Sigma 100–400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C: Economics Reworked

 

Canon enjoyed a lot of success with their 100–400mm lens for a long period. Now Sigma has ventured into this space with their latest offering. Shridhar Kunte takes a close look.

Canon enjoyed a lot of success with their 100–400mm lens for a long period. Now Sigma has ventured into this space with their latest offering. Shridhar Kunte takes a close look.

Canon enjoyed a lot of success with their 100–400mm lens for a long period. Now Sigma has ventured into this space with their latest offering. Shridhar Kunte takes a close look.

Canon introduced the first version of the 100–400mm lens in the year 1998 and tasted a huge success with it, but not without a criticism over the push-pull design, which was corrected in the newer version. More recently, Sigma introduced their first version of this popular focal range more than a year after Canon had launched their updated version. It often takes years to develop a good lens, but Sigma had the advantage of a year to bring in a lot of corrections from the lacuna in Canon’s edition, in their first version itself. And this is specifically what I would expect from the new Sigma 100–400mm.

Features
To begin with, Sigma has adopted a somewhat conservative approach, and introduced this lens in their ‘Contemporary’ lineup. This lens offers a compact size with less mass. When it comes to the optical design, it includes four SLD glass elements. This helps in controlling colour fringing and chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range, promising reduced lens flare and ghosting, with better contrast and colour accuracy. To combat against attacks from dust, splashes and finger smudges, the front element has been treated with a water and oil-repellent coating. The optical design is based on a total of 12 elements arranged in 15 groups. You will come across 9 blades in the rounded aperture diaphragm for smoother and more pleasing bokeh and blurs.

At all the focal lengths, the lens focuses down to 1.6m. At this focusing distance, the maximum magnification ratio is 1:3.8, at the 160mm focal length. With this magnification ratio, one can capture excellent close-ups nearing true macro. Like its competitors, the lens features image stabiliaation. The Nikon mount version of this lens includes an electromagnetic diaphragm mechanism. This allows precise diaphragm control and stable exposure performance during high speed continuous shooting. At 1160g, this is the lightest lens with a reach of 400mm.

This image was captured at the tele end of the lens, while stopping down the aperture at f/8 to gain good corner to corner sharpness. Exposure: 1/500sec at f/8, (ISO 160)

This image was captured at the tele end of the lens, while stopping down the aperture at f/8 to gain good corner to corner sharpness.
Exposure: 1/500sec at f/8, (ISO 160) Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

Handling
While testing, I used the lens on the new Canon EOS 77D and EOS 6D. On the physically bigger 6D, the balance was significantly better that the 77D. For the zooming action, Sigma has given two options. The first is to enable zoom by rotating the zoom ring. The second is to simply grasp the lenshood, and push or pull the barrel. Sigma claims that this will not harm the lens, but will help to compose the image faster. I am not very convinced with this operation. While it works, I had to put in an extra effort to use the push-pull operation. This might be because the lens was brand new and unused when it came to us, and it may become smoother with repeated use.

The outer portion of the lens is covered with engineering plastic and its interior is made from brass, giving the lens a robust, sturdy feel. The mount is also made of brass, and ensures secure coupling with the camera body. It incorporates a rubber gasket to protect the camera from dust and water drops. The focus ring is much smaller in size, as compared to the zoom ring, and is placed close to the camera body. The focusing and zooming ring has a well-ribbed surface that allows a firm, assured grip.

Performance
The lens produced sharp images throughout the entire focal length range. On the full frame EOS 6D body, the corners maintain a decent level of sharpness. On APS-C sensors, the drop in sharpness is barely noticeable. The sweet spot of this lens is at f/8 to f/11. There is a bit of light fall-off at the longer focal lengths, on full frame cameras at wide apertures. But as you stop down, the illumination evens out across the frame.

The focusing speed in various lighting conditions is fast and accurate. The focus limiter switch improves AF speed. I was not very happy with the performance of the IS with this lens and expected better stabilisation. It can be customised by purchasing Sigma’s USB Dock. The Dock itself is a rather big advantage, as it allows you to calibrate AF on your own.

On a full frame sensor, there is a visible amount of pincushion distortion at the wide end, but this is not alarming, especially if you intend on shooting action or wildlife. At a focal length of 200mm and above, it vanishes. While shooting against the light, there is a moderate amount of flare visible in the images, reducing contrast. This was noticed even while using the lens hood.

Conclusion
This lens is available at MRP of Rs. 80,000, offering casual wildlife and sports photographers a much lower price than the equivalent Canon or Nikon optics. The weight and size are additional advantages over its competitors. While the stabilisation is not exemplary, and the dock lets you customise it, Sigma cannot expect every buyer to additionally purchase a dock. Yet, for the price, the lens offers a good level of optical performance all across its focal length, and excellent value for money. It makes a sound buying proposition.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Custom settings though the dock, Magnification ratio 1:3.8
15/20
Performance
Silent autofocus, Overall sharpness
31/35
Build Quality
Zoom locking mechanism, High quality experior
21/25
Ergonomics
No tripod collar, Push pull design
12/15
Warranty & Support
Two year warranty, Limited number of service facilities
3/5
MRP Rs. 80,000
OVERALL 82%
VALUE FOR MONEY 4/5
Who should buy it? Limited budget and those who need the reach of a 400mm telephoto.
Why? Its size is a joy and makes it a near-perfect companion for travel
Tags: better photography, Gear Guide, July 2017, Review, shirdhar kunte, Sigma, Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C