Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Review
By Yvonne

Anyone looking for a lightweight, affordable telephoto lens is sure to love the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6 DG OS HSM Contemporary.

Contemporary Review: Sigma 100-400mm F5 -6.3 DGOS HSM

Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary

Let's get to the bottom

Anyone looking for a lightweight, affordable telephoto lens is sure to love the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6 DG OS HSM Contemporary.

The pros

  • Strong image quality.
  • Optical stabilization.
  • Full-frame coverage.
  • Multiple systems are supported.
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Inexpensive.


  • At 100mm, weak edge performance
  • Vignette at maximum aperture.
  • Some distortion.
  • No tripod collar option.

This lens is unique: The Sigma 100 400mm F5-6.3 DGOS HSM Contemporary (799) While most telezoom lenses are light and have narrow apertures, the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary ($799) is a unique lens. This lens is affordable and matches the quality of pricier lenses like the Canon EF 100-40mm f/4.5-5.56L IS II USM field-of-view. Although Sigma's lens isn't as sharp or as light-capturing as Canon's it offers the same quality optics but for the cost difference, the compromises are acceptable.

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It looks similar to other lenses from Sigma's Global Vision Series. The barrel of the lens is made from black polycarbonate and features white letters, a rubberized zoom band, and a texture, but not bare, manual focus rings. The dimensions of the camera are 7.2x3.4 inches (HD), 2.6 lbs, and it supports 67mm front filters. Comparing it to the Canon 100-400mm is 7.6x3.7inches (HD), 3.6lbs, and has a bigger front element which requires 77mm filters. Sigma comes with front and rear caps as well as an adjustable lens hood. The 100-400mm can be purchased in either a Canon or Nikon mount. This mount is designed to be used with full-frame cameras but also works well with APS-C sensors.

Zooming can cause the lens to extend, reaching 9.8 inches. The lock switch can be engaged to stop the lens from extending while it is hanging by your side. The lock switch locks it at 100mm, and you cannot set it up at any other focal length.

The lens is light, but I found it to be quite fragile. To perform resolution testing, I mounted the lens on a tripod and then used the BlackRapid strap to attach it when going out. The tripod collar would have been a great addition to the lens. It makes it awkward plugging in the camera into both cases. Your system will feel a little heavy if you use the tripod socket of your camera as a mounting point.

Numerous controls are available on the lens. You will find the zoom ring, which has marked 100, 135, 200 and 300 focal lengths, towards the front of your barrel. The lock switch is behind it.

The control switches can be found on the left, just behind the focus rings. The focus select switch is located on the left side, behind the focus ring. It has AF, MO, and MF options. There's also a limiter that limits autofocus to a close range (1.6-6 meters), 6 meters, or infinity, as well as a lock button. You also get an OS switch to adjust stabilization—you can disable it for tripod use; set it to Mode 1, which is used when holding the camera steady; or Mode 2, the setting you'll want to choose if you're panning to follow a moving subject.

Custom works with the Sigma USB Dock accessory. You can optimize other options and save them as a customized setting. You can also save this setting as a customized one if you want to prioritise focus speed over accuracy or limit distance shots. You can update the lens firmware using the Dock. The internal memory can hold two custom settings.

Minimum focus distance for the 100-400mm is 5.25ft (1.6m). This is a long distance for 100mm. However, it delivers a decent 1:13.8 magnification at 400mm so that you can take close-up photos. It's not quite macro—1:3 is typically the minimum magnification required for a zoom to be considered for macro work. Canon EF 100-40mm, which is more expensive than the EF100-400mm, locks at 3.2 feet. It magnifies subjects at 1:13 at minimum focus distance. The focal length of 400mm and the maximum focal length are also at 400mm.

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Image quality

I did Imatest (Opens in new window) testing with the lens and the Canon EOS 5DS R 50MP lenses. I also used the lens in field with the 6D Mark 2.

The lens has a 100mm focal length at f/5 and a good center-weighted resolution score of 3,171 lines per image height. The image quality throughout the entire frame is excellent, with only 1,600 lines in the outer third. This is a very low score for a sensor of 50MP. The average score is up to 3,286 lines at f/5.6. However, there's no overall improvement around the perimeter.

At f/8, the periphery looks crisper (1,906 line), which is the setting where the lens scores its highest average score (3.383 lines). If you need sharp edges, a lower aperture of f/11 would be a good choice. They jump up to 2,311 lines which is much better than the minimum 2,220 lines that we use with high-resolution sensors. The average score is strong at 3,303 lines. The image quality suffers a slight hit at f/16 (2968 lines), and an even more serious one at f/22 (2 293 lines).

At 200mm, the quality at the edges of the frame can be much higher. Average 3,703 lines are visible across the frame at f/5.6. This is a great result with sharp edges of 3.400 lines. At f/8 the score is 3,925 lines. The edges touch 3,850 lines. Image quality at f/11 (3.767 lines) remains excellent. We also see the expected decrease in clarity at both f/16 (3.308 lines), and f/22 (2.525 lines).

Similar results are obtained at 300mm. Although the maximum aperture is now f/6.3, it still displays a solid 3,565 line score wide open. The edges are a little slower, showing about 3,000 lines. The results are excellent at f/8 (3.704 lines), and even better at f/11 (3.615 lines). The resolution drops to 3,227 lines at f/11, while it is even lower to 2,513 for f/22.

A long zoom lens with a strong performance at the longest focal length can be a huge deal. Although the 100-400mm loses some power at 400mm F/6.3 where the average score falls to 3,426 lines per frame, performance across the entire frame is excellent with edges showing 3,038 lines. The image quality drops at f/8 (33,427 lines), but we see a decrease in clarity with narrower apertures. Scores drop at f/11 (33,043 lines), 2884 lines, and 221 lines, respectively.

Imatest also evaluates the lens' resolution. Imatest also evaluates distortion and uniformity in illumination. Distortion isn't a problem at 100mm, where the lens shows less than 1 percent, but you do get some pincushion effects at longer focal lengths—about 1.5 percent at 200mm, 1.9 percent at 300mm, and 1.6 percent at 400mm.

For certain shots that include architectural elements, pincushion distortion creates straight lines inward. Third-party lenses such as the 100-400mm are not compatible with your Canon and Nikon SLRs. This means that you cannot set up JPGs using your Canon or Nikon SLR to automatically remove this effect. Lightroom CC has an option to remove this effect if you are shooting Raw images and processing them using Lightroom.

The 100-400mm lens is not as bright. Its corners, at 100mm f/5 are darker than its center by a factor -2.6EV. Photos with dark corners have a distinctive vignette effect. The f/5.6 improvement is only -1.9EV. At f/8, the deficit has been reduced to just -1.9%EV. This difference makes most photos look very good.

The maximum aperture at 200mm is -1.5EV, and the minimum aperture at 300mm gives you -1.3EV respectively. This difference can still be seen in some photos. However, f/8 corrects the problem. Even at f/6.3, illumination at 400mm is acceptable. You can correct distortion using Lightroom's lens profile, but JPG photographers won't be able to use the in-camera corrections.

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The Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 DGOS HSM Contemporary is a compact, affordable lens that can zoom long and be used for close-up photography. You get a longer reach than the 70-300mm model for $800, and a sturdy lens that has strong resolution. Sure, there are some drawbacks—the aperture isn't the brightest, there's some distortion, and you'll deal with dimmed corners.

These are minor issues considering the size and price. Strong recommendation for the 100-400mm, as long as 400mm is sufficient reach and that you aren't lugging around heavy, bulky zooms. Another Sigma lens is our favorite telezoom, the 150-60mm f/5-6 DG OS HSM Contemporary. It typically retails at around $1,100. Although it is heavier (4.3 pounds), the telephoto reach is significantly greater.

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