At long last they’re all out, in stock and making every aspiring wildlife photographer on a budget scratch their head and wonder which one they should own? Of course I’m talking about the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 VC, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG Contemporary and the Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E VR. These three budget super telephoto zoom lenses compete with each other directly at their price points, reach and heft; but the big question remains – how do they stack up optically? This was my quest when looking at the three lenses: I wanted to find out which of the three deserves the crown as the best budget-friendly super telephoto zoom. Let’s take a look at the lenses in more detail.
Although Tamron pioneered the release of the first 150-600mm lens, Sigma followed suit by releasing two versions of lenses with exactly the same focal length and aperture ranges. The smaller and lighter version, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary (the one we are reviewing today), targets the same market as the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, while the much larger and heavier “Sport” version is something unique to Sigma, with no other equivalent competing offers from any other manufacturer. Being able to reach 600mm without spending a lot of money has been a big dream of many wildlife photographers on a budget, because anything close to the 600mm range typically translates to a very large expense – as much as $12K for the latest generation 600mm f/4 lenses. While the current 150-600mm lenses cannot offer the maximum aperture of f/4, they give a huge focal range to work with, which can be particularly useful when photographing subjects at varying distances. As many 600mm prime lens owners know, shooting with long glass is not an easy task due to both weight and atmospheric haze concerns. Such lenses can be quite limiting when the action is close, such as when photographing bears in Alaska, or taking pictures on an African safari. For such occasions, many pros love the 200-400mm f/4 lenses, because they give that flexibility to shoot action at both close and long distances. However, the high cost and the weight concerns are still there, making such lenses prohibitive for budget-conscious enthusiasts and pros who prefer shooting hand-held. And that’s when the 150-600mm lenses come to the rescue, offering great performance in a lightweight and relatively low-budget package. At just over $1K and a total weight of 1930 grams (4.25 pounds), the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is a very attractive lens for sports and wildlife photographers. In this review, we will be taking a closer look at this lens and compare it to the Tamron 150-600mm lens that we previously reviewed and loved.
With the Photo Plus show, a lot of manufacturers including Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax and Sigma have announced great promotions in the form of instant savings ranging from $50 all the way to thousands of dollars. Canon is basically discounting every DSLR, including the new Canon 5DS R (which is currently $300 off), and if you go for some specific kits like the Canon 7D with 28-135mm lens, you can save up to $750. The new Canon 7D II has been discounted heavily too. You can purchase it with the Pixma Pro-100 printer for $1,249 after a $350 mail-in rebate, which is a pretty sweet deal. If you shoot Nikon, the “Buy Together and Save” program is still actively going, with savings up to $1,100 when you get the D810 with the 24-120mm lens. And speaking of the D810, the camera itself has been heavily discounted by a whopping $500, so if you don’t need to buy a lens, you can grab the D810 body only for $2,800. B&H will sweeten the deal even more by giving you a 2% reward card and a few accessories worth another $100.
While the new Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 seems like a wonderful chunk of glass for those who do not mind a 1.35 kg beast, Sigma has just released its new 20mm f/1.4 Art-series lens, which is a much wider lens, while being as fast as the Otus. In fact, Sigma claims this one to be another “world’s first” as far as the focal length and the aperture – the next fastest lens is the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G. With its MSRP of $899, the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art is only $100 more than Nikon’s excellent 20mm f/1.8G, so the big question is, is 2/3 of a stop worth the $100 premium Sigma is asking for? Well, the answer to that question is not so simple, because there is a lot more than just stops involved here. Sigma’s 20mm f/1.4 Art is completely different optically compared to the Nikon. First of all, we are dealing with a lens that has more superior optical glass inside, with 5 low-dispersion, two ultra low-dispersion and two aspherical lenses. One of those aspherical elements is particularly difficult to make, because it is a “double” aspherical lens with a large 59mm diameter. Essentially this element was the reason that Sigma was able to produce a 20mm f/1.4 – something no other manufacturer was able to achieve to date. So in a way, we can consider the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 to be in a different class of its own when compared to the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G. However, there is one major pitfall – due to the large element on the front of the lens, it cannot take any regular screw-on filters!
Ever since Sigma announced their new direction with reorganizing new lenses into three different “Contemporary”, “Art” and “Sports” product lines, the company has been successfully rolling out a number of truly groundbreaking lenses. We were blown away by the optical quality of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens, which topped our lens charts as one of the sharpest lenses we have seen to date. Then we welcomed the updated Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art and were quite inspired by world’s first f/1.8 constant aperture zoom lens, the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art. Earlier this year, Sigma announced yet another addition to the “Art” line of lenses, again in the “world’s first” category, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art. Built on the concept of the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art, the 24-35mm f/2 was redesigned to cover the full-frame image circle, while maintaining the superb optical performance. The result was a larger and heavier lens, but one that was to challenge primes from 24mm to 35mm focal lengths. Set on to go head to head with such primes specifically, the biggest question I had was – could this lens actually optically challenge prime lenses? If it performed well optically, that’s a single lens which could potentially replace such lenses as the Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G, 28mm f/1.8G and 35mm f/1.8G in a single package – a rather tough challenge, as those lenses are quite strong performers on their own.
Sigma has just announced world’s first large aperture full-frame wide-angle zoom lens with a constant aperture of f/2, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art. Built on the concept of the already successful Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art lens for APS-C cameras, the 24-35mm f/2 Art offers similar advantages to full-frame camera shooters. With this announcement, Sigma challenges other prime lenses between from the 24mm to the 35mm range, claiming that this one lens can replace them all and offer the same quality and sharpness in a single, versatile and convenient package. The lens will be available for Nikon, Canon and Sigma mounts and at this time, there is no word yet on the pricing.
Earlier this year I had a chance to go on a safari to the Serengeti to see the Great Migration and other wonders. After reading Gord Aker’s excellent article about his trip to Africa I thought it could be interesting to make a field report and share my experience with the brand new Sigma 150-600mm Sport which accompanied me during the trip.
In advance of the Photography Life’s full review on the Sigma Sport 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM/S superzoom, 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 Photography Life reader 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.
Just a day after Sigma announced its 24mm f/1.4 Art lens, it has now also announced both pricing and availability of the Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art lens. I honestly expected over $1K price for this quality of the lens, so I was a bit shocked to see that the lens will be sold at $849, which is tremendous value if you compare it to Nikon and Canon 24mm f/1.4 counterparts. Another much anticipated lens, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is also available for pre-order for $1,089, which is priced right around the same as the Tamron 150-600mm which we highly praised in our in-depth review. Both lenses are expected to ship around March 20, 2015.
The announcement of the new 24mm f/1.4 Art lens by Sigma comes as no surprise. It is a very obvious, and a very delightful move by the lens manufacturer, and is certainly a fitting addition to the renewed lens lineup. Featuring a wide-angle focal length of 24mm and a very wide aperture of f/1.4, this lens sits comfortably next to such highly-regarded siblings as the 35mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.4 Art lenses. It will also directly compete against such brand lenses as the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G and the Canon 24mm f/1.4L II, both of which are renowned for their optical performance as well as build quality. Quite the competition, then, but if previous Sigma Art lenses are anything to go by, the new tool should be remarkable.