This is one heavy lens, tipping the scales at almost 3.4 kg it is more than 500g heavier than my generation 1 lens. Which is to be expected really with the inclusion of the OS module and different optical design.
A very sturdy, removable tripod mounting collar is supplied with click settings at right angles, enabling the lens to rotate easily to the desired orientation. The lens tightens securely in the collar with the familiar twist knob operation. I did find the collar a little jerky in operation, could be that it will wear a little smoother with time.
This lens feels very intimidating in the hand. It is a heavier lens than what most will be accustomed to, even heavier than the Sigma 150-600 Sport lens which I evaluated recently and is available to read here. Even though it is a heavy piece of kit, I did some handheld shots with it, but for consistent results I would not recommend doing so on a regular basis. It really belongs on a monopod, tripod or beanbag, whichever suits the situation. Build quality appears to be very good, with a durable exterior finish. After three months of heavy use it looked the same as it did when new.
With the metallic alloy lens hood fitted it sticks out 385mm in front of the camera, and having internal zoom and internal focus, it means the overall length of the lens remains the same whatever you do to it, except removing the lens hood. Being used to lenses of this size, I didn’t find it overly bulky or unwieldy. It definitely is a step up from my generation 1 version of this lens.
For the field evaluation of this lens, I had lined up a test to visually check the calibration of the lens to my Canon EOS 1D MkIV camera body. Following on from that the field evaluation would encompass motorsport events and some birding and wildlife, concentrating more on the AF tracking capability rather just static captures of a subject. These tests would include using the lens on its own and with a 1.4x Extender fitted, turning the lens into a 168-420mm f/4 lens.
With extended use the bigger and heavier lenses can really put a strain on arm, shoulder and neck muscles if one should try to handhold them for any length of time. This is also not conducive to stability which will result in photos which are not really sharp and crisp. Remember OS can only do so much for the photographer. The end result is that I prefer to use a monopod with these lenses for added stability and comfort when out in the field looking for birds, wildlife or covering sports events. From a vehicle, I will use a bean bag with the odd handheld snapshot every now and then.
I used this 120-300 Sport lens to cover motorsport and rugby, all done using a monopod and belt pouch. No doubt one could use it for cricket too, fitted with a 1.4x Extender and using a crop body for added reach, but I didn’t try it. Trust me when I say it will perform more than good enough, offering sufficient reach and being fast enough on maximum aperture (168-420 f4 when a 1.4x Extender is fitted).
I also used it during quite a few trips out in the bush for wildlife and birding photography. Some shots were taken off a bean bag whilst vehicle bound, some handheld (refer photo of the Eland Bull) whilst the birding shots were taken using a monopod.
I did use the OS quite a bit and found it very effective in neutralising camera shake in general, offering at least a 2 stop advantage in shutter speed and also when panning fast moving subjects at slower shutter speeds. No doubt with proper technique, and monopod this could easily be a 4-stop advantage.
The relatively short minimum focusing distance of 1.5m @ 120mm and 2.5m @ 300mm is very handy for those birds perching close to the photographer in a bird hide or tightly framed shots at sports events, be it of the action or portraits of the players all done using just one lens.