The SIGMA 100-400mm DG DN OS Contemporary is the telephoto lens my Sony E-Mount camera was waiting for!
Okay, maybe I was the one waiting for it… but nonetheless, this new addition to the SIGMA arsenal has been specially designed for mirrorless systems (such as Sony E-Mount and L-Mount cameras like the SIGMA fp), and it certainly shows. To check out just how well the SIGMA 100-400mm DG DN OS Contemporary performs, I decided to take it out to the most difficult situation I could think of… a dog sporting event in Southern California in the dead of summer.
The sport the 100-400mm accompanied me to is called Fast CAT, a coursing ability test for dogs. Pups run a timed 100-yard dash chasing a lure. To touch on why a dog sporting event is the ultimate test for a lens like this, let’s look at what we’re dealing with:
- Direct sunlight in 100-degree heat (don’t worry, for this sport, dogs only run for a very brief moment and are immediately cooled off and sent home. It’s us humans that need to be there all day!)
- Dirt and dust everywhere, whether it’s being kicked up by fast dogs or by an unexpected hot wind that comes through.
- Athletic dogs that are running extremely fast. You only have seconds to get the right shots. Best part? They’re running AT you rather than parallel to you, which is considered a difficult focusing condition.
- Long hours, and you certainly don’t want your arms to fall off (which is why mirrorless is a good idea).
So how did the SIGMA 100-400mm DG DN OS Contemporary do when attached to my Sony Alpha 7R IV camera?
Despite the sun and heat, the lens remained cool in my hands and was able to continue capturing focus on the running dogs. Even though the dogs ran toward me, the communication between the lens and the camera was so spot on that the Animal Tracking feature in the latest Sony firmware worked! This was a big help in capturing animals that were able to complete the course in mere seconds.
Equally, depending on what I was capturing, the set of features that comes along with the lens were very helpful. There are four switches and buttons on the lens itself, including a zoom lock, an autofocus/manual focus switch, a 3-position focus limiter (FULL, 6M to infinity, and minimum to 5M), a focus hold button that can be programmed with a variety of functions, and a 3-position switch for the optical stabilization (Mode 1 [Standard], Mode 2 [Panning], and OFF). For this shoot, I had it set to Autofocus, Full, and Mode 1. In some moments I kept the zoom lock on and in others I switched it off.
Additionally, the weight was much lighter than the lens that typically accompanies me to a dog show, the 70-200mm F2.8 Sports. Both lenses are approximately the same length, but the SIGMA 100-400mm DG DN OS Contemporary is lighter weight, making the long hours easier. Despite being lighter, the lens feels professional and sturdy in my hands, like it won’t shatter from a bump. Before anyone mentions the addition of a tripod or monopod — that’s not a possibility at these dog sporting events. You go handheld or you go home! But on that same topic, you can nab an optional tripod collar for this lens if your photography requires a tripod or monopod.
Although I am a big shallow depth of field buff, the 100-yard dash setting kept my canine subjects so far away from me that the focal length was far more important than the aperture. I could capture the pups nice and close despite being so far away. Additionally, the distance allowed the dogs to eventually end up so far away from where they started that you still had a nice shallow depth of field that separated the dog from its surroundings in the photograph, even with apertures of F5 through F6.3. Zooming in and out was a breeze, and the zoom ring was very smooth and tactile.
All in all, this lens exceeded my expectations in conditions that are tumultuous for a lot of different equipment. Between the lighter weight helping keep my arms up, to the fast focusing ensuring I’m not missing key shots, I am expecting to see the SIGMA 100-400mm DG DN OS Contemporary at a lot more action shoots in the future!