Sigma 150-500 mm f5.6-6.3 DG OS HSM
I always look forward to testing a new Sigma lens. I’ve been a user for a number of years and have bought two of those that
I have reviewed – so these tests can work out quite expensive. This lens catches the eye as the range it covers is not matched by either of the main camera manufacturers. Canon makes a 100-400 mm, while Nikon has a 80-400 mm, and both cost more than this Sigma model.
As is the norm with Sigma, the lens felt solid, well made and good in the hand. It was easy on the eye, with a nice design and finish, and had a number of useful features that I like to see in a lens: these include a zoom lock switch to prevent it slipping when being carried, and a tripod collar with a strap to attach, making it easy to carry over one shoulder, rather than using the camera’s strap and putting extra strain on the mounting.
The lens also features Sigma’s Optical Stabiliser (OS) system, which steadies the lens, reducing camera shake, and allows you to shoot hand-held at a shutter speed four times slower than would normally be possible to produce sharp results. There are two settings: 1 for static work and 2 for panning. I left it permanently on the latter, as not many birds are static.
With the strap affixed and detachable lens hood in place, I set out to see what results I could come up with, and the first time I used it was at the Steppe Grey Shrike in Lincolnshire back in November. I don’t usually test lenses on rarities as I need to concentrate on taking images of the bird rather than wondering how a lens will perform, but as this bird was so obliging and gave opportunities for a variety of shots I thought I’d give it a try. I also used it on the nearby Desert Wheatear, again to supplement the other images I was taking.
The lens was a pleasure to use, as it
was lightweight and easy to hold. I took a number of shots of both birds at different stages of the zoom range, all of which looked good on the screen.
The next test was down at my local reserve, where I was keen to give the lens a go in decent weather and try out the AF/OS systems on more difficult birds than the wheatear. Flying Common Teal provided a good test of both, as well as the photographer’s skill in keeping the ducks in the viewfinder. As the light failed another opportunity arose to photograph a close Grey Wagtail. Only 1/50th second was possible, but results looked favourable as the OS proved its worth, allowing me to keep on shooting in conditions when normally I wouldn’t have bothered.
The final test was at my feeding station – this time trying to take images of a Nuthatch
at a set-up I’d had in place during the winter – and both bird and lens performed as they should.
But, no matter how easy a lens is to use, or how good the images look on the back of the camera, it’s only when they are checked on screen and scrutinised closely that the quality of an image can be seen.
The results were very good considering the conditions under which they had been taken. Colours, contrast and sharpness were far above what I would expect from a lens costing around £700. The Nuthatch images were good enough to crop tightly, while the Common Teal in flight were as good as anything I’d taken in the past with other lenses.
The OS system is slower, as is the AF, and noisier than on my Nikon 500 mm, but as the latter costs almost eight times more, you would expect this. But the OS does work and the Grey Wagtail pics had a good level of sharpness, considering the shutter speed at which they were taken.
I also tried a 1.4x converter with the lens, but this makes the AF very slow – sometimes manual focus has to be used and there is a decrease in the sharpness level. For a more distant bird or one that only needs a record shot, it would be a useful accessory.
This lens will suit many photographers who are looking for a step up from their
70-300 mm zoom, or indeed anyone who wants the extra reach that a 500 mm will bring, and at very good value for money for the quality on offer.
Dimensions: 94.7 mm x 252 mm
Weight: 1,910 g
Close focus: 2.2 m
More details: www.sigma-imaging-uk.com
Tel: 01707 329999