I chose to take the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S from Brent Rents Lenses on a week-long vacation to the Sonoran desert in Arizona. Below are some of the shots I took with it and a few notes on things I discovered about the lens. There are plenty of technical reviews online so I am not going to spend time or attempt to give any sort of tech review. As they say, Google it.
I found that pretty much what all the reviewers are saying is accurate. It's sharp! Very sharp. It's also very heavy. The construction is well done. It seems to focus slow although that varies by camera (I was shooting a Canon 5D mk3). Its lens ring tripod mount is too tight to fit your hand into to use as a handle. You can't change the tripod ring. It's satin black paint finish is way too easy to show wear on.
I'm not sure which stands out the most, the weight of the lens or its sharpness. During the week I used it the weight certainly was dominant. But once I sat down to work on images the weight faded and the sharpness of the images stood out, at least the ones I managed to get sharp. Trying to get sharp images hand holding a 600mm 6 pound lens isn't easy. I'd guess my keeper ratio was around 4 out of 10. The image stabilization worked well when I gave it time to lock on. It would take 3 to 5 seconds to really do its job well. Another help was to keep the shutter speed up around 1/1200. Unfortunately even in bright light that meant often having high ISO settings. Luckily the 5D mk3 does well at high ISO but it still isn't what I prefer. I tried tripod mounting it but was using an old Bogen with a small quick-release plate that was really struggling to hold onto the lens. It would easily twist around. Holding the setup tripod mounted slung over my shoulder (a favorite way of carrying my gear) did not feel like a safe option. I found myself struggling to get a comfortable grip on the lens and camera while hiking. I settled on cradling it like a baby (since it weighs as much). The lens does have rings for attaching a strap but the rental I had did not have the strap with it. I might opt for carrying it over my shoulder with that strap as I do my 150-500 but know it will end up getting scuffed up quickly as it rubs against my hip while walking. The satin black finish is just too delicate for that.
We did a 6 mile hike with a 2,000 foot elevation gain and have to say I was cursing this lens by the end. All together I had almost 40 lbs of gear with me. One lens taking up 15% of my load is a bit much. And on this particular hike I can't say it yielded any great images for the effort. I got a few at the beginning in the first mile. But the next 5 miles had my mind more focused on the load I was carrying than enjoying the scenery around me. I think this lens is more suited for subject and location specific shooting such as a sporting event or sitting in a bird blind versus wandering adventures. It's not the best choice for hiking 6 miles with no real subject matter in mind.
Be ready for attention. Everywhere we went people wanted to stop and ask about the lens or make passing comments. It's not a subtle piece of equipment.
I liked it well enough and found it such a dramatic improvement over my Sigma 150-500 that I started shopping and reading reviews. I'd like to point out something I kept running into and even had mentioned to me in person while on the trip. Everyone wants to compare this to Canon's 100-400. And to make the stretch they will mention putting it on a 1.4x converter. I struggled with this for a while as the 100-400 is lighter and a much faster autofocus. But with the 1.4x it isn't as sharp and the autofocus not as fast. But all the specs were pointing to the 100-400 being a better lens for nearly the same money. With one exception though. It's max is 400mm. I want a 600mm. So to fairly compare the Sigma I started looking at other 600's. The overall comparison seemed very good especially when looking at price. $2,000 versus $10,000+. The weight is comparable. The minimum focus distance is actually quite a bit less at 9 feet versus 12+ feet. And the image quality holds up with the big boys. Once I quit comparing a 600mm to a 400mm the choice just jumped out and I ordered the Sigma. But, it has been on back order since May 1, 2015 and I am still waiting for an update from Amazon on when it will ship.
I then ordered a LensCoat to protect the inadequate finish and ordered a Canon extension tube to shrink the minimum focus distance. Another upgrade I made sure to get was a suitable tripod and head that is designed for this type of lens. I also got some Optech straps that attach to my backpack straps to put the load on my shoulders instead of neck and arms.
Another hand held one. I like to use long telephotos like macro lenses but the 9 foot minimum focus distance makes that less doable. I will be testing it with an extension tube. 600mm, F6.3, 1/1600, ISO 1000
This is an elf owl which is about the size of a sparrow. It only comes out at dusk and, in this case, nearly dark. It was so dark I couldn't see the owl with my naked eye. It was shot tripod mounted at 600mm, F6.3, 3.2 seconds, ISO 640.
Hand held. 600mm, F8, 1/1250, ISO 1600
Tripod mounted. 600mm, F7.1, 1/800, ISO 1250 (One of the only shots I was happy with after lugging the lens on a 6 mile hike.)
Hand held. 600mm, F8, 1/1250, ISO 500
My first time using my new Mountainsmith Parallax 2014 stuffed full with two camera bodies, a 21mm, 100mm, 24-70mm, 150-500mm, 150-600mm, flash, batteries, and accessories. I hauled this beast through the airports on my way south.
Comparing the 150-600 to the 150-500.
Using my old Bogen as a monopod. The little tripod was stretched to its limits with this lens. Mainly I had the wrong head on the tripod. The legs performed fine other than being too short for my height. (Photo by Tracy Lawrence)
I found that I could attach the lens to my backpack belt using the tripod ring foot. There was no way I could walk like this but it at least gave some relief when pausing for rests. The Optech straps I got will fix this problem and allow me to hang it from my backpack straps and walk at the same time. (Photo by Tracy Lawrence)