The Sigma 60-600mm vs the Sony 200-600mm: Best Wildlife Zoom Lens Shootout

Lens makers these days are coming up with some incredible options that were unheard of just a few short years ago. That continues here, with the Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 lens put up against the Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 in a battle for the title of best wildlife lens. You could also make a case for it being an action sports lens shootout too. So, how do they perform, and which comes out on top?

About 10 years ago, I bought a Tamron 16-300mm lens (which has now been superseded by the Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 version), and I absolutely adored it. Compact, lightweight, and incredibly versatile, it was my go-to walkabout lens when I went on distant travels. Sure, it wasn't the best at 16mm nor the best at 300mm, but it was so easy to carry around and adaptable for almost any situation that I opted for it over other lenses I owned at the time. At the other end of the scale, I owned the Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens, which I used exclusively for shooting sports, particularly surfing. However, when I look back at my use of that lens, I can't ever recall thinking: "I wish I could shoot at 60mm on this thing." It was so big and unwieldy that I only ever used it on a tripod, and when I knew I'd be shooting from a distance. That's why I'm curious about the Sigma 60-600mm f/4.5-6.3 lens and its shootout with the Sony 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3. Do you really need that much focal range on a big supertelephoto lens like that?

That issue is addressed in this great video by Chelsea and Tony Northrup, in which they put the two aforementioned lenses side by side and do a comparison: which is the best for shooting wildlife? Chelsea makes the point that the extra 140mm of range that the Sigma has would be ideal at zoos, when you're sometimes shooting animals from a great distance, then in the next minute, shooting them from close range. This is a great point, but is shooting animals at the zoo really considered wildlife shooting? And if you're shooting at 60mm, is f/4.5 ideal for separating subjects from backgrounds? These are questions you guys can debate. I'm not sure I need a super telephoto lens that goes as wide as 60mm, but that's just me. Both come in at about $2,000, so give the video a look and let me know your thoughts on each below.

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Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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I'd rather have a 24-105 on one body, attached with a PD clip and a 200-600 on a 2nd body attached to a PD sling. Oh wait, that's exactly what I do :-)

The limitations of the Sigma lens, especially the balance shift, for me far outweigh the range that it has. The Sigma is pretty good value for money, but sometimes the cost vs performance equation works out in favour of spending more money and carrying more gear.

Don't know if I'd still be thinking that if I was starting with Sony now, instead of years ago...

Exactly what i do, too. Sony a7R IV with Sony 24-105G and a Sony a7R III with my Sony 200-600G, both clipped on my double Cotton Harness. Big gun on my chest, smaller one on my hip. Love it!

If the image quality is good, 60-600 mm may be useful for video makers…🤔

There is a big "problem" with any long lens. It's not the weight or cost either.

Atmospherics. All it takes is for the area between you and your target to have different density air (such as a warm or cold spot) and it seriously degrades the optics.

Sometimes, shooting across a small lake at some rock climbers on a cool day still results in an image that looks like it was taken under water :-)