In working for Fstoppers, we often get the chance to test and review new gear. When an assignment to try the new Sigma 150-600mm popped up, my ears instantly perked up. Superzooms are my secret weapon, and I am excited to share the results of my testing with you.
I have spent my career traveling the world, photographing wildlife, from great gray owls to wild horses, peregrine falcons, red foxes, wolves, puffins, and so much more. What have I been photographing all of these animals with, you ask? Barring when I am testing gear, the tool in my kit is a Sigma supertelephoto zoom. This entire time, one lens has created nearly my whole wildlife portfolio, and that is the Sigma 50-500mm. Tried and true, this glass has survived harsh conditions from snow to salt and been reliable. This lens is many years old, however, and I have to use an adapter to fit it to my mirrorless camera. So, how would the latest and greatest update of the iconic “Bigma” in E mount fashion fare in my hands out in the wild? Well, let me tell you a tale of an epic thunderstorm, two hurricanes, and little ole me out in the field, crafting through it all with this versatile lens.
Behold the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Sports Lens for Sony E, a beast of a lens in a compact package compared to a prime of equal focal length. The advantage to a 150-600mm is not only in the weight and size savings but also in the versatility of having optical zoom to adjust to changing compositions in the field. Part of the challenge and fun with photographing wildlife is that they move, and a zoom lets you “move” with them. I also find this especially helpful to quickly zoom in for tight shots and then zoom out to create a more environmental portrait showing the wildlife in their habitat.
- E-Mount Lens, Full Frame Format
- Aperture Range: f/5 to f/22
- Four FLD Elements, Two SLD Elements
- Super Multi-Layer Coating
- OS and Custom Mode Switch
- Dual Action Zoom System
- OS Image Stabilization
- Zoom Torque Switch, Arca-Type Foot
- Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm
- Durable Brass Bayonet Mount
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Specs
- Focal Length: 150 to 600mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/5 to 6.3
- Minimum Aperture: f/22 to 29
- Lens Mount: Sony E
- Lens Format Coverage: Full Frame
- Angle of View: 16.4° to 4.1°
- Minimum Focus Distance: 22.8" / 58 cm
- Maximum Magnification: 0.34x
- Macro Reproduction Ratio: 1:2.9
- Optical Design: 25 Elements in 15 Groups
- Diaphragm Blades: 9, Rounded
- Focus Type: Autofocus
- Image Stabilization: Yes
- Tripod Collar: Removable
- Filter Size: 95 mm (Front)
- Dimensions (ø x L): 4.3 x 10.5" / 10.9 x 26.7 cm
- Weight: 74.1 oz / 2.1 kg
The new Sigma 150-600mm is a huge upgrade from my old 50-500mm. Sigma has completely overhauled the lens, and the “redesigned autofocus system offers both speed and precision by incorporating an AF actuator driven by a stepping motor, as well as a high-precision magnetic sensor.” As someone who has used both lenses, I can feel the difference in the speed. The Sigma 150-600mm quickly picks up targets and in my camera's continuous mode, which is my go-to for birds in flight or wild horses, the autofocus stayed locked onto the subject. Precise gear like this can be the difference between getting the shot or missing a key moment.
What I Enjoyed Most About the Sigma 150-600mm Lens
My favorite aspects of the Sigma 150-600mm lens are that its compact size allows it to easily fit in my carry on camera backpack, it has the versatility of the zoom, and the weight is hand-holdable, with the backup of a strong optical stabilizing system. It also has some extra features that photographers may enjoy including a zoom torque switch to customize the zoom resistance, OS mode switch, focus limiter, and three customizable AFL buttons. The luxury of the customizable zoom and AFL buttons felt great. Sigma took note of how much of a valuable tool telephoto lenses are for us and added so many ways to adjust and tweak the lens to suit your specific needs.
What Didn't Work For Me
In using the Sigma 150-600mm for several months, the only part that I wished I could change was the included tripod foot. This is a nitpick for sure, as it has nothing to do with the stellar optics but rather the design of the exterior. As an avid hand-holder for my gear, the tripod foot is much smaller than that of my older Sigma 50-500mm. I use the tripod foot as a handle, and the older, much longer version even has finger indents for this exact use. I did some digging and saw that Sigma offers an optional replacement foot for purchase. The Sigma TS-81 Lens Foot for 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sport Lens is much longer, but it still has the same flat design, no finger indents. It would totally work as a handle, but I am spoiled by the grip of a tripod foot with indents for your hand.
In The Field
So, what adventures were had with this beast of a lens? Well, first off, I took the lens around locally just to get a feel for it. With many trails near home, I was able to test it on some birds and local wildlife like deer and squirrels. With the rut about to begin, I went hiking where I hoped to see deer and caught a gorgeous young buck crossing the river. A few fawns in tall grass were a good test, and the lens accurately picked the fawn over the blades of swaying grasses. This was a great first impression.
Next I had plans to take it on assignment with me, and then, disaster struck, literally. Two back-to-back hurricanes completely ruined my plans. I was able to reschedule, and that is where the fun began. Rescheduling meant all my trips were now back to back, so the lens got tested in all manner of conditions, from the salty sandy beaches, to photographong wild horses, to the mountains of New England for alpine wildlife.
While out on an island, photographing wild horses, a maritime thunderstorm blew in. You could feel the pressure drop, and the air got a strange quality of humidity and static. The clouds were coming in, and I was knee-deep in the tidal marsh, photographing the horses. The Sigma 150-600mm handled the low light like a champ, and the zoom capability allowed me to pull back to 150mm and get photos showing the gorgeous clouds. I quickly went to high ground, and as a fun aside from reviewing the 150-600mm, brought out my Sigma 17-50mm to capture the epic lightning storm that went all through the night.
In the following days, I tested the Sigma 150-600mm on the wild horses as they galloped across the beach, fought over territory, and even raced through the surf.
Next, I had two back-to-back trips to New England for the amazing spectacle of autumn color. I look forward to these trips every year, and nature did not disappoint. While traditionally a landscape trip with wide angle lenses, I found use for the 150-600mm in creating tighter images. While on a lake teaching a photography workshop, the lens was perfect for capturing kayakers drifting by and the distant mountains ablaze in fall color. I also brought it hiking for the smaller wildlife one sees in the iconic old growth New England forests. The quick and tiny flitting birds, red squirrels, and chipmunks all put on a show for testing this lens.
Back home with many full memory cards of photographs from testing this lens, I can say that in all kinds of weather, light, times of year, and subject matter, it was able to perform. As a full-time photographer specializing in wildlife and landscapes, the Sigma 150-600mm seamlessly fit into my kit. If you would like to pick one up for your kit, you can find them in stock now at B&H.
Love the article - as always you have created another really interesting read. Thanks for that!
As I read the article, I couldn't help but notice some similarities between your recent experience and my own. I also just bought a Sigma zoom. But it is a bit different - it's the 60-600mm.
I bought it on the recommendation of a friend of mine who is a highly successful commercial photographer in the outdoor sports and wildlife genres. If he says it's tack sharp and autofocuses rapidly, then I know it does because he knows his stuff. A mutual friend of ours also uses the 60-600mm for contract work with Animal Planet and BBC, so I know if Sigma zooms are good enough for these two guys, they're going to be good enough for my needs.
Like you, I've been testing the lens out for the past couple months. Because we both shoot primarily wildlife, I feel like the scenarios I've used it in are very similar to those that you've used your 150-600mm in. Wildlife in all sorts of conditions! And, like you, I have yet to be at all disappointed with my new Sigma f6.3 zoom.
I found that even at f6.3 as a maximum aperture opening, it produces some nice, smooth bokeh, even with moderately "busy" background vegetation. That alone says a lot for its optical qualities.
This will now be my primary lens, relegating my huge 300-800mm and my 100-400mm to backup / alternate duty. Having a long lens that is so light and hand-holdable is such a blessing!
Great article and I loved the images - Just two questions/comments though...
1) What's the weight distribution like when zoomed vs not-zoomed - This was weak area on similar lenses.
2) I've got the Sony 200-600 and absolutely love it, I wonder how this new lens compares on AF speed with the Sony...
If you’ve got something that works for you, don’t change what ain’t broke.
Agree 100%. Still curious though.
As for if the Sony works... That's nuanced. It's a big lens. It takes a big bag, which creates other issues...
If I have to fly, it's long haul. Some carriers allow you to buy excess baggage ($120 for our national carrier), some don't.
This means either taking the walkaround pack, barely within size limits and definitely over weight (even with counting some contents as a "personal item") or packing the walkaround into your checked and using a smaller pack that prevents you from using the camera...
Some carriers allow a small "personal item" bag, some don't. For SE Asia (my next trip), most don't.
Buying a lens for one trip and then selling it afterwards _may_ be cheaper than my adding $200-700 to the trip cost by having to select carriers on features instead of price (not always possible). Also if the AF is better, it'd be totally worth it for a "once in a lifetime" type trip.
Sony throttles performance of third party lenses, so you wouldn’t get the same FPS, and I believe the 200-600 uses better focusing motors. The sigma lens has been described as “adequate” or “average” in the focusing speed dept iirc
I have two main camera bags that I use, an old Lowepro Mini Trekker and a new Lowepro Pro Trekker 550 both of which are airline carry on size. The Sigma 150-600mm on my Sony mirrorless fit in either bag in the main center compartment. Plenty of space on either side for my filter pouch and other lenses.
According to IATA, my LowePro ProTactic BP 450 AW II is carry on size but the weight is the issue. All up with as much as I dare in checked luggage I was still over 10KG. My concern was that it was going to look heavy, so would attract attention and therefore scrutiny.
Even the BP 350 AW II (what I used before the 200-600) was enough to be weighed and shoved through the test frame sometimes.
I'll be taking 2x bodies, 2x lenses, 1x flash and accessories (power bank, router, misc electronics) on the next trip. Considering the budget nature of some carriers, I need to seriously consider the 350 and no lenses mounted with the 450 checked or risking arguments by taking only one camera bag...
Two bags to get past size/weight means booking accommodation that I won't be using for one leg of my trip :-)
As the saying goes, no such thing as a free lunch...
I usually wear my camera backpack as my carry on and have a zipping style tote bag as my personal item. In desperate times you can wear a jacket or vest with pockets and put a lens or your flash in there to make it through. I've never had to do so yet, and *knock on wood* never had them weigh my camera bag. With the 550 they just see all the camera stuff and wave me by. YMMV though.
Hi Jon! To answer your questions, the balance never felt off to me however I'm used to using lenses like this. I think if it was someones first time (either with the tripod foot as handle or on the ball head when extended) it might feel long but not heavy on the front element side.
I haven't tried the Sony 200-600mm so I can't compare from personal experience. I do however appreciate the wider super telephotos with 50mm or 150mm on the short side.
Hi Kate, thanks for taking the time to reply!
I played with the Tamron and Sigma options before buying the Sony 200-600 in late 2019. Whilst I didn't think of the balance as "off", it certainly didn't feel as natural as the Sony... I don't know what made me feel that way though. Perhaps it's because it felt different to handling a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 and the Sony is about the same size and weight?
For the short side, I've got a PD Clip on my LowePro ProTactic BP 450 AW II and the body with the 24-105 on that, so I don't miss the wide end.
Tom Reichner Thank you for the thoughtful reply to my review. I'm traveling teaching and testing more gear right now and wanted to reply asap even though I'm using my phone to do so. Hopefully I'll have few autocorrect typos.
I appreciate you sharing your experiences with your Sigma super telephoto too! Your example photos are great and in line with what I experienced. The rutting elk in the water photo is really something. I bet that was great to witness in person. I just saw elk rutting in Colorado but they were just in a field bugling, and not fighting like yours.
I'm not sure if youre like me in this way but I actually prefer to handhold my camera for most, especially fast moving, wildlife. I can easily do that with lenses like the Sigma 150-600mm. Combine that light weight with fast autofocus and that's a winner for me.
Have you ever tried to do zoomed in landscape or compressed macro photos yet with your Sigma? That can be fun, I like to zoom into mountains and catch the details.
P.S. I have a couple more reviews coming soon as well as articles on other photography topics. 😉
Kate G asked,
"Have you ever tried to do zoomed in landscape or compressed macro photos yet with your Sigma? That can be fun, I like to zoom into mountains and catch the details."
The opportunity to do zoomed in landscape photos has not arisen in the month and a half since I acquired the Sigma. But I often photograph mountains and mountain details with longer zooms. My Canon 100-400 is actually my favorite landscape lens, as it is great at what you mentioned - zooming into mountain peaks to catch details. I have no doubt the Sigma 60-600 will be even better for mountain scenes, because it is wider at the short end and longer at the long end.
I am not quite sure what you mean by "compressed macro", but sounds interesting and i would enjoy hearing you explain the term to me.
The only macro-like opportunity that I have had while out with the new Sigma was when I was photographing Pika on an alpine rockslide. A butterfly came along to feed on the alpine wildflowers. It struck my eye because it was especially colorful, and it was a species I have never seen before. The only lens I had with me was the 60-600mm Sigma, so I did my best to get close-ups of the butterfly. I was pleasantly surprised at the close minimum focus distance of the Sigma at 600mm. I was able to get a reasonably close image of the butterfly even though I had such a long focal length. It can't do anything like my true macro lens would be able to do, but then again the butterfly was quite skittish, and being able to shoot at 600mm allowed me to stay back so it wouldn't fly off before I could get some photos.
That's another great feature of the Sigma - maybe not true macro, but close enough for some nice close up work with smaller subjects. The specs say that its minimum focus distance allows for 0.3x magnification, which is quite impressive for such a long lens!
That could come in very handy with snakes and lizards next spring.
Compressed macro to me is kind of what you did with the butterfly, I zoom out to max 600mm on a small subject. If I get low the perspective being farther away and zoomed in creates a different and more flat background versus being up close with a 100mm macro if you match the composition side by side.
Awesome article, and timely as I’ve been considering a long telephoto for wildlife. Sold my 120-300 a while ago since it wasn’t getting close enough but I’ve been on the fence about what to replace it with. Definitely need to rent one of these to see how it performs!
And gorgeous photos, the wild horses are always lovely.
Thank you Stvart 😊 give the Sigma a try, it's definitely worth a look!
I’m tempted! About half my kit is sigma as it is, but I’m usually more drawn to internal zooms as opposed to extending zooms hence the dilemma
So which body was used here?
A 61mp sensor is rather more testing than a 24mp one.
I photographed with the Sony a7RIV for all of these. ☺️
I find these written reviews lot more helpful than videos. Here, I can see the quality of still images and also the capabilities of the lens. It is well done review. I used this lens on the Canon mount sometime ago. Somehow, it seems better with E mount or you are just a great photographer. Can you tell us what were your camera settings for the spectacular lightening photograph.
Aww thank you Sridhar for the kind compliments! 😊 Which mount version did you try? I used the Sony a7RIV with the Sigma 150-600mm so it was e mount as you mentioned. I'm traveling at the moment, if I remember correctly my settings for the lightning were f/18, 30s and ISO in the range of 100-400. The big lightning flashes give you a huge burst of bright light so I adjust exposure based on the type of storm and my distance to the active cloud. Maybe I should do an article on lightning tips? Hmm. 🤔😊
I just want to add that I find your Whitetail buck photo most excellent! I mean the photo in this article where he is walking in shallow water with lush deciduous foliage in the background. As a Whitetail Deer specialist, I can appreciate what a special and rare opportunity this was, and you certainly appear to have made the most of the opportunity by capturing that spectacular image!
Might I ask what focal length it was taken at? Also, did you happen to take any frames at a wider field fo view, or did time (moving deer) not allow for many varying compositions? Sorry for all the questions, but when I see such a compelling image I can't help to want to know all about it!
Thank you Tom! 😊 It was absolutely a special moment. I saw the buck crossing the river and I was on the wrong side. So I literally ran downriver, crossed a footbridge and got to the other side as he was nearing the middle of the river. If I had more time I would have waded farther into the water, gotten lower and taken a few different angles for sure. I did get a few with some variety but none super wide, the rest of the set is on my site. It all happened so fast I'm really happy with that main photo though. Ended up with that photo set and a wet butt and boots for it. 😅
That's a great "story behind the photo"! Thank you for the details. Going to your site now to see what else is there from this encounter.
If they aren't all on my site I can add more of the set up and/or send them to you when I'm home. I might not have as many posted as I thought come to think of it. There should be 3-5 images total. I might have held back until the review was posted and it went up while I'm up north here teaching fall color workshops, but I cant remember now. I'm at a Cafe in New Hampshire right now. 😊☕️
I looked for them on your website, and only that one frame was there from that encounter with the buck.
But yes it'd be great to see the others. I learn a lot when I see multiple frames from the same opportunity - seeing images taken from different positions and at different angles of view is very interesting!
By the way, I could spend hours looking at the images on your site. Blown away at the diversity of all the different wildlife you have been able to shoot, in so many different places. What an interesting life you must live!
Ahh I'm sorry I thought I'd added them but then on second thought I must not have. I'll post them here when I get home in a day or so, promise!
Thank you as well for checking out my work and the positive feedback. I've been traveling nonstop the past few months so I will have a lot more new work once I get a chance to post process. I was just camping across Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico most of September. I put up a few that I needed for an article but I have over a terabyte of images left to go through. So many adventures! I suppose I do have an interesting life. 🤔
As promised, more buck photos!
IShoot makes a lens foot with finger bumps
Nice find! Thank you for sharing that add on. 😊 The finger indents are so helpful for a sturdy grip especially when you're wearing gloves.
I also went from the 50-500 to the 150-600 Sport lens (with a minor detour with a Tamron 150-600 until the Sigma was released), which I've now had since 2018. used mostly for motorsport with my Canon 1DX Mk2, I have found it to be a perfect combination and rarely take photos with it handheld (mostly using a monopod) in any weather and usually at 600mm. (the lion photo was handheld and with a Canon 6d Mk2). cheers
That's a few great examples of how the Sigma 150-600 can handle action and movement. Thank you for sharing and adding your experience.