Sport camera

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports review

The Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports spent the first seven years of its life as the only lens in the world to offer this combination of zoom and aperture. Nikon then launches its own version (opens in a new tab), which is slightly lighter but has a much higher price. The Sigma offers much better value for money and still offers very good performance and a neat range of extras.

Features

To go up: Canon EF, Nikon F, Sigma SA
Full frame: Yes
Autofocus: Yes
Stabilization: Yes
Lens Construction: 23 elements in 18 groups
Angle of view: 20.4-8.2 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum opening: f/22
Minimum focus distance: 0.15-0.25m
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.12x
Filter size: 105mm
Dimensions: 121x291mm
Lester: 3,390g

Main characteristics

It’s a big ask to offer 50% more telephoto reach than a 70-200mm lens while maintaining a constant f/2.8 aperture. The result is a big lens that weighs almost 3.4 kg. That’s more than double the weight of most high-end 70-200mm lenses.

The first to launch in Sigma’s Sports line, this lens features a custom modes switch. Autofocus speed, AF limiter distance, and stabilization effects for these modes are customizable via Sigma’s optional USB docking station. It was also the first lens from Sigma to feature weather seals, although it lacks the fluorine coatings of the Sports 70-200mm lens, the two switchable autofocus modes and AF buttons. on/hold. Both lenses have one SLD (Special Low Dispersion) element, but this one has only two premium FLD (‘Fluorite’ Low Dispersion) elements, while the 70-200mm lens has nine.

There’s a switchable dual-mode optical stabilizer for static/panoramic shooting, and while the Sigma lacks Nikon’s ‘Sport’ stabilization mode, you can limit the stabilization effect in the viewfinder as one of the custom options.

As you’d expect with a lens of this weight, the Sigma comes with a tripod/monopod mount ring, which you can remove for handheld shooting if you feel the need for a bit of bodybuilding.

Performance

The ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system proved very fast and consistently accurate in our tests, and the optical stabilizer was worth about four stops. Center sharpness is nothing short of spectacular throughout the zoom range, even when shooting wide aperture at f/2.8. There’s a little color fringing at most focal lengths and it’s quite severe at 180mm, but distortions are generally well controlled. Overall, the Sigma is a really solid performer.

Laboratory results

We carry out a range of laboratory tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master test suite. Pattern shots are taken over the full range of apertures and zooms (where applicable), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion, and chromatic aberrations.

We use Imatest SFR (Spatial Frequency Response) graphs and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-distances, over the full range of aperture settings. and, with zooms, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).

Acuity:

(Image credit: future)

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(Image credit: future)

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Center sharpness is outstanding even when shooting wide aperture, but sharpness levels towards the edges and corners of the frame are rather more average.

Fringe:

(Image credit: future)

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There is negligible color fringing in the 250-300mm sector of the zoom range and it’s only minimal at 120mm. However, fringing can be quite noticeable at focal lengths around 180mm.

Distortion:

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There’s hardly any distortion at the short end of the zoom range and it’s very minimal in the central sector, but a slight cushioning can be just about noticeable towards the long end.

Verdict

It’s hard to think of a lens costing north of around £2,500 / $3,500 as ‘excellent value for money’. But the combination of a 120-300mm telephoto zoom range and a fast, constant f/2.8 aperture doesn’t come cheap. To put this Sigma in perspective, it costs around a quarter to a third of the price of the direct competitor Nikon AF-S 120-300mm f/2.8E FL ED SR VR. (opens in a new tab), which arrived seven years later, but roughly matches the Nikkor in terms of performance. Bargain!

Read more:

• Best Camera Lenses (opens in a new tab) to get
• Best Canon Lenses (opens in a new tab)
• Best Nikon lenses (opens in a new tab)
• Best Sony lenses (opens in a new tab)