Review Sigma 150-600 mm Sports @ 5D MK3
It's time to celebrate, because the Sigma Sports series finally consists of two telephoto zooms: next to the Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports—which did very well in our review—you can, as a sports or nature photographer, now also choose the Sigma 150-600 mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports. To make the party complete, Sigma has also released the associated teleconverters, with which—while retaining AF—you can bring subjects even closer, if a 600 mm focal length is not enough for you. Both Sigma Sports zoom lenses distinguish themselves from the current Art lenses because the Sports lenses have built-in image stabilization and because the AF for the Sports lenses is even more customizable with the optional USB dock and the Custom switch on the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports.
|These differences between the Art and Sports series, given the applications, are obvious. The intention is that the Sigma 150-600 mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports will come with a Canon, Sigma or Nikon mount. At the moment, only the Canon mount is available so far.|
Sigma 150-600 mm F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports @ 5D MK3
|Sigma 150-600 mm Sports @ 600mm f/9, 1/640 sec, ISO 250
(Click on the illustration above for a larger version.)
Build and auto focus
|The Sigma 150-600 mm Sports is delivered including a luxurious lens bag, sun cap and a shoulder strap. The build quality of the Sigma Sports lenses is of the same high level as that of the Sigma Arts lenses or Canon L lenses. Just as with the most modern, high-end telephoto lenses from Canon and Nikon, the front lens of the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports is equipped with a special grease- and moisture-resistant fluorite coating. The lens has a metal mount that, thanks to a special treatment, is stronger and more wear-resistant.
A weight of nearly 3 kg and a significant length at the longest focal distance makes this no lens with which you will long or often shoot by hand. The tripod collar is therefore not removable. The tripod collar clicks every 90 degrees, so that it is easy to switch from lying down to a standing set-up.
Large zoom lenses have the tendency to zoom out when you point them downward ('creeping'). You do not have to have trouble from that with this lens, because with the help of a switch, you can fix the focal length to multiple 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 disengaged, and you can choose another focal distance.
|There is a CUSTOM switch on the lens with 3 positions: OFF, C1 and C2. With the help of the optionally available USB dock, these functions can be set for specific AF modes. With the USB dock, the degree of resistance before the manual override of the AF takes place can also be set. During the test of the Sigma 120-300 mm Sports, we tried out the USB dock, but we did not have a USB dock available this time.
Sigma checks each individual Sports lens before they leave the factory, using a proprietary MTF measurement system, which makes use of Sigma's modern Foveon sensor. Such intense quality control is exceptional.
The unique 'mount conversion service' from Sigma makes it possible switch your trusty Sigma 150-600 mm Sports lens on a camera of another brand, without having to buy all new lenses. All Sigma lenses from the Contemporary, Sports 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.
AF and MF with the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports
|The AF range can be limited with a 3-way switch to distances of under 10 meters, from 10 meters to infinity, or the full range. This benefits the speed of the AF in critical situations. Because the lens makes use of internal focusing (IF), the front lens—with an impressive 105 mm filter size—does not turn when you focus. The HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) ensures fast and silent AF. Thanks to the further improved AF algorithm in comparison with the previous model, the focus efficiency of the continuous AF (AF-C) has been improved by about 5% according to Sigma. The speed of the AF in the standard configuration in which the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports is delivered is, I think, a bit less fast than the AF speed of the Canon 200-400 mm f/4 L. How the speed of the AF relates to that of other telephoto zooms, we did not test, but it would not surprise us if—when you make use of the focus-limiter—it would be a photo-finish. Manual focusing is a pleasure with this lens. The focus ring is nicely broad and turns quite smoothly with just the right amount of resistance.
|The Sigma 150-600 mm Sports is designed for use on a camera with a full-frame sensor. You see that in the front lens, which with a filter diameter of 105 mm is much more impressive than the front lens of the Canon EF 70-300 mm f/4-5.6L IS USM. Nonetheless, vignetting is visible if you photograph an evenly lit subject, a blue sky on a sunny day or a grey sky on a cloudy day. Even if you stop down, the vignetting does not disappear completely. This is, I think, the weakest point for this lens. The question is how heavily you weigh this point. Many full-frame photographers appreciate the charm of vignetting, because it brings extra attention to the subject. If you find otherwise, then the vignetting is simple to correct with software.
|Usually, we test the image stabilization at a focal distance of around 100 mm, but for an extreme telephoto zoom, that is naturally pointless. Therefore, we tested the Optical Stabilizer for this lens at the longest focal distance. Therefore, the achieved results may not be directly comparable with tests of image stabilization that we have carried out for other lenses.
On our Canon 5D MK3 test camera at a focal distance of 600 mm, we profited by 3 stops: We shot with image stabilization by hand sharp pictures with a shutter time of 1/30 of a second. It can be seen from the Imatest measurement results that these are less sharp pictures than those made from a tripod. If you take a couple of shots with a shutter time of 1/30 of a second at one focal distance, then there will almost certainly be a usable shot among them. In my eyes, it's an impressive result.
|The OS (Optical Stabilizer) offers two OS functions: "function 1" for general photography and "function 2" for motorsports and other kinds of photography in which "tracking" is the horizontal direction is needed. It works when the camera is used for either lying or standing shots.
Distortion Sigma 150-600 mm Sports
The distortion across the entire zoom range is less than 0.9%—actually practically always less than 0.5%—pincushion shaped and therefore negligible in most cases. On this point, the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports beats out the Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 Sports, which in our test as far as distortion is concerned did not do badly at all. If this should not be needed, then any distortion is simple to correct with software.
All large telephoto lenses are more sensitive to internal reflections than lenses with a focal distance between—roughly—28 and 200 mm. With such large glass elements and a subject with 24 lens elements, it is practically impossible—certainly if you do not use a sun cap—to completely exclude flare and ghosts when using an extreme telephoto zoom, regardless of brand. Therefore, the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports, just like most other extreme telephoto zooms, is delivered with a very large sun cap. Sigma paid a great deal of attention in an early stage of the design to preventing ghosts as a result of internal reflections. Sigma's Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosts, and ensures sharp, contrast-rich shots, even with intense backlighting. During the practice test, we did not encounter any ghosts or flare.
This lens has two FLD ('F' Low Dispersion) glass elements and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements that make an important contribution to the high resolution and contrast. The even sharpness from corner to center is remarkably good. Just as with most telephoto zooms, the sharpness decreases slowly as the focal distance becomes higher, but even at the longest focal distance, the sharpness is impressive. You do not have to stop down; the sharpness at full aperture is already very good. In addition, the sharpness in the corners gives nothing up to the sharpness in the center. Only at the shortest focal distance, where we measured the very highest center sharpness, did the sharpness in the corners lag a bit behind in our Imatest measurements. In the practice shots, we could not really see the difference.
ASigma 150-600 mm Sports @ 600 mm f/9, 1/2000 sec, ISO 100
Here, too, the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports puts on a solid performance. This lens has two FLD ('F' Low Dispersion) glass elements. 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 see any visible chromatic aberration, recognizable by colored edges at sharp contrast transitions. In the shots of the test card, we could make the chromatic aberration visible by blowing up the shots to proportions that you never use in practice. Chromatic aberration is simple to correct with software, but I wonder whether this will ever be necessary in practice.
For some practice shots, a bright light source in the background produces a less quiet bokeh, as can be seen in the practice shot made with the Sigma 150-600 mm Sports (click on the illustration shown here). We have come across the phenomenon previously when testing razor-sharp extreme telephoto lenses.
Conclusion Sigma 150-600 mm Sports @ Canon 5D MK3
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 that of other lenses.
test camera: Canon 5D mk3
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you store the files in the camera as 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".