SIGMA 120-300mm F/2.8 DG OS HSM | SPORTS Review

At Close Quarters

SIGMA 120-300mm F/2.8 DG OS HSM | SPORTS Review


Over the past year or so I have had the privilege of being equipped with the 120-300mm F/2.8 DG OS HSM | SPORTS lens as well as some other fantastic Sigma products. During this time, I have been faced with a number of different situations in the field and have been able to put this lens through its paces. Here is a short write up of my general thoughts on the lens.

First Impression:
Taking this lens out of its case for the first time and attaching it to my camera, I was immediately struck by the sleek look of the new set-up. It is an impressively sized lens but has a very smooth look and feel to it. It is definitely a lens that is pleasing to the eye.

Weight and handling the lens:
Being a rather large lens, I expected that it would be a heavy one too, weighing in at about 3.9 kilograms. Even so, I found it manageable, even when hand-held, and, over time (using it on a daily basis) the weight soon becomes less noticeable. Having said that and depending of the individual, I can understand that the weight could be quite difficult to manage in certain situations, especially if hand held, which would mean a bean bag or tripod will be handy to support the weight.
Working in the conditions that I do – whether its the bumpy roads or the potential hazard of knocking it against the vehicle– I always worry about protecting my equipment, but this lens has a solid, well-built and hardy feel, which allayed any concerns about its ability to withstand tough conditions.
Lens Stabilizer and the different modes:
Being a larger lens, stabilization is crucial and the two OS (optical stabilizer) modes come in very handy. OS 1 being vertical and horizontal stabilization and vertical OS 2 stabilization being better suited for panning. One really notices the advantage of these modes on cooler cloudy days when light is limited when shooting difficult angles and hand-held is the only option.

Lens Range:
I have had issues in the past (while not major, but certainly noticeable) where other lenses on the market have been limiting at times. I have had to either change lenses depending on subject, distance and light or have two camera bodies and had to constantly switch between the two in sightings. This can, and has, resulted in a good photographic opportunity being missed. Having the range of the 120 – 300mm, I have had no such issues and I felt confident that in the moment of action, I have the ability to get the desired composition  without battling to switch my lenses or equipment.
Focusing and quality of the image:
The focusing mechanism is smooth and fast, I was surprised at the speed at which the focus locks onto its target. Not once have I struggled in terms of focusing. The focusing mechanism is internal which, for someone who works out in the field every day, is a bonus as there is minimal space for dust to gather and potentially affect the working parts.

The versatility and speed of this lens is incredible, it focuses at 120mm from just 1.5 meters (five feet) and from just 2.5 meters (+- nine feet) at 300mm which is essential when photographing in a dynamic environment. The ease at which you can go from 120mm to 300mm is great and, when combined with the extremely fast focus, shooting moving targets is a breeze.

Even before my first shot with this lens, the one thing that stood out for me was the aperture. Whether you are at minimum or maximum zoom, the aperture (ranging from F/2.8 to F/22) can remain the same. I found this incredibly beneficial when out in the bush and, with conditions being as unpredictable as they are, it meant that I had the freedom to change the aperture accordingly and stillget the shot.
I was very interested to see how this lens would perform in low light – whether it be on a gloomy, cloudy day or using a spotlight in the cover of night. The results I achieved were phenomenal. Previously, when lighting was tricky, I was never confident of capturing the image perfectly Often, on my return to the lodge, when downloading my images, my concerns would be confirmed. I found some images soft or even slightly grainy (even when using a low ISO). Using this lens, I was confident that my image would be the standard I have come to expect, without an element of doubt in my mind.

My Final thoughts:
Having used this lens over the past year, and really paying attention to its capabilities and handling, I have been amazed time and time again. Sigma have done a phenomenal job in creating a truly remarkable lens and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed using. I realize this is a big statement to make, but based on my recent experience, if I had one choice of lens when out in the field, it would be the Sigma 120 – 300mm F2.8.

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