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Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM S Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM telephoto zoom lens.

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Handling and Features

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM
This 2.5x zoom lens sports a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, silent focusing and optical stabilisation. It slots into Sigma's 'Sports' range of lenses and is especially interesting as the zoom range is similar to that of a 70-200mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter fitted, whilst maintaining a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture throughout the range. It is available to fit Canon, Nikon and Sigma cameras and costs around £3600.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Handling and Features

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM

This lens certainly isn't lightweight, tipping the scales at over three kilogrammes. Even so, the lens is reasonably easy to hand hold for short periods and it balances well with the Canon EOS 5D MkIII used for testing. The lens is finished in matte black and is dust and splash resistant.

A HSM motor powers the focusing mechanism silently, and autofocus is incredibly quick and accurate much of the time. Manual focus adjustments can be applied at any time by simply turning the focus ring, which is well damped making manual adjustments a pleasure to apply.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM

Closest focus varies depending on the zoom setting between 150cm and 250cm. This may pose issues if recomposing using the zoom near the close focus stop. Focusing is internal and 105mm filters can be fitted, although the additional cost of filters this size may put many off investing in them.

With optical stabilisation enabled, and plenty of care taken, sharp hand held shots are possible around half the time at shutter speeds as low as 1/20sec, which is roughly four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would allow. However, this may vary wildly from person to person due to the size and weight of the lens.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Performance

At 120mm, sharpness in the centre of the frame approaches excellent levels at maximum aperture. Clarity towards the edges of the frame lags behind somewhat at this setting, falling just short of good levels of sharpness. Stopping down the aperture to between f/5.6 and f/8 results in excellent sharpness across the frame for this focal length.

Zooming to 180mm results in sharpness across the frame evening a little at maximum aperture, with the clarity in the centre approaching excellent, while very good levels of clarity are achieved towards the edges of the frame. Stopping down the aperture to between f/4 and f/8 results in excellent sharpness across the frame at this focal length.

Finally, at 300mm, overall sharpness is reduced, but the lens is still very usable at all apertures. At f/2.8 clarity approaches very good levels across the frame. With the aperture stopped down to between f/4 and f/8 sharpness exceeds very good levels across the frame.


How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D MkIII using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled, with fringing remaining very low towards the edges of the frame at all zoom settings. CAs are at their strongest at 120mm and maximum aperture, where half a pixel width is just exceeded at f/2.8. This low level of fringing should pose few issues, even with images that contain high contrast edges near the edges of the frame.

Sigma120300CA@120mm |
Sigma120300CA@180mm |
Sigma120300CA@300mm |

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc. to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D MkIII using Imatest.

As you may expect from a fast aperture telephoto lens, falloff of illumination towards the corners can be spotted quite easily. Even with the corners being 1.3 stops darker than the image centre at 120mm and 1.8 stops darker at 300mm, this level is quite low for a lens of this type and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6 throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is so mild at either end of the zoom range that it will be hard to spot with the naked eye, Imatest managed to detect only 0.0225% barrel distortion at 120mm and 0.959% pincushion distortion at 300mm. These low levels of distortion should rarely need correction, but if they do then is should be relatively straightforward to do so, as the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame.

A deep circular hood is supplied with the lens, which does a great job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause loss of contrast or flare. Contrast is good, even when shooting into the light.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM S Sample Photos

Value for Money

Even though there is no other lens that can be directly compared to the optic from Sigma, even if it is only compared directly with 300mm f/2.8 lenses, it still represents decent value for money. For example, Canon's current 300mm f/2.8 lens costs around £5000, and Nikon's costs around £4000. Although both these lenses are most likely optically superior, neither have the convenience of a zoom and the Sigma lens is a reasonable amount less expensive.

Those with a keen eye for a bargain will see that the previous version of this lens can still be picked up from retailers with stock for around £1800. The older version is virtually identical to the latest version, except it doesn't sport the latest updated exterior.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Verdict

Although the performance of this lens isn't of the same absolute brilliance of the Nikon and Canon fixed super-telephoto lenses, it isn't all that far behind. Add in the flexibility afforded by the zoom and it still makes a compelling alternative to the camera manufacturer's own fast telephoto glass.

The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 S lens delivers good sharpness throughout the range.  

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Pros

Good sharpness throughout the range
Low CA
Excellent build
Optical stabilisation
Fast focusing
Very good value for money

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Cons

Variable close focusing distance


Thanks to HarrisonCameras for providing the Canon EOS 5D MkIII used for testing.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM S Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Nikon F
  • Canon EF
  • Sigma SA
Focal Length120mm - 300mm
Angle of View8.2 - 20.4
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size105mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus150cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Dscarinci1 10 5 United States
26 Sep 2013 10:39AM
I am trying to decide between this lens and the new Nikon 80-400mm to use on my Nikon D800. While I'm always inclined to buy Nikon the 80-400 is not on Nikon's recommended list for the D800 and this Sigma lens gets good reviews. I would appreciate any thoughts on this?
26 Sep 2013 4:17PM
Hi Donald,

Well I purchased the new Sigma 120-300 sport lens 4 months ago and can't be happier it's everything I hoped it would be.

So as a hobbyist it was quite an outlay (2800 ) here in the UK, so did all the research on this version and the previous variant, also looking at similar lenses that may also fit the bill.

So these were my reasons:-

1) Needed the focal range of at least 300mm for sport photography.
2) The lens had to be fast enough i.e. f2.8 for dropping out the background and on occasion may need the extra reach hence using the Sigma 1.4TC i.e. still able to shoot at f4 across the full focal range.
3) Wanted to be able to zoom hence sigma over the Nikon 300mm prime
4) As I sold my Nikon 70-200 also wanted a lens that would allow me to still use as a portrait lens, once I've worked out in the Gym to be able to lift it so again wanted a nice bokeh and f2.8
was a major requirement.
5) The new 80-400 was not available at the time and having seen the quoted price tag only a few hundred pounds cheaper than the Sigma swayed my decision.
6) Read some encouraging reviews of the lens
7) Also being a little vain wanted to look the part when turning up to sport events, so needed a big looking lens Smile

However as we say it's horses for courses and this was my choice I think the best thing is to see if any local photographers have either of the lenses and give them a trial. I'm certain I would have been very happy with the 80-400 and can see many pros and cons for either lens.

I've linked some pictures taken with the Sigma 120-300 sport that I uploaded to my flickr account, traditional English sport of cricket, bit different to baseball but you 'll get too see what it is capable of. Think these were all taken with no TC fitted so 300mm typically at f2.8.



P.S. Did break my first 1.4TC though as picked up camera with TC and lens fitted, i.e. forgot to hold the lens and it damaged the TC inner barrel / case and had to be repaired by Sigma.

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