I was looking for a mid-range telephoto zoom to use as a flight lens or a medium landscape lens.

Nikon* offers the 80-400 VR, but that lens doesn’t focus quickly enough for me. They also offer the 300 F/2.8 – but it’s too heavy for handholding.

This led me to research other options. Several people suggested the Sigma 100-300. Since I enjoy the Sigma 300-800 f/5.6 so much, I figured it was worth a shot.

The first thing that attracted me to this lens was its internal focusing. That means the lens doesn’t get longer as it extends to 300 mm. I also liked the fact that it had a relatively fast (f/4) constant aperture throughout the zoom range. Lenses with variable apertures tend to be less sharp and contrasty than lenses which have a fixed aperture.

Photo by Scott Bourne - Sigma 100-300 on a D90, F8 - 150mm

Photo by Scott Bourne - Sigma 100-300 on a D90, F8 - 150mm

The lens is very solid and comes with a nice carrying case, front cap, back cap and a custom designed lens hood. It’s not possible to take the lens cap on and off with the lens hood on. This is annoying but no deal breaker.

The Sigma 100-300 has a very nice fit and finish and mounted to both the Nikon D3 and D90 (my two test bodies on this trip) with no problems.

The High Speed Motor (HSM) provided very accurate and high-speed focus. I found the lens to be bright, contrasty and sharp. Like you would expect, it was sharpest at around f/8.

The lens is not exactly light. At about 3.5 pounds, it’s just light enough for me to reliably hand-hold it for extended periods of time. It does come with a lens collar which makes it easier to mount the lens to a tripod or a gimbal head.

In practice, the lens zoom took a bit of getting used to. It’s NOT a push/pull zoom – which is a good thing. But the zoom ring on my lens was a bit stiff at first. After a few hours of use it either got easier to turn or I got used to doing it.

The one flaw in this lens is it’s lack of a focus limiter switch. For flight photography, I don’t need the lens to close focus. The birds are at least 20 feet away when I am photographing them in flight. If I could tell the autofocus to START looking for focus 20 feet away, the lens would acquire focus more quickly. Again, it’s not a deal breaker, but it’s probably the only thing keeping this from being a perfect flight lens.

The images from the lens were true to color and the lens showed very little color fringing.

I don’t use any fancy test equipment because I am not a pixel peeper. I trust my eye. Based on my experience, this is a very good lens for the money and it affordably fills a hole in the Nikon lineup.

The best recommendation I can make is that I plan to keep it.

The lens costs around $1060 street price and comes with a four-year warranty.

*Sigma makes this lens in a Nikon, Canon and Sigma mount.

Join the conversation! 14 Comments

  1. Very sharp, very solid, and very nice. I had to fight long and hard between it and the Canon 300mm F4L but the sigma gets the pick. It iis quite heavy though so hand holding in dusk light is a pain.

    One problem I had after a lot of use was the massive manual focus ring on the front. There really isn’t any room for your hand and since it’s full time manual focus if you touch it your shot is toast. I eventually learned to hold it by the lens hood but really there is no reason for that front ring to be so big.

    Also it’s a constant length zoom so you don’t get that annoying extension as you zoom in. It works great with the Canon 1.4x tele. Slows it down a little bit but the image quality is still great(or great enough for my 1d Mk measly 8MP)

  2. Scott, I’m curious as to how this would compare with the Nikon 70-200 f2.8 with either the TC14E-II or TC17E-II teleconverters. It seems that with the 1.4 you would be very close in reach/speed (and a little slower/longer with the 1.7). Do you feel you lose sharpness with the TC over the dedicated lens? Or are there other reasons? Interested to hear your thoughts.

  3. Hi Scott
    How would you rate this as a first wildlife lens
    Would this be suitable for taking pictures of small birds ie Robins, Sparrows, Pamela Anderson,
    and other wildlife like fox’s, Rabbits, etc
    or would you suggest another lens as a starter pro lens
    I’m using a Nikon D2x
    Thanks Ray:)
    PS because of you Guys I’m now feeling very very droby Twice in fact as i now have a USB and Firewire Drobo,
    I hate you Guys! You cost me Money lol

  4. Yet another question… Have you considered 125-300 Sigma before the decision? Do you think it is lower quality or just too hefty? Any other thoughts on it if you did…

    Thanks for great (read: very helpful) reviews …

  5. @Ray I am not sure it has enough reach to be a primary wildlife lens. But it’s a good start.

    @Dusan no I didn’t consider the 125-300. Sorry.

  6. I also looked at that lens, the more expensive 120-300 and 2.8, 120-400 f 4.5-5.6, and the 150-500 f5 – 6.3. I purchased the 150-500 since I needed the extra reach. I am using a D700 (no 1.5 factor) so I can up the ISO to get a good shutter speed. I am using this lens primarily for soccer photos of my girls. The games are during the day so the lighting is good. I can hand hold this lens for the entire game and get great sharp photos. I have also used it with a monopod. It has also been great at getting the candid shots. I took it to the LA Zoo a few weeks back and also got amazing results. I find F/8 -f/11 I get the best results.

    This is my first Sigma lens and I have been impressed (quality excellent, lens finish good, good travel case included) Like many people I was a little apprehensive of putting a non Nikon lens on my camera. I would not hesitate in buying another SIgma lens.

    I do lust after the 200-500 f2.8 but at MSRP of 34K I will have to pass.

  7. Wow, these Sigma EX lenses continue to impress. Here is a 100-300mm F4 that is actually in my price range.

  8. I’ve been using the sigma 100-300 as my primary lens for around a year now. And I must agree with Scott that it does lack a little in the reach department. In all others it is superb. It’s performed faultlessly in the worst conditions I could throw at it, -19c at night the zoom got a little stiffer but better than my 9 shot battery life in my D200 :(.

  9. Hi,
    another comparison question. Is it in the same league as a Canon L lens? Sounds like it is. I’m using a Canon 100-400mm L at the moment, and I’m a bit frustrated by the variable minimum aperture.
    Thanks for any comments,

  10. I’m glad to hear a positive review for another Sigma. I recently bought the 150-500 OS and am very happy with it. I didn’t know about the 100-300 at the time. I hope Sigma keeps impressing…

  11. […] hat das Telezoomobjektiv Sigma Foto 100-300 mm F4 EX IF APO HSM getestet (veröffentlicht auf twipphoto.com). Das Objektiv verfügt über eine fest eingestellte Blende (f/4), was den Vorteil habe, […]

  12. I also wonder how this compares to the Nikkor 70-200 2.8 VR + 1.4 TC or 1.7 TC. Or, the Nikkor 80-200 with tele-converters. I want to move up from the Nikkor 70-300 4.5-5.6 VR, it’s too slow and soft for me now that I have a number of nice f/2.8 lenses.

  13. […] wat over gelezen, kijk hier maar eens: Een mini review van Scott Bourne DE fotograaf van vogels: http://photofocus.com/2008/12/13/a-m…g-if-hsm-twip/ En hier: […]

  14. […] Re: Sigma 70-200 of 120-400 Valt echt wel mee hoor, word gebruikt voor Bird-Fly foto's, en dus is handzaamheid wel belangrijk. Kijk hier anders eens naar; http://photofocus.com/2008/12/13/a-m…g-if-hsm-twip/ […]

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