The specification for the Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports doesn’t sink in straight away. It looks and sounds like the company’s popular 150–600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports lens, but this new model’s shorter minimum focal length is the killer feature here. It makes the Sigma 60-600mm the first ever 10x zoom with a 600mm maximum.
It comes with Nikon F, Canon EF and Sigma SA mounts and from the outside it doesn’t look so very different to the 150-600mm lens.
- 25 elements in 19 groups
- Water and oil repellent coating
- Manual overide
Inside, though, it features a sophisticated optical construction consisting of no fewer than 25 elements in 19 groups, with three FLD (low dispersion) and one SLD (special low dispersion) element to control chromatic aberration and maintain high resolution and consistent edge to edge sharpness.
Focal length: 60-600mm
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon F and Sigma SA
Filter size: 105mm
Max aperture: f/4.5-6.3
Aperture blades: 9
Dimensions: 120 x 269mm
Back to the zoom range. This lens is quite remarkable, with the 60mm ‘wide' focusing down to about 2 feet / 0.6m. At the other end of the spectrum, 600mm is versatile enough on a full-frame camera, but pop it on a APS-C camera and it works out to be 900mm, which is quite a feat and fantastic for wildlife or sports.
The lens also lends itself to astrophotography - we tried the lens mounted on a heavy duty Manfrotto tripod, the images of a fairly full moon were quite acceptable even if a little on the soft side – auto iso and about 1/100 sec at max aperture.
Build and handling
- Weighs in at 2.7kg
- Part magnesium alloy and part composite
- Zoom lock is a handy feature
The lens feels sturdy, a solid, well made piece of kit that’s not going to let you down. The construction is part magnesium alloy and part composite material. This presumably helps with weight and cost but doesn’t feel like it detracts from the handling.
It is a tad too heavy at 2.7kg for day long hand held use, it gets quite tiring to hold after a few hours, regular breaks and arm support is very welcome.
It would be ideal on a tripod for field events, and probably for general ground or sea based wildlife too; but for birding, unless you're in a hide where you can rest your arms somewhere, it’s a bit tiring if you’re in the open trying to capture birds in flight.
The twist operated zoom works well, though seemed a little stiff. This was probably due to the fact that the lens was brand new and unused, no doubt the mechanism will become much easier to use after a while.
The zoom lock is a great feature though, quickly and easily operated via a well placed slider.
Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports features a very strong tripod collar with an Arco-Swiss foot, while there is a steel screw mount in the foot and the collar has very useful 90º clicks for rapid and accurate transition from vertical to horizontal and vice versa.
Downside is that the collar can’t be removed and the carrying strap is attached to it, it's also a little awkward when stashing in the case as the collar has to be in a particular position before the foam support can be fitted around it.
Much of this lens’s length comes from its large circular lens hood. This can be loosened and detached via a locking knob, but you’d probably want to keep it on to reduce flare and protect that big front element – though it is coated repel water and oil.
- Focusing is fast
- Very capable IS system
- Good optical performance
Focus is fast, very fast for a superzoom lens of this focal length. Operationally the focus has three settings, close, full and distance. In practice there was only a slight difference between the various settings but unless you’re trying to focus on distant subject with the close setting or vice versa then I doubt you’d notice it.
In all practicality unless you’re doing a lot of close or distance photography the full range works well for most things.
Focus at max zoom seemed to hunt a little and the lens found it hard to separate small distant subjects from the background but this wasn’t apparent in near or middle distance objects. However, it had no problems in resolving power cables and pylon insulators about 2 miles away (hand held) on the horizon and I found it would focus on a single street light, at night, several miles from the camera and give a very well exposed image.
The upgraded image stabilisation system should help cut wobble in longer range shots. We found we could hand hold down to about 1/200 sec at full zoom and still get sharp images in late afternoon light. Sigma claims a 4-stop advantage for its ‘intelligent’ OS system; mode 1 is for regular use and there’s a separate mode 2 for panning shots.
There's no complaints with the optical quality. Fringing is well controlled, and so is distortion, though there's a hint of barrel distortion at 60mm. Otherwise, sharpness and contrast are both very good.
The lens appears to be very well made, it’s a well designed and manufactured piece of equipment that gives a good impression of a high quality product that should give years of heavy use for both professional and amateur photographers, however it’s a bit on the heavy and probably more suited to sports and general wildlife use than birding.
Would we buy one? Oh yes! W’d just have to do a little body building first though…