In relation to its reach Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 Contemporary is a relatively inexpensive and light and compact telephoto zoom lens. Despite that it is capable of producing sharp shots even at the long end, like you can see in the crops down below.
Build quality and handling
For the most part Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 Contemporary is comprised of a synthetic material Sigma calls „Thermally Stable Composite“ (TSC). This material looks like stainless steel and feels just as good and sturdy. It has nothing in common with ordinary plastics.
The focus ring has a focus throw of about 160° and it turns smoothly and evenly like we have grown accustomed to with Art/Sports/Contemporary lenses.
The same is true for the zoom ring. You can lock the said ring with a zoom lock switch in order to prevent zoom creep.
The AF/MF switch has an “MO” position, which stands for manual override, in addition to AF and MF positions. Right beneath it is the focus limiter switch with three settings: FULL, 6m to ∞ and 1.6m to 6m. Furthermore there are two additional switches for image stabilization (OFF, Mode 1 and 2) and Custom settings (OFF, C1 and C2), which can be adjusted via the Sigma USB dock. All these switches snap firmly into every position and provide quite a bit of resistance. An unintended change to the settings hasn’t happened to me once in a bit over a month of having this lens. The lens has an excellent build quality even though it feels a bit less substantial than the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary. This, however, could be due to lower weight.
Since the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 Contemporary is the cheapest long telephoto zoom lens by Sigma, I wasn’t expecting excellent image quality and was therefore pleasantly surprised. It’s hard to hold a long lens such as this absolutely still, even more so on APS-C. But should you manage to do so, you will be rewarded with a high level of sharpness even at the long end, which is where long telephoto zoom lenses usually struggle. In my opinion this lens is fully usable wide open. CAs are barely visible and I was shooting birds in backlighting situations, just to see how it performs. To my eye vignetting is non-existent, at least on an APS-C sensor like the one in the sd Quattro. What is most definitely existent are flares. Whether this is important with a lens as long as this one everybody needs to decide for himself or herself. Bokeh is mediocre, which is typical for zoom lenses.
I have attached three photos including 100% crops down below, so that you can form your own opinion regarding 100-400mm F5-6.3 Contemporary’s image quality. You can find many more full resolution photos on Flickr.
Since I use this lens on a Sigma sd Quattro I can’t say how fast or reliable it focuses on Canon and Nikon bodies. For the ones, who are uninformed, this is a DSLM camera with contrast AF. You can surely imagine what kind of effect this has on AF-C. The lens is fast enough for static and slow-moving subjects even on the sd Quattro. Whether it is fast enough for fast-moving animals and action on CaNikon bodies I don’t know.
Looking at it you cannot tell that the Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 Contemporary is said manufacturer’s cheapest long telephoto lens. Its build quality is very good. It is very sharp wide open. CA and vignetting are almost non-existent. Bokeh is mediocre, which, however, is typical for zoom lenses. AF is fast enough for slow-moving subjects on the sd Quattro. Price/performance ratio is very good. Same goes for the reach to size/weight ratio. Those who don’t care about the latter and who prioritize reach should take a good look at the 150-600mm Contemporary.
The following samples are available on Flickr in full resolution (20 Megapixel).