2021 has shaped up to be quite the year for Sony E mount users with various manufacturers pumping out a ton of good gear across various focal ranges. Earlier this summer we got a look at the Tamron 150-500 which in its own right is a fantastic lens. And now, not more than a month or so later we have Sigma coming in hot and heavy with their new 150-600 DG DN Sport lens. There is a lot to talk about so lets get to it!
- Focal length: 150-600mm
- Max Aperture: f/5.0-6.3
- Minimum Aperture: f/22-29
- Angle of view: 16.4° to 4.1°
- Minimum focus distance: 22.8″ / 58 cm
- Maximum magnification: 0.34x
- Macro reproduction ratio: 1:2.9
- Optics: 25 Elements in 15 Groups
- Diaphragm blades: 9, Rounded
- Filter size: 95 mm (Front)
- Dimensions: 4.3 x 10.5″ / 10.9 x 26.7 cm
- Weight: 74.1 oz / 2.1 kg / 4.6 lbs
Variable Aperture Range
While f/5-6.3 is quite good for the 4x optical range at play here, I feel it’s more useful to look at where the stop downs actually occur.
- f/5: 150-175mm
- f/5.6: 176-368mm
- f/6.3: 369-600mm
Big lens is big. Make no mistake, in the Sony E market there aren’t many other lenses that are larger. The one that comes to mind is the Sony 200-600. But outside of that lens, this lens takes the cake in terms of size – width, length, and weight. But, considering this is a 150-600mm lens, this larger than life persona is to be expected really. And to be fair, despite all of that being said, I’ve spent a number of outings lugging this around attached to my Sony A7rIV for hours and have survived.
The thing that immediately caught my attention and still catches it every time I pull this lens out is the lens hood. I personally am not a fan of the thumbscrew locking mechanism. Some may prefer the more sure footing that the thumbscrew provides but I tend to prefer most other lens hoods’ styles that twist on/off and lock in place without a similar screw.
It’s also worth pointing out that, as I noted above, this lens is large and as such does have a rather large front element clocking in at 95mm. This means that you’re likely going to need to get new filters if you use them, and one of the most expensive sizes of filters to boot. On the other hand, if you follow the “better practice” of filter buying and get larger filters and utilize step-down rings on smaller lenses, you’re ahead of the game. (I regret that I didn’t originally buy larger filters early on.)
The second thing I noticed is that the throw on the zoom ring is rather long. Compared to the Tamron 150-500, the 150-600 range pretty much ensures you have to re-adjust your hand at least once or extend the lens all the way out as your raise it to your eye with a larger twisting motion.
Physical impressions aside, my thoughts over the last couple of months on this lens really haven’t changed since the first week impressions solidified. That is, this lens is just as good in most regards as Tamron’s similar 150-500. The only big difference I’ve noticed is the focusing. Specifically, Tamron’s is both a bit quicker and more consistent in locking onto the subject.
As other reviews have noted, image quality is generally very sharp in the center save for corners at the far (150 and 600) ends of the range. Though, stopping down from wide open aperture ranges a couple of stops generally cleans things up. In my day-to-day usage however, I didn’t notice offensively soft corners at any point. (I’m generally. not a huge pixel peeper though.) All that said, for the pixel peepers of the world or those carrying about corner sharpness, 500-600 was probably the weakest point of this lens (which is probably why Tamron chopped off the last 100mm). Still, for those that want absolute reach, this lens (even with the noted softness near the further reaches) is still plenty usable and dare I say, not all that noticeable for most real world shooting scenarios.
Last but not least, one of the other standout features of this lens is the macro-like functionality. Sony E mount users who have picked up a Tamron lens or two know that in recent years, Tamron has given a majority of their lenses some decent to good macro-like capabilities. So too has Sigma with the 150-600. Compared to some of Sony’s native lenses (which a far less versatile in this area), this makes the Sigma really shine as a multi-purpose lens here. This functionality can’t be overstated if you’re at all into mix-used shooting. I personally haven’t shot a whole lot of macro stuff yet so a dedicated macro lens isn’t something I’ve looked much at. For now, the Sigma 150-600 combined with a higher megapixel body (I’ve been using a Sony A7rIV) is plenty usable. The caveat here of course is two-fold. 1) A dedicated macro lens will perform better and 2) a dedicated macro will definitely be smaller. This is a giant lens and certainly, if macro is what you’re after, I wouldn’t get this lens exclusively for the macro-like functionality. Think of it as a nice perk that happens to come along with the great reach and wildlife/sports focus that this lens primarily offers.
Features and functionality
Let’s take a few to break down all of the switches and buttons you’ll find on this glass cannon.
L/T/S Ring focus ring tension (outer ring) and Focus Lock
Further out on the lens in between the zoom and focus rings, you will see L/T/S focus ring tension settings + a zoom lock button. The latter is pretty self explanatory. The former is equally basic:
- L – locked: the zoom ring is locked in place (150mm only)
- T – tight: the turning is tight and breathing is non-existent
- S – smooth: the turning is much easier at the expense of definite lens breathing
- Focus type of Auto or Manual focus
- Limits the focus range to one of three options: Full range, 0-10m, and 10m to infinity
Image stabilization mode
- Mode 1: Standard mode
- Mode 2: Panning
- Mode 3: “Off” essentially
- Off | C1 | C2: On L mount (Leica) bodies, you have the ability to use the Sigma USB dock to program these. This apparently doesn’t work for Sony E mount however, so you’re stuck with these pre-programmed options:
- C1: Stabilizing the viewfinder
- C2: “Moderate View” – basically stabilizing the image at the time of capture
Comparisons to other super tele’s
Right now, the other big super tele in most people’s minds is the also new Tamron 150-500 (my review here). If reach is all you care about, obviously the Sigma is going to be the one to get. If however you have weight or size constraints, the Tamron looks a bit better as it is good enough in the reach department while being pretty even in other metrics with the Sigma. Also take into account the body you’re shooting on. If you’re using a higher megapixel body, the loss of 100mm on the long end isn’t a huge deal breaker. You can always crop in to match it. Again, the other small thing to take into consideration here is the autofocus performance. If you’re the type that shoots a lot of sports, the Tamron may be a tad better simply for the fact that the auto focus just works a bit faster and more consistently.
As you can see below, the size difference between the two isn’t huge per say, but it’s enough to make a difference.
Aside from the Tammy, the only other main super tele for Sony E mount bodies is Sony’s own 200-600 which is just a completely different beast. It too is about the same size as the Sigma when the Sigma is zoomed out. But where the Sony excels is that it’s internal zooming which bodes a bit better for constant shooting out in the elements. That said, the Sony is an aging lens and as such, doesn’t have some of the additional perks that newer lenses like the Tamron or Sigma have, namely:
- ARCA swiss mount on the tripod foot
- Decent macro lens features at the wide (150mm) end.
- Smaller form factor with similar performance
As I mentioned above, this lens intrigued me for two main reasons
- I’m looking at reach first and foremost
- size and modern features
To the reach argument, since I’m not using native Sony lenses, and Sony still restricts 3rd party lens manufacturers from making teleconverters, getting the most reach in the lens itself is crucial. The Sigma 150-600 DN is now one of the longest lenses for the Sony E mount bodies. In addition, the added perks of macro-ish functionality, ARCA tripod foot, and overall smaller form factor for transporting it add up to make quite a compelling argument. At a $100 premium over the Tamron 150-500mm, it’s not necessarily a slam dunk for cost savings. This Sigma is a great lens. The Tamron 150-500mm is also great lens. However, even though both of these have an advantage over the Sony 200-600 in terms of size, the Tamron is probably the best middle ground lens to get if size constraints are your upmost concern. As a small aside, I had to get new camera bag for multi-lens shoots as my other bag simply wouldn’t fit the Sigma 150-600 in any way or orientation. For references sake, my old bag that it wouldnt’ fit in is the Lowe Pro 250 II which features a split design. This design has the bottom half of the bag reserved for lenses and gear and the upper half is an open area that you can fit additional larger gear in, a spare change of clothes, and other random sized things. The new bag I’m using is a Lowe Pro 450 II which is design to allow the full area of the bag to be used for lenses.
For me, In the end, I’ll be keeping the Sigma 150-600 DN over the Tamron 150-500mm for the main reason noted above. But let me restate, the Tamron is a fantastic lens too. No matter which one you choose, you will be more than pleased with either.
Update: October 2022 – Macro Madness
So it’s been a few months since I originally posted this review and wanted to add an additional commen to this review — most notably update the masses on the sleeper hit of this lens, the 1:2.9 magnification at 150mm.
I know I touched on it before above. But since the original writing of this review, I have indeed found myself getting into macro increasingly over the last handful of months, so much so that I was doing probably 30-40% of my shooting with this lens only for macro shots. Which got me thinking…. is it time to just get a dedicated macro lens? In short, the answer was yes. I’m working on finishing up a review of Sigma’s 105mm f/2.8 macro for the Sony E mount. And because of that, have been spending even more time shooting macro and comparing the results as of late.
The TL;DR of it is simply this: The macro performance on this giant lens is actually quite good, especially when paired with a higher megapixel body (like the Sony A7riv I’m typically shooting with. If you’re out and walking about and shooting wildlife and worried about having to switch lenses back and forth to capture the very far and very near or carrying two bodies, you can generally get away with just using this lens. With that said, as I touched on above, a dedicated macro (along with some proper focus stacking) is going to give you the best performance. But for quick macro shots…. even printable macro shots….. it’s such an understated feature of this lens. I was reminded of this fact after seeing a few reviews recently completely gloss over the macro capabilities and figured it was worth pointing out.
Check out some sample photos here. If you’d like to follow along, I’m pretty active on a number of social networks and posting new photos all the time. Hope to see you around!