Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 vs. Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3: The Ultimate Telephoto Showdown for Wildlife & Sports Photography

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Are you a passionate wildlife or sports photographer seeking the perfect telephoto lens to capture stunning images of elusive subjects? You need not search any further, as we will undertake a thorough analysis and comparison of two outstanding lenses: the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 and Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3.

Designed to offer unparalleled reach and versatility, these lenses are highly sought after by enthusiasts and professionals alike who aim to get closer to their subjects without sacrificing image quality.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the nuances of these two lenses, discussing their strengths and weaknesses across various aspects such as low light performance, autofocus capabilities, optical stabilization, aberration control, sharpness, bokeh quality, flare and ghosting resistance, vignetting control, and distortion control.

Whether you’re an avid bird photographer, a dedicated sports shooter, or simply someone looking to elevate your photographic prowess, this comparison will guide you towards the ideal lens choice to meet your specific needs.

So, get ready to expand your photographic horizons and unlock new creative possibilities as we delve into the captivating world of the Nikon 200-500mm and Sigma 150-600mm lenses.

By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and insights necessary to make an informed decision that will elevate your photography to new heights.

Happy reading!


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6E ED VRSigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Nikon F (FX)
Max ApertureF5.6F5.0-6.3
Aperture TypeFixedVariable
Focal Range (mm)200-500150-600
Mount TypeNikon F (FX)Nikon F (FX)
Zoom Ratio (X)2.54

Comparing the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 and Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3, we notice several key differences.

The Nikon 200-500mm has a fixed maximum aperture of f/5.6, while the Sigma 150-600mm has a variable aperture ranging from f/5.0 to f/6.3. Fixed aperture lenses, like the Nikon, generally perform better in low light conditions and offer more consistent image quality across the zoom range. The Nikon lens also has a focal range of 200-500mm and a 2.5x zoom ratio, while the Sigma lens offers a more extensive focal range of 150-600mm and a 4.0x zoom ratio, providing more versatility.

In terms of wildlife and sports photography, both lenses have their advantages. The Nikon 200-500mm’s fixed aperture can lead to better low light performance, shallower depth of field, and improved autofocus performance, which can be beneficial for capturing fast-moving subjects. On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm’s extended focal range and higher zoom ratio provide more flexibility when framing subjects at varying distances.

Considering the trade-offs between fixed and variable aperture lenses, as well as the focal range and zoom ratio, the Sigma 150-600mm may be a superior option for those who prioritize versatility and extended reach. However, the Nikon 200-500mm might be more suitable for photographers who require better low light performance and more consistent image quality throughout the zoom range. In the end, the decision will hinge on your individual requirements and inclinations with regards to wildlife and sports photography.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6E ED VRSigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Nikon F (FX)
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀108×267.5mm⌀121×290mm
Weight (gr)23001930
Filter Thread (mm)9595
Weather SealingNoNo
Zoom MethodRotary (extending)Rotary (extending)
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoNo
Hood SuppliedYesYes
Tripod CollarYesYes

When comparing the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 and Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 in terms of their physical properties, the Nikon 200-500mm has a diameter of ⌀108mm and a length of 267.5mm, while the Sigma 150-600mm is slightly larger with a diameter of ⌀121mm and a length of 290mm. The Nikon lens is also heavier, weighing 2300 grams, compared to the Sigma lens at 1930 grams. Both lenses utilize a rotary (extending) zoom method.

In wildlife and sports photography, size and weight play a crucial role in portability, balance, discreetness, storage, and lens swapping. The lighter and more compact Sigma 150-600mm might be easier to carry around, allowing for longer shooting sessions without feeling weighed down.

The extending rotary zoom method used in both lenses has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it provides a simpler design that can result in lower prices and potentially increased durability. On the other hand, it may make the lenses more cumbersome to handle and harder to weather-seal, impacting their resistance to dust, moisture, and other elements.

Considering the factors of size, weight, and zoom method, the Sigma 150-600mm may be a more appealing option for photographers who prioritize portability and a lighter setup. However, the Nikon 200-500mm might still be a suitable choice for those who do not mind the extra weight and larger size.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens mount is made of metal and features a rubber gasket to protect against dust and moisture. In contrast, the Sigma 150-600mm lens mount is also made of metal but has a rubbery gasket around it for weather sealing. Both lens mounts offer durability and protection against the elements, with subtle differences in the rubber gasket design.

Regarding the lens barrel, the Nikon 200-500mm lens has an outer barrel made of metal with a high-grade plastic shell, while the inner barrel is made of plastic. When zooming, the lens extends, but a locking mechanism is available to keep it fixed at its minimum 200mm length and prevent gravity-induced focal length changes. When zooming in, the lens changes its physical size and becomes quite a bit longer, but it remains well-balanced with the camera.

On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 barrel is made of a mixture of aluminum and Sigma’s Thermally Stable Composite material, with a substantial thumb-screw locking hood. The rear section and tripod mount are made of metal, while the front section is plastic. The design of the lens barrel is ergonomic and well-balanced.

In summary, both lenses have durable and well-designed lens mounts and barrels, with slight differences in materials and design. The Nikon 200-500mm lens offers a balance between weight and durability, while the Sigma 150-600mm lens prioritizes a combination of metal and composite materials for a lightweight yet robust build.

Weather Sealing

The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 is not fully weather-sealed but offers some protection against the elements, including a rubber gasket at the lens mount to help prevent water ingress. However, there are no internal seals at the rings, switches, or front of the barrel.

Additionally, the front element lacks a fluorine coating, which could help with repelling water and making it easier to clean. This lens can withstand some cold, dust, and moisture but is not designed for heavy abuse or exposure to extreme weather conditions like a pro-level lens.

In comparison, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 features a rubbery gasket on the lens mount but is not fully weather-sealed like the Sports version. The front element has water and oil repellent coatings, but there are no internal seals at the rings and switches. Moreover, the front element does not have a fluorine coating.

In conclusion, both lenses provide some degree of weather resistance but are not fully weather-sealed. The Nikon 200-500mm has a rubber gasket at the lens mount, while the Sigma 150-600mm offers water and oil repellent coatings on the front element. However, considering the overall weather sealing features, the Sigma 150-600mm has a slight edge over the Nikon 200-500mm, with its water and oil repellent coatings providing additional protection in challenging conditions.


The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 features 2 rings: a ribbed zoom ring and a textured rubber focus ring, both designed for smooth rotation and a quality feel. The zoom ring, situated towards the front of the lens, takes nearly 180 degrees of rotation to move from 200mm to 500mm, while the focus ring is placed closer to the camera body for easy changes in focal length while maintaining good balance and grip technique.

There is no zoom creep, and the lens has a zoom lock switch at its shortest 200mm length. With the focus ring set to the M/A position, the lens provides a focus limiter feature, full-time manual focus override, and a distance scale displayed in a window.

In contrast, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 has 2 rings: a larger zoom ring with a deeply-grooved rubberized grip, featuring marks for various focal lengths and a lock switch to prevent zoom creep, and a smaller focus ring.

The zoom ring can be adjusted with a push-pull motion, rotating in the Canon-standard direction with a 146-degree rotation. The focus ring, located behind the zoom ring, has soft stops at either end of the focusing range and rotates indefinitely but offers more resistance. However, the manual focus ring is relatively thin, and there is no windowed distance scale or depth-of-field indicator on the focus ring.


On the side of the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens, there are 4 switches available, which consist of an AF/MF switch, a focus limiter switch, an IS switch, and a VR mode switch, while the focus limiter switch constrains autofocus distance to a specified range. The IS switch turns the vibration reduction system on or off, and the VR mode switch toggles between normal and sport mode. These switches are conveniently located and easy to use, and the focus and zoom rings are well-designed and textured for comfortable handling.

On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 features 4 switches on the side of the barrel, including an AF/MF switch for toggling between autofocus and manual focus modes, a MO switch for manual override mode, a focus limiter switch with 3 settings, and an IS switch for toggling the optical stabilization mode. The switches have solid clicks and visually indicate their set positions, making them user-friendly. Additionally, the lens includes two Custom switches that can be programmed via the Sigma dock for personalized settings.

In conclusion, both lenses offer easy-to-use and accessible switches, providing a high level of functionality and control. However, the Sigma 150-600mm lens has a slight edge due to its two Custom switches, which allow for personalized settings through the Sigma dock.

Filter Thread

Both lenses have a 95mm filter thread size, which can lead to increased filter costs and reduced compatibility compared to more common thread sizes like 67mm, 77mm, and 82mm. Compatible filters include the German brass 95mm B+W 010 UV MRC filter and the Japanese aluminum 95mm Hoya EVO UV, both of which have dirt, dust, and smudge-resistant multicoatings for increased durability. The 95mm Hoya HMC filter is another option, but it lacks the same resistant coatings. Since filters tend to last a long time, investing in high-quality options is recommended.

Lens Hood

The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 comes with a one-piece plastic bayonet design lens hood that is included in the package. This hood is quite large, with a 5″ diameter and 4″ length, and does its job well. The lens can be reversed and reattached for transport, with its unobtrusive design providing smooth rotation.

In contrast, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 lens hood is made of plastic and features a bayonet mount style with ribbing at the end for enhanced grip. Thanks to its flat front, the lens can be placed vertically on a flat surface, and the aesthetically appealing molded ribbing is ideal for resting arms. The hood can be smoothly rotated and is designed to protect the front element of the lens from scratches and scuffs. However, it is not as solid as the metal hood of the Sports lens.

Comparing the two lens hoods, the Sigma 150-600mm hood offers a more attractive design with its ribbed exterior, providing better grip and handling during installation and removal. The Nikon 200-500mm hood, on the other hand, is more straightforward in design and lacks the ribbing for added grip. Both hoods effectively protect the front element of the lens and can be smoothly rotated.

Tripod Collar

To support its weight and ensure stability when mounted on a tripod, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 comes with a tripod collar. However, the collar’s single point of connection, located at the back of the lens barrel, could be enhanced with a two-point stabilization system similar to replacement collars from Kirk and RRS.

Although the tripod collar is not directly compatible with Arca-Swiss, several photographers choose to replace the stock tripod collar with an aftermarket one that offers improved compatibility and support. The tripod collar can be removed when not needed, allowing for more comfortable handheld use.

On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 comes with a tripod collar positioned low on the lens, which features a thumb screw to secure it in place. It is relatively smooth with minor slip-stick behavior and can be rotated out of the way when not in use.

However, detents are not provided at 90-degree rotation settings. The collar can be removed from the lens if you won’t be using a tripod, and Sigma includes a rubber band to fit in the gap left when the collar is removed. The lens is compatible with Arca Swiss and features a single attachment axle at the rear of the foot for securing the included neck strap.

Comparing the two tripod collars, the Sigma 150-600mm offers a more versatile and user-friendly design, with Arca-Swiss compatibility and smoother rotation. The Nikon 200-500mm tripod collar, while functional, could benefit from a better stabilization system.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6E ED VRSigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Nikon F (FX)
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorHyper Sonic Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance2.2m2.6m
Max Magnification (X)0.220.2
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

Equipped with a built-in Silent Wave Motor (SWM), the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 guarantees quiet autofocus operation and enables full-time manual focus override when the focus ring is set to the M/A position. Its autofocus speed is quite good, with initial focus acquisition being faster than many f/1.8 Nikon primes. At 500mm, the lens requires roughly 1 second to focus from close to infinity, whereas at 300mm, it takes around 0.8 seconds. Its low-light performance is generally decent but may slow down slightly at 500mm. Focusing accurately and consistently is a strong point of this lens, with excellent repeatability.

The manual focus action is smooth, with a wide focus ring that allows for precise focus adjustment. Featuring an internally focusing design, the lens maintains a constant length and prevents the front element from rotating during focusing, making it easier to use with polarizing filters.

The Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 has adequate autofocus performance but may not be the best choice for shooting more active subjects. It takes around 0.8 seconds to focus from 10m to infinity, and refocusing from infinity to close-up tends to be better than the opposite direction.

The lens has manual focus override and a smooth manual focus action. It also features a focus limiter switch and an optical stabilization mode. However, the lens may struggle in low-light situations. The autofocus acquisition speed is good and it can focus accurately.

Comparing the two lenses, the Nikon 200-500mm offers a faster and more consistent autofocus performance, making it better suited for capturing moving subjects and performing well in low-light situations. The Sigma 150-600mm lens, although adequate in autofocus performance, may not be the best option for fast-paced situations or low-light conditions.

Optical Stabilization

With an effective Vibration Reduction (VR) system, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 provides up to 4.5 stops of stabilization, enabling sharp images even when shooting at slower shutter speeds. It operates silently, making it ideal for both photography and video recording.

There are 2 modes of stabilization: Normal and Sport, with the latter optimized for tracking fast-moving subjects. When shooting at a 500mm focal length with VR on, shots can be usable at shutter speeds as slow as 1/60 seconds, and even down to 1/25 seconds in some cases, demonstrating the impressive performance of the stabilization system.

On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 has an effective optical stabilization system, which is crucial for shooting with such long focal lengths. The OS is expected to have a 4-stop rating. There are 2 modes of stabilization – Mode 1 for general stabilization and Mode 2 for panning motions. Although the lens emits clicking sounds when the Vibration Reduction (VR) system starts up or shuts down, the operational hum is generally quiet.

The lens should be set to Position 1 for still subjects and Position 2 for moving objects. The OS reduces the steadiness requirement and allows for handheld shots at low shutter speeds, but longer focal lengths emphasize motion blur, so be prepared to raise your shutter speed. At 600mm, the lens can get handheld shots at speeds as low as 1/100-second with consistently sharp results.

Comparing the two lenses, the Nikon 200-500mm lens offers slightly better optical stabilization performance, providing up to 4.5 stops of stabilization and operating silently. The Sigma 150-600mm lens, while also effective, has a 4-stop rating and produces some noise during startup and shutdown.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm F5.6E ED VRSigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Nikon F (FX)
Special Elements3 ED elements2 FLD and 3 SLD
Diaphragm Blades99
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 exhibits minimal chromatic aberration, even on extremely contrasted edges, making it hard to find areas with color fringing at 200% crop. While chromatic aberration levels are low at 200mm and 300mm focal lengths, they tend to increase slightly as the focal length reaches 400mm and 500mm.

Additionally, the lens exhibits some noticeable cat’s-eye effect towards the corners and borders of the sensor. There is some obvious coma as you move towards the corners and the bokeh has a bit of “onion-ring” effect. Thanks to the extra-low dispersion lens elements, the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens significantly reduces spherical aberration, thereby enhancing the overall sharpness and contrast of the images.

On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 exhibits some chromatic aberration, especially at the wide end of the focal length range, but it diminishes to negligible in the mid lengths and becomes modestly noticeable again at 600mm. Longitudinal chromatic aberration is well controlled and not an issue. There is a slight amount of bluish fringing in the highlights in some photos, but it’s minor and easily corrected.

Comparing the two lenses, the Nikon 200-500mm lens has superior aberration performance, with minimal chromatic aberration and better control of spherical aberration due to the extra-low dispersion lens elements. The Sigma 150-600mm lens, although still performing well, exhibits slightly more chromatic aberration and bluish fringing in certain situations.


The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 showcases outstanding center sharpness across the zoom range, although there is some corner softness noticeable at longer focal lengths and wide open apertures. However, corner sharpness can be enhanced by stopping down, frequently reaching its maximum around f/11.

At 200mm, the lens provides excellent center sharpness at f/8, with very good sharpness at f/5.6. However, as you zoom in, sharpness tends to decrease, with a considerable drop observed at 500mm, although the results are still usable. It is worth noting that using a teleconverter can impact autofocus accuracy and further reduce sharpness.

In contrast to the Nikon, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 produces sharp and detailed images throughout the full-frame image circle from 150mm and even with wide-open apertures. There is a slight increase in sharpness and contrast if you stop down a little, peaking at about f/8.

Center image sharpness is higher than the edges, especially when shooting full frame rather than APS-C, but even at the edges, the quality is still good. At 500mm and 600mm, we begin to notice a more significant decrease in sharpness compared to the shorter focal lengths.

Comparing the two lenses, the Nikon 200-500mm offers excellent center sharpness with improvements in corner sharpness when stopping down. The Sigma 150-600mm also performs well, maintaining good sharpness across the frame, though it experiences a more significant decrease at longer focal lengths. In terms of overall sharpness, the Nikon 200-500mm lens has a slight advantage due to its consistent performance throughout the zoom range.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 is capable of producing pleasing bokeh with smooth and beautiful out-of-focus areas. Its iris diaphragm with 9 rounded aperture blades contributes to the attractive rendition of out-of-focus areas. The lens does an excellent job of managing specular highlights and background isolation, leading to appealing bokeh without any distracting patterns or onion-shaped highlights. Furthermore, the bokeh balls in images captured with the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens exhibit minimal longitudinal chromatic aberration, and while there is some cat’s-eye effect, it is not overly intrusive.

On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 can deliver luscious, creamy background bokeh and good isolation, but in some shots with busy backgrounds, the bokeh can look frenetic and busy. The 9-bladed, rounded aperture diaphragm yields nice, round out-of-focus highlights even when stopped down to f/8.

However, there are issues with specular highlights, and the cat’s eye effect is quite apparent towards the center of the image frame when shooting wide-open towards telephoto. The falloff in bokeh as you approach and then pass the plane of focus is often quite pleasing, but if you have bright sources of light and want them to appear smooth without defined shapes, the 150-600mm is not the lens of choice.

Comparing the two lenses, the Nikon 200-500mm offers superior bokeh quality, with smooth out-of-focus areas and effective handling of specular highlights and background isolation. The Sigma 150-600mm lens also provides pleasing bokeh in some situations, but it can struggle with busy backgrounds and specular highlights.


Although the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 demonstrates good flare-resistance, ghosting and flare can still pose issues if there is a strong light source directly in the frame or near the image’s edge. However, no artifacts are produced when the light source is outside of the image-frame.

Additionally, the flare patterns produced by this lens are simple and without additional coloration. Apart from watching out for strong light sources that are directly outside the frame, the lens delivers good flare and ghosting performance.

In contrast, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 is prone to flare and ghosting, especially when shooting against bright sources of light. To avoid these issues, it is recommended to use the long hood that comes with the Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens.

Comparing the two lenses, the Nikon 200-500mm offers better flare and ghosting resistance, although it’s still necessary to be cautious with strong light sources near the frame. The Sigma 150-600mm lens, on the other hand, tends to be more prone to flare and ghosting, requiring the use of its lens hood to minimize these issues.


The Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens showcases impressive control over vignetting, with only slight darkening of the edges noticeable at focal lengths beyond 300mm when focused at infinity. At shorter focal lengths, vignetting is barely noticeable. Although some vignetting is present, it can be easily corrected during post-processing and can even add a charming quality to the images.

On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 shows moderate vignetting at wide open aperture at 150mm on full-frame cameras, with corners brightening at focal lengths where the max aperture drops to f/5.6 and f/6.3. Vignetting can be lessened by stopping down or fairly easily corrected digitally.

When comparing the two lenses, the Nikon 200-500mm lens has superior vignetting control, displaying only minor darkening at longer focal lengths and virtually no vignetting at shorter focal lengths. In contrast, the Sigma 150-600mm lens exhibits more noticeable vignetting at its wide open aperture of 150mm, requiring stopping down or digital correction to lessen the effect.


Although there is minor pincushion distortion present in the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 across different settings and distances, it is generally not noticeable in real-world scenarios. Additionally, most Nikon DSLRs are capable of automatically correcting this distortion, and it can also be easily removed using Photoshop’s Lens Distortion tool. Despite these imperfections, the lens delivers sharp images with minimal linear distortion. In summary, distortion is generally manageable and can be corrected easily during post-processing.

On the other hand, the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 shows a consistent amount of pincushion distortion throughout the focal length range, with the least amount of distortion present at 600mm. While this may not be noticeable in most sports and wildlife images, it may be a concern for architectural work. However, distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing using software like Lightroom.

Comparing the two lenses, the Nikon 200-500mm lens has a slight edge in distortion control, as it exhibits only minor pincushion distortion, which is less noticeable in real-world scenarios and can be easily corrected. The Sigma 150-600mm lens, however, demonstrates a consistent pincushion distortion throughout its focal length range, making it more noticeable in certain situations.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, both the Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 and Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 offer unique advantages and trade-offs. The Sigma 150-600mm is more versatile with its extended reach and lighter setup, making it ideal for those who prioritize portability and flexibility. It also has a slight edge in weather resistance and is more suitable for photographers who often shoot in challenging conditions.

On the other hand, the Nikon 200-500mm lens excels in low light performance, consistent image quality, faster autofocus, better optical stabilization, superior aberration control, and better overall sharpness, bokeh quality, flare and ghosting resistance, vignetting control, and distortion control. These attributes make it a great choice for photographers who require optimal image quality and performance in various situations, especially for wildlife and sports photography.

Choosing between these two lenses ultimately depends on your individual needs, preferences, and priorities. If you value portability, extended reach, and weather resistance, the Sigma 150-600mm might be the better option. However, if you require better low-light performance, more consistent image quality, and superior optical performance, the Nikon 200-500mm lens would be the more suitable choice.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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