I was torn when I was offered the chance to review the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens (B&H | Amazon) for Sony. On one hand, having that sort of reach is wonderful. As someone who has been photographing people around my city, it allowed me to be more of a fly on the wall.
At the same time, I’m not a wildlife photographer, and this lens is undoubtedly targeted toward that audience.
Despite that, the Sigma 100-400mm is a lens I’m considering purchasing. It offers speedy autofocus and great optical results. While it’s certainly not a low-light champion like a fixed f/2.8 lens would be, it offers great capabilities during daylight.
First off, the Sigma 100-400mm is quite small. Coming from the world of micro four-thirds, I was always told that DSLR super telephoto lenses are huge. Clearly this isn’t the case here. While that does have to do with the variable aperture range in this lens, I was still pleasantly surprised at how compact it was.
Having a compact super telephoto is certainly appealing. It’s not as heavy as you’d think (2.5 pounds) and I was able to carry it in my backpack. That’s a win-win.
The lens also has a few switches on it — a focus AF/MF switch, a focus limiter, stabilization and a customizable AFL button. This is certainly designed with Sigma’s aesthetic, with a large focus ring and smaller zoom ring that work beautifully. All in all, it’s quite a sight to hold.
- Aperture: f/5-22 (wide) to f/6.3-29 (telephoto)
- Minimum focus distance: 3.61 feet (wide) or 5.2 feet (telephoto)
- Optical design: 22 elements in 16 groups
- Diaphragm blades: 9, rounded
- Image stabilization: Yes
- Weather sealing: Yes
- Filter size: 67mm
- Dimensions: 3.39 x 7.76 inches
- Weight: 2.5 pounds
The first few shots I took with the lens were of people using scooters downtown, for a client of mine. I saw someone speeding toward me at the corner of my eye, and within an instant, I was locked on to them and I achieved a sharp photograph.
Needless to say, I was surprised. After all, this lens fits inside Sigma’s Contemporary lens lineup, so you’d think that some performance would suffer over its pro-level Art series lenses.
But with the Sigma 100-400mm, that’s clearly not the case.
To further test the autofocus, I took the lens to the local skate park. Again, the results were very good, despite having a very bright day with lots of shadows present.
I also played around with the lens at a nearby park. Here, I captured an eagle in the trees … and a grasshopper jumping along. The wildlife I had hoped to find clearly wasn’t as present as I thought, but nevertheless, the lens performed well. The lens was tack sharp, and I was very pleased with the results.
Finally, I tested out some of its macro and landscape capabilities. One of my favorite features on super telephotos is the compression and separation it provides. And with the Sigma 100-400mm, it’s no different.
If you’re looking for a hidden gem for the Sony E-mount system (or even the L-mount), the Sigma 100-400mm (B&H | Amazon) may just be it. The performance is that of which I would expect from a pro-level lens. And at a very affordable price, it’s hard not to pass up.