When Sigma announced 4 new lenses earlier this year, the 100-400mm Contemporary was probably the least talked about. But for the amateur/enthusiast, and even professional wildlife shooter, this lens is a welcome addition to the lineup in more ways than one. Does Sigma have another hit lens with its "light bazooka", or will it be overlooked for the most part? That answer will remain unknown for a while, but Sigma was kind enough to send us the new 100-400mm f/5-6.3 OS Contemporary in an EF mount for a few days to test out - read on for a quick first look.
The most obvious trait of this lens is its size. It's (relatively) tiny. Here in North East Ohio, the 150-600mm lenses from Sigma (Sport and Contemporary) and Tamron (G1 and G2) can be seen on a daily basis if you go out to a local park. They're quite easy to spot, especially when extended out to 600mm. The most common complaint we hear about them at our camera store is that they're just too heavy to take out on a daily walk through the park or on a longer photo hike. Sure a monopod or a gimbal help when shooting, but that's even more bulk to carry around.
The 100-400mm next to the Tamron 150-600 G2:
The Sigma 100-400mm is small and compact. While it's only less than an inch shorter than the Canon 100-400 II and Nikon 80-400, it's about a pound less (partly due to no tripod collar). With its narrower body design and smaller front element, it's also more comfortable to hold and shoot with.
The look of the lens is tradional "Global Vision" Sigma. It has the same black finish, and a little silver "C" inlay. You get a Focus Mode switch (AF/MO/MF), focus limiter switch (full range, 6m-8 , and 1.6-6m), OS Mode switch (1, 2, Off), and their Custom Settings switch (C1, C2, Off). The lens has a lock switch, which is only enabled at 100mm, and lacks a tripod collar. While it's a lightweight lens, finding good balance might be an inconvenience for those wanting to use it on a head mounted to a monopod. Once of the nice touches that Sigma added was a nicely designed hood. The hood incorporates an indented ring for lack of a better word that allows for photographers to easily push/pull to zoom instead of twisting the zoom ring. This came in handy for me, as I normally shoot Nikon and the zoom direction is reversed. The friction is almost perfect, allowing for a quick focal length adjustment without overdoing it.
Both the Autofocus speed and consistency performed quite well. It will get blown out of the water by a 70-200mm f/2.8, but having shot with the 150-600mm Contemporary fairly often, it's definitely on par with that lens. The lens is also compatible with Sigma's USB Dock, so you fine tune the autofocus using Sigma's Optimization Pro software. The lens had no issue tracking birds in flight using a Canon 7D Mark II as well as a Sony a6500 and the Sigma MC-11. I had 2 instances over the course of 2 hours of shooting where the lens would focus hunt while going from close focus to infinity on the Sony, but it may have been due to an old firmware on the MC-11.
Sigma's Image Stablization system (OS) works well and allows for shutter speeds slower than what I'd normally be able to shoot at when out at 400mm. While it's far from a macro lens, it does have a 1:3.8 max magnification ratio, allowing shooters to fill the frame with (relatively) small objects/animals. The 100-400's optical formula does include 4 SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements, so it's by no means cheap glass.
- Dust/splash-proof mount.
- Compatible with Sigma's newer teleconverter
- New, enhanced algorithm in the OS system
- Nikon mount uses the new electromagnetic diaphragm like many of the ART lenses.
Taken with a Canon 7D Mark II:
Taken with a Sony a6500 w/ Sigma MC-11:
Tight crop in of similar image above:
Who is this lens for? & Final Thoughts
The 100-400 will likely appeal to many people with it's $799 price tag. Wildlife photographers who are looking for a lighter solution to a 150-600 will definitely be a huge market. While it's not the fastest lens, it can easily be used for outdoor sports if there is ample light. Backpackers/Hikers will be easily able to put this lens in their bag and have the ability to capture something at a distance. It may not be a huge hit with professional wildlife shooters, but as a backup or a daily use lens, the quality is there, even if it is a slower lens.
It will be interesting to see how the Sigma 100-400 stacks up against the Canon 100-400 II and the Nikon 80-400mm. If the quality is comparable, this lens is worth a serious consideration. It is $1,200 less than the Canon and $1500 less than the Nikon. From my 2 days ofshooting with it, I didn't notice a $1,200+ difference.
The Sigma 100-400mm Contemporary will begin shipping at the end of May for a price of $799.
You can pre-order it HERE