Whether you’re an APS-C or full-frame shooter, the Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sport lens is great for both travel and outdoor photography. It covers every subject that doesn’t need a wide angle, and at 200mm it can even be used for telephoto macro photography, with a maximum magnification ratio of 1:3.3. Unlike older zooms with a 10X focal length range, it’s sharp and almost completely free of geometric and chromatic distortions. It’s also large. You can find smaller lenses in this focal range as well as lenses with larger maximum apertures, but if you want one you can leave on your camera all day, this is it.
Lens design represents a balancing act, and that’s true here: This Sigma has considerable attributes as a photographic tool, but you pay for that quality in size, weight, and relatively slow maximum aperture. The lens is sharp and well corrected, the autofocus is quick, the optical stabilization system works well, and it’s well sealed against the elements. Versatility is inherent in its 10X range. It’s suited for outdoor portraits, sports, and nature photography, as well as corporate and industrial work. Having the 60-600mm range is handy, but I used the 200-600mm range most.
At 60mm the lens is 10.6 inches long, and it extends to 14.75 inches at 600mm, not including the removable lens hood. The large-diameter front element requires a 105mm filter. It’s also heavy at 95.2 ounces. Given the lens’ size, you’ll want to use a well-made monopod or tripod with it. To achieve such a wide focal length range and such good optical performance, the lens contains a lot of glass—25 elements in 19 groups—along with the mechanics necessary to move them. At the short end of the range it’s a normal-to-short telephoto with a small maximum aperture that doesn’t focus particularly close, but through the rest of its range it’s a reasonably large-aperture well-balanced super-telephoto.
Sigma’s intelligent optical stabilization (OS) design uses two motion sensors: one for pitch (vertical) and one for yaw (horizontal) camera motion. OS Mode 1 corrects for vertical and horizontal shake and works best when shooting with the lens in a fixed position. OS Mode 2 uses input from an acceleration sensor to stabilize the lens while panning or handholding the camera. Following the CIPA standard for image stabilization, Sigma claims four stops of image stabilization capacity.
Mechanically the lens is well protected against dust and saltwater spray. I count at least 10 O-rings. Seals around the controls and the outer faces of the front and rear elements have a water- and oil-repellent coating. The lens zooms by using the focal length ring or using the front part as a push-pull mechanism. The rotating tripod mount capably supports the lens at all focal lengths. The removable tripod foot incorporates an Arca-Swiss type quick release mount and both 1/4"-20 and a 3/8"-16 threaded holes.
I tested the lens with a 50.3-megapixel Canon EOS 5DS, a camera that does a fine job of exposing problems with lenses. None showed up, but I did take advantage of Sigma Optimization Pro software and the Sigma USB dock combination to fine-tune the lens’ autofocus parameters at different focal lengths and distances to the camera body (a task I outsourced to Peachtree Camera Repair in Marietta, Georgia). If you are a DSLR user, micro-tuning a camera’s autofocus system is the easiest thing you can do to improve overall image quality. Both Sigma and Tamron let you take this a step further and fine-tune the lens’ internal autofocus system.
It’s worth noting that there are other lens options in the same class, such as the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II USM, the AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 G ED VR, and the Sony G Master FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 GM OSS. The difference is that the Sigma will give you an extra 20mm or 40mm of focal length range on the short end and another 200mm on the long end. For me, that latter characteristic is what makes the lens interesting.
If you are looking for a general-purpose lens for travel or school sports photography, or for a reasonably priced ($1,999), high-performance, well-crafted super-telephoto zoom, the Sigma 60-600mm DG HSM Sport lens fits the bill, but you’ll have to deal with the weight.
Ellis Vener is contributing editor of Professional Photogapher.
In the slideshow below: This pair of images, with camera position approximately 20 yards from the subject, was taken at f/8 with 413mm and 60mm focal lengths.