The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG HSM is my second Contemporary lens. Except for belonging to the same lens series as the 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM which I also have, they hardly have anything in common. It is large and heavy like every other full frame compatible telephoto lens with an extremely long focal length.
Build quality and handling
Like all lenses in the Art, Sports and Contemporary series, the 150-600mm Contemporary lens mainly consists of synthetic material called “Thermally Stable Composite”, which has absolutely nothing in common with cheap plastic. It looks like stainless steel and feels just like that.
The focus ring has a focus throw of about 140° and is very smooth. The zoom ring, on the other hand, is rather stiff, which of course is due to the large and heavy elements in the front extendible part of the lens. In order to prevent the lens from extending automatically when it points down, it can be locked with the zoom-lock-switch. This works with the following focal lengths: 150mm, 180mm, 200mm, 250mm, 300mm, 400mm, 500mm and 600mm.
The AF/MF switch just like the switch of the 50/1.4 Art lens also has the middle position “MO”, meaning “manual override”. I haven’t taken any closer look at this feature as the focus can also be adjusted manually when the switch is on AF. Right below are the switches for the focus limiter (FULL, 10m – ∞, 2,8 – 10m), image stabilization (OFF, 1, 2) and CUSTOM (OFF, C1, C2). With the latter, 2 profiles can be activated that have previously been created in the Sigma Optimization Pro Software and uploaded via the USB dock. Among other things, the speed/precision of the AF as well as the performance of the OS can be configured. All switches click firmly and, as there’s enough resistance, they can’t be adjusted inadvertently. The build quality of the entire lens is very good.
Before buying the 150-600mm C it was clear to me that such a tele-zoom lens can’t keep up with high-quality prime lenses in terms of image performance. That’s why I didn’t expect the sharpness of a prime lens and was very positively surprised by the sharp image rendition of the 150-600mm C. It’s usable straight from wide open aperture, but it does gain a bit of sharpness when it’s stopped down to f/7.1 or f/8. There’s nothing negative to say about CAs and vignetting, neither at the widest aperture nor when it’s stopped down.
I’ve attached two photos including the 100% crops below so you can see the image performance of the 150-600mm Contemporary lens for yourselves. You can find many more full resolution images on my Flickr.
Autofocus and image stabilization
Since I used it on the SD1 Merrill – a camera that’s been on the market for 5 years – I find it hard to evaluate the AF of the 150-600mm C lens. It’s more than fast enough for birds that don’t move. However, shooting photos of flying birds turns out to be difficult. I presume that the lens is quite capable of doing so, but it’s slowed down by the AF module of the SD1M which isn’t up to date anymore.
The image stabilization does an excellent job. Sharp images even work with 1/200sec, even though the hand holdability formula suggest that you should actually shoot with 1/900sec on an SD1M (APS-C). The following image was taken at 600mm (900mm @KB) with 1/50s. It isn’t razor-sharp but it shows the advantage of the image stabilizer quite well.
The 150-600mm C is an incredible value. As with all the other A/S/C lenses the build quality is excellent. Despite its extreme zoom it still creates very sharp images and it’s fully usable wide open. The AF-S is fast enough and I assume that the AF-C is fast as well – provided that the camera’s focus module is fast. As you can see above the OS compensates for up to 4 aperture stops. And you get all this for €1000 “only”. I’d say that with regards to image quality and features the price-performance ratio of the 150-600 C lens is even better than that of some Art lenses. 😉