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FORUMS Canon Cameras, Lenses & Accessories Canon EF and EF-S Lenses 
Thread started 16 Aug 2010 (Monday) 15:13
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Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Review and Discussion

 
BenJohnson
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Aug 16, 2010 15:13 |  #1

Here is my review of the Sigma 120-300 f/2.8. Feel free to post any questions or discussion comments in this thread!

Photo's of the lens:

On a gripped 7D:

IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/966875878_Hdjsq-L.jpg

70-200 f/4 IS, 70-200 f/2.8 IS, 120-300 f/2.8
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/966876069_pfeuS-L-2.jpg

Same lenses, no hoods
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/966876236_zKc8M-L-2.jpg

Same lenses, from the front
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/966876314_binwp-L.jpg

Side view
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/966876627_GmPQ6-L.jpg

All sides
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/966901770_9Q9oW-L.jpg

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BenJohnson
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Aug 16, 2010 15:14 |  #2

Physical Charactaristics:

If you're coming from a 70-200 f/2.8 or something similar, the first thing you will notice when you get the 120-300 f/2.8 is considerably bigger and heavier. The extra heft is instantly noticeable when you pick it up for the first time. The 120-300 is not only heavier, but it is longer and wider than the 70-200 f/2.8. See comparison photos in the first post. The actual dimensions are as follows:

70-200 f/4 IS, 3.0" x 6.8" / 76mm x 172mm, 1.68lbs / 760g
70-200 f/2.8 IS, 3.4" x 7.8" / 86.2mm x 197mm, 3.24lbs / 1470g
120-300 f/2.8 IS, 4.4" x 10.6" / 112.8mm x 268.5mm, 5.7lbs / 2600g

The weight is indicative of the perceived build quality of the lens. It appears to be made very well. I haven't had it for long, but it seems like it will hold up long term. The finish is the standard matte black paint that is on all Sigma lenses. It seems fine, but I do like the Canon "white" finish a bit better. I have a feeling that once my Sigma starts flaking its (appearance) will go downhill very quickly.

Included Items:

I have the DG version of the Sigma, and that includes the new, longer tripod foot. This foot works great for me. The finger grooves are really nice for carrying it around, and the location makes it balance quite well on a tripod or monopod. The tripod collar has a quick turn screw that is easy to loosen and then switch from portrait to landscape orientation. The tripod collar is hinged, so you can remove the lens from the collar, without removing the lens from the body. This is convenient, but it does worry me that it could fall from a tripod or monopod if the collar is left un-tightened. So far this hasn't been an issue.

The lens comes packed in a soft sided, zipper pouch. Somewhat similar to the Canon 70-200 f/2.8, but nothing like the hard case that comes with the Canon 300 f/2.8! It is actually just a larger version of the pouch that comes with some much cheaper Sigma lenses. It has foam cutouts at the top and bottom, and holds the lens fairly securely for transport. Of course the case will not hold a lens with body mounted, but it is still nice to have if you want to transport the lens and it won't fit in your bag.

It also comes packaged with a metal lens hood and cloth lens cap. The hood is a bayonet mount with locking screw. It is a very snug fit, but I haven't had any major problems with installation or removal. I do wish it were long for more protection. It is actually shorter than the hood on the Canon 70-200 f/4! The lens cap is a similar build to the lens pouch. It slips over the hood and has a velcro closure. The cap works best when the hood is reversed (loops around the hood locking screw). When the hood is on forwards, you can slip the cap on, but it is not really secured.

Accessories/Features:

The lens has very large 105mm screw in filter threads. I have purchased a B&W UV filter for the lens. The filter was not cheap, but looks to be doing a good job. I also purchased a snap on lens cap from eBay. The lens cap was very inexpensive, so I figured it was worth a shot. It is side pinch, and similar to any normal lens cap (like the one found on a 70-200 or other smaller lens). The build quality is not very hefty, but it snaps into the filter threads, and stays there just fine. No complaints from me. Not necesarily any better than the included cloth cap, because it is very hard to get on and off with the hood installed, but it does take up a bit less space in the bag.

The Sigma 120-300 does not have IS or focus limiter. The only switch to be found on the lens is the AF/MF switch located near the mount. There are two large, rubber rings, one for focus and one for zoom. The focus ring is closer to the mount, and the zoom ring is closer to the front of the lens (opposite of the 70-200's). This was a bit different at first, but is actually easier to use. When hand held, it puts your hands further apart and makes the lens feel less front heavy. When on a monopod, it puts the ring out in front of the tripod foot, so it is easier to access/turn. Another note is that the zoom ring turns the opposite direction from Canon zooms. Not a big issue, but can feel a bit odd if you are very accustomed to zooming the other direction.

Image Quality and Comparisons:

The real reason I got the lens, was not because it was a 300mm f/2.8 zoom, but actually because it is the cheapest way to ge to 300mm and f/2.8. Having the zoom capability does come in handy, though. The lenses that this one would most likely be compared with are the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 (version I and II), the Canon 300mm f/4 IS, and the Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS, as well as others from Sigma.

I own the 70-200 f/2.8 IS (verion I) and previously owned the 300mm f/4 IS. I have not owned the 70-200 f/2.8 IS mkII, the 300mm f/2.8 IS, or any of the comparible Sigma lenses (70-200, 100-300 f/4, or 300 f/2.8 ). Compared to the lenses I have owned, the Sigma 120-300 is a great step up, at a reasonable cost. Wide open at full zoom, it is sharper than the 70-200 f/2.8 IS (and considerably sharper than the 70-200 with 1.4x at 280mm and f/4). Both wide open at 300mm, the prime (300mm f/4 IS) is considerably sharper than the Sigma 120-300, stopped down to f/4 they are closer, but I would still give the edge to the prime. The 120-300 is not bad, but the 300 f/4 IS is a VERY sharp lens. The real benefit is the f/2.8 aperture (and also that it zooms!). I would suspect that the Canon 300 f/2.8 IS would be even a step ahead of that, but it is well out of my price range.

The Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 is really a unique lens. It is a 300mm with f/2.8 aperture, and it is a zoom. If you want those three things you have no other options. It is not as sharp as a 300mm prime, but it is much more versatile. The new 70-200 f/2.8 IS mkII with an extender could probably rival it for sharpness, but then you are still limited by the f/4 aperture (and it is actually more expensive, based on current used rates). The second reason it has a such a draw (especially for me) is that it is a 300mm f/2.8 lens that can be had for under $2k (used). No other lens can do this either. I bought the lens looking for a cost effective 300mm f/2.8, and getting a zoom was an added bonus.

Saturday Photos:

1 2

IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970768673_hVLfd-L.jpg
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970769731_TjnEh-L.jpg

3 4
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/969941189_p4XS7-L.jpg
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/969945674_SYBZp-L.jpg

5 6
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/969946701_Rgk5W-L-1.jpg
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/969948298_4iCe5-L.jpg

7 8
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970763115_vdzos-L.jpg
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970765693_hRbL9-L.jpg

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BenJohnson
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Aug 16, 2010 15:14 |  #3

Saturday:

When I got the lens I did some informal testing, and the lens did well. AF was spot on, no micro adjustment was needed. Sharpness exceeded the 70-200 f/2.8 IS, and overall build and handling was good. The real test of the lens would be in the field with tough conditions. Over the weekend I shot two triathlons, both in harsh lighting conditions, often shooting backlit or in the shade, but sometimes in the direct sun. Most of my shooting was of cyclists, often moving near 30mph directly at the camera. Thousands and thousands of shots were taken, and consistency was the key. The weekend was a good torture test to see if the lens could keep up. Shots from Saturday are in the post above, and shots from Sunday are at the end of this post.

On Saturday I started shooting bikers coming up a hill away from the transition. The background was very busy, but gave the photos some context. The lens performed well, and I got some good shots, but soon had to move to another location. My next spot was shooting the bikers as they rode past on a public road. The area I chose was shaded and had a line of trees in the background. Unfortunately, being a public road, there were also many times when cars were in the background. The 300mm focal length and f/2.8 aperture did a good job of blurring the background and bokeh looked good to me. In a shaded/backlit situation the lens performed good overall, but did have some AF misses, and occasionally my viewfinder AF confirmation light would blink, and the lens would not AF at all! This happened several times, and the only way I could get it to AF again, was to switch the lens from AF to MF and back to AF. I am not sure what exactly was causing this issue.

After shooting the bikes, I moved to a section of the run. The course layout put this directly in the sun, with the runners being lit from the side. Difficult shooting conditions, but the lens did a good job. Clean backgrounds were hard to find (residential area), so the thin DOF came in very handy. AF didn't have much trouble with the runners, but I did have several more instances where the lens would not AF at all, until the AF/MF was toggled back and forth. At the end of the day I went through the shots, and it seemed that there were slightly more OOF than I was used to with the 70-200 or 300 f/4. The shots that were in focus were tack sharp, but my keeper rate appeared to be a bit down. Some photo's from Saturday can be seen in the previous post.

Sunday:

On to Sunday, and I was at another triathlon. The weather was beautiful again, with slightly cooler temps and more of a breeze. Still not a cloud in the sky and harsh lighting. Today I was shooting bikes only, and was assigned to a specific, uphill portion of the race. A bit different shot than normal, that would hopefully capture some emotion. The spot ended up being partially shaded, so I set my camera up to shoot the riders only in the shade. This resulted in even exposures on the subjects, with blown out backgrounds. I felt it was the best compromise given the shooting location.

Shooting the riders coming up the hill was a bit slower, and the AF did a great job. Very good keeper rates throughout the day on Sunday, and once again, the shots were very sharp with good background blurring. The hill didn't end up being all that steep, so most riders weren't pushing quite as hard as expected, but the shots still look a bit different than the tucked/cruising ones I shoot a lot of. After all the riders went by, I moved to near the end of the bike section and caught the rest of the riders as they went by past a line of trees. Again it was a shaded area and had a busy (leafy) background. Even with the riders traveling at higher speeds, the AF was spot on and the shots were sharp. Photos from Sunday's shooting can be found at the end of this post.

Notes:

All of the shots were done in Manual mode. ISO was manipulated to keep a moderately fast shutter speed (generally 1/640-1/1600, sometimes even higher). Shooting in the shade allowed me to set the exposure and not have to adjust it for long periods at a time. The Sigma 120-300 was used 99% of the time at 300mm, and always at f/2.8. I did not use an extender for any of these shots. With triathlons, shooting position is usually pretty much up to the photographer, so I find that primes usually work fine. Zooms can be handy if a large group comes by and you miss people in your normal shooting area, but this usually is not a problem.

I focus using the back button on my 7D. This weekend was my first time using a monopod, due to the heavier lens. I think these two things may have led to some of my AF misses on Saturday. The monopod seemed to put my hand in slighty different positions as I panned along with the racers. I think this might have caused my thumb to slip off the AF ON button from time to time. I paid close attention to this on Sunday and had very good focusing results. I still do not have an explaination for the AF issues on Saturday (where the lens would not AF at all). This did not happen a single time on Sunday, so it may have had something to do with the specific lighting conditions, or possibly even dirty electrical contacts, I really don't know. For sports that require me to move around more, I do not plan on using a monopod. I think this lens is light enough to hand hold for a full day, but I will find out for sure very soon!

Conclusions:

Overall, I am very happy with the lens. It takes a little time to get used to the added size and weight (and proper monopod use if applicable), but the results are very good. The sharpness is somewhere between the 70-200 f/2.8 and 300 f/4 that I previously used. The AF speed is also in that range (quite good). It might not be quite as quick as the 300 f/4 or 300 f/2.8, but I found that it does keep up with most any situation (except for my unexplained issues). The price is right, and the zoom is very handy, even if you do not use it frequently. Especially in situations where you do the majority of your work at 300mm, this could allow you to avoid carrying a 70-200 on a second body. For me, I think it is the right lens. I hope it continues to perform, and holds up long term. Someday I may still consider going to the Canon 300 f/2.8 IS, but for now the cost is too great. If this lens fits your shooting requirements, and you budget, I would highly recommend checking it out!

Sunday Photos:

9 10

IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970773183_sLtCA-L-2.jpg
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970773437_THRwY-L-2.jpg

11 12
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970774180_NV5ZE-L-2.jpg
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970775371_ymGSe-L-2.jpg

13 14
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970777629_GMD2n-L-2.jpg
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970780203_6jokT-L-2.jpg

15 16
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970764336_Ep7iw-L-2.jpg
IMAGE: http://benjohnson.smugmug.com/photos/970768231_jbDFq-L-2.jpg

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int2str
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Aug 16, 2010 15:25 |  #4

Thanks for the lengthy, helpful review and great collection of pictures!

How were you personally satisfy with the colors & contrast when compared to your 300mm f/4 shots?




  
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EOSAddict
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Aug 16, 2010 15:26 |  #5

I have coveted this lens for ages Ben, you have not helped :)


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Camera ­ Nerd
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Aug 16, 2010 15:31 |  #6

wow, i will def save up for this lens, at first i thought of getting a siggy 100-300 f4, or canon 300 f4, but i think ill get a 1.4 tc for my 70-200 2.8 first, and save some cash for this lens.


canon 7d, canon 5d classic, 24-70 2.8 L, 70-200 2.8 (non-is) L, .
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Travis ­ F
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Aug 16, 2010 19:45 as a reply to  @ Camera Nerd's post |  #7

I have a non-DG version that I don't get to shoot too often. I have contemplated selling it or offering it up for trade for a gripped 7d but, everytime I do I pick it up and shoot and just can't let the darn thing go....

I have shot mine along with a friend's 300 f/2.8L (non-IS) at the same time and can't see or feel any discernable difference other than I can get mine to 120mm too! Ah, well the tripod collar is way better on the Canon, rotates easier and has positive stops for portrait and landscape positions.

Anyway, nice review! I think you hit just about everything. Have fun and make great images with an awesome lens!

One note, if you are concerned with the lens' finish during use be careful rotating the lens in the tripod collar. Mine has done a bang up job of removing the finish from around that area. Not the complete finish but the matte part at least. And yes, I have the larger tripod foot too. I haven't found a good way to making rotating easier. Maybe a squirt of teflon grease..... Hmmmm

Travis


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Aug 16, 2010 21:05 |  #8

The cheapest 300mm f/2.8 around. Not as sharp but you can zoom! Makes it super convenient.


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CountryBoy
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Aug 16, 2010 21:14 |  #9

Man Ben , when you do a review you do a review ! Very nice shots to go with it !


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BenJohnson
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Aug 16, 2010 21:35 |  #10

int2str wrote in post #10732816 (external link)
Thanks for the lengthy, helpful review and great collection of pictures!

How were you personally satisfy with the colors & contrast when compared to your 300mm f/4 shots?

I hope you found it helpful.

I did the same processing on these images, that I do with all my past lenses, and I think the colors and contrast look just as good. Hard to say if there is any difference out of camera either. I didn't do any controlled testing, so I guess I'm not much help, but I haven't noticed any step down in image quality (other than 100% crops, the 300mm f/4 is a bit sharper).

EOSAddict wrote in post #10732821 (external link)
I have coveted this lens for ages Ben, you have not helped :)

It looks like you already have quite the collection of Sigma lenses, why not add another? :p

Camera Nerd wrote in post #10732864 (external link)
wow, i will def save up for this lens, at first i thought of getting a siggy 100-300 f4, or canon 300 f4, but i think ill get a 1.4 tc for my 70-200 2.8 first, and save some cash for this lens.

I used the Canon 300 f/4 for quite a while, and found it to be a great lens. If you don't really need the f/2.8 aperture or the zoom ability, I would recommend it over this lens (and you'll save a ton of money!).

Travis F wrote in post #10734182 (external link)
I have a non-DG version that I don't get to shoot too often. I have contemplated selling it or offering it up for trade for a gripped 7d but, everytime I do I pick it up and shoot and just can't let the darn thing go....

I have shot mine along with a friend's 300 f/2.8L (non-IS) at the same time and can't see or feel any discernable difference other than I can get mine to 120mm too! Ah, well the tripod collar is way better on the Canon, rotates easier and has positive stops for portrait and landscape positions.

Anyway, nice review! I think you hit just about everything. Have fun and make great images with an awesome lens!

One note, if you are concerned with the lens' finish during use be careful rotating the lens in the tripod collar. Mine has done a bang up job of removing the finish from around that area. Not the complete finish but the matte part at least. And yes, I have the larger tripod foot too. I haven't found a good way to making rotating easier. Maybe a squirt of teflon grease..... Hmmmm

Travis

I'll keep that in mind. Have you found any way of quickly switching for vertical to horizontal without damaging the finish? Looks aren't that much of a concern to me, so if it flakes off, so be it. A little disappointing though.

SiaoP wrote in post #10734620 (external link)
The cheapest 300mm f/2.8 around. Not as sharp but you can zoom! Makes it super convenient.

Completely agree!

CountryBoy wrote in post #10734671 (external link)
Man Ben , when you do a review you do a review ! Very nice shots to go with it !

Thank you. I have done numerous lengthy reviews in the paintball product market. Since this lens has a relatively small following, I figured it would be worth my time to do a write up.


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Camera ­ Nerd
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Aug 16, 2010 21:47 |  #11

BenJohnson wrote in post #10734778 (external link)
I used the Canon 300 f/4 for quite a while, and found it to be a great lens. If you don't really need the f/2.8 aperture or the zoom ability, I would recommend it over this lens (and you'll save a ton of money!).

Well im using it to shoot sports and with tc i basically have a 100-280ish f4 lens, and as u prob know, 2.8 is much better for sports shooting


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BenJohnson
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Aug 16, 2010 21:53 |  #12

Camera Nerd wrote in post #10734856 (external link)
Well im using it to shoot sports and with tc i basically have a 100-280ish f4 lens, and as u prob know, 2.8 is much better for sports shooting

If you're shooting outdoors and simply want more reach, the Sigma 100-300 f/4 or the Canon 300mm f/4 are going to do a much better job than the 70-200 with an extender. I never use an extender on my 70-200. Even with the 1.4x I'm still not happy with the results.


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Anders ­ Östberg
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Aug 17, 2010 04:12 |  #13

I really wanted this lens, it would be great for a variety of sports uses, but the one I tried was unfortunately not that great... quite soft wide open, and the AF kept locking up on my camera. I had to nudge the focus ring to un-freeze the AF but it quite frequently got hung up again. Maybe it's the old "Sigma variable QC" at play here - I'm sure it's a great lens if you get a good copy but I hate having to deal with these issues. The focal range would be killer for sports which is why I tried one even though I own the Canon 300/2.8, but no purchase this time at least.


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bigpow
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Aug 17, 2010 04:18 |  #14

cool review, thanks for sharing.
It looks intimidating, for a wus like me :)

so what's the nickname for this sigma, Bazookma? Bazigma?


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Aug 17, 2010 04:36 |  #15

Thanks for the review!

I borrowed one to shoot warbirds over Wanaka. Lovlylens. Heavy to handhold all day and pan but not unpossible.

Not as sharp as I'd like at 300/2.8 and unusable (to a greater extent) with my 2.0tc.. hmmm

But 300/2.8 was certainly usable. And very very nice.

Also it flares beutifuly , I would be pointing this thing into the sun as often as I could.

$5k (NZ) is too much for me , I'd likely not take it out too often either. But then I might...


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Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 Review and Discussion
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