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The best 150-600mm lenses in 2021: super-telephoto zooms to get close to the action

The best 150-600mm lenses
(Image credit: PhotoPlus Magazine)

For reach and all-round versatility, it's hard to beat the best 150-600mm lenses. These ultra-telephoto zoom optics enable you to work from mid to long range, getting you right up close to the action whether you're photographing sports, wildlife or aircraft. 

The best 150-600mm lenses are the top dogs when it comes to working distance. The workhorse 70-200mm may be the most popular telephoto lens around, but it obviously doesn't give you nearly the same reach. 

A good compromise comes in the form of the best 100-400mm lenses, which gives you great telephoto range with a wider angle at the short end. However, it just can't match that 600mm focal length for covering those subjects when they start heading into the horizon.

All these lenses are made by third-party manufacturers, and this means you can often get a great deal on one, not having to pay that premium for a super-famous brand name. This is especially useful when working in telephotos, as long lenses (and especially long primes) will tend to be very expensive.

This shot was taken at the 150mm end of a 150-600mm lens’ zoom range (Image credit: Matthew Richards/Digital Camera World)

Up close: taken from the 600mm end of a 150-600mm lens’ zoom range (Image credit: Matthew Richards/Digital Camera World)

Sigma and Tamron both market 150-600mm zoom lenses. The number on the body refers to the focal length the lens will give you when mounted on a full-frame / 35mm camera; mount one on an APS-C format body and the 1.5x crop factor gives an even greater ‘effective’ zoom range of 225-900mm. On Canon APS-C bodies, the larger 1.6x crop factor delivers an even mightier 240-960mm zoom range. 

Both of Sigma’s lenses are available in Canon EF and Nikon F mount options, as well as for older Sigma DSLR bodies. There are two flavors, the more affordable Contemporary option and the professional-oriented Sport version – and the latter has just been released for the mirrorless E and L mounts. Which means that Sony, Panasonic, Leica and Sigma fp / Sigma fp L shooters can pick up the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports.

While there aren't currently any other mirrorless options, Canon does offer the excellent Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM if you're an EOS R user looking for a native alternative. 

There's a decent amount of choice out there, then. So let's look at the lenses, weigh up the pros and cons, find the best deals and make our picks for the best 150-600mm lenses you can buy right now!

Best 150-600mm lenses in 2021

Editor's Choice

1. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S

The heavyweight, heavy-duty Sigma Sport comes out on top

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sigma SA
Elements/groups: 24/16
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: 4-stops
Minimum focus distance: 2.6m
Maximum magnification: 0.2x
Filter thread: 105mm
Dimensions: : 121x290mm
Weight: 2,860g
Reasons to buy
+Great image quality+Solid build with advanced features
Reasons to avoid
-Comparatively big and heavy-Typically 'slow' aperture at 600mm

As one of the ‘Sport’ lenses in Sigma’s Global Vision line-up, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S is built for speed and optimum performance. The whole of the front section of the lens is a lot larger than in Sigma’s Contemporary class lens, and contains two rather than one top-grade FLD elements. The aim is to boost image quality but it comes at the price of size and weight, this lens being nearly a kilogram heavier than any other 150-600mm lenses, at 2,860g. 

Advanced features include a manual override focus option, in which you can swap to manual focusing simply by twisting the focus ring, without waiting for AF to initially lock onto an object. Dual-mode stabilisation has switchable static and panning modes, and the zoom lock switch works at any focal length setting that’s marked on the barrel. Customization of autofocus and stabilization are available, along with the application of firmware upgrades, via Sigma’s optional USB Dock. 

Up-market build quality includes metal barrel sections and lens hood, and a full set of weather-seals. Image quality is excellent and the Sport lens retains better sharpness at the long end of the zoom range, compared with Sigma’s 150-600mm Contemporary edition. Distortions are also reduced a little, and autofocus speed is fractionally faster. This is a top performer, and is great value considering its pro-grade build quality.

2. Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2

Tamron’s ‘Generation 2’ edition of its 150-600mm lens is seriously revamped

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sony A
Elements/groups: 21/13
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: 4.5-stops
Minimum focus distance: 2.2m
Maximum magnification: 0.16x
Filter thread: 95mm
Dimensions: 108 x 260mm
Weight: 2,010g
Reasons to buy
+Improved autofocus and stabilisation systems+Good sharpness in the long section of the zoom range
Reasons to avoid
-No optical stabilization in the Sony-fit edition-Sharpness is a bit lacking at shorter zoom settings

This G2 (Generation 2) edition of Tamron’s 150-600mm lens is upgraded in pretty much every facet of its features, handling and performance. The LD (Low Dispersion) element count goes from one to three, and BBAR (Broad-Band Anti-Reflection) coatings add to the older lens’s eBAND (Extended Bandwidth and Angular-Dependency) coatings, to further suppress internal reflections. The uprated autofocus system delivers faster performance, better able to track moving subjects and the redesigned VC (Vibration Compensation) system gives class-leading 4.5-stop effectiveness, plus two additional switchable modes. The second mode is for panning and the third applies stabilisation only during exposures, making it easier to track erratically moving objects. However, the optical stabilizer is only featured in the Canon and Nikon mount editions of the lens. 

With the Sony-fit edition, you’ll need to rely on in-camera stabilization. Going one better than the Sigma 150-600mm lenses, a new flex zoom lock enables you to lock the zoom at any position, rather than just at settings for which a focal length is marked on the barrel. It also matches the Sigma lenses with compatibility for an optional USB dock, which Tamron calls a ‘TAP-in Console’, for applying customization and firmware upgrades. There’s only a marginal Increase in size and weight over the original Tamron (see below), but the G2 gets superior weather-seals and a fluorine coating on the front element. Overall build quality feels superior. 

Living up to Tamron’s claims, the G2’s autofocus speed and the effectiveness of its image stabilization are excellent. Image quality is very good overall, but sharpness is a bit of a mixed bag. In our tests, it proved slightly less sharp than the original Tamron lens at short to medium zoom settings, but rather sharper in the 400-600mm sector. It’s a good trade-off, as you’ll usually find yourself using the lens towards the long end of its zoom range.

3. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C

Take a load off with Sigma’s Contemporary class lens

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sigma SA
Elements/groups: 20/14
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: 4-stops
Minimum focus distance: 2.8m
Maximum magnification: 0.2x
Filter thread: 95mm
Dimensions: 105 x 260mm
Weight: 1,930g
Reasons to buy
+Most of the best bits of the Sport edition Sigma+Much lighter than the Sport lens
Reasons to avoid
-Sharpness a little less impressive at long zoom settings-Lacks a full set of weather seals

Nearly a whole kilogram lighter than Sigma’s 150-600mm Sport zoom, this Contemporary edition is the most lightweight 150-600mm lens on the market. That said, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C is only marginally lighter than the original Tamron 150-600mm (below) and almost exactly the same size and price. Despite its comparatively budget price tag, the Sigma Contemporary lens packs plenty of trick features. These include three focus modes including MO (Manual Override), which switches the lens to manual focusing as soon as you twist the focus ring, a dual-mode optical stabilizer for static and panning shots, a three-pole autofocus limiter switch that can lock out either the short or long end of the range, and two custom modes that you can set up via Sigma’s optional USB Dock. 

As with the Sport line lens, the zoom lock switch can be engaged at any marked zoom length. Optical finery includes a top-grade FLD (Fluorite Low Dispersion) element and fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements, which repel moisture and ease cleaning. The lens lacks a full set of weather-seals but does at least feature a weather-sealed mount. This avoids the ingress of dust and moisture in the joint between the lens and camera body. 

The Sigma Contemporary lens has good sharpness throughout the zoom range but loses out slightly to the Sigma Sport edition and the new Tamron G2 for sharpness at 600mm. Color fringing and distortions are fairly low, and autofocus performance is fast and accurate. All things considered, its features and performance make it unbeatable value for its price.

4. Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD

The original Tamron 150-600mm still has a good deal to offer

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sony A
Elements/groups: 20/13
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: 4-stops
Minimum focus distance: 2.7m
Maximum magnification: 0.2x
Filter thread: 95mm
Dimensions: 106 x 258mm
Weight: 1,951g
Reasons to buy
+Budget-friendly selling price+Good build quality and performance
Reasons to avoid
-Outclassed by the Tamron's newer G2 edition-Sharpness drops off at longer zoom settings

This first-edition of Tamron’s 150-600mm is still widely available and is very similar in terms of size, weight and price to the Sigma Contemporary lens. It’s well-built and features quality glass including one each of Tamron’s LD (Low Dispersion) and XLD (eXtra Low Dispersion) elements, the latter offering similar performance to top-grade fluorite glass. Tamron’s eBAND coatings are also on hand, to minimize ghosting and flare. 

The Tamron is a little lacking in advanced features, compared with Sigma’s lenses. For example, there’s only one autofocus mode with no manual-priority override mode. This means that manual override is only available in Single or One Shot autofocus mode, and the autofocus system needs to lock onto an object before you can override the setting. The image stabilizer only has a single operating mode and, in our tests, we found it to be quite ineffective when panning. The lens isn’t compatible with Tamron’s TAP-in Console for USB connectivity, nor with the company’s new tele-converters. That said, we definitely wouldn’t recommend using a teleconverter with any 150-600mm lens. 

And finally, the zoom lock switch only works at the shortest zoom setting. Autofocus speed is pretty rapid and sharpness is good through most of the zoom range. However, sharpness drops off more noticeably at the longest zoom setting than in any other current 150-600mm lens. Overall performance and image quality are good but the lens is completely outclassed by Tamron’s new G2 edition.


(Image credit: Sony)

Not a 150-600mm - but this is best choice for Sony shooters

Specifications
Mount: Sony FE
Elements/groups: 24/17
Diaphragm blades: 11
Autofocus: DDSSM
Stabilizer: Yes
Min focus distance: 2.4m
Max magnification: 0.2x
Filter thread: 95mm
Dimensions (WxL): 111.5x318mm
Weight: 2,115g
Reasons to buy
+3x supertelephoto zoom range+Optical stabilization
Reasons to avoid
-Heavy

You can't yet buy a 150-600mm, if you use a Sony mirrorless camera with its E-mount (although the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports has just been announced, and will be in store imminently). However, the Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS comes pretty close to offering the same sort of reach for what is actually a pretty reasonable price for a Sony lens.. It doesn't boast Sony's G Master badge of optical excellence, and it does have a relatively restricted maximum aperture of f/5.6-6.3, but it has built-in optical stabilization, so pairs well with any Sony Alpha model, including those without IBIS.

best 150-600mm lenses - Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S

(Image credit: Sigma)

10x superzoom beast of a lens offers ultimate versatility for shooting wildlife

Specifications
Mount: Canon EF, Nikon FX, Sigma SA
Elements/groups: 25/19
Diaphragm blades: 9
Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Stabilizer: 4-stops
Minimum focus distance: 2.6m
Maximum magnification: 0.3x
Filter thread: 105mm
Dimensions: 120x269mm
Weight: 2,700g
Reasons to buy
+Huge focal length versatility+Impressive sharpness
Reasons to avoid
-Noticeable distortion at 60mm-More expensive the 150-600mm

Though also technically not a 150-600mm, we thought this lens was worthy of inclusion in this guide. The Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S looks like the company’s popular 150–600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S lens (our top pick), but this lens sports a shorter minimum focal length that makes it really unique. With a staggering 10x zoom, it doesn't look so very different to the 150-600mm lens, but inside features a sophisticated optical construction consisting of no fewer than 25 elements in 19 groups.

The lens feels sturdy and well made, with a construction that is part magnesium alloy and part composite material. We found the AF to be very quick and effective in the vast majority of cases we tested it in, while the image stabilizer is highly effective for both static and panning shoots. Optically and contrast and sharpness are impressive at all zoom settings, particularly when shooting wide-open.

This is an incredibly versatile lens that should be a tempting proposition for those looking to shoot wildlife. 

Read more: Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S review

Read more

The best telephoto lenses in 2021
The best 100-400mm lenses
The best Canon camera lenses
The best Nikon camera lenses
The best budget telephoto-zoom lenses
Best lenses for bird photography

Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 


His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 


In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.