Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Review L Mount:
I’ve been reviewing a lot more Sigma lenses lately because quite frankly, I love using them, and I haven’t found one yet that I don’t like. This time, I wanted to change it up a bit. Instead of reviewing some of the more common focal lengths like a 35mm or a 50mm, I decided to go for something a little out of the ordinary for me, at least: I decided to review the 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens. As a Leica SL and now an SL2 user, I felt like this would be a good lens to consider, at least, on paper. I say this because first off, there aren’t that many L mount autofocus long range zooms out yet. Second, this is a relatively compact lens considering it’s focal length range. Third, the price is decent. Fourth, being that I live in NYC, and I don’t usually use something like this, and I thought it would be fun to review :). So, let’s take a closer look at this lens by first talking about the build and ergonomics.
Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Build Quality:
The 100-400mm is made from a combination of polycarbonate and metal, and overall construction is excellent. The lens feels very solid in the hands. There’s a brass bayonet mount, which even features dust and splash proof sealing. In addition to L Mount, you can also get the 100-400mm f4-6.3 in Sony E Mount as well. But only the L Mount version will allow you to use the TC-1411 1.4x and TC-2011 2x teleconverters. Lastly, there’s also the option of adding the TS-111 Tripod Socket to this lens, if you are planning to use the 100-400mm f5-6.3 with a tripod often.
↑ The Sigma 100-400 f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens attached to the Leica SL2.
While the 100-400mm does not come with the tripod socket, it does come with a lens hood that is reversible for easy storage. It’s about average in size for a lens of this range. I didn’t use the hood much because it’s just easier to walk around with the 100-400mm f5-6.3 without it, and the lens seemed fine for me without it.
↑ The Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 comes with a lens hood.
Now, let’s get to some of the useful features on the 100-400mm f5-6.3 itself. There is a focus ring for when you want to go manual, and a zoom ring to change your focal length. Both offer very smooth action. For those who like to hang their cameras on the side, there’a also a lock switch for the zoom, so you can prevent zoom creeping. There’s also a switch for AF and MF focus, and a focus limiter, which has three options: Full (entire range), 6m-infinity (far range), and up to 6m (close range). Lastly, there is an AFL button, and a switch to change the OS (optical stabilization) modes. The first mode of OS is for general photography, and the second mode is for motor sports, and other subjects requiring panning. Speaking of, the 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens has up to 4 stops of optical stabilization.
↑ The Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 fully extended.
Now, when most people here 100-400mm, they’re probably thinking about a monstrosity of a lens, and a pain to carry but the 100-400mm f5-6.3 isn’t as not as bad as one would think. Yes, it’s still a big lens but considering it’s focal length range, it’s rather manageable. The 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens falls under the Contemporary line of lenses by Sigma, which means that it’s going to be lighter, more compact, and just easier to use for more general photography. Plus, it’s a DG DN lens meaning it’s designed for full frame and mirrorless. Weight for the L mount version is 1,135g, and its shortest length is 197.2mm or 7.8 inches. Those specs are really not bad at all considering this is a 100-400mm zoom. It uses 67mm filters, which is actually the same size as my APO 90mm Summicron-SL lens. I’ve been taking this lens out for full day photo walks with no issues at all. This is something you can hold with one hand while it’s attached to the camera body (in this case, my SL2). In fact, it’s exactly what I did, since I usually do my photo walks with me walking around holding the camera by the grip, and the neck strap wrapped around my wrist.
↑ There is a lock switch to prevent zoom creeping.
If I was in the market for a lens with this focal length range, the 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens would probably be on top of my list. I live in New York City, and a focal length range like this is just something I would more for special occasions. So, if I were to get a lens like this, it would have to be something around this size and weight. I would find it extremely difficult to walk around with something with say a much larger max aperture. I understand there is a need for those types of lenses but I wouldn’t need something like that for my purposes. Size would be the issue not only because I want to be discreet but also because walking around with a heavy lens all day on the streets is no fun. This lens allowed me to get pictures that I normally couldn’t get around NYC with my existing focal lengths yet there isn’t a huge price to pay other than it having modest maximum apertures. Plus, if I am in the woods one day, and I just so happen to want to photograph some woodland creatures, I can definitely use this lens. The 100-400mm f5-6.3 is something I can really see in my kit.
↑ There are a bunch of useful features right on the 100-400mm f5-6.3.
I even had the 100-400mm f5-6.3 mounted on the Leica CL for a while. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to process those photos in time for this review, so I’ll write up a separate article about that experience soon. I went bike riding, and wanted to go light, so instead of taking the SL2, I mounted the 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens on the CL, and took it along with me. It actually felt pretty balanced considering we’re talking about a 100-400mm zoom! By the way, because of the CL’s crop sensor, I was getting a 150-600mm equivalent, which was a lot of fun to use. It’s also worth noting that while the image stabilization worked great with the SL2, it was especially helpful with the CL considering it does not have in-camera image stabilization. As all of you probably know, even the smallest movement can affect your image when you’re using long focal lengths.
Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Autofocus:
Let’s talk about the autofocus now. The 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens uses a stepping motor, and for the most part, the autofocus is quick, quiet, and very smooth for this type of lens. Overall, the speed and efficiency of the autofocus was decent and caused me no real issues at all. For those planning on using it with the CL, the autofocus experience was also smooth and trouble free with the crop sensor camera.
Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Image Quality:
Let’s take a look at the image quality now. I used my Leica SL2 for all the photos here. The photos were processed from RAW files using Camera Raw in Photoshop CC. As I mentioned earlier, I also used the CL with the 100-400mm f5-6.3 as well, and those photos will come in a separate article (I may add a few here when I finish processing them as well). From my testing, I found the 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens to be excellent overall.
(Side note: With corona virus cases on the rise again, I’ve limited my shooting, and the locations I go to but there are still plenty of examples below that will demonstrate the abilities of this lens :).)
↑ This was taken in the afternoon with the 105mm focal length. The lens was set at f9, and my SL2 was set at 800 ISO.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at 1250 ISO. The lens was set at 100mm and f8.
↑ This was taken right around sunset. Here’s another shot with the 400mm focal length and at f8. I used 320 ISO.
↑ I shot this with 250 ISO, and the lens set at 132mm using f8.
For one, I found the Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 to be very sharp overall throughout its zoom range. At wide open apertures, center sharpness is strong with slight fall off in the corners but as you begin to stop down, corners do sharpen up a bit. In other words, nothing out of the ordinary. At 100mm to even about 300, the lens is very sharp with it losing only a little bit of its resolving power to my eyes when you begin to approach 400mm. Still, in real world shooting, I doubt anyone would even notice the difference. You have to keep in mind that I’m zooming in at 100%, and purposely looking for trouble haha because this is a review. As you can see in the photos, I used the 100-400mm f5-6.3 throughout its zoom range, and was getting razor sharp results. Keep in mind I’m hand holding a 400mm telephoto zoom too ;).
↑ I always seem to use the WTC in my reviews for sharpness tests :). This was taken at 100mm at f8. The camera was set at 400 ISO.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.
↑ Here’s another shot of the WTC but this time at 400mm and f8. I used 400 ISO here.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.
↑ This was taken at f8 using 200 ISO.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.
↑ Here’s another 100% crop. This isn’t really even the focus point but still, plenty of detail as you can see. Keep in mind this is with 400mm and hand held on a very windy day too!
↑ Here’s a photo taken in the afternoon using the 167mm focal length, and f8. My SL2 was set at 125 ISO.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.
Other features of the 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens are great contrast and color rendering. Photos exhibit a nice, three dimensional quality to them. There is a little vignetting when max aperture is used but nothing that is out of the ordinary. It’s nothing you will even really notice in real world shooting. As for flare, Sigma uses their Super Multi-Layer Coating, which is designed to fight flare and ghosting. It definitely worked because I didn’t really have any issue with flare, which is why I didn’t even bother bringing the lens hood with me for most of the time that I was out shooting.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at f11 with the 100mm focal length. I was using 400 ISO.
↑ This was taken at 400mm with the lens set at f11. I used 250 ISO here.
↑ This photo was taken around midday using 320 ISO. The lens was set at 122mm and f8.
↑ This was taken at 1600 ISO using the 323mm focal length and the aperture setting of f8.
Speaking of max aperture, it does change depending on focal length, and let’s be honest, f5-6.3 isn’t exactly fast. But in practice, it’s really not that bad. You might have some issues taking night photos handheld but for the rest of the time, I found myself stopping down to f8 or even f11 anyway. Plus, you have the added benefit of a lens that costs just $949, and something that is really manageable in terms of size and weight. It’s something that you can actually use hand held. The 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens looks big and heavy in the pictures but as I mentioned earlier in my review, it’s actually something that can be carried around in one hand. It definitely won’t stick out, and make you as conspicuous as say a 400mm f2.8. I really like this lens quite a bit because it’s something that has a focal length range that is this long but it’s also something I can use for vacations, street or general photography. Like I said before, it’s easily manageable, which is the key here. It’s something that’s not going to be left at home as much as one would think, and therefore, you’re really going to get your money’s worth.
↑ This photo was taken at f5 using 100mm. I had the camera set at 400 ISO.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at 400mm using f8. I had the camera set at 125 ISO.
↑ This photo was taken at 640 ISO. The lens was set at f8, and I was using the 149mm focal length.
↑ This photo was taken at 5000 ISO. The lens was set at 302mm and f6.3.
Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Bokeh:
It’s also worth noting that because of its long focal length range, you can still get decent shallow depth of field. With its 9 blade rounded diaphragm, the bokeh is beautifully smooth and inviting. I think Sigma lenses produce some of the best bokeh currently in modern lenses, and let’s just say, the 100-400mm is no exception to this rule.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at wide open aperture of f5. The lens was set at 100mm, and I was using 640 ISO.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at 400mm with the 100-400mm set the wide open aperture of 6.3m I used 1250 ISO here.
↑ Here’s a photo taken at 400mm with the lens set at f6.3. I used 500 ISO.
Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Pros And Cons:
Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Pros:
- Great build and solid construction.
- Considering its focal length range, the lens is compact and light.
- Dust and splash proof structure
- Image stabilization.
- Great controls built on the lens.
- Teleconverters available for L mount users.
- Tripod socket available.
- Included lens hood.
- Quiet and decent autofocus.
- Overall, great image quality throughout the zoom range.
- At $949, the price is quite decent considering the level of overall quality, and it’s a fantastic way to be able to use longer focal lengths with L mount cameras.
Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Cons:
- Wish the tripod socket was included.
Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Verdict:
If you’re an L mount user like I am, especially a Leica user, you know that there are not many other alternatives, if you’re looking for lenses with farther range. The other lenses that I can think of off the top of my head as of this writing that approach this range are the Panasonic Lumix S PRO 70-200mm f4 O.I.S., Lumix S PRO 70-200mm f2.8 O.I.S., and the Leica APO-Vario-Elmarit-SL 90-280mm f2.8-4. However, these three are far more expensive, especially the Leica one, and they still do not cover as much ground as the Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3, which is why I feel it’s such an important lens.
While I’ll admit good lighting helps with the 100-400mm f5-6.3 considering its modest maximum apertures, it sure makes up for it in other ways. If you’re willing to sacrifice some light gathering, you’ll get a lens that is easy to live with, and use considering its focal length range. It’s compact and light making it a lens that’s great for general photography. It’s something that I can see myself carrying around, and not always leaving at home. In other words, I know it would get a lot of use. To top it off, image quality is excellent, and the price is $949. For that price, I feel you’re really getting a lot here. Bottom line is if you want something that will give you a lot of reach that is also affordable, well-made, convenient, and produces great images, the 100-400mm f5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary lens is a fantastic choice.
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