Gear


Lens Review: Sigma 150-600mm

September 18, 2015

By Greg Scoblete

Sigma’s 150-600mm Contemporary puts a versatile zoom range into the hands of full-frame camera owners on a budget.

Sigma describes its Contemporary line as targeting photographers seeking “high performance and portability.” As opposed to the Sports version of this same lens, the Contemporary features a slightly different optical makeup with fewer lens elements and less weathersealing in the name of keeping the weight down.

We paired with co-tester David Patiño, New Jersey-based photographer and director, to see how it fared.

Features

The 150–600mm Contemporary lens has an aperture range of f/5–6.3, with a minimum aperture of f/22 and a minimum focusing distance of 110 inches. You’ll enjoy a three-mode image stabilization system (one of which being “off”) that leverages an accelerometer to keep things steady when you’re panning.

The lens can be set to full-time manual focus, autofocus or manual focus override, which lets you dial in focus manually during autofocus. Using the optional $59 USB dock, you can make focus micro-adjustments and keep firmware up to date. You’ll also need the dock to program the lens’ two custom function options with AF speed instructions, choosing drive speed priority when you want the fastest possible AF performance or focus accuracy priority when precision is paramount. 

The 150–600mm Contemporary is available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts.   

Design

As you’d expect, the 150–600mm is a substantial piece of kit (as the British would say), but given its dimensions, not uncomfortable to shoot handheld for short stretches. We found the zoom ring to be nice and smooth, though the focus ring wasn’t the silkiest experience we’ve ever had. Our fingers occasionally butted up against the rotatable tripod collar when focusing, too. 

The only weathersealing you’ll enjoy on this lens is around the mount, although the front and rear elements have an oil and water-repellant coating. Despite the lack of overall weather protection, the Contemporary feels durable in the hand and not overbearingly heavy at 4.3 pounds.

While the lens lets you lock the zoom in place, it only does so at specific focal length intervals, which are marked on the lens—not freely throughout the zoom range. When the lens is not locked, you will get a bit of lens creep if you turn it upside down. 

Image Quality and Performance

Patiño told us that image quality and sharpness were solid when paired with his Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Mark III. As expected, center sharpness drops off as you push out toward the end of the focal length when shooting at the maximum aperture, but nothing too glaring until you’re out at the very end. Closing the aperture helps at the 500mm and 600mm range. There was some vignetting visible at 150mm. 

Patiño was more impressed with the image stabilization, which he said did an impressive job even out to the far reaches of the focal length. The lens is fairly quiet during autofocus, although not very fast, Patiño said. 

Bottom Line

The Contemporary probably isn’t the best choice for pros demanding the highest quality optics, cost be damned. Sports and nature photographers may be leery about taking this lens into any but the most pacific climates, which is why we’d suggest the Sport edition of the lens for those needs. 

For photographers on a budget who are willing to live with a narrower aperture, the Contemporary is a steal with a versatile zoom range that’s not available from either Canon or Nikon. Don’t forget that Tamron makes its own 150–600mm f/5–6.3 lens for Canon, Nikon and (unlike Sigma) Sony full-frame cameras that retails for just $20 less than the Contemporary. It too offers stabilization, full-time manual focusing and a nearly identical weight. Unlike Sigma’s lens, the Tamron has a removable (not just rotatable) tripod collar, but doesn’t offer the custom function buttons—though Sigma requires the optional dock to access them, which can add to the price if you don’t already own one. We haven’t tested Tamron’s 150–600mm, so we can’t declare a winner, but we found the Contemporary a solid, budget-friendly telephoto.

Sigma 150-600MM F/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary

Pros: Good value; lightweight; weathersealed mount; excellent image stabilization.

Cons: Custom functions not programmable out of the box; small focus ring tough to use near tripod color.

Price: $1,089

Related: Sigma Debuts New Full Frame Art Lens

Sigma Releases New 24mm Art Lens, DP Quattro Series Camera

Lens Roundup: 18 Lenses for Any Need

Sigma Announces Lens Mount Conversion Service (and 4-Year Warranty)