I was not planning to buy this lens or even another telephoto lens for that matter until catastrophe struck. Just days before I was leaving to scout out the locations for my Jaguars and Wildlife of the Pantanal Workshop, I dropped my Nikon 500mm F4! I did not want to go to an area with so many birds without the reach of my beloved 500, so what to do? A rental was out of the question for me because the cost outweighed the expense since I did also have the Nikon 80-400mm. Buying the new version of the Nikon had been in my mind because it is lighter than my older one, but it is spendy when I already own a 500mm. So, looked at the new crop of moderately priced telephotos from Sigma, Nikon, and Tamron.
I talked to friends that owned different telephotos and read everything that I could find online before rolling the dice on the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary. I say that I gambled because I had no real scientific evidence to convince me which of the options would be a good choice for my circumstances. The Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary is very light, has great range and is affordable. Those key features were the only facts that I had to make the purchase. I figured that in the worst case I would dump it on online if it did not work out.
This post was updated with fresh links on Feb, 6, 2018, 459 days since the original review. I still have the lens, and I still love it!
Field Testing the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary
I put the lens through its paces in a wide variety of shooting situations on my trip to Brazil, and it met and exceeded my hopes. Handholding the lens was comfortable for me and having that flexibility while shooting from the boats was perfect.
The vibration reduction is excellent. I was using the Nikon D500 body (APS sensor with 1.5 crop), which means I was effectively handholding a 900mm lens in a boat!
The big question everyone has, “Is it Sharp?” Yes, it is sharp, it’s not as sharp as my 500 F4, but I never expected that. I also did not expect it to be better than my Nikon 80-400mm and it was.
Rufous-tailed Jacamar photographed with Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens. – ISO 2500, un-cropped, minimal processing, no sharpening
Heavily cropped Rufous-tailed Jacamar photographed with Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens about 80% Crop
One thing that I noticed in Brazil was the lens felt like it was slower to re-acquire focus than I was accustomed to feeling. For example, shooting birds in flight, if I lost focus it took some time to get the focus to lock again. When I got back home, I used the USB dock to tweak the settings on the lens to match my camera body. This adjustment solved the focus problem.
Pros – Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary
Cons – Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary
No replacement for the poor lens foot
Zoom ring functions in opposite direction of Nikon lenses
Conclusions – Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary Review
I really like this lens and am very happy to have it in my camera bag.
I’ve now taken thousands of images with the lens, I am impressed with the quality and the extraordinary value of the Sigma Contemporary.
It does not have the same quality bokeh as my 500, and I don’t have any plans to sell that lens…yet. However, I don’t bother taking the 500 as much anymore, it is cumbersome, and on the small weight restricted planes on safari, the size and weight become a big negative. Now that I know I can trust the quality of the Sigma, I don’t panic about not taking the Nikon 500. On local trips and when weight is of no concern, I still take my 500mm.
There was one lens casualty of putting the Sigma in my bag; I sold my Nikon 80-400mm. The 80-400 was not as sharp at 400mm, and the range overlaps were too high for me to justify keeping both lenses.