Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens field test: Excellent value in a lightweight telephoto zoom

Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens field test: Excellent value in a lightweight telephoto zoom

Nikon and Canon’s long glass may be getting slightly lighter over the years, but those flagship lenses are also getting incredibly expensive. Fortunately there is a crop of third party value-priced lenses that have arrived to help out consumers. We’ve reviewed several of them in the past, like the , , and , but until now hadn’t gotten the chance to take the lighter-weight of Sigmas two superzooms, the into the field. Our annual Alaska bear & puffin photo safari was the perfect opportunity. Two weeks of mid-range use for the bears coupled with longer-range use with the Puffins gave me a chance to put the lens through its paces.


Lighter, smaller, and less expensive, but still feels like a real lens

The first thing you notice when picking up the is how much smaller and lighter it is than the big-boy flagship lenses like the , and especially the Canon 200-400mm f/4 lens. Of course those lenses are in a different league when it comes to speed and ahead on overall image quality, but the Sigma is literally about 1/10th the price and half the weight, so it has a lot going for it. At 4.3 pounds, it is noticeably easier to carry, both in the field and in a camera bag. But you still get all the bells and whistles. The lens is image stabilized, includes focus ranges, and has a high-speed focus motor. The build quality –while not as rugged or weatherproof as its big brother the , is still plenty solid for most usage. For shooting in the rain I simply used a rain cover and all was fine.

Alaskan brown bear cub, , ,
f/6 (wide open) @ 1/1500s, ISO 560

Ergonomics and handling

I had no problem at all using the lens, either hand held as needed or on a tripod for the most part. It does have the typical Sigma issue of placing the lens collar close to the lens mount. That makes it a bit tricky to use with a Sidekick or similar side mount tripod head. However, it worked perfectly with the slick little that I now use quite a bit when I don’t have a massive lens to support and need to limit the weight of everything I’m hauling.

The lens has a full complement of user controls, including two stabilization choices, near and far range limits, custom functions controlled through software, and a sliding lock to confine it to its shortest length (150mm). The focus and zoom rings are both smooth and solid, as are all the switches. It comes with a single, compact, lens hood that fits nicely either in place or turned around and placed over the end of the lens. At 4.1-inches wide and 10.2-inches long, the lens fits easily in any bag designed for carrying long lenses.

The lens focuses down to 110 inches (about 9 feet). While the lens isn’t as weatherproof as the Sport version, Sigma says the mount is “splash and dust proof” which is a big plus for anyone using this lens on safari. Another nice feature of many of the value-priced long lenses like this one is that you can use a front filter. In this case a 95mm version. Probably not a size you have lying around, but less expensive than custom drop-in filter holders.

Alaskan brown bear with cub, , ,
1/750s @ f/8, 310mm, ISO 800

Image Quality

Once you get over the fact that super zooms have a hard time comparing image quality with their prime lens competitors, then it is a matter of how much of a tradeoff you are willing to make. From my experience the is right up there with other Nikon-compatible super zooms for equivalent ranges – even when shooting on my unforgiving . It isn’t nearly on a par with the new , but that is over 10x the price and twice the size. I expect the rumored new Nikon 200-400mm f/4 lens to be equally large and expensive.

This image illustrates both the amazing strengths and the limitations of lightweight rigs.
It is a 2:1 crop of a 900mm effective image shot with a $1200 camera and $1100 lens.
As such it is (IMO) an amazing testament to the technology.
Look closely, you can see that a or with a
would provide a visible improvement, but at 5x the price and twice the weight.

If you're enjoying these images, come join us in Alaska
July, 2018 will be our 19th year photographing these amazing bears

Real-world images for sharpness comparison

I wanted to see how this lens’s sharpness held up at the long end, so I took a closer look at a couple of my Alaska images. The first is at 600mm with a Nikon D7500 (making it an effective 900mm). The first thing you notice is that the Autofocus of the camera and motor on the lens were actually fast enough to track the center Horned Puffin as it leapt into flight. The Puffin looks quite sharp as a result, so I cropped out the center section so you can see in a little more detail. Clearly there is some visible softness compared to the image I could have gotten with a $12,000 600 f/4, but that is to be expected. For most practical uses, there is plenty of detail available – even given the relatively-low 20MP resolution of the Nikon D7500.

Horned Puffins, , @ 600mm,
f/6.3 (wide open) @ 1/800s, ISO 400


Crop from Puffin image, viewed at 100%

Alaskan brown bear, , @ 480mm,
f/6 (wide open) @ 1/1000s, ISO 800


Crop from bear image, viewed at 100%



For the money, and because of its light weight, I can absolutely recommend this lens for someone who wants a reasonably-priced superzoom. If you don’t need the length at both ends, then the would also be a great option. If you want to be able to bash the lens about, and use it in all weather conditions, then you can consider the . All in all, at .


Focal Length
150 - 600mm
Comparable 35mm Equivalent on APS-C Format Focal Length: 225 - 900 mm

Maximum: f/5 - 6.3
Minimum: f/22

Camera Mount Type
Nikon F

Format Compatibility
35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor

Angle of View
16.4° - 4.1°

Minimum Focus Distance
110.2" (2.80 m)

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

20 / 14

Image Stabilization


Tripod Collar

Filter Thread
Front:95 mm

Dimensions (DxL)
Approx. 4.1 x 10.2" (10.41 x 25.91 cm)

4.3 lb (1.95 kg)