As I unpacked the new SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports lens, just in time for the 2021 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh air show, I had a little flashback to 2015. That’s when SIGMA sent me the classic 150-600mm Sports lens for my Canon 1DX to try out at an air show. And from that day forward, the 150-600mm has been synonymous with air show photography because of its sharpness and versatility. Not to mention, that lens was a tank that could stand up to the elements and handle anything a photographer might run into while traveling.
Fast forward six years and a lot has changed… I’ve gone from large DSLR cameras to smaller mirrorless cameras, and SIGMA lenses have changed to meet the mirrorless demand, by being smaller, lighter and sharper. And the new 150-600mm is no different. Plus it’s still built like a tank to stand up to the weather and rough handling.
So, the thought of walking around photographing eight days of “all things aviation” with a new, smaller SIGMA telephoto zoom put a smile on my face. Since I was photographing for Plane and Pilot magazine, there would not only be air show action, but a full variety images to tell the story of the event.
So what impressed me when the event was over and I reflected on the images as well as handling of the lens? Well, the simplest review is that it’s a SIGMA lens, which means sharp, user-friendly and will fit my budget. But going deeper, is that the performance is something that will advance my creativity as well as keep my clients happy. The new SIGMA 150-600mm DG DN OS | Sports doesn’t disappoint.
A Great Lens for Aviation Photography
The headline here says it all, but here are some specific takeaways I had when testing out this lens:
I grabbed the 150-600mm Sports lens / Sony A9 II combo from the kitchen counter to load into the car on the first morning of the show, and literally stopped in my tracks because the combo felt so light. The original 150-600mm Sports lens for DSLRs weighs 6.3 pounds, while this updated version weighs just 4.6 pounds. The difference is significant, especially if you are walking around an air show all day with the lens over your shoulder.
While I try not to go overboard with pixel peeping, I will check a series of images of an airplane flying by to make sure I locked on and got the shot. And what I noticed were really, really sharp images, even sharper than the original 150-600mm Sports for DSLRs.
When photographing action, be it football, cars or airplanes, I maintain a high shutter speed to freeze the subject. But when panning on airplanes landing, the opposite holds true. I’m still looking for the subject to be frozen, but with a blurred background, creating the feeling of movement. Depending on the speed of the airplane, I may be as high as 1/125s to keep the plane in focus while still producing a blurred background. The real test, however, is not just keeping the plane in focus and blurring the background, but trying to get a full propeller circle. And I was getting these shots (below) with this lens! SIGMA claims up to four stops of optical image stabilization, and I definitely agree.
Thoughtful Features for Professionals
Yes, the lens is light, sharp and offers excellent stabilization. But for working professionals, the little things — small touches that many shooters might not notice — make this lens an even better companion. For example:
Arca Swiss Compatible Foot
The lens foot includes an Arca Swiss dovetail for quick tripod mounting (all my gear is set up with Arca Swiss mounts, so a thank you to SIGMA for adding this). While my daylight photography is all handheld, the rail came in handy for the night air show fireworks.
The lens comes with not only the distinctive SIGMA padded case and standard pinch cap for the front element, but also a larger front lens and hood cover (which I much prefer over just the pinch lens cap).
Zoom Torque Switch
The dual action zoom (zoom ring or push/pull) also features a torque switch (Lock, Tight and Smooth) to customize the lens to your zooming preference. The new “Tight” setting lets you maintain a certain focal length with no zoom creep, but still gives you the ability to zoom on the fly if needed.
Minimum Focusing Distance
The 150-600mm DG DN OS | Sports features a close focusing distance of just 23 inches at 180mm, increasing its versatility, and allowing me to photograph tight portraits and candid shots, perfect for storytelling at an event like this.
This lens provides high-speed, accurate autofocus utilizing a stepping motor and a high-precision magnetic sensor, which made it easy to track aircraft flying by at several hundred miles per hour.
Closing Thoughts on the SIGMA 150-600mm DG DN OS | Sports Lens
The new SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports lens is a definite home run for an aviation photographer like myself, shooting with a Sony E-mount body, or any L-mount camera. It not just carries on the finer points of the classic SIGMA 150-600mm Sports lens for DSLR cameras, but improves them in a smaller, lighter package.
Now to try out this lens for football, soccer, BMX races, auto racing………