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Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Interchangeable Lens Review

A super-telephoto zoom lens with optical stabilisation ideally suited to wildlife photography. This super-telephoto zoom lens costs around 695 and sports a silent Hyper Sonic focusing motor and optical stabilisation.

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Handling and features

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM main image

The focal range of this optic will generally appeal to budding wildlife photographers after that extra bit of reach, without the expense of manufacturers own offerings, or the inconvenience of prime lenses. Photographers looking at this lens may also be tempted by Sigma's 120-400mm offering, which costs around £100 less, but is 100mm shorter at the long end. Those more serious about the 500mm focal length may also be interested in Sigma's 500mm f/4.5 prime telephoto lens, but at £3850 it represents a massive jump in price.

Tamron also offer a zoom lens covering this range. Their 200-500mm f/5-6.3 costs around £865, and doesn't have optical stabilisation, or a silent focusing motor.

Tokina's only super-telephoto zoom offering is their 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 reviewed here which costs around £570 and is currently the smallest and lightest lens in its class but doesn't have optical stabilisation, or a silent focusing motor.

Not one of the main camera manufacturers currently make a zoom lens that covers the 500mm focal length. Canon's popular 100-400mm f/4-5.6L IS USM is the closest Canon make to this optic. It costs around £1270 and has an Image Stabiliser and Ultrasonic focus motor. Canon's 500mm f/4L IS USM is a very serious bit of kit, with an equally serious price tag at around £5550.

Nikon's closest matches to this lens both zoom to 400mm. Their 80-400mm lens costs around £1168, has Vibration Reduction, but no silent focus motor. The other zoom in this range is in a completely different price bracket. Their 200-400mm f/4 has vibration reduction, silent focusing and costs around £4660. For interest of comparison, Nikon 500mm f/4 prime telephoto lens costs around £5740.

Pentax don't currently offer any lenses approaching 500mm, with their longest lens currently being a 300mm f/4, so this lens may be of particular interest to Pentax users.

Sony's 70-400mm f/4-5.6G SSM lens costs around £1300 and has a silent focusing motor, but no optical stabilisation probably as all Sony bodies have a stabilisation system as standard. The only 500mm prime Sony currently offer is their 500mm f/8 Reflex lens, which costs around £534 and is highly lightweight and compact due to the catadioptric design. Users considering this lens may be wary of the quirks this kind of lens has such as donut-shaped out of focus highlights, plus the f/8 aperture may be limiting when the light isn't at its best.

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM: Handling and features
Although this lens isn't one of Sigma's EX series, they don't appear to have cut any corners with the build quality. Much of the lens barrel is finished in Sigmas matt powder coated finish, which looks very smart when new, but seems to show up marks a little easier than some other lens finishes.

It has a fair bit of weight to it too. Weighing 1780g, many who've not used a large super-telephoto like this before may find hand-holding for long periods tiring. A sturdy, removable tripod collar is supplied with the lens, which has a finger grip on its base to aid easy carrying when out and about.

The zoom mechanism has just enough resistance to prevent zoom creep when the lens is pointed downwards. A zoom lock switch is provided to hold the lens at 150mm to stop the lens from extending when being transported, or when you remove it from a bag or case.

On this lens the focus control is closest to the camera body. As the lens has Sigma's Hypersonic Focusing motor, adjustments can be made at any time, without having to switch the lens to manual focus. The lens 86mm filters, which apart from being an odd size, may cost a fortune for filters such as polarisers. A deep circular lens hood and padded case are provided as standard.

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM: Performance
For this review, the lens was tested on a 12Mp Nikon D700 using Imatest.

At 150mm, this lens performs impressively. Sharpness across the frame is very good at all apertures. Peak performance at the focal length is at f/11, although the difference between here and the sharpness at maximum aperture is only very slight.

As the lens is zoomed in, the resolution starts to drop off a little. At 200mm, the resolution in the centre is still good, but the quality towards the edges has dropped off, although it is still acceptable performance. As the lens is stopped down at this focal length the quality towards the edges of the frame improves, approaching good levels of sharpness from f/11 onwards.

Finally at 500mm, the resolution of the lens drops off noticeably, although the results are just acceptable at maximum aperture.

Resolution at 150mm
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM resolution at 150mm
Resolution at 250mm
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM resolution at 250mm
Resolution at 500mm
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM resolution at 500mm

Between 150mm and 250mm chromatic aberrations are well within acceptable levels, with Imatest recording colour fringes covering just over half a pixel width at 150mm. This level shouldn't cause many problems under normal shooting conditions. However, when the lens is zoomed to 500mm, the levels of colour aberrations increase to levels that will be noticeable in high-contrast situations and may need correcting afterwards in image editing software.

Chromatic Aberrations at 150mm
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM chromatic aberration at 150mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 250mm
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM chromatic aberration at 250mm
Chromatic Aberrations at 500mm
Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM chromatic aberration at 500mm

For a lens with such a modest maximum aperture, the levels of light falloff towards the corners are a little disappointing. At 150mm and f/5 the corners are 1.6 stops darker than the image centre and this level of vignetting is pretty much constant throughout the zoom range. To achieve even illumination, the lens needs to be stopped down to f/11.

At 150mm, distortion is very well controlled. Imatest only recorded 0.536% pincushion distortion, which will be barely noticeable in most applications. At 500mm the level of pincushion distortion increases to 1.05%, which although may it be a more noticeable level, shouldn't pose too many issues for the kind of photography most users will being doing with this lens.

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM cat Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM squirrel

Strong point sources of light will not cause much flare in images, but I did notice that shooting into the light will result in a loss of contrast, especially at the 500mm end. The supplied lens hood does a great job of shielding the front element from extraneous light, reducing the effect light sources outside the frame have on images taken with this lens.

Sigma's Optical Stabiliser promises to give up to four stops worth of camera shake compensation. I found that at 150mm, it was possible to take sharp shots most of the time at 1/20sec, which is about three stops slower than the recommended shutter speed for that focal length. At 500mm I found 1/60sec about the limit where I could comfortably hand-hold and get sharp results most of the time, which is also about three stops slower than the recommended shutter speed.

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM: Verdict
The price and the focal range of this lens will definitely appeal to many photographers. It is currently the lowest priced 500mm zoom lens available, and has many appealing features such as optical stabilisation and HSM focusing.

Optically, it isn't a bad performer either, especially at the shorter end of the zoom. Unfortunately at 500mm, which is what I feel a lens like this is all about, the results are noticeably softer and the level of colour aberrations may become an issue. Still, for the price if you can live with these flaws this lens could represent excellent value for money.

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM: Pros
Optical Stabilisation
HSM Focusing
Build Quality
Resolution at shorter focal lengths

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM: Cons
Falloff in resolution at 500mm
CA at 500mm
86mm filter size


Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM: Lens specification
Price £693.99
Filter size 86mm
Format Full-frame
Construction 21 elements in 15 groups
Angle-of-view 16.4 - 5°
35mm equivalent focal length (on APS-C body) 225-750cm
Internal focusing Yes
Image stabilisation Yes
Minimum focus 220cm
Maximum aperture f/5-6.3
Minimum aperture f/22-29
Weight 1780g
Size 252x94.7mm
In the box Lens hood, padded case

The Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM costs around £695 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Canon fit

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Nikon fit

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Pentax fit

Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sigma fit

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BOB S 20 2.6k
10 May 2010 8:02PM
All in all a pretty poor performance for a bit of kit costing just shy of 700 ! IMHO

nice lens i am happy i got one
AndyJL 16 1 United Kingdom
26 Sep 2013 3:45AM
The quality of a lens, as far as sharpness, has more to do with the photographer than the lens. Snapping a quick couple of photo's and saying the focus is soft at the far end (500mm). I have seen some incredibly sharp images taken at 500mm with this lens.

I think they need to get a professional to take the thing out. AND test it of at least a dozen camera bodies from the various manufacturers it can me mounted on

It gets very tiring when most of the reviews of lenses, are done with it mounted on a Canon or Nikon, as if to say, you can't take photographs with anything else.

You should take every review of this kind with a pinch of salt. If you can borrow one, hire one or even have a go with a demo version in a store, I suggest you go for it. If you don't own the camera it was tested with, don't even bother to read the review.

To test with only one camera body, make the whole review null and void in my opinion

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