I have been using the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens for about a month now and I wanted to give you my first impressions of the lens and what its ideal uses are, out in the field. The very first thing that struck me about this lens when I pulled it out of the box was how extremely lightweight it was! At approximately 2.5 pounds (1.16 Kilograms)and a very versatile focal length this lens is a perfect fit for people who photograph field sports, larger wildlife, and surprisingly enough…. landscapes, all in a hand-holdable package.
Although I used it on my Canon 1Dx body, I feel the ideal fit for this lens would be on a lighter weight APS-C body saving you another addition pound and a half , making it an ultra lightweight package with maximum reach. Because of the focal length multiplication factor, this lens would work as a 150-600mm on the smaller body.
My first test with the lens was in St. Augustine Florida at the Florida Birding and Photo Festival photographing horses on the beach at sunrise. As you can see in the two images above, we were standing in the ocean as the riders came galloping towards us. In the first image above, I started tracking the rider down the beach at about 330mm and the image below was at 100mm when he was almost on top of me! I have to admit; it is a bit scary when you have that large of an animal barreling towards you! Unless I have a very fast shutter speed over 1/800th of a second when hand holding, I keep OS (Optical Stabilization) turned on to position 1 to minimize my shake, especially this day as I was standing knee deep in the surf.
The cowboys and cowgirls from the Baker Barn were expert riders and all were able to pull of any of the horse-riding tasks we put before them including getting soaking wet running through the shallow surf!
Make no mistake, this lens is sharp. To put it to the ultimate test, I took it on my workshop to the desert southwest. Many people would consider this 100-400mm lens for wildlife photography. While I do think it would work well with larger animals, I feel the longer reach of the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is a better option for all types of wildlife including small birds as there is no substitute for focal length. For those that find that lens too heavy, then certainly the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary is a viable option especially combined with an APS-C body and the TC-1401 teleconverter
This lens would also be an excellent choice for sports/athletics as well as performances inside large arenas. But for me, this lens is a great fit for landscapes. Why? I often travel to landscape shoots with my Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art, the workhorse 24-105mm F4 DG (OS)* HSM Art, and a 20mm or 24mm f/1.4 Art for night photography. I often select the APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM to isolate landscape subjects but I often feel it just isn’t enough reach. The Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary fills this void nicely.
As you can see in the image above I was able to isolate Mexican Hat against the Painted Desert excluding the sky to focus attention on the desert environs. The 200mm of extra reach over the 70-200mm f/2.8 allowed for a full frame image without much focal length overlap on the 24-105mm F4 DG (OS)* HSM Art with a lens that is approximately over ½ pound (.25 Kilogram) less weight. In the image below, I was able to jump out of the truck and capture the distant Fisher Towers and La Salle mountains without including the road as a foreground.
Probably as impressive as the light weight of the 100-400mm lens is the minimum focusing distance of only 5 feet and 3 inches (1.6 meters). In the images below, this short MFD allowed me isolate the car door handle and hood ornament of an old car we passed along the road making it a attractive option for close-up photography without having to bring and additional dedicated macro lens.
This lens does not have a tripod collar, but given that my camera bodies almost as much as the lens does, I do not feel you need one. I would recommend an L bracket attached to the camera body should the situation warrant, but truth be told, I hand held the lens the entire month!
With results like this, I am making this lens a permanent part of my landscape photography kit as its light weight and long focal length versatility make it a perfect companion to my other Sigma landscape lenses without adding bulk in this ever more restrictive travel environment. This lens is definitely a keeper!