Presented as the first ultra-telephoto zoom lens for full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS is another reference added to the Contemporary family of Sigma lenses.
Sigma calls it a ultra-telephoto lens, but the zoom range this lens covers is more common than you may think, and there isn’t really much “ultra” in the 100-400mm lens range, which is, nowadays, available from different brands. In fact, some telephoto lenses even exceed this range, as Sigma knows well, as the company also offers a 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM, a 60-600mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S – which the company calls “the absolute all-rounder” -, and in the 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM in Sports and Contemporary versions, although all these models are designed for DSLRs.
In that sense, the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS, which is designed to take advantage of full frame mirrorless cameras – the lens will be available for L-Mount and Sony E-mount – can be touted as Sigma’s first ultra-telephoto zoom lens for this type of camera. There is another aspect that helps to support Sigma’s notion of a ultra-telephoto lens: the lens works well with a tele converter, something that is not usually easy to achieve with an aperture, at the long end of f/6.3.
Sigma’s 100-400 signals what’s to come from Canon?
According to Sigma, when paired with Sigma Tele Converter TC-1411/TC-2011 (sold separately / for L-Mount only), which was newly and exclusively developed for the use with mirrorless cameras, the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Contemporary gives photographers a “super telephoto” angle of view with a focal length of up to 800mm while they enjoy the benefit of the compact system. The important aspect to retain is that AF is effective even with the teleconverter attached, something that is not always possible in conventional designs and with DSLRs, except, in some cases, when Live View is used.
Just so we get all the numbers correct, note that with the Sigma Tele Converter TC-1411 the lens functions as a 140-560mm F7-9 AF, while the Sigma Tele Converter TC-2011 – which is 2x – gives users a 200-800mm F10-12.6 AF ultra-telephoto. If, as Sigma says, AF can be maintained – and work reliable, and offer sharp images, if I may add – then this is good news, when paired with the high ISOs modern cameras can reach.
This is an interesting development and it may well explain why, recently, rumors about Canon’s new zooms and primes surprised everyone. The list for lenses already registered includes a series of references: RF 100-400mm f/7.1-11 IS STM, RF 100-500mm f/4-7.1L IS USM, RF 600mm f/11 DO IS STM, RF 800mm f/11 DO IS STM, along with two tele converters, RF 1.4x and RF 2x, which may well be designed to use with these lenses. If, as is the case with Sigma, AF can be kept, the possible combinations – turn a 800mm lens into a 1600mm lens, anyone? – point to exciting new options… if there is enough light available, because, in the end, it’s all about light.
A lens to pair with the 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art
This Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS may well be a first sign of things to come. According to the company, the lens offers “a remarkable optical performance and a full range of functionalities in a compact body for exceptional lightweight shooting” in a design made exclusively for full-frame mirrorless cameras, offering the levels of optical performance and functionalities essential for full-fledged shooting packed into a lightweight and compact body, which is a key in field photography.
The marketing blurb states that “the state-of-art optical design technology ensures edge-to-edge high-resolution and high-contrast image quality throughout its entire focal range”, but then Sigma gives you something to compare with: this new lens achieves high image quality which rivals that of standard zoom lenses such as the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art, ensuring a perfect match with these lenses while shooting.
A zoom lens also made for video
This is Sigma’s 5th DG DN lens, designed exclusively for full-frame mirrorless cameras. With the optics design specifically for a camera with a short flange back distance, the DG DN series of lenses achieves, according to the company, “ a supreme combination of optical performance and compactness that could not have been possible with lenses for single-lens reflex cameras. Thanks to the stepping motor system that is optimized for both phase detection AF and contrast AF, the SIGMA 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Contemporary makes shooting with the video or eye-tracking AF very smooth.”
Sigma notes that this is a long-awaited ultra-telephoto zoom lens, a solution that will expand the possibilities of mirrorless camera photography even further. It will be interesting to see if the AF mount goes beyond the Sony and Leica options and extends to Nikon and Canon. As Canon also seems to have set in motion its own series of zooms – and primes – with less luminous apertures, competition from independent equipment manufacturers may lower prices.
Lens build, AF and stabilization
The lens construction of the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Contemporary comprises 16 groups and 22 elements, with one FLD and four SLDs used for the effective correction of aberrations and distortions. Autofocus is smooth thanks to the stepping motor optimized to the latest algorithm, and the a powerful image stabilization (OS) of four steps is built into the lens. When combined with a camera body with image stabilization built in, the lens corrects for pitch and yaw axis rotations, providing even more powerful image stabilization.
The lens also features the AFL button to which the user may assign select functions on the camera side, and the focus limiter switch that allows optimizing the AF range according to the purpose of shooting. Whether you are currently considering trying a telephoto lens or already are a telephoto lens connoisseur, the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Contemporary is a “light and enjoyable ultra-telephoto zoom lens” that will provide a great value and a variety of styles to your shooting experience.
The view through a telephoto zoom
The level of bokeh and compression effect only achieved by an ultra-telephoto lens provides a fresh perspective to ordinary everyday scenes. This combination of ultra-telephoto images with the excellent mobility of the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Contemporary will open up new ways for you to enjoy ultra-telephoto photography, as well as its possibilities, from everyday snapshots to field photography and everything in between.
The paragragh above, from Sigma, is something I completely sign under. In fact, I’ve been a telephoto user – mostly in the range 80 to 400mm zooms – since I first discovered the power a long lens has to change perspective. I’ve used long lenses for my flower photography, an experience I’ve documented multiple times, and I’ve tried long lenses from most manufacturers throughout the years. I’ve settled, for the last 20 years, on the Canon 100-400mm series L, which has been my lens of choice for anything from photographing airplanes to bees and flowers. So, I am excited to see new designs to make it to the market, to expand the notion of what a long focal length can be used for.
Is a Sports version in the works?
With a minimum focusing distance of 112 cm at the wide end and 160 cm at 400mm, the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS has a magnification ratio of 1:4.1 (at 400mm), which is well within what can be expected in most optical systems similar to this lens. For example, the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | C for Canon, Nikon and Sigma has a minimum focusing distance of 160 cm at 400mm, and a magnification ratio of 1:3.8.
Lightweight, compact and with a filter size of 67mm – my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM is about 400g heavier (but it comes with the tripod support, and the Sigma doesn’t), slightly smaller, but has a 77mm filter size – the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS seems like a good option if you’re after a long telephoto lens experience with a compatible camera. Due to arrive in July 10, with a price of $949, it’s the first sign of new ultra-telephoto zoom lenses coming to full frame mirrorless systems. Will Sigma add a Sports version next?