Superb ultra-telephoto at a modest price

The Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports is fast and well-built with a dust-and splash-resistant exterior.
The Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports is fast and well-built with a dust-and splash-resistant exterior.

An ultra-telephoto lens can cost an arm and a leg, with a price tag of more than $20,000 for certain models. But the Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports delivers quality at a relatively modest price of less than $3,000.

I reviewed this ultra-telephoto zoom lens, which is available in Sigma, Nikon and Canon mounts, with my trusty Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera.

With its focal length range of 60mm to 600mm, it is really versatile, allowing users to shoot landscapes as well as close-up shots of distant subjects.

Granted, its maximum apertures are not as large as some more expensive lenses, which usually range from f/2.8 to f/5.6, but this lens comes with an "intelligent" image-stabilisation feature that is said to prevent camera shake up to the equivalent of four stops. So theoretically, shooting with its smaller maximum apertures should yield images that are sharper than what would be expected.

In terms of construction, it features 25 glass elements in 19 groups with nine diaphragm blades.

The glass is protected by a dust-and splash-resistant exterior made of magnesium, carbon fibre-reinforced plastic and a thermally stable composite material. While these materials are supposed to reduce weight, the lens is still pretty heavy at 2.7kg.

But it is well-built. The zoom ring and focusing ring are both ridged for better grip. On the left of the lens are all the switches. There is a zoom lock switch that prevents unwanted "zooming" when you carry the lens around.

  • SPECS

    PRICE: $2,788 (Sigma-mount; Nikon-mount; Canon-mount, version tested)

    FOCAL LENGTH: 60mm to 600mm

    MAXIMUM APERTURE: f/4.5-6.3

    MINIMUM APERTURE: f/22-32

    MINIMUM FOCUSING DISTANCE: 60cm to 2.6m

    WEIGHT: 2.7kg

    RATING

    DESIGN: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Behind the focusing ring, close to the lens collar, are four switches for changing focusing modes (from autofocusing to manual focusing), limiting the focusing distance, toggling through image-stabilisation modes and selecting custom functions.

Performance of the lens is superb for its price tag. It is fast and has a silent autofocusing operation. When I used it to capture pollinating bees under bright sunlight, it was able to get a sharp focus of a fast-moving bee almost immediately. It was also able to track that bee pretty quickly as it flew around the flowers.

Images shot using this lens generally looked great across the entire focal range. However, the centre looked sharper than the edges from 60mm to 200mm. But from 200mm to 600mm, the edgeto-edge sharpness became more even.

Images looked slightly softer when shooting at the 600mm focal length compared with shooting at 200mm, which is expected for such lenses.

But image distortion is minimal with well-controlled chromatic aberration throughout its focal range.

•Verdict: The Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports is an excellent value-for-money ultra-telephoto zoom lens.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2018, with the headline 'Superb ultra-telephoto at a modest price'. Print Edition | Subscribe