Sigma 120-300 mm F2.8 EX DG OS lens


Sigma will be a familiar name to readers of Birdwatch; various lenses have been reviewed in the magazine over the years and they are very popular with photographers, providing a budget balancing act between quality and price. As well as these quality budget-priced lenses, Sigma also produces some high-spec choices, including the 120-300 mm f2.8 lens that I recently tested.

Although a little on the short side for nature reserve hide work or staking out rarities, this is an ideal focal length for other occasions, such as visiting seabird colonies, close-up hide work and flight photography. Deciding that flight shots would be the ultimate test for the lens, I headed to Martin Mere WWT, Lancashire, to try it out on the many wildfowl present in late winter.

Internal focusing and zooming means the lens doesn’t change length when in use. At 2,950 g it’s not light, but you can’t have a fast f2.8 aperture and the other features on a lens this size without the weight. I didn’t find it a problem as I’m used to carrying a 500 mm f4 with me, but those used to lightweight variable aperture zooms will notice the difference.

I did notice the speed of the autofocus (AF); it zipped onto the birds very quickly, and with the added bonus of Sigma’s optical stabilising (OS) system, my images looked very sharp and crisp on the camera screen. Whooper Swans bathing, taking off and flying were photographed, but I was after something with more of a challenge, and at swan feeding time, the flying Northern Pintail and Shelduck arrived – now that was more like it!

There is no gliding in when these birds come to feed; they fly from the lakes and hurtle down among the hundreds of Whoopers, leaving very little time to compose and focus a shot as the birds head straight towards the lens. But the 120-300 mm coped very well, and locked on quickly and quietly to a flying pintail that hurtled towards me, and then onto a Shelduck that followed closely behind. I was hand-holding the lens for this series of images, but a built-in mount provides for the tripod option also.

I was impressed when using this lens, and then even more impressed when I checked the images on screen at home. There were a lot of super sharp shots and colours and contrast were excellent. Anyone buying and using this lens will be taking some excellent quality images home with them.

Tech spec

Weight: 2,950 g
Size: 114.4x289 mm
Close focus: 150-250 cm
Aperture: F2.8-f22
Guarantee: 1 year
Available for Nikon, Canon and Sigma camera bodies