Executive Summary Pros: -- Amazingly compact and light compared to other long zooms -- Decent IQ (perhaps even excellent if I can master the image stabilization (OS)) -- Solidly built with very smooth zoom and manual focus -- Excellent price for...
-- Amazingly compact and light compared to other long zooms
-- Decent IQ (perhaps even excellent if I can master the image stabilization (OS))
-- Solidly built with very smooth zoom and manual focus
-- Excellent price for such a long zoom
--Decent AF speed. very fast AF speed when range limited
-- Requires a $60 dock to work optimally (particularly the image/optical stabilization)
-- Slightly less magnification at 400mm than my other zooms (probably more like 385-390mm than 400mm)
-- EXIF does not register 300mm (it reports either 290mm or 310mm)
-- very short "throw" from 300mm to 400mm (does not allow fine adjustments in this range)
-- Slow lens: max aperture decreases quickly. It''s f/5.3 at 125mm, f/5.6 at 155mm, f/6 at 220, & f/6.3 at 350.
I really want to love this Sigma and will likely keep it, but it will be a close call. When I unpacked, handled and mounted it to my D7200, I was blown away by its compactness. It is no longer (but noticeably fatter) nor significantly heavier than a 70-200 f/4 G lens. I wondered whether it was the answer to my digital photography prayers. You see, I had come (okay, I continue to transition) from the Canon world where I fell in love with, first, the 70-300 IS L lens, and then the 100-400 IS L II lens. Nikon doesn''t make an L-quality 70-300 lens, and its 80-400 G is bigger than the Canon (not to mention more expensive) and not as sharp at 400mm. I thought that maybe the Sigma would finally allow me to get rid of my remaining Canon equipment. I have an amazing Nikon 200-500mm lens that wows me every time I use it, but it is simply too big to take with me when I travel. So, perhaps the Sigma would be the holy grail or the "Godilocks" lens?
Well, not so far, and I may end up keeping the Canon 100-400mm (I''m definitely keeping the Nikon 200-500mm). The Sigma''s OS is a bit worst than what I''m use to from modern lenses. The previous review--with which I agree-- focuses on this concern, so I won''t spend a lot of text dwelling on it. I only tested the OS at 400mm (most of these lenses are very good on the short end; so I focus on the long end, which receives the most use), and I found the OS slightly underwhelming. I think the light weight may exacerbate the problem. With the Canon 100-400 and Nikon 200-500, the additional bulk and length makes for a more stable handheld platform. There''s no free lunch. I questioned the lens''s sharpness. It wasn''t until I cranked the shutter speed over 1/500 secs (and faster) that I was able to assure myself that the lens is indeed sharp (it is very sharp). To be fair, I conducted my tests at 70-80 meters, which is demanding for any OS system, and I did pixel-peep. I was able to detect some stabilization, but I really needed to keep the shutter speed over 1/400 for sufficient sharpness. Perhaps it will be better when adjusted with the dock.
Most everything else about this lens is excellent. I almost wish it had a little more heft to it, but...never mind. Color is very good and accurate. I tested with DX cameras (D7200 & D500), so vignetting and distortion were not issues. Edge-to-Edge sharpness is among the best I''ve seen. AF is good. It''s accurate and fairly speedy. If you need more speed, then limit the AF range. You can keep the focus range short or long: either 0-6meters or 6meters-infinity. If you do this, focusing seems almost instantaneous. The zoom indicator has marks for 100mm, 135mm, 200mm, 300mm, and 400mm. While the first four marks are relatively spread out, the 300 and 400mm marks are virtually on top of each other. This Canon is a little better in this respect, and the Nikon has these marks quite far apart. I list this characteristic as a negative, but some prefer the short distance in that it makes it easier to quickly change your focal length. The Nikon gets criticized for requiring several turns to change the focal length. Again, there are always tradeoffs.
In sum, this lens comes close, but not as close as I would like. It is close in performance to the more expensive lenses, and the compact size is a huge plus. The price is right--and if you are price sensitive (competing lenses are more than twice as expensive) then the Sigma is your only option, and it is capable of producing excellent results. But if you rely on OS a lot, or size doesn''t matter, then there are better choices. However, if you normally keep the shutter speed high and shoot mostly action, then I recommend the Sigma highly as the compact (pocket rocket) that it is. In so many respects it is a breakthrough. I just have to decide when (not whether) I will acquire the Sigma dock.