Lens Guides

Brown Bear Photography in Alaska with the SIGMA 60-600mm DG DN OS Sports Lens

A light rain patters on my tent as I groggily arise from a light slumber. Sleeping in brown bear country can be challenging, but it’s not the fear of bears that keep me from deep sleep… it’s the excitement of photographing them for the first time. Eventually, I escape the warm confines of my sleeping bag and make my way to the small cabin where our food is stored. I make myself a coffee and scarf down a store-bought blueberry muffin. I gather my photo and outdoor gear for the day, pull on my waders, and head out for a day of adventure.

Embarking on a spectacular photography trip

All example images photographed with the SIGMA 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports lens on a Sony A1 camera body.

I am at the Katmai National Park and Preserve in southern Alaska, an area only accessible by floatplane, and I am here for one reason… to photograph wild brown bears in their element. The area is rich in wildlife and nearly void of human presence, save the tiny outpost we prepare our meals in. And in the two hundred square miles around us no hunting is allowed. In short, this is brown bear heaven and I’m floating on cloud nine!

Camping and photographing such a remote, weather prone area means that this was going to be a gear-intensive adventure. I needed to pack (and carry) a tent, sleeping bag and pad, cooking kit, four days of food, warm and waterproof clothing, plus all the usual camping accoutrements. And we have not even talked about photo gear yet! Oh, and did I mention that there is a strict weight limit on the floatplane? No way could I bring ALL the cameras and lenses I wanted, so I was forced to make some tough choices…

Choosing my gear for a brown bear photo adventure

As it turned out, the decision was not tough at all! Requirements were as follows:

  • Cover a huge focal range – This way I could reduce the total number of lenses I brought.
  • World-class image quality – I want to make big prints!
  • Super fast autofocus – To keep up with fast moving wildlife.
  • Phenomenal optical stabilization – So I could hand hold when I wanted.
  • Weather resistant – Hey, it’s Alaska, it rains a lot here.

So which magical lens fit the bill for a backcountry adventure with brown bears? The SIGMA 60-600 F4.5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports was the clear winner!

Favorite features of the SIGMA 60-600mm DG DN OS | Sports

Ultra-versatile 10x zoom range

First, the 10x zoom of the SIGMA 60-600mm DG DN OS | Sports enabled me to leave my 70-200 behind, leaving me with a smaller, lighter pack. And while I don’t shy away from swapping lenses in the field, there were numerous times when logistics and weather would have kept me from doing so. Using just one lens meant that I could always be in the moment.

Outstanding image quality

The image quality of the SIGMA 60-600mm is exquisite. Images are clear as a mountain stream and sharp as an obsidian blade. When viewed as a large print, or on a large, high-resolution monitor, it looks like you can walk right into the scene. And this quality is found through the entire zoom range!

Exceptional autofocus and stabilization performance

The new HLA (High-response Linear Actuator) autofocus motor is shockingly fast and accurate when paired with my Sony A1 camera. It had no problem keeping up with the unpredictable movements of the bears. And the upgraded OS2 Optical Stabilization system allowed me the freedom to shoot handheld when I wanted to. At 600mm, you get about 6 stops of stabilization and at 60mm you are getting closer to 7 stops of stabilization. You kind of have to experience it to believe how good it is.

Built for use in virtually any weather conditions

The SIGMA 60-600mm is part of the extremely robust Sports line of lenses. The rugged construction is built to last, and can easily handle life on the road and in the field. It is also dust and slash resistant so it can brush off whatever mother nature throws at it. Bottom line, this is a professional-grade lens that I can count on to deliver the goods no matter the conditions.

There are several other nice features on the SIGMA 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports that I should probably mention as well:

  • Zoom lock that engages at multiple ranges. This is great when you are hiking around with the lens in your hand and you don’t want it to extend.
  • Rotating tripod collar with built-in Arca-Swiss style foot. I love this feature as I don’t have to worry about having a separate tripod plate with me anymore, and I can switch to vertical format with a simple turn of the lens.
  • Easy to use dedicated controls. Type 1 and Type 2 OS switches, AF/MF switch, focus limiter, and customizable AFL buttons. And for L-Mount users, the Custom switch allows customization of in-camera OS viewing modes.

Is the SIGMA 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports lens right for you?

If you want outstanding versatility, image quality, autofocus performance, and weather resistance all rolled into one lens, you just can’t go wrong with the SIGMA 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports. The focal range gives you the flexibility to shoot in nearly ANY situation, and you even get a magnification ratio of 1:2.4 (near macro range) for those spontaneous close-ups. It’s truly a lens that can do it all.

If you are heading out for a photo adventure of any kind I strongly recommend picking up the SIGMA 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports and keeping it locked on to the front of your camera. I have found a new partner in this lens, and I’m sure you will too.

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