The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is a light and very competitively priced 100-400 mm telephoto zoom for SLR cameras from Canon and Nikon. With the right adapters, it can also be used on the mirrorless cameras from these brands and, with the Sigma MC11 converter, even on Sony’s. On APS-C cameras, this lens has a range that corresponds to that of a 150-600mm on 35mm. And that is seriously super telephoto. Despite the low price, this lens delivers serious image quality.
Great value for your money: Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary
The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM is a particularly cheap super telephoto for the APS-C format. That does not mean that the image quality is also low. There is nothing wrong with the image quality. This is a lens from the Contemporary series. In contrast to Sigma’s Sport Series, this lens doesn’t have a metal housing but a plastic one. This not only ensures a lower price, but also a lower weight. The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM is nicely portable. The weather resistance should also be slightly lower, but we do not immediately see where that difference should be. The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM is namely fitted with a gasket on the mount. Compared to many other 100-400mm lenses, this lens is a fraction less bright. The 100-400 mms from, for example, Canon and Sony have a brightness of f/4-5.6. They do cost three to four times as much. The most direct competitor is the 100-400 mm from Tamron, which is one third stop brighter at 100mm, but has the same brightness at 400mm. The Tamron is about 300 euros more expensive. A lens like this will not soon be used for portraits on APS-C. For that, the 100mm position is actually too much telephoto. On APS-C, it is much more of a lens for sports and nature photography and for telephoto shots where you want a nice, flat perspective. At 400mm, you can isolate small details and get large subjects in the distance into the picture. This means you can take different photos than with lenses with shorter focal lengths. The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts and can also be used with Sigma’s MC11 on Sony cameras with an E-mount.
BUILD AND autofocus
The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is compact. It is 182mm long, and the diameter is 86mm. The weight isn’t bad at 1160 grams. Only the new Tamron 100-400 mm f/4.5-6.3 is slightly lighter, although the difference is small. The lens gets about five centimeters longer when you zoom out. The optical design is comprised of 21 lens elements. Four of these are made of special types of glass. The body is made of high-quality plastics. The lens should be slightly less robust than Sports versions, but it nevertheless feels very solid. This Sigma telephoto zoom even has a gasket on the back to prevent the penetration of dust and moisture through the mount. There is no play in the moving parts. The lens has a wide ring for zooming at the front and a narrower ring for focusing closer to the body. In between, there is a lock to secure the zoom, and at the back is a whole range of switches for autofocus and image stabilization. The first switch is for autofocus, manual focus and MO, Manual Overdrive, a mode in which you can use autofocus with manual corrections. Below that is a switch to limit the autofocus range, and below that, a switch for image stabilization. The bottom switch is for setting one or two custom settings. These are programmable via Sigma’s USB Dock. With this, you can make a combination of various programmable settings such as autofocus speed, limiting or image stabilization. The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary comes with a large plastic lens hood.
The image quality of the Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary shows a nicely even picture. At 100mm, the sharpness in the center is almost as high as over the rest of the range, but the sharpness drops off a bit toward the corners when you photograph a flat subject at a short distance. But if you don’t photograph a flat subject, you will notice little of it in practice. At 400mm, the lens is also a little less great at full aperture, but the sharpness does improve when you stop down one stop, both in the center and in the corners. You rarely see that with zoom lenses. Usually, they are significantly less strong at the longest position than at the other focal points. We prefer the characteristic of the Sigma. You will buy a 100-400mm more for the 400mm mode than for the 100mm mode.
The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary has 9 rounded aperture blades, and the blur you can get with it looks good. Bokeh balls have a bit of a hard edge, but inside, they are pretty quiet. This give you a nice background blur, even if you have a busy background. Despite the low brightness, thanks to the long focal length, you can still create a beautiful background blur, especially if you naturally photograph at almost the shortest distance setting of 160 cm. The maximum magnification is 0.26x, and that is not macro, but you can shoot small subjects with it beautifully. This lens has little trouble with flare from backlighting.
VIGNETTING AND DISTORTION
This lens does not suffer much from vignetting. At most, we measured vignetting of 0.6 EV at full aperture in RAW. That is a lot less when you use this lens on full frame. On APS-C, you naturally have the advantage that you only use the center of the image circle. In jpeg, this is even less thanks to the in-camera corrections, and, as soon as you stop down one stop, it’s hardly relevant. You’re already at f/6.3-8. We also see the same difference between full frame and APS-C in the distortion. On full frame, it can be clearly visible at the longer focal lengths, but on APS-C, there is little of it, with a maximum of just over 0.5% at 300mm in RAW.
Autofocus AND IMAGE STABILIZATION
The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary features Sigma’s HSM motor with – according to Sigma – a new autofocus algorithm. The autofocus works quietly and reasonably quickly, although it does not break any speed records. Via the USB Dock, you can adjust the speed and choose Standard or Fast. We did not have a USB-Dock for the test. We have therefore not been able to try the Fast mode, and we do not know whether this results in reduced accuracy or not.
The image stabilization does its job properly, and that is a must on the unstabilized SLR cameras from Nikon and Canon. A profit of two to three stops is easily achievable, and if you do your best (and take some extra shots), you can get sharp shots even with slower shutter speeds.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary @ Canon 80D
- Good image quality over (almost) entire range
- Compact and lightweight
- Competitively priced
- Programmable with USB Dock
- With MC-11, also usable on Sonys
- Slightly lower brightness than the competition
- Sharpness in the corners slightly less at 100mm
The image quality of the Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary shows a nicely even picture.
The Sigma 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is a great super telephoto. It is pretty sharp over almost the entire range, has little trouble with vignetting or distortion on APS-C cameras, and even the background blur looks good. The autofocus is not the fastest, but it is quiet and accurate, and the image stabilization does what it has to do. Combine all those qualities with the lowest price you can find for a zoom lens in this range, and you have an unbeatable price-to-quality ratio.