The super zoom market has really heated up over the past year or so with the launch of the Tamron 150-600 VC, the Nikon 1 CX 70-300, a new 100-400 from Canon, and two new lenses from Sigma, including the Sigma 150-600 Sport. I thought readers may like to see a few sample images along with some initial thoughts about shooting with this lens hand-held.
Before getting into this brief article I’d like to extend a big ‘thank you’ to Michael Wroblewski who very generously let me borrow his copy of the Sigma 150-600mm Sport lens so I could do some shooting at Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
NOTE: click on images to enlarge
I should point out that Michael suggested that I shoot with a monopod or tripod with this lens. Since I never normally shoot in that manner I ignored his advice and I chose to take all of my shots for this article hand-held. I’m likely one of the most ‘tripod-allergic’ photographers around so taking this approach made the most sense to me. This, of course, puts a different slant on the article, but since many photographers prefer to shoot hand-held most of the time I thought this perspective may be important to a number of readers.
As soon as you pick up the Sigma Sport 150-600 lens you immediately get a feeling of high quality and durability. This lens is beefy, weighing in at 6.3 lbs. (2.86 Kg), about 2 lbs. (almost 1 Kg) more than the Tamron 150-600 VC, Sigma 150-500 OS, Nikon 80-400 VR and other similar zoom lenses. This weight difference is very noticeable when shooting hand-held with this lens.
The zoom action is very smooth and all of the controls feel solid and tight. It is very apparent that Sigma was intent on producing a high caliber lens when they designed the 150-600 Sport. The construction seems top notch.
After spending a few hours shooting hand-held non-stop with the Sigma 150-600 Sport it’s my view that the majority of potential buyers of this lens would likely use it with a monopod or tripod most of the time. Hand-holding is possible, but unless you are used to shooting with a large, heavy lens most people would not find it comfortable to shoot with the Sigma 150-600 Sport hand-held for much more than 30-60 minutes at a time. You will definitely need to rest the lens against the crook of your elbow during lulls in the action.
I often shoot my Tamron 150-600 VC hand-held for stretches of 4-5 hours and I’d estimate that the Sigma would lead to the same level of fatigue in about half the time. The weight of the Sigma is such that I had to adjust my hand-holding technique and shooting style. I needed to bring my elbow further across my body and anchor it firmly into my mid-section as well as change my wrist angle in order to better support the added weight of the Sigma. I also found that I had to bring my shoulders forward and almost hunch around the lens to get a comfortable position to aid in weight distribution.
Normally when I find a subject for an image I focus on it by half-depressing the shutter and hold my lens steady, waiting for the exact moment to capture my shot. With my Tamron 150-600 VC I sometimes wait up to 20-30 seconds in this position before taking a single image.
With the Sigma I found this was harder to do because of the added weight and within 5-10 seconds I could feel my steadiness begin to waiver, so I needed to change my shooting style. Rather than wait for the precise moment to shoot, I decided to fire off a series of quick, individual shots shortly after the lens acquired initial focus. The Sigma 150-600 Sport reacquires focus very quickly between shots and I got good results with this approach.
The Sigma 150-600 Sport’s image stabilization seems to work quite well. If you look at the EXIF data you’ll see that I got some useable images at quite slow shutter speeds, some under 1/30th with the lens fully extended.
Auto focusing with my Nikon D800 was fast and accurate. In lower light situations focusing took a bit longer but it was still acceptable. My brother-in-law shot with the Sigma 150-600 Sport for a while with his Nikon D7000 and he did not experience any AF issues at all.
My impression is that the Sigma 150-600 Sport is sharper wide open at 600m than is the Tamron 150-600 VC. This is to be expected given that the Sigma Sport is considerably more money, costing about 85% more than the Tamron.
I must admit that I didn’t enjoy shooting with the Sigma 150-600 Sport on the first day out with it. I found that it was initially very uncomfortable and awkward to hand-hold. This was my fault for not realizing that I needed to change my approach. After I adjusted my hand-holding technique I found my results improved and the shooting experience was much more enjoyable.
Overall, I thought the Sigma was a high quality lens with a very solid and secure feel. Shooting hand-held is possible but it does require good technique and you may need to adjust your usual approach to compensate for the additional weight. I imagine the majority of photographers who buy this lens will use a monopod or tripod with it most of the time, and only shoot hand-held with it periodically, and for limited time durations.
If you’d like to see about twenty additional images shot hand-held with the Sigma 150-600 Sport lens, click on the YouTube video below.
While I think the Sigma 150-600 Sport is sharper than my Tamron 150-600 when shot wide open at maximum focal length, I’m not sure how many photographers will notice the difference once they process their RAW images. So, just for fun I inserted an image taken with my Tamron 150-600 VC in this article. The image was taken at the same venue and on the same day as the Sigma images. You may be able to spot it right away…
Technical Note: All images were shot hand-held with a Nikon D800. RAW files were processed through DxO OpticsPro 10 with a DNG file then exported into CS6 and Nik Suite for additional adjustments as needed.
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