Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM C - 3 Years On
Having used the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary for a little under 3 years, I thought I would share my experience with it.
This lens is the first real telephoto I've owned and remains an integral part of my kit. I don't have an equivalent and won't be comparing it to one, this review is of how it has performed for me individually.
In this review, I'm going to look at the; design, handling, autofocus, image stabilisation & image quality of the lens.
Design & Handling:
I use this on a Nikon body and will point out one thing straight away. If you are used to Nikon lens' then when first using this, or any other Sigma lens, at first may feel a little odd, since the zoom rotates counter-clockwise. But once you get familiar with it, muscle memory will take over. Considering that I've recently added Sigma's 70-200mm f2.8 to my arsenal should stand testament to that.
The Zoom Ring at first was pretty tough to turn, especially when hand-holding, but this has since freed up nicely and is now a smooth action. It does, however, have a good grip which is well contoured and has a nice width, which makes it easy to use.
Turning the Focus Ring was easy from the start and didn't need any use for it to be a fluid motion. The grip is also easy to differentiate from the zoom ring to due to a subtle change in the profile of it. But, is set too far behind the front element for my liking. It's a challenge to hold the lens steady while manually focusing hand-held.
The tripod collar is uncomfortably small, making it hard to support the camera with your wrist. The foot sometimes gets in the way too, while trying to alter the focal length. Taking it off is an option but this eliminates the potential to use a monopod/tripod. The Sport version has a longer foot, meaning holding it would be more comfortable, I'm not quite sure why Sigma went this route on the Contemporary.
Another consequence of the collar being so short is that it also poses a problem when trying to balance the camera on a gimbal/ball head too. As you extend the zoom the weight shifts further forward, meaning the weight distribution shifts significantly. On a monopod, which I favour, it doesn't cause as much headache, but tripod users may struggle.
Despite the weight distribution changing, and dealing with the foot getting in the way, it has a nice ergonomic design, meaning it is comfortable to support for extended periods. I find it more natural to hold right on the end as it has a rubbered finish to it and you can keep it steady whilst panning no matter how extended it is. The aforementioned rubberised grip also means you can operate the zoom as a push-pull too, allowing for swift but smooth transitions in focal length.
Autofocus & Image Stabilisation:
Going back to the manual focus issues, this doesn't tend to pose a problem for me as I know I can happily rely on the autofocus. There can be a slight bit of breathing trying to lock on, but that is more down to the nature of the subjects I shoot, being fast-moving cars you can forgive the lens for struggling to find a point on a car that is travelling at 100mph+. It honestly does perform admirably in these situations.
The Image Stabilisation, known as Optical Stabilisation on Sigma lens' (OS) is a bit jumpy and can be distracting whilst trying to pan with a race car, but fortunately, it has a feature that you can switch between full OS and horizontal, meaning it will only compensate for up/down movement, brilliant for panning. If I'm using horizontal OS, the jumping tends to be less noticeable since the subject doesn't appear to shift from left to right in the viewfinder when I'm trying to pan.
The Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM C tends to operate best at around f / 7.1 and beyond, where the image is crisp from corner to corner but is usable wide open.
ISO can be pushed to 1600 before Noise begins to become a problem, but that can still be cured in Post, for the most part. This is helpful as, due to the f / 6.3 aperture at the far end, means light is reduced quite a lot. The fact that Motorsport usually runs in the months where light is abundant doesn't cause too many issues for me, even to the point where I have too much light. I have invested in a CPL and an ND8 filter but due to the enormous 95mm filter size, some people might be put off.
Overall this is a very good lens, especially if you compare it to the price of the Nikon & Canon equivalents, which also get less focal length too. The extra focal length does sacrifice a stop of light but as mentioned before, doesn't affect me so much.
The design of the tripod collar lets it down in handling, but the contour of the rings & the thoughtfully designed end makes up for this.
The OS can feel jumpy at times but helps massively, especially in panning mode.
The image quality is brilliant. For a lens this competitively priced, it performs well, even wide-open. When using it at 600mm, its still pin-sharp. High ISO performance is fantastic for such a low price. Again there are much better options out there but once you start to look at lenses that outperform this one you rapidly start to add zeros to the price tag.
If you have the money to get the Sport from the off its a different story. But, because its a lot more expensive, it isn't worth upgrading from the Contemporary in my opinion, the higher image quality is negligible, it weighs more and the aperture range is the same. The only substantial benefit of an upgrade would be the tripod collar.
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