless of brand—to completely exclude it. That's why the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports, just like most other extreme telephoto zooms, is delivered with a very large sun cap. Sigma devoted a great deal of attention in an early stage of the design to the prevention of ghosts as the result of internal reflections. Sigma's Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosts, and ensures sharp, contrast-rich shots, even with bright backlighting. During the practice test, we did not encounter any ghosts or flare.
Here, too, the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports puts on a solid performance. This lens has two glass FLD elements ('F' Low Dispersion). FLD is a glass type that, just like the more expensive fluorite glass, is known for its low color separation, high resolution and contrast. In the practice shots, we did not come across any visible chromatic aberration, recognizable as colored edges at sharp contrast transitions. In the shots of the test card, we make chromatic aberration visible by blowing up the shots to proportions that you would never use in practice. Chromatic aberration is simple to correct with software, but I wonder if you would ever really need to do so.

Sharpness

The Sigma 150-600 mm C is built out of 20 elements in 14 groups, including one FLD ('F' Low Dispersion) lens and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) lenses. These high-quality glass types make an important contribution to high resolution and contrast. The Sports version therefore includes one more SLD element. The even sharpness from corner to center is noticeably good. Just as with most telephoto zooms, the sharpness becomes a bit less as the focal distance becomes higher, but even at the longest focal distance, the sharpness is still impressive.

Rezz

Bokeh

700SpoonbillLepelaar: Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary @ 600 mm f/6.7, 1/500 sec, ISO 250
(Click on the illustration above for a—compressed version for the web—jpg without additional sharpening.)
The Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary has, just like the most expensive telephoto zooms, an aperture with 9 rounded lamellae. The limited focal depth of an extreme telephoto lens in combination with the extremely high sharpness at full aperture—as can be seen in the practice shot above—help to separate the subject from the background. The shots of our bokeh test set-up also looked great. We saw no onion rings in the bokeh circles of sharp light sources in the background.

Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary vs Tamron 150-600 mm

The question of how the image quality of the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary is in comparison with the Tamron 150-600 mm is obvious. We are also curious about it. On the internet, we found a direct comparison of the image quality of the Tamron 150-600 mm with the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary. Just as in our test, it is noticeable how little the sharpness of the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary in the corners even at full aperture differs from the sharpness in the center. Even when I had Google translate the text into Dutch, I didn't learn much from it. But the image quality of the Sigma 150-600 mm in this test is visibly better than in the shots that are made with the Tamron 150-600 mm. You do not have to carry out any measurements for that. I have not yet found any other comparisons. Hopefully, we will get an opportunity to test the Tamron 150-600 mm this year, so that we can make a comparison of these two 150-600 mm telephoto zooms.

Conclusion Sigma 150-600 mm C @ Canon 5D MK3

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Look in our list of all reviewed lenses or the lenses we have reviewed with a Canon mount in order to compare the performance of this lens with other lenses.

test camera: Canon 5D MK3

ECWYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as a jpg, where you have applied all available in-camera lens corrections. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".


200
200
7.4
7.4
8.7
6.0
6.4
300
300
7.6
7.7
8.4
6.0
6.5
400
400
7.7
7.8
8.8
6.0
6.5
500
500
8.1
8.1
8.9
6.0
6.5
600
600
7.8
7.8
8.9
6.0
6.5
Overall
Overall
8.0
8.1
8.8
6.0
6.5
ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. 

200
200
8.2
8.5
9.3
8.5
6.8
300
300
8.4
8.8
9.5
8.0
6.9
400
400
8.1
8.4
9.5
8.1
6.9
500
500
7.9
8.2
9.3
8.2
6.9
600
600
7.6
7.9
9.2
8.2
6.9
Overall
Overall
8.0
8.3
9.3
8.2
6.9

Pros

  • Large zoom range
  • High build quality
  • High image quality
  • Very effective image stabilization
  • Fine-tuning possible with the optional USB dock
  • Suited for Mount Conversion
  • Attractively priced

Cons

  • Visible vignetting
  • Less bright than the Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports
  • Small tripod collar

Too long, didn't read (TL/DR)? The Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary is smaller, lighter and less expensive than the Sports version, but does a remarkably good job of keeping up with its big brother when it comes to image quality.

I'm exceptionally positive about the performance of the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary series. This is a beautifully finished, solidly built extreme telephoto zoom that with a weight of 2 kg is even usable for amateur photographers shooting by hand. The good built-in image stabilization is an important ally. Professionals might prefer the more heavily built Sigma 150-600 mm Sports version or the brighter Sigma 120-300 mm Sports. For amateur photographers, the Sigma 150-600 mm Contemporary is an extreme telephoto zoom with an equally extremely high price-to-quality ratio that I can recommend without any reservations.

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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Comments (4)

  1. Nick Leech

Which is sharper at 600mm between the Contemporary lens and the Sports version?

 
  1. Ivo    Nick Leech

Hi Nick,<br /><br />The Contemporary did a very good job in our review. Both lenses are very sharp at 600mm and I would like to compare them directly before I would indicate the sharper lens at 600mm.<br /><br />In our tests we didn't observe a...

Hi Nick,<br /><br />The Contemporary did a very good job in our review. Both lenses are very sharp at 600mm and I would like to compare them directly before I would indicate the sharper lens at 600mm.<br /><br />In our tests we didn't observe a decrease of the reolution towards the corners as seen in the review of SLR gear (see our review list for a link).<br /><br />Sigma provides on their global website not only calculated geometrical MTF charts, but also diffraction MTF charts, which according to Sigma more closely resemble reality: <br /><br />Sports: http://www.sigma-global.com/en/lenses/cas/product/sports/s_150_600_5_63/data.html<;br /><br />Contemporary: http://www.sigma-global.com/en/lenses/cas/product/contemporary/c_150_600_5_63/data.html<;br /><br />Take a look at the image in the upper right corner.<br /><br />These diagrams show that the Sports version @ 600mm has a slightly more constant performance for fine detail (the green solid line) and that the contrast (the solid red line) of both lenses is very similar. In the images I shot, I find it difficult to identify these differences. <br /><br />In theory when a dashed line is much lower than the solid line (both red and green lines of the Sports version are more split in the corners), the bokeh would be less beatifull. This is where my experience differs. My feeling is that the Sports version produces a nicer bokeh.<br /><br />I am hoping to do a direct comparison of both lenses in the near future, to shed some more light on theis topic.<br /><br />Ivo<br /><br />LensTip tested both Sigma lenses now and found better performance @ 600mm for the Sports version, mostly in the center:<br />http://www.lenstip.com/434.1-Lens_review-Sigma_C_150-600_mm_f_5-6.3_DG_OS_HSM_Introduction.html<;br /><br />http://www.lenstip.com/417.1-Lens_review-Sigma_S_150-600_mm_f_5-6.3_DG_OS_HSM_Introduction.html<;br /><br />Sports @ 6oo mm f/6.3 full frame sensor: 36 lp/mm (center), 30 lp/mm (corner)<br />Contemporary @ 600 mm f/6.3 full frame sensor: 30 lp/mm (center), 28 lp/mm (corner)

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  1. Eric rottink

:-) :-) interesting

 
  1. Wolfgang

Heh heh, you might want to revise the filter size for the sports version. A 3 1/2 foot diameter front element would indeed be quite large, but perhaps a bit outside the realm of reality.
Otherwise a great report. I recently purchased the...

Heh heh, you might want to revise the filter size for the sports version. A 3 1/2 foot diameter front element would indeed be quite large, but perhaps a bit outside the realm of reality.
Otherwise a great report. I recently purchased the contemporary version and have compared it to my brother-in-law's nikkor 200-500mm and I must say I am favorably impressed. I'd say the two lenses run neck and neck, both sharpness and contrast wise. Admittedly, my tests were not scientific, just hand-held, indoors, properly braced, but probably best out of ten for each shot. The Nikon's VR looks more effective in the viewfinder, but Sigma's equals it in the end result.
On top of that, I have recorded some of the best lunar shots ever without a telescope from this lens. Perhaps I just have a particularly good version, but hats off to Sigma for this gem at a price that would have been thought impossible just 10 years ago.

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