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

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


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With my new Sigma 120~300 sport lens purchase decision made, I also decided to purchase the USB dock, making my outlay around $3,645.00 (ouch). The disappointing part was my Nikkor Teleconvertors would not work on this lens and I wanted to maximize my purchase and extend the zoom range to 420mm and even 600mm. So, I went ahead a few days following my initial purchase and bought both the 1.4x and 2.0x Sigma Teleconcerters as well kicking my purchase up well over 4K. You can read about the Sigma Teleconverters here.

I use this lens with my main camera body which is now a Nikon D810 and D800, I do still use my D700 on occasion, but not as often as I once did. This lens arrived in a fairly large box that was well packed, the lens itself sits inside a Sigma Black Foam lined case – it appeared well protected, the only issue to note was the all metal lens hood which is shipped reverse mounted on the lens, but no marks from bumping around could be detected. When I pulled the lens from the case, I could defiantly tell it was SOLID, felt like a single piece of metal, rigid and tight. The weight of this lens is around 7 pounds, so unless you’re the Hulk hand holding may be a short lived experience in the field.

The first few days I spent time just taking random shots to acquaint myself with the lens, focus, buttons and switches. I eventually hooked the lens up to the USB dock and downloaded a new firmware update for the lens, all without problem. The USB dock allows for customization and focus tweaking if needed, but I am not ready for that yet; however, I did set up a custom setting for focus limiting and OS setting for the custom 1 button, when engaged it turns on OS and sets the limiter to far focus limits.. My intended purpose for this lens is birds and wildlife, and it just so happened I put out a bird feeder in my back yard to attract my feather friends. After a week I began taking some bird photos from the back of the house, both handheld and on my tripod when I could, the results of all these and growing bird photos can be found here ( It was not long before I wanted to venture out into the wild, ok, in this area I live in wild is relevant to a state park. this will be where my first real world shoot be conducted at, as I take more photos with this lens they will be posed in the Galleries here on this site. please visit this gallery for photos.

My thoughts Overall, this lens is very well made and incorporates the fine optical performance as other Sigma lens does but with a few more bells and whistles. All you previous Sigma owners don’t panic – you have what this lens is in sharpness and OS alread, this lens kicks it up - in a good way. If you’re looking to get into a great quality 300mm Zoom lens range and need to stay below 4K, this will fit your need.

The Short Review:
This is a Very Good Lens: I am not a pixel counter by nature, but I do want sharp images from my effort and this lens can deliver that and compares favorably to Nikons 300mm prime, but lets face it, Nikon has the edge in sharpness, after all the Nikon is not a zoom – it’s a prime, so comparisons are a bit unfair. Plus, I like the flexibility of this zoom and one thing stands out in this lens has quality and performance overall for a reasonable cost at a constant f2.8 aperture. Making this lens idea for a Teleconverter combinations.

Focus: I found this lens to offer reasonable fast, accurate, and reliable focus - depending on your camera body. it has two settings which allows for fast focus while compromising accuracy and slow focus that increases accuracy, user selectable. Very responsive, and accurate, even when using the Sigma 1.4 TC. In fact I was very impressed. I did not notice much of a performance hit using the Sigma 1.4x TC at all. Every aspect of the lens worked as it did even with the TC on, including visible sharpness. Let it be known, I look at the images on screen not under a pixel-scope. Thus, I notice very little difference with the TC attached - Squirrel Shot was with the TC attached.

Image Quality: I think most of the images coming out of this lens are very good to excellent, you can see the results for yourself, by either visiting the Sigma Site and looking at the user uploaded photos or right here on this site at my images shot with this lens, most images are straight from the Camera, some had contrast added as I was shooting some through a plate glass window (its winter here). Keep in mind, sharpness is also dependent on the user of the lens, even the most technically sharp lens can be made to look fuzzy by the user who has bad skills. To see just what this lens can do - check out the photos in the bird gallery. Overall I am happy with the results, and feel the investment was worth it based on the current offerings. This lens best performance marks are between f/5.6 ~ f/11, I do see some softness in corners as mentioned in other reviews, but who cares – corner sharpness matters in architectural work, not wildlife as much. Center sharpness is very good and in most cases that is where the images are taken. I have nothing of real significance to complain about with this lens, maybe the OS when it engages, you hear a clicking sound, this may be picked up in video recordings. As almost bird shooters CROP, this lens may be well suited for a crop sensor camera body (1.5 crop DX), the ultimate crop factor body is the Nikon 1 series CX sensors @ 2.7, and yes I mounted this lens on my Nikon AW1 using the FT1 adapter – the results are here as well.

The images here were taken on several different days, the first day was very windy. Camera and Lens settings are as marked on each photo, some were shot with a 1.4x and 2x TC from Sigma. (Contrast added due to loss through window glass) The girl and cat were taken midday indoors from about 25 feet.
Weight: Build your muscles up, and get a shoulder pad. A 7 pounder of lens wonderment, solid feel with the heft to go with it!

Quality: A very solid lens, no wiggle, wobble or grinding, as good as any other pro lens on the marked. This is a tight fitting, no joke top of the line lens in quality.  I have a 8K lens and the Sigma is just as tight.

OS: Very Good, works as advertised and adds a couple of stops to your hand holding ability, which will be short lived under this weight :), I had great results down to 1/80s @ 300mm.

Price VS Performance: Good, but it would have been better if I could have used my Nikon Tele-Convertors with the lens, I had to spend another $500.00 on two Sigma Teleconverters, so the price vs. performance went down for me. whining time.

Complaints: No real complaints, just some minor whining.

Does not work with Nikon Teleconvertors - Nikon adds a small coupling flange to their line of Telecoverters to prevent coupling to non-specific lens. The Sigma lens does not have the recess to allow the Nikon Tele-coupler, although it may have worked fine but the physical connection did not work.

Lens Cap -  I have a difficult time popping it on, but it still does the job, I leave the lens hood on all the time anyway!

Lens Case – Sigma lens cases are cheaply made, as are all of my Sigma Cases. I wished this case would allow storage with the hood on, I am looking for an alternate case – maybe a small backpack case.

Some people grip about the fact the zoom and focus rings are opposite of all other Nikon lens, meaning if you’re a trained Nikon shooter you will reach for the zoom and be turning the focus. – This does not bother me, since I just “remember” to reverse my thinking, but one does have a tendency to reach for the wrong area.

TrueToad Recommendations: YES I can recommend this lens for anyone seeking good performance out to 300mm with a fast f/2.8 aperture who needs the benefits of zoom. If all you do is 300mm and count the individual hairs in every frame, and have an additional $2,500.00 to throw away, go with a Nikon or Canon prime 300mm 2.8 prime.

For me, I am loving this lens! Overall, knowing what I know, I would purchase this lens again not even giving it a second thought.  

Help this site out Buy this wonderful lens:  Buy a Sigma 120-300mm does not increase your cost.


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