Exploring the new Sigma 120-300 2.8 OS

50-500 OS, 120-300, 120-300 OS and 70-200 II / taken using the DP2120-300 OS. Photo taken using the DP2

A while ago I was asked to take sample images for Sigma using their new 120-300 OS. So a month ago they sent me a working beta sample which was said to be alright optically but perhaps not perfectly refined in terms of AF and OS. As an owner of the older 120-300 2.8 and knowing it’s ability to really stun and also having heard that the new lens being among the very best that Sigma ever done – let’s just say I was eager to make it sing..

One of the very first things I noticed was that the stabilizing system (OS) that wasn’t optimized worked tremendously well.  Actually much better than any of my other OS lenses – No, wrong, the very first thing I noticed was that’s it was bigger and perhaps a tad heavier than it’ predecessor, and that the tripod mount came to better use when turned to the top – easier to carry the whole package that way and less intrusive while shooting handheld. And handheld is how this gun is supposed to be used.

The 120-300 OS on the SD15 / taken using the DP2

Now you wonder, how is it? And I’ll tell you – It’s the very best! It’s so sharp, straight ahead from 2.8 – a good example is this shot of a goose (or whatever) that was sleeping in a lake – and I shot it at 269mm at 2.8. That’s wide open.

Vilande - 120-300 2.8 OSSDIM0147_2.jpg

And if you’re a bokeh fanatic, then you’ll love this lens as the bokeh is truly awesome. It has it’s own life, especially the part of off focus going your way – but it’s really nice!

Or this seagull, taken at 300mm, 2.8 and using the Sigma SD14.

Crop of 300mm, 2.8 and using the Sigma SD14

seagull / 300mm, 2.8 and using the Sigma SD14

And I know what you’re thinking – this lens is like MADE for the SD1! And I think it’s the ultimate lens both in terms of sharpness and build quality – as it’s also weather protected as the new SD1 body.

I also did another thing – I bought some freash 123A batteries – and a new package of AA’s – this is something I wanted to do for quite some time! The 2002 Sigma SD9 body amazed me ones more and I’ll tell you, if you have it somewhere around or if you’re thinking about getting one – DO IT! It’s like starting to use a different type of film – a film that is just impossible to duplicate using any other camera. The SD9 is, the SD9.

På väg - 120-300 2.8 OS Strandskatan - 120-300 2.8 OS

And two more SD9 images.. I have plenty more but will save those for another post in a couple of days. I’m busy as we speak with a little something, the little something is partly the reason to why I haven’t posted anything in weeks. I’ll be back! And this is only the first post of at least two about the 120-300 OS.

Krabat - 120-300 2.8 OS

vid sjön - 120-300 2.8 OS

About Carl Rytterfalk

Welcome to my blog! I'm Carl Rytterfalk, a swedish photographer who loves everything that is interesting in the world of photography. In 2002 I fell in love with the three layered Foveon sensor and has since then been an addicted user of Sigma cameras. Though I use Canon and Nikon as well. :)
This entry was posted in 120-300, Full size, Review, Sigma SD14, Sigma SD15, Sigma SD9. Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Exploring the new Sigma 120-300 2.8 OS

  1. Person says:

    A little something?? Carl you are such a tease!!!

    Give us a clue :)

    • Terry Tuttle says:

      I purchased the new Sigma 120-300 OS in the Nikon mount about a month ago. I used it for the first time this past weekend: 4 days shooting a dog agility trial (about 5,000 exposures). I shoot in a dim arena with a D700 at ISO 12,000 or 25,000 at f2.8. I’ve previously always used the Nikon 70-200 2.8 VR (sometimes with the TC 1.4). Anyway, the lens seems very sharp, good contrast, color, etc. It worked well for 3 days. The 4th day, after a few thousand cycles – I started getting intermittent black frames (lens stopped down all the way). No exif data on f stop, only shutter speed (800th). I called Sigma. They said it is a problem with weak springs behind the contacts – and only a problem with the Nikon mount. They offered to repair, my expense for shipping and insurance (I’m not happy about that). So – I will probably return to Adorama (who has offered to give me a refund – even though slightly past the 30 day return window). I hate to return – but don’t want to live with a repaired, brand new $3,000 lens. I may have to consider the Nikon 200-400 f4 (or wait for the D800, with higher ISO capability).

  2. spalbird says:

    OS and sharpness is great!!! About bokeh – I wish it should be much better, though…

  3. Dan says:

    Hi Carl,
    Great shots, thanks for sharing.
    Is this an EX lens? Has Sigma stopped using the EX name in their lenses?

    • I have no idea why there is no EX on this one – as far as I know, EX was put on all lenses with the same aperture over the entire zoom range. As in this case. Perhaps all lenses are good enough now days?

  4. Ed says:

    thanks for paying homage (yet again!) to the camera that started it all, the sd9 that I still have & that I’ve been tempted to sell to help finance the sd1 of my future, now your comments make me think again & I agree the sd9, although not easy to use gives results that are truly unique.

  5. It’s good for bird watching ;-)) I’d like to see some sports shots done, or perhaps a mention of where we are in therms of ‘€ ł £ $’ worth ? I am still on the look out for alternative lenses for Sigma, in terms of adapters and third party producers.
    Do you know of anyone using say Jena lenses or Leica lenses for their daily work?

    • Hi Jesper, well I don’t do sports (only if forced) – and in terms of price I don’t know as it’s not out yet. Hopefully it’s around the price of the none OS version, although I think it will be quite a bit higher.

      Over at dpreview-forum you will most likely find some people deeply involved in third party lenses – like the Jena. I have one Nikon 50mm 1.4 (old metallic version) that is converted to fit my Sigma. But that’s all.

  6. John says:

    Hi Carl, would there be any chance that your little something is the SD1? :) Maybe give us a hint of when it will be out? Say end of this month?

  7. Obviously the SD1 is sitting there on you shelve and you just can’t tel us about it what a darn shame…

  8. Person says:

    How very cryptic…


  9. Idan says:

    One word: Gorgeous! – Thanks Carl, you just made my day, month, year..

  10. rtrski says:

    Little something CAN’T be the SD1. We all know that’s not “little”, it’s got a better crop factor than the prior Sigma DSLRs.

    (Posted in the hopes my Machiavellian reverse-psychology will trick Carl into revealing he does indeed have an SD1…in which case this parenthetical is a dead giveaway of my real intentions…DRAT! Curses! Foiled again!!)

    ((Or was that trickses within trickses, my dear Hobbitses? What does Carl have in its pocketses…..)

  11. Ted Johnson says:

    Great shots Carl. Looks to be a real winner. The SD1 can’t be here quickly enough!

  12. Good stuff Carl: Looks like it is working quite well. All my lens are sigy’s and as a Canon user I could not be happier. It’s good to see that this is a DG version not DC of course maybe they are not making one. I’m covered from 24mm to 300mm and 1.4 to 2.8 and yes the 300 is 2.8 HSM-APO which I would love to see one day with OS.

    Thanx for sharing: Brady

  13. Excellent stuff, I would love to own a lens like this but it cost more than my entire Nikon kit. D90/18-70/70-300VR/35DX/SB-800/D70. My SD14 would sing with this lens and I can only dream about using it on an SD1 if I could swing it.
    Oh well maybe someday with the kids are out of college in about 16 years.

    • One more thing, the SD9 may of taken great images but as a camera was a kludge. I got to play with one at Camera World in Portland Oregon (before Wolf/Ritz took over, now it sucks). I can only immagine fighting dual batteries and all its other quirks especially after all my battles with much more “refined” SD14. Won’t see me trolling Ebay for one.

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  16. Danha says:

    Just a quick question – I have the older version of this lens and when you zoom in and out the focus plain shifts quite significantly. I would be looking to use this lens for allot of video work and was wondering if the new version suffers this same problem?


  17. RTogog says:

    Very nice occasion to explore this new Sigma lens which many of us like to hear, especially its performance @ wide open f2.8.
    As many of us like to acquire this lens not only for its speed (f2.8) for low light photography but also its possibility to use w TC.
    How its performance with TC will be a nice review if you could do it. Many thanks,

  18. Will Speak says:

    I bought a Nikon fit example of the 120-300 OS 10 days ago and had great difficulty fine tuning the AF. When viewed at 100% on a PC the results were inconsistant giving me sharpness at both -5 and +10. I re-ran the calibration twice more with different test targets and ended up with different results each time. Finally settling on -2 I feild tested it on the Ducks at a local nature reserve and found that it was unable to focus on even a slow moving target (Duck swimming) and would only find focus on static targets 12% of the time! This said the few images that were sharp were very impressive which has encouraged me to exchange the lens for another copy and give Sigma another chance. If the new lens doesn’t perform it will also be returned and I (and no doubt Terry Turtle) will be unlikely to consider the purchase of another Sigma product in future. I know of at least one potential buyer who has been put off by my experience and as a result had his prejudice against 3rd party lenses reinforced . It’s a shame that a product with the potential to be a stella optic is being let down by poor quality control. I will post again in a few days with the results from the replacement lens which I seriously hope will work as advertised.

  19. Will Speak says:

    Well I’m on my third week with the replacement lens and have to report mixed results. When it’s good its very good but unfortunatly it’s not consistant particularly (and most anoyingly for a wildlife photographer) with moving subjects. I think we all know that a new lens takes time to master and that it’s a poor workman who blames his tools so I’ve percivered and removed as many varriables as possible to give the AF a better chance (not that I should have to with a lens of this type and cost). I’ve attached it to a sturdy tripod, switched OS off, slowed the frame rate, used single point AF, switched the focus tracking with lock on to off (things I’ve never had to do with my other lenses) and still find it misses Images that I know I would have nailed with a humble Nikon 70-300VR costing a fraction of the price. The problem is even worse with the matched 1.4x tc attached and I’m fast loosing confidence in the combination particularly as I have a better success rate with a very battered 20 year old “screw drive” Sigma 400 APO. Such is the nature of the problem that I’m begining to wonder if there’s a communication/firmware issue between the camera and lens, weak springs perhaps?
    At this point it is worth noting that the Sigma plant sustained damage during the terrible earthquake earlier this year and I have no doubt that Sigma have faced considerable problems with component supply and manufacture. Deference to the problems they face has tempered my disapointment and strengthened my patience somewhat with this product but not my determination to get what I paid for. As it stands I am genuinely sad to report that both the examples I’ve recived have fallen a long way short of what could reasonably be expected of a lens at this price point.

  20. A nice article. Looks like a very nice lens. I’m hoping to get it for Pentax as soon as I can. I will also get the Sigma 2x teleconverter for it. 120-300 f/2.8 and 240-600 f/5.6 all in one lens. I’ll be using it for the K-5.

  21. David Jensen says:

    I purchased the new 120-300 f2.8 OS before a trip to Yellowstone and took it to Hopeland Gardens in Aiken to test it out and I was not disappointed. Yellowstone was great. Last day in the park, as we were leaving we spotted several elk and I could not pass up the opportunity to pull off the road, pick up the camera and shoot. I love this image.

  22. Per Laursen says:

    Used my 120-300 OS (replacing the old version and Nikkor 200f2+TCs) for 3 weeks now. Spectacular performance and no focus issues on my D7000. For the last two days I have tested the combo 120-300OS+Sigma 2X(non DG) with superb results – even on f5,6 (f 6,3-7,1 is great ! ). Even in a lamplit livingroom autofocus is unbelievably quick and precise. AF-finetuning ends up in “+2″.
    I will ofcourse try the ordered 2X DG, but can not immagine it beeing a better solution resolution/contrast-wise.
    In short I am excited. Fully recommended !

  23. Per Laursen says:

    Got the best moon-shots to date with Sigma 2X + Nikon TC 20 E III asf.( after surgery ) + Sigma 120-300/2,8 = 1200 mm f 11 ( f 14 ). OS works great even with this combo, handholding with support is possible. The Nikon TC spoils correct focallength-reading in exif-data (1200 mm=300 mm), and f 11=f2,8 ( f 14=f3,5) etc. With Sigma TC 2X only, all exif-data is correct !
    [img]http://www.rytterfalk.com/wp-content/DSC_8735 2x+2x.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://www.rytterfalk.com/wp-content/DSC_8735 2x+2×-1.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://www.rytterfalk.com/wp-content/DSC_8735 2x+2×-2.jpg[/img]
    [img]http://www.rytterfalk.com/wp-content/DSC_8735 2x+2×-3.jpg[/img]

  24. Per Laursen says:

    From an other night
    1200 mm 1/200 sec. f 13 iso 400, OS, handheld with support.

  25. Laurence- excellent. Did you shoot this from the Eiger? I think so because it got you so much closer! Sharp. SD1? Can you send me your email address, I have a question? I have misplaced yours since I last saw you a few years ago in Birmingham. Living in California. restarkweather@mac.com

    Photo of Wall Art – DP1 ISO 50
    [img]http://www.rytterfalk.com/wp-content/Wall Art – DTLA E.jpg[/img]

  26. Karthik says:

    I just bought the 120-300, a used lens but in great shape from the US. A friend of mine is bringing it along. I have a Kenko 1.4 TC, and would like some advice on what is the best TC to use. I’m planning to rent the sigma and canon TCs to get a firsthand experience, but getting feedback and suggestions would help me make the decision.

    I shoot wildlife regularly, especially birds and big cats in India using a Canon 7D. While larger subjects like Tigers and Leopards wont be an issue, smaller birds will be the real challenge. Hence my question on TCs. How much does a 2X impair IQ?

    Appreciate inputs from the other Pros’ in the forum.



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