Sigma 120 – 300mm F2.8 Gear 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 amongst some other fantastic sigma products. Over the past 13 months I have been faced with a number of different situations in the field and been able to really put this lens through its paces. I have decided to do a short write up on my general thoughts on the lens.

depth_of_field_wildebeest
elephant-bull

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 and slick look to it. I have to say it is definitely a lens that is pleasing to the eye.

francolin
hippo

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.
Working in the conditions that I do – whether it’s the bumpy roads or the potential of knocking it against the vehicle in the excitement of getting the shot – I always worry about protecting my equipment, but this lens has a solid, hardy feel which erased any concerns about its ability to withstand tougher conditions.

leopard-island
leopard-leap

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 OS 2 being better suited for panning(vertical). One really notices these modes on cooler cloudy days when light is limited and when shooting difficult angles where handheld is the only option.

lioness-in-the-dark
low-light-impala

Lens Range:

I have had issues in the past (while not major, but certainly noticeable) where other lenses on the market to date have been limiting at times. I have had to either change lenses depending on subject, distance and light or have two camera bodies and constantly switch between the two in sightings which 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 feel that in the moment of action, I have the ability to get the composition I am looking for and do so without battling to switch my lenses or equipment.

low-light-lion
male-lion-head-shot-zoomed-in(quality)

Focusing and quality of the image:

The focusing mechanism is smooth and fast, I was surprised at how quickly the focus locks onto its target. Not once have I struggled in terms of focusing. The focusing mechanism is also 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.

male-lion-head-shot
male-lion

Zoom:

The versatility and speed of this lens is incredible, focusing at 120mm from just 1.5 meters (5 feet) and at 2.5 meters (close to nine feet) for 300mm which is essential when photographing in a dynamic environment where your subject can be moving and shooting conditions are constantly changing. The ease at which you can go from 120mm to 300mm is great and when combined with the extremely fast focus, shooting moving targets becomes a breeze.

mother-and-calf
motion-blur

Aperture:

Even before my first shot with this lens the one thing that stood out to me was the aperture. Whether you are at minimal 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 it accordingly and be one hundred percent confident that I would get 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 would never be confident of capturing the photograph perfectly, and often on my return to the lodge, when downloading my images my concerns would be confirmed. I often found 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 expect it to be without an element of doubt in my mind.

young-leopardess
Zebra

My Final thoughts:

Having used this lens over the past couple of weeks, and really paying attention to its capabilities and handling in certain situations, 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.

Photographer: Trevor McCall-Peat