My Day with the Sigma 150-500

A few weekends ago was the annual Wings Over Houston Airshow. This is one event I look forward to each year because of the vast array of military aircraft on display and the fact that I get to go with my father who really inspired my love of aviation. Normally I use my Nikkor 70-300mm VR lens, but this year I decided to rent a lens specifically for this occasion. I toyed with renting the Nikkor 80-400mm but saw that had the Sigma 150-500 available for $5 cheaper so I decided that I would give it a shot.

I have read the horror stories about Sigma’s quality control and optics being sub-par, but in all honesty, I have never had any issues with a Sigma lens. I own three Sigma lenses and this rental makes the fourth Sigma lens I have used. In fact, my first lens ever was a Sigma 28-80mm that I purchased with my Minolta XTsi back in 1997. It was a quality lens and I never had any issues with it. When I upgraded to my Nikon D50 in 2005 I purchased a Sigma 70-300mm. This is also a quality lens. I took many photos with that lens including the ones below.

It has been an extremely capable lens, especially for the price. When I purchased my D300s last October I was in need of a macro lens. I again looked to Sigma and purchased the 105mm and have produced some excellent images with it.

I do not doubt that some people have received bad copies of Sigma lenses, but the same can be said of anything that is mass produced. I am thankful that my experience with Sigma has been a good one, but I wonder if many of the bad press against Sigma has been by photo snobs that will only use Canon or Nikon lenses. Of course the same can be said about snobs going after camera manufacturers too, but I won’t go into that here. What I will do is talk about my experience with the Sigma 150-500mm lens.

I won’t mention of MTF charts or brick walls because I don’t think most people care. When people purchase a 500mm lens they want to shoot stuff far away. That is what I am going to focus on. This won’t be a completely thorough review because I only used the lens for one day during one event. However, I think this will give you an idea of the capabilities expressed by this lens and will hopefully provide you with some answers to questions you might have.

Thunderbird Belly

First of all, this lens is huge. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to take a shot of this behemoth on my D300s, but here is a shot I found on the internet of the Sigma 150-500 on a D700 which is roughly the same size as my D300s.

Sigma 150-500 on D700

Although it is big and heavy, it really wasn’t a problem hand holding the camera and lens most of the day. My back was a little sore the next day, but shooting was not an uncomfortable experience in the least. Of course, it probably helped that I was shooting with a Black Rapid strap instead of the neck strap that comes with the camera. I honestly cannot imagine walking around with this thing dangling from your neck. If you haven’t invested in a Black Rapid strap, I would highly recommend one. Just so you know, I had my strap secured to the tripod mount on the lens, and not secured to the camera. I recently purchased the MB-D10 Battery Grip for my camera and didn’t want to put any undue pressure on it by securing the strap to it.


Since I was hand holding the camera, I decided to utilize the built in optical stabilization (OS) on the lens. I didn’t worry about it too much when shooting the jets because I could adjust my shutter speed to compensate for any shake, but when shooting the propeller driven planes I needed a slower shutter to blur the propellers. The OS handled this fantastically. I was able to drop the shutter speed and capture the shot I wanted without introducing any blurriness.


I was really surprised at the sharpness of the lens. I thought it would be blurry at 500mm, but I was really impressed with the clarity of the shots especially considering the fact that these airplanes were traveling a few hundred miles per hour. Did I mention that this lens is heavy?

Thunderbirds in Formation

If you are in the market for a good lens that has a nice zoom range, I would highly recommend the Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM. Man that is a mouthful.