Sigma 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS Sports Review



For nature, sports, and wildlife photographers, a telephoto lens is an indispensable tool that can capture subjects from a distance while maintaining exceptional image quality. The Sigma 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS Sports lens is designed to meet these needs while being one of the lightest lenses available in its class. Its weather-sealed construction, optical stabilization, and robust build promise to deliver quality results even under challenging conditions. In this review, we’ll assess the design, performance, and value of the Sigma 500mm F5.6 to help you decide if it’s worth the investment.


Design and Build Quality

The Sigma 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS Sports lens is crafted with professional photographers in mind. Weighing around 6.3 pounds (2.85 kg), it is relatively lightweight for a 500mm lens, allowing for more extended handheld shooting. The barrel is constructed from a mix of magnesium alloy and thermally stable composite (TSC) material, giving it a durable yet balanced feel.

The lens is fully weather-sealed, with gaskets around the front and rear elements to protect against dust, moisture, and temperature fluctuations. This makes it a reliable companion for outdoor photographers who often shoot in harsh conditions.

The focus ring is broad and covered in rubber for a firm grip. It rotates smoothly with just the right amount of resistance for manual focusing. The tripod collar, which can rotate 360 degrees and features click stops, offers versatility when switching between landscape and portrait orientations.

Key Features

Optical Stabilization (OS): The lens features an Optical Stabilization system to reduce camera shake, particularly crucial for handheld shooting at such long focal lengths. The OS system provides two modes: Mode 1 for general stabilization, and Mode 2 for panning subjects like birds in flight or fast-moving athletes.

Customization: The lens is compatible with the Sigma USB Dock, allowing photographers to customize autofocus speed, focus limits, and update firmware.

Focus Limiter and AF/MF Switch: A focus limiter switch provides three settings to optimize autofocus performance based on the distance to the subject. An AF/MF switch is conveniently placed for easy switching between autofocus and manual focus.

Lens Hood: The included carbon fiber lens hood is lightweight yet durable, helping minimize lens flare and protect the front element from accidental bumps.

Performance and Autofocus

Autofocus: The Sigma 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS Sports lens uses a high-speed Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) for fast and accurate autofocus. It locks onto subjects with ease and tracks them effectively, whether they are stationary or moving quickly. The focus limiter switch improves performance by preventing the lens from searching through the entire focal range.

In low-light situations, autofocus remains reliable, and the motor is quiet enough not to disturb wildlife or attract attention during sports events.

Optical Quality: The lens excels in delivering exceptional image quality. At f/5.6, it produces sharp, high-contrast images from edge to edge, even at its maximum aperture. Chromatic aberration is well-controlled, and distortion is negligible.

The nine-blade aperture creates attractive bokeh, isolating subjects against a creamy out-of-focus background. Stopping down to f/8 or f/11 enhances sharpness even further, making this lens ideal for landscape and wildlife photography.

Vignetting and Flare: Some vignetting is noticeable at f/5.6, but it becomes virtually unnoticeable as the aperture is stopped down. Flare and ghosting are minimal, thanks to the lens’s Super Multi-Layer Coating, even when shooting directly into bright light sources.

 Handling and Usability

Despite its size, the Sigma 500mm F5.6 handles well. The balanced design and relatively light weight make it comfortable for handheld shooting, while the tripod collar ensures stability during longer sessions.

The customizable controls and intuitive layout of switches make it easy to adjust settings quickly in the field. The lens’s weather-sealed construction provides peace of mind when shooting in inclement weather.

Price and Competition

As a high-quality telephoto lens, the Sigma 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS Sports comes at a premium price. However, it remains more affordable than some other telephoto primes in its class. Its blend of optical quality, features, and robust construction justifies the investment for serious photographers who need reliable performance.

Alternatives include the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM and Nikon AF-S 500mm f/4E FL ED VR lenses, which offer wider apertures but are considerably heavier and more expensive.


1. Exceptional Image Quality: Sharpness, contrast, and minimal aberration deliver stunning results.

2. Lightweight Design: At 6.3 pounds, it’s relatively lightweight for a 500mm lens.

3. Optical Stabilization: The OS system reduces camera shake, providing clearer images when shooting handheld.

4. Weather-Sealed: Rugged construction makes it suitable for outdoor shooting in harsh conditions.

5. Customizable: The Sigma USB Dock allows fine-tuning of autofocus settings and firmware updates.


1. Price: Higher than entry-level telephoto lenses, which may be prohibitive for some users.

2. Limited Maximum Aperture: f/5.6 may not be ideal for extreme low-light photography.

3. Focus Ring Position: The focus ring is placed towards the rear, which may require a period of adjustment.


The Sigma 500mm F5.6 DG DN OS Sports is a compelling telephoto lens that offers a remarkable blend of sharpness, speed, and usability. Its lightweight yet durable design makes it a versatile tool for wildlife and sports photographers who demand high performance in challenging conditions. The OS system, customizable controls, and impressive image quality justify its higher price for serious enthusiasts and professionals alike.

While its f/5.6 aperture may not satisfy all low-light photographers, its other strengths make it a worthy contender for any photographer looking to expand their long-range capabilities. With this lens in your kit, you’ll be ready to capture stunning telephoto images with confidence and precision.

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