Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S lens Review

 

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 12,800 @ 420mm, 1/2000, ƒ/4

As promised and after shooting with the Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game this is my opinion of the lens.

Remember to read my earlier post about calibrating this lens HERE. If you don’t calibrate you will not see how incredibly sharp this lens can be.

Build

I need to agree with almost all other reviews of the lens when it comes to your first impression of the lens. It is well built and I love the new black matte finish as compared to the earlier finishes that Sigma used on their lenses.

Unlike the predecessors this lens comes with a lens cap, which I prefer over the fabric one.

The lens hood is longer and better built with ridges inside, which help, keep light from bouncing around and giving you lens flair.  The attachment to the lens seems much more sturdy.

The good news is you do not need to buy another 1.4 or 2x converter if have one of the Sigma ones already. My earlier 1.4 converter worked just great with the lens.

The tripod mount is larger and more substantial than earlier model.

This is really about comparing a tank to a truck if you compare the current model to earlier Sigma 120-300mm lenses.

Bokeh

The Bokeh on this lens is much silkier than what I had with the early version. When shooting wide open and close the background of clutter goes to a smooth silky tone.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 11,400 @ 420mm, 1/2000, ƒ/4

Color/Contrast

I think the color and contrast is also an improvement over the previous model.

 

 

 

Focus

The four photos above are all part of a series I shot of a long touchdown run. There were more than 30 images and all of them were in focus. So the lens and the camera combination kept up with the play. Not always possible with lenses.

I know this is quicker than the earlier version and faster than the first Nikon 200-400mm ƒ/4 lens. Due to it being one stop brighter than the Nikon 200-400mm it may actually perform a little better with the Nikon D4 in low light, which was the case at the Georgia Dome.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, ISO 12,800 @ 570mm, 1/1000, ƒ/4

Sharpness

Since photographers tend to talk about how sharp a lens is by something like you can see the sweat bead on the face, I chose to show you can count the threads in the patch on the end zone for my comparison.

Cropped version of the photo above.

I think this is extremely sharp and especially so after calibrating the lens with the USB docking station that Sigma sells.

This lens also has Optical Stabilization, which helps keep those images sharp when the action is way down the field and I am using a 1.4 converter and using the 2X crop mode on the Nikon D4. I was optically shooting at 840mm ƒ/4 during much of the game. At that distance just small vibrations affect the sharpness of the photo. The OS helped me get sharper images than I have in the past.

 

Bottom Line

For my Pixel Peeping skills this lens rocks. For $3,599.00 this is a no brainer for me to buy over the Nikon 200-400mm, which sells for $6,500.00. I am not even going to consider the pain for the Canon shooters looking to the new Canon 200-400mm ƒ/4 for $11,799.00. Anyone putting out $8,200.00 more for the Canon lens had better be selling a lot of photos for that price.

This is not really comparing apples at all and for this reason it has it over the Nikon for me.

With a 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 starting point I can easily just put on the Sigma 1.4 and now have a 168-420 ƒ/4 lens. Instead of the 1.4 I could stick on the 2x converter and have a 240-600mm ƒ/5.6.

This makes the lens really three lenses that are practical for different venues. I have used my Sigma 120-300mm in the past for meetings where the 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 was just not enough reach. Actually I put my 70-200mm on the shelf for the past 10 years due to owning the Sigma 120-300mm.  On a rare occasion did I think the 70-200 was more warranted than the 120-300mm and that was more due to weight issue.

My recommendation is if you are in the market for a lens in this range, then this would be a great lens even if it was the same price at the Nikon 200-400mm, because it is more versatile and making it more useful. Being $3,000 less in price makes this a no brainer decision for me.

For the Prime Lens Lover

Rumor has it that Sigma is coming out with a new 300mm, 400mm and 600mm to be announced shortly. So if you like primes then one is on the way that will be custom calibrate-able with the USB Dock.

Photo by Dorie Griggs

Last shot is made by my wife when I was in the press box shooting some shots with the lens of the field.