Last year, Sigma announced a pair of zoom lenses for full-frame cameras, the 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports and 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary. With identical focal lengths and apertures, and advanced feature sets including the Sigma-exclusive lens customization, these two new champion zoom lenses share a significant amount of DNA. So, what is the difference between the Sports and Contemporary version of the Sigma 150-600mm zoom lenses?
The short answer can be summarized as such: two or so pounds, degree of weather-sealing, and around nine hundred bucks. Yes, the Sports version is built like a tank. It is heavier with an aluminum alloy barrel, and it has a much more weatherized build, and it has an optical configuration with 24 elements in 16 groups and a larger front element (105mm thread diameter). And the higher price reflects these changes.
The Contemporary version has a different optical configuration (20 elements in 16 groups) and accepts 95mm front filters. Between the smaller diameter lens groupings and the barrel being composed of thermally stable composite, it is noticeably lighter at just over four pounds. True, it lacks the squall-braving sealing of the Sports version, but it does offer a water and oil resistant front element and gasketing at the camera mount; and is fully compatible with a variety of aftermarket rain sleeves for tougher conditions.
Don’t mistake the slightly less rugged build of the Contemporary lens with a lack of craftsmanship. Total DNA between these two makes them much more similar to one another in terms of exceptional groundbreaking performance and feature set than other competing lenses in the market. The 150-600mm | C is the most advanced lens in the Contemporary line and shares the most advanced lens customization feature set (via the optional USB dock) with the Sports version. This includes autofocus speed enhancement, custom focus limiter, 16 zone microfocus adjustments and firmware upgrades, Optical Stabilizer Preview behavior, Manual Override behavior and more. And like its sibling, it offers zoom lock at all marked focal lengths, and a Optical Stabilizer with an accelerometer for automatic detection and correction for vertical or horizontal panning.
Lens profiles for both lenses are included in the current build of Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw, the most popular RAW conversion engine. And Sigma Optimization Pro and the USB Dock recognizes these lenses, when paired with the teleconverters, as distinct objects for customization; so you create Custom Settings for the lens itself, and for the lens paired with either the 1.4x or 2.0x teleconverters. Both lenses are swift to autofocus, and are very sharp at all focal lengths, even wide open.
The tripod ring and foot are removable on the Contemporary version, and the lens ships with a great rubberized band that covers the mounting bolts when the collar is removed. I’ve personally never seen this done before for any lens with a removable collar, and like the new zoom lock feature, it really sets this lens apart in terms of total design and usability.
Especially when hand-holding, the weight difference between the two lenses is very noticeable, with the Contemporary version being much easier to hold without a tripod or monopod for longer periods of time, at all zoom lengths. Like the Sports, focal distance can be changed either by the zoom ring, or with a push-pull near the front of the barrel, and when the Sports is fully racked to 600mm, the front of the lens is heavy in the left hand. The lighter weight of the Contemporary version is appreciated after a long day in the field, hand-holding the lens.
What is the difference b/w 150-600mm Contemporary and the 150-500mm DG OS HSM zoom lens?
When compared to the last-generation 150-500mm DG OS HSM, the 150-600mm Contemporary is much more the more direct descendent terms of total hand-feel, weight, and build, and of course, street price. The 150-600mm C is a little larger, and weighs a touch more; and the fit and finish has been updated between the generations. A few more buttons, and switches and features have been added, but there’s a through-the viewfinder similarity of experience that will make the 150-600mm Contemporary feel instantly like an old friend to photographers upgrading from the 150-500mm.
Obviously, there’s 100mm more reach, as well as the addition of the focus limiter, the two-mode OS with accelerometer, the custom functions settings, the unique new zoom lock switch, manual override, resistant front element and gasketed rear element, a redesigned lenshood and the tripod foot connector bolt covers as new features on the Contemporary zoom; which is really quite a list of upgrades! And, of course, as a Global Vision lens, every unit is tested with the A1 MTF device for optical performance. The 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM is a superb variable-aperture zoom lens with Optical Stabilizer offering a lot of reach and range in a relatively compact package; and has been a favorite of outdoor photographers for many years. The 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary builds upon that great legacy and is an even stronger performer; thanks to the additions and upgrades between generations.
And the Sports version, to mix a ton of metaphors, is the powered-up, supercharged, race-tuned-and-badged beast mode telephoto zoom version of the 150-600mm: The all-wheel-drive version with fatter tires, an upgraded 16-speaker stereo system, and all the whistles, bells, and gasketing you might imagine.