The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens has a name almost as long as its maximum focal length, but is it worth dropping some of your hard-earned dollars on?
Sigma has a lot of experience in making long focal length zoom lenses, and the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM is one of the smallest and lightest lenses in its class. It’s also a fairly low-priced option for a lens of this focal range, which will make it an easy choice for a lot of sports, wildlife, and nature photographers. This lens comes in Sigma SA mount, Nikon F mount, and Canon EF mount.
Sigma’s Contemporary range of lenses is built to be smaller without compromising on quality, which makes them a popular range for travel photographers. They tend to be cheaper than the Sigma Art or Sports lenses, so you could say that Contemporary lenses are Sigma’s budget range, but you still won’t get much change from around $800 if you decide to buy one.
Today we’re going to take a look at the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C to see how it performs and if it’s a worthwhile buy.
Although Sigma’s Contemporary lens range is generally more compact than the competition, the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM still weighs in at 1160 grams, so your muscles are definitely going to know about it if you have to carry it around all day.
There’s no tripod mount on the Sigma 100-400mm, which is a bit surprising for a lens of this size. It didn’t cause any problems, although it does put a lot of stress on the lens mount and makes the camera very front-heavy. Although there is a rubber seal on the lens mount, there’s no serious weatherproofing on this lens, which is annoying as it’s a lens built for using outdoors.
It features a wide, ridged zoom ring that is nice and smooth, and the lens can also be zoomed by pushing or pulling the lens barrel, although this requires quite a forceful action. There is also a lock provided to secure the lens at 100mm while being carried to stop the barrel from creeping outwards.
The manual focus ring is smooth but has a nice resistance to it, and the minimum focusing distance is 1.6 meters, which allows for some nice close-ups. The lens takes a 67mm filter, which is a fairly common filter size.
There are several switches at the bottom of the lens barrel. The Custom switch is usually kept off unless you have the Sigma USB Dock, which enables you to program the lens in different ways.
The Optical Stabilization (OS) switch has two settings, one for panning and one for normal use, as well as an off switch. It’s worth noting that there is a one-second delay when the OS is switched on, so those who shoot wildlife and sports may prefer not to use it so they don’t miss any shots. There’s also the Focus Limiter switch, which gives you a choice of full range, 6 meters to infinity, and 1.6-6 meters. The final switch is the focus selector switch, and you can choose AF, MO (full manual override of the AF), and Manual.
Optically, the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C has 21 elements in 15 groups. Four of these are SLD (Super Low Dispersion). It features nine, rounded diaphragm blades to give good bokeh. The lens also has Sigma’s Super Multi-Layer Coating in a bid to reduce ghosting and flare.
As mentioned earlier, this lens is compatible with Sigma’s optional USB Dock. The dock enables firmware updates and performance tweaks, one of them being the ability to fine-tune the AF distance accuracy of the lens, so it’s a handy piece of kit to have.
The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary in Use
AF in the Sigma 100-400mm is fast and accurate, thanks to the revamped ultrasonic AF system, and the manual override option works impressively well. The optical stabilization system gives you around four stops in normal mode and a bit less in panning mode, which helps to make up for the slow maximum aperture of f/5.
Image quality is very good overall, with excellent contrast and color. As far as sharpness goes, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, depending on what focal length and aperture you’re using. At 100mm and f/5, center sharpness is amazing through to f/11 when it drops, although it’s still pretty good at f/22. Edges are sharp from f/5.6 to f/11, but by f/22 they are soft.
Shooting at 200mm gives great sharpness in the center from f/5.6 to f/11, but is only fair at f/22 and f/29, with the edges following the same pattern. 300mm gives you excellent sharpness in the center at f/6.3 and f/8, stays decent at f/11 and f/16, but is soft by the time you reach f/29. At 400mm the center is very sharp at f/6.3 and f/8, good at f/11 and f/16, and okay at f/22, but is soft at f/29, with the edges looking their best at f/11.
If you can keep your subject centered in the frame, then you can cover the full focal range and get sharp images with the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C. It’s only at 400mm and towards the edges that this lens loses its bite and becomes fairly soft, but even at 400mm an aperture of f/11 will get an evenly sharp image.
Chromatic aberration is almost non-existent in the center, and although there is fringing in some circumstances at the edges, the performance for a zoom lens in this focal range is very good. Distortion is also not much of an issue, and is better controlled than in many more expensive lenses.
How Does It Compare?
The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C has a direct rival in the Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD, which is available in Canon EF and Nikon F mounts. Both options are third-party lenses and come in around the same price point. However, this Tamron zoom lens features full weather-sealing, which definitely gives it an advantage over the Sigma 100-400mm.
Both lenses feature image stabilization, and are lightweight for lenses of this focal length. Neither lens comes with a tripod collar, but you can buy the rather expensive Tamron A035TM Tripod Mount if you would be happier using the lens with a collar.
The two rival lenses have a very similar set of features, and when it comes to sharpness there’s not much difference between them. The Sigma 100-400mm does give better corner sharpness, while the Tamron 100-400mm is slightly sharper in the center from 100-300mm.
You do get the larger maximum aperture of f/4.5 with the Tamron 100-400mm and the full weather sealing, but the corner softness with this lens may make it problematic with landscape photographers. The Sigma 100-400 is more consistent with image quality across the entire frame, but that is the only advantage it has over the Tamron 100-400mm.
|Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C||Tamron 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD|
|Optics||21 elements/15 groups||17 elements/11 groups|
|Diaphragm||9 rounded||9 rounded|
|Maximum Aperture||f/5 at 100mm, f/6.3 at 400mm||f/4.5 at 100mm, f/6.3 at 400mm|
|Weight||1160 grams||1135 grams|
Many photographers will only buy lenses made by their camera manufacturers, but there are plenty of bargains to be had with reliable third-party lenses such as Sigma and Tamron.
The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is a very good, affordable zoom lens from a noted third-party lens maker. It may not be as outstanding as the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM and Nikon’s own offerings in that focal range, but it is way, way less expensive.
The only real downsides are the lack of a tripod collar and no proper weather sealing, but the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM does produce sharp, high-quality images from edge to edge when you operate within the focal lengths and apertures mentioned above.
It’s only real rival is the Tamron 100-400mm, and as both are around the same price, it’s ultimately down to personal preference which lens you decide to go for. If you’re looking for even more zoom range, then why not check out the Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD lens?