Lens Guides

Photographing Disc Dog at the Beach with the SIGMA 150-600mm DG DN OS Sports Lens

A mirrorless beast, the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports is an ultra telephoto lens that will make all of your zooming dreams come true! Quite a bit smaller and lighter than the prior 150-600mm Sports (which is a big hooray for me, as I’m rather petite!), this is the first 600mm SIGMA lens made specifically for mirrorless systems. Being a frequent telephoto shooter myself, I decided to include the mighty optic on a recent trip to California. But for such a lens, I definitely needed a unique subject…

Meeting the Disc Dog Team

In comes a dear friend of mine from early teenage-hood! I had the sincere pleasure of having Kirby McIlveen and her pack of talented pups (@theflyingcanines on Instagram) as my photo subjects, a great way to push the 150-600mm DG DN OS | Sports lens to the test! Having discovered dog sports in 2003 through canine agility competitions with her late Shih Tzu, Lucky, Kirby expanded her family in 2006 with the addition of Sketch, a border collie that introduced her to the world of flying disc. Over the years, many more pups have joined the team and allowed Kirby to compete all over the world in the sport she has such a strong passion for. To this day, Kirby and her dogs impress the world with their disc tricks, and perform in a variety of television spots, halftime shows, and so much more.

Trekking out to find some iconic California scenery, Kirby and I found ourselves at a local pet-friendly beach. Dogs catching frisbees is always an interesting capture, but the two of us have done that at least a hundred times, so it was time to up the ante with a new location… the ocean! Truly, get-in-that-water-and-throw-that-frisbee shots.

I grabbed my Sony A7R IV to pair with the SIGMA 150-600mm DG DN OS | Sports, a hat, an extra pair of clothes, and off we went. Kirby’s dogs Sora the Border Collie and Torch the McNab were all about it, excited to play! The two ran back and forth with an unmatched fervor, tossing the disc at Kirby, begging for another throw. You could really feel the passion from these two canines, and it shows in their impressive resumés! With both Torch and Sora holding World Champion titles, you can certainly expect the best from these two!

The Ideal Lens for the Job

The benefit of the 150-600mm DG DN OS | Sports is that this particular model is from SIGMA’s Sports line, which meant less hesitation taking a lens out into the water, let alone at the beach! Generally speaking, the beach is not a great spot for gear – sand, wind blowing sand, and the splashing of the waves all present potential hazards. The internal components of cameras can be sensitive, with sand and wetness wreaking havoc if they find their way inside. Thankfully, a sigh of relief can be exhaled with the SIGMA Sports line being built for durability and epic weather sealing.

The resulting images impressed me tremendously, and I’m not just blowing smoke. I’ve been a regular telephoto zoom lens user for well over a decade now, with the 70-200mm being the first lens I ever purchased. Focus was quick and effortless, with most of the effort put into staying upright with the waves splashing against my legs! The ability to control how the zoom ring works was a big help, with a switch on the lens barrel adjusting the ring from smooth, tight, and locked. I kept it locked when walking and smooth when shooting. Although the daytime shoot was bright enough to not need to use optical stabilization, if I were to take this lens to a concert (for example), that would definitely come in handy as well.

For those that are familiar with the images I produce, I’m a big fan of shallow depth of field. Give me an F1.2 and I’ll drool for days! So, to work with a lens with smaller apertures than I’m personally used to was definitely a change from the norm. But! It’s easy to maintain great, shallow depth of field and fantastic subject separation even at apertures of F5 through F6.3. You see, the great thing about telephoto lenses is that depth of field intensity is bolstered by a narrower angle of view, making busy background details virtually disappear at longer focal lengths. With the SIGMA 150-600mm DG DN OS | Sports, I was positioned quite a long distance from Kirby and her dogs, and their distance to the background was also very far. As such, even zooming all the way in – resulting in a maximum aperture of F6.3 – the lens produced a creamy background with gradual falloff, making my shallow depth of field dreams come true once more.

The F5-F6.3 maximum aperture range actually made focusing even easier, regardless of Animal Eye Detection use on my Sony camera. The entire dog would fall into the focus line and be nicely sharp, so there was less concern about missed focus due to apertures that are too wide. Plus, it really helped highlight all of the little water droplets and sand, adding even more detail to an already interesting scene. And speaking of focus, the sharpness is out of this world. Nothing more to be said on that.

An Excellent Choice for Outdoor Action

In conclusion, I can certainly vouch that the SIGMA 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports will be able to not only handle precarious shooting conditions, but also produce images to make both yourself and your client drool. Speaking as a canine sport photographer (I can’t quite comment on other sporting niches as they are beyond my range of knowledge), I can absolutely see this lens being put to great use for events such as lure coursing, agility, dock diving, and more. That tremendous 600mm range will bring you face-to-face with the action without interfering with whatever the pup is doing. I can promise this will make for very happy owners, and as us pet photographers know… happy owner = happy shooting!

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