Lens Guides

The Ultimate Field Sports Telephoto Lens: 120-300mm F2.8 Sports

©  2014 Steve Chesler |
© 2014 Steve Chesler |

As a sports photographers, I need a big, fast zoom lens to keep up with the action. The new Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens is just about perfect for the sidelines. With the performance customization available with the USB Dock, it is perhaps the ultimate field sports telephoto lens.  Right out of the box, this lens is one of the sharpest pieces of glass I have ever used, so I was a little hesitant to play with the settings using the USB Dock. However after exploring the options with the easy to use Sigma Optimizer Pro software, I was comforted knowing the Restore to Defaults option was always just a mouse click away.

With the ability to update the lens firmware, fine tune the auto focus, adjust the lens AF speed and the smoothness of the Optical Stabilization, the Sigma USB Dock is an innovative, welcome addition to Sigma’s new Art, Contemporary and Sports lens line up. The lens has two custom settings via the C1 and C2 switch on the lens barrel that can be set using the Optimizer Pro software.

In the hand, the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens is a pleasure to use. With it’s smooth black finish and solid construction, this lens exudes quality. Even the locking lens shade is impressive with it’s solid construction and rubber coated front edge. As a Nikon shooter, I’m used to the zoom ring turning the opposite direction, however after a weekend shooting a lacrosse tournament, I quickly adjusted. At just around seven pounds, the lens is not a light weight either, so a sturdy monopod is highly recommended for long assignments. It is able to be handheld for short periods of time if needed though.

©  2014 Steve Chesler | With unmatched sharpness and the ability to shoot in less than optimum light conditions, the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens was perfect for an overcast Lacrosse tournament.
© 2014 Steve Chesler | With unmatched sharpness and the ability to shoot in less than optimum light conditions, the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens was perfect for an overcast Lacrosse tournament.

CA-Lax-0549

The AF performance is quiet and lightning fast and had no issues tracking moving subjects. However for those times when needed, the lenses full time manual focus override is a welcome feature. Both the AF ring and zoom ring are wide, easy to find and very smooth. There is also a focus limiter switch to help speed up auto focusing when you know a subject will be within a certain distance.

©  2014 Steve Chesler |
© 2014 Steve Chesler |

I recently shot a weekend long baseball tournament with the lens with varying lighting conditions from full overhead sun to evening overcast. I shot most of the tournament between f3.2-f4 just to slightly increase my depth of field only dropping to f2.8 for the latest games. The clarity of the images and the AF performance never faltered. At these wider f-stops, the blurred backgrounds were beautifully smooth, toning down the distractions of the crowded sports complex.

©  2014 Steve Chesler | Shooting at larger apertures with the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens yields beautifully smooth out of focus backgrounds to isolate the action.
© 2014 Steve Chesler | Shooting at larger apertures with the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens yields beautifully smooth out of focus backgrounds to isolate the action.

At these smaller youth baseball fields I am right on top of the action, usually right along the first or third base line. Depending on the field, I try and position myself to shoot toward the less distracting side, preferably toward a tree line or open field. If shooting toward a parking lot or adjacent ball field is the only option, I position myself lower to the ground to bring the action above the horizon line. One of the more challenging situations at these small fields is shooting the batter with the chain link backstop relatively close to them. The Sigma lens handled the situation nicely with very little shifts in focus from the batter to the fence.

With the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens dust and splash proof protection, those dusty slides in to third base or the sudden rain shower are no threat.

©  2014 Steve Chesler | The AF speed on the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens is exceptionally fast and had very little trouble locking on to the subject even when they were against the backstop fence.
© 2014 Steve Chesler | The AF speed on the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens is exceptionally fast and had very little trouble locking on to the subject even when they were against the backstop fence.
©  2014 Steve Chesler | The Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens dust and splash proof protection allow for shooting even when the action gets a little messy with little fear of damaging the lens.
© 2014 Steve Chesler | The Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports lens dust and splash proof protection allow for shooting even when the action gets a little messy with little fear of damaging the lens.

At professional sporting events it’s not uncommon to see a dozen or more photographers on the sidelines with massive lenses. Covering youth sports events with this lens is like bringing a military issued assault rifle to a backyard Nerf War. This lens commands respect. Lens envy is real and the Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 | Sports telephot lens is quite the conversation piece.

After several weeks shooting with Sigma’s 120-300 f2.8 Sport lens, I’ve loosened my grip on my classic Sigma 100-300 f4 just enough to let my wife use it so we can cover more games at once at big events.  We’re on a mission to expand our sports photography business, and the 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | S not only fits our need for uncompromised quality, but at a price point that won’t require a second mortgage. Check back next month to learn more about our growth strategies.

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