The best 150-600mm lenses allow you to get right into the thick of the action. Beloved of sports and motorsports photographers, these high-quality zooms provide a broad range of telephoto perspectives. For subjects you simply can't get close to, from wildlife to aircraft, a 150-600mm lens is the ideal companion.
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Many professional photographers favor the best 70-200mm lenses (opens in new tab) or the best 100-400mm lenses (opens in new tab) as their means of working distance, but the 150-600mm outstrips them both in terms of sheer distance, and in terms of the difference between the wide end and the telephoto end.
One thing to note about 150-600mm lenses is that they're all third-party, and camera manufacturers aren't currently making their own. While this means that you may need to get used to different handling, and some features like optical image stabilisation may not function as well, the advantage is that they tend to be cheaper than buying native lenses. Given how expensive telephotos can get at longer focal lengths, this is extremely welcome news.(opens in new tab) (opens in new tab)
The main manufacturers of 150-600mm lenses are Sigma and Tamron, and they have been producing them for Canon EF and Nikon F full-frame mounts for quite some time. Canon RF and Nikon Z mirrorless users can mount them via adapters, and functions like autofocus should still work well enough. Canon RF users may also want to consider the excellent Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1L IS USM (opens in new tab), which is a reasonably close alternative.
For other mirrorless users, 150-600mm pickings used to be thin on the ground, however Sigma has finally let loose its 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports lens (opens in new tab) for Sony E and Leica L-mount (the latter of which includes Panasonic's full-frame mirrorless cameras like the Lumix S5). This has given a few more options for full-frame mirrorless shooters. There are rumors as well that Fujifilm is working in a Fujinon 150-600mm lens for the X-series, though we'll have to wait and see on that one.
When we're looking at a 150-600mm lens, 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.
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!
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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.(opens in new tab)
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 A-fit edition, you’ll need to rely on in-camera stabilization (note that for Sony mirrorless cameras using the Sony E-mount, you should check out the Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD (opens in new tab)).
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. See our full Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 review (opens in new tab).(opens in new tab)
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.
A retooling of the already excellent DSLR lens, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Sports is the complete package for Sony and Leica L shooters. Pairing superb internal optics with an all-around excellent, weather-sealed build, this heavy-duty zoom lens is a big customer, but is really the only game in town for 150-600mm as far as users of the aforementioned mounts are concerned.
Of course, that wouldn't matter if the lens itself was no good. Fortunately, it's excellent. The optical path is a little different from the DSLR version, including 25 elements arranged in 15 groups, and it produces impressive sharpness throughout the entirety of the zoom range. There's some inevitable fall-off in the corners, but not enough to worry about, and it's the sort of thing that will be hidden anyway when you're shooting with a shallow depth of field.
The autofocus is excellent, though you'll need to make sure your camera is set up in the optimal way to take advantage of it. The build quality of the lens is also impressive – while no one is going to pretend this is a lightweight lens, it handles well, with tactile zoom and focus rings and a series of on-body controls for functions like AF speed, stabilization intensity, and in a new addition for the mirrorless version, Zoom Torque control to adjust the resistance of the zoom ring.
This is an all-around excellent lens that's absolutely worth the money for E-mount and L-mount users. Hopefully it'll inspire other manufacturers to give it some competition!
150-600mm lens alternatives
There are a few lenses that give a similar, but slightly different, focal length range to a 150-600mm - and below are some of those which are worth considering:(opens in new tab)
This used to be the nearest Sony users could get to a 150-600mm, but even though the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Sports (opens in new tab) has now stolen its thunder, it's still a good choice. 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.
The Tamron 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD is the company’s first super-telephoto zoom for full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras. It’s up against stiff opposition from the excellent own-brand Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS (above), which gives even greater telephoto reach. However, the Sony lens is physically nearly 50 per cent longer, somewhat heavier and more expensive to buy. Despite not having quite the reach of a 150-600mm, the range is still attractive enough for action, sports and wildlife photography. It is backed up by super-fast autofocus and highly effective optical stabilization. It’s sufficiently compact and lightweight for prolonged periods of handheld shooting, and the removable Arca-Swiss compatible tripod mount collar is a further handling bonus. All in all, it’s a high-performance lens with a strong set of features and a very good buy at the price.
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 (opens in new tab)
How we test lenses
We test lenses using both real world sample images and lab tests. Our lab tests are carried out scientifically in controlled conditions using the Imatest testing suite, which consists of custom charts and analysis software that measures resolution in line widths/picture height, a measurement widely used in lens and camera testing. We find the combination of lab and real-word testing works best, as each reveals different qualities and characteristics.
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