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Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens for Nikon F
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- Full Frame Lens with APS-C compatibility
- Compact size meets strong image quality
- Ideal Use: Travel photography, wildlife photography, nature photography and bird photography
- Filter Size: 67mm
- 4 Year USA Warranty
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The Sigma 100-400mm 5-6.3 DG HSM OS Contemporary is a state-of-the-art telephoto zoom that brings a new level of portability and quality to the super telephoto market. Touting Sigma's Optical Stabilizer (OS), the Sigma 100-400mm 5-6.3 Contemporary is highly compact and lightweight compared to similar products on the market. A push/pull zooming function and a new Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) allow for a more responsive approach to photography while a 1:3.8 macro feature can be utilized from up close or from a further distance. Like each and every Global Vision Lens, the Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary Art is handcrafted at our single factory in Aizu, Japan and undergoes individual evaluation before leaving Sigma's facility.
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I also bought the Sigma 150-600 Contemporary because it is not much more expensive than the 100-400mm and the extra reach seems to be always useful. The weight difference between the two lenses did not seem like a lot initially, but then I went on a full day trip to Point Pelee National Park for birding, and boy did my hands start hurting after an 1-2 hours of operating the 150-600m. In the end, I had to switch to the 100-400 because my arms fatigued after a while, and I just couldn't handle the 150-600 well without a tripod. I will return the 150-600, and will keep the 100-400 lens.
I also tried the 1.4x TC 1401 with the 100-400, and in a bright enough environment, autofocus works well on my D500 at f/9 without any real drop in image quality (to my eyes).
After customizing the OS and AF of this lens with the USB dock, things seem to be working a lot better. I changed the OS mode to "moderate" which resulted in noticeably more stable viewfinder images over the "standard" mode that the lens comes programmed in. The "dynamic" mode gives the most stable viewfinder, but is jumpy when you move the lens around (this can also be seen on Sigma's videos on lens customizations). The performance with changes is exactly as described in the Sigma videos. I am consequently updating the review to 5 stars. I changed the autofocus mode so that is focuses faster. I still think the Nikkor focus is marginally better in low contrast situations, but this does not bother me as much. To my eyes this lens is sharper on my D500 than the Nikkor 70-300 IF-ED. Also the minimum focus distance seems smaller than 1.6m if you adjust it manually, which is a plus!
This is a short initial review for a potential buyer. This lens is sharp (for my purposes) at all focal lengths, especially at 400mm. I recommend purchasing this lens with the Sigma USB dock. While the in body Optical Stabilization (OS) on this lens is great, the viewfinder with stabilization turned on is surprisingly jumpy compared to the Nikkor 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 IF ED. I can often not tell the difference (in the viewfinder) between OS on and OS off. It seems that this can be rectified by choosing a different OS mode ("dynamic" or "moderate") with the USB dock. However, to get more viewfinder stabilization, one might have to sacrifice a little bit of in body image stabilization according to a Sigma rep I spoke with over the phone. Note I purchased this lens WITHOUT the Sigma dock, and am thinking of purchasing the latter soon. With the initial shock of jumpy viewfinder stabilization having passed, I am now slowly getting used to the OS on this lens. Despite the jumpiness in viewfinder, my actual images come out quite sharp, even at 1/20-1/10s.
The rep also said that the lens is safe to put on a tripod even although there is no tripod collar. I am deciding between the Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 and this Sigma, and I will probably keep the latter because the extra reach seems quite useful to me. This lens also feels quite a bit heavier than the Nikkor 70-300mm, but the weight makes handling the lens easier than the Nikkor. The lens is also beautifully designed, and I am really appreciating the push-pull mechanism to adjust the focal length. It gives me less arm fatigue than having to turn the focal length ring.
Sigma 100-400 is quiet compared to the Nikkor 70-300, especially while autofocusing and when VR turns on, which may be a bonus when photographing wildlife. However, it does seem that the Nikkor focuses a little bit faster than this Sigma at times. Again, I was told that the AF can also be adjusted with the dock, so perhaps even the AF acquisition can be improved with the dock.
For what it's worth, I am attaching some sample images taken with this lens on a Nikon D500. They were all taken at 400mm, in a not particularly bright environment from my balcony. The shot of the moon is handheld. I don't know if it uploads as a sharp image on Amazon, but it was surprisingly sharp for me!
-- Amazingly compact and light compared to other long zooms
-- Decent IQ (perhaps even excellent if I can master the image stabilization (OS))
-- Solidly built with very smooth zoom and manual focus
-- Excellent price for such a long zoom
--Decent AF speed. very fast AF speed when range limited
-- Requires a $60 dock to work optimally (particularly the image/optical stabilization)
-- Slightly less magnification at 400mm than my other zooms (probably more like 385-390mm than 400mm)
-- EXIF does not register 300mm (it reports either 290mm or 310mm)
-- very short "throw" from 300mm to 400mm (does not allow fine adjustments in this range)
-- Slow lens: max aperture decreases quickly. It's f/5.3 at 125mm, f/5.6 at 155mm, f/6 at 220, & f/6.3 at 350.
I really want to love this Sigma and will likely keep it, but it will be a close call. When I unpacked, handled and mounted it to my D7200, I was blown away by its compactness. It is no longer (but noticeably fatter) nor significantly heavier than a 70-200 f/4 G lens. I wondered whether it was the answer to my digital photography prayers. You see, I had come (okay, I continue to transition) from the Canon world where I fell in love with, first, the 70-300 IS L lens, and then the 100-400 IS L II lens. Nikon doesn't make an L-quality 70-300 lens, and its 80-400 G is bigger than the Canon (not to mention more expensive) and not as sharp at 400mm. I thought that maybe the Sigma would finally allow me to get rid of my remaining Canon equipment. I have an amazing Nikon 200-500mm lens that wows me every time I use it, but it is simply too big to take with me when I travel. So, perhaps the Sigma would be the holy grail or the "Godilocks" lens?
Well, not so far, and I may end up keeping the Canon 100-400mm (I'm definitely keeping the Nikon 200-500mm). The Sigma's OS is a bit worst than what I'm use to from modern lenses. The previous review--with which I agree-- focuses on this concern, so I won't spend a lot of text dwelling on it. I only tested the OS at 400mm (most of these lenses are very good on the short end; so I focus on the long end, which receives the most use), and I found the OS slightly underwhelming. I think the light weight may exacerbate the problem. With the Canon 100-400 and Nikon 200-500, the additional bulk and length makes for a more stable handheld platform. There's no free lunch. I questioned the lens's sharpness. It wasn't until I cranked the shutter speed over 1/500 secs (and faster) that I was able to assure myself that the lens is indeed sharp (it is very sharp). To be fair, I conducted my tests at 70-80 meters, which is demanding for any OS system, and I did pixel-peep. I was able to detect some stabilization, but I really needed to keep the shutter speed over 1/400 for sufficient sharpness. Perhaps it will be better when adjusted with the dock.
Most everything else about this lens is excellent. I almost wish it had a little more heft to it, but...never mind. Color is very good and accurate. I tested with DX cameras (D7200 & D500), so vignetting and distortion were not issues. Edge-to-Edge sharpness is among the best I've seen. AF is good. It's accurate and fairly speedy. If you need more speed, then limit the AF range. You can keep the focus range short or long: either 0-6meters or 6meters-infinity. If you do this, focusing seems almost instantaneous. The zoom indicator has marks for 100mm, 135mm, 200mm, 300mm, and 400mm. While the first four marks are relatively spread out, the 300 and 400mm marks are virtually on top of each other. This Canon is a little better in this respect, and the Nikon has these marks quite far apart. I list this characteristic as a negative, but some prefer the short distance in that it makes it easier to quickly change your focal length. The Nikon gets criticized for requiring several turns to change the focal length. Again, there are always tradeoffs.
In sum, this lens comes close, but not as close as I would like. It is close in performance to the more expensive lenses, and the compact size is a huge plus. The price is right--and if you are price sensitive (competing lenses are more than twice as expensive) then the Sigma is your only option, and it is capable of producing excellent results. But if you rely on OS a lot, or size doesn't matter, then there are better choices. However, if you normally keep the shutter speed high and shoot mostly action, then I recommend the Sigma highly as the compact (pocket rocket) that it is. In so many respects it is a breakthrough. I just have to decide when (not whether) I will acquire the Sigma dock.