Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens Review

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens

Upon reviewing the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens's older sibling, the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary Lens, that lens became one of my most-frequently recommended lenses. Most photographers highly value a telephoto zoom lens with long focal lengths, a significant percentage of these photographers are looking for a lightweight, low cost option, and no one wants to give up great image quality or deal with a lens that does not perform well. Sigma's 100-400 was the perfect solution, and some of my close family members have purchased this lens.

The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens is remarkably similar to the HSM Art lens and brings the same advantages to the native Sony E-mount.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Top View

Focal Length Range

Choosing the right focal length or focal length range is of utmost importance for lens selection as the focal length determines the perspective and framing combination. With a range that starts at 100mm (medium telephoto) and goes to 400mm (without teleconverters, a relatively-long telephoto length), this lens covers a lot of uses, including many general-purpose telephoto needs. I have a lens covering the 100-400mm range with me a significant percentage of the time.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Blue Jay Sample Picture

One of the best uses for the 100-400mm focal length range is wildlife photography. At the wide end of the range, large or very close wildlife can be captured in its entirety and environmental portraits are often a potential. Or, there are some subjects that you may not want to get closer to, and this focal length range is there for you in that regard. When the wildlife is scared of you (or vice versa), 400mm permits capturing images with more-distant subjects rendered large in the frame. Smaller birds and animals often need longer focal lengths to have a substantial size in the frame, and these are included in the great subjects list for such a telephoto lens. Especially nice is that these subjects can be found as close as the backyard.

Junco Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Sample Picture

This telephoto zoom focal length range is ideal for zoo and safari lens needs.

A 100-400mm lens is a great choice for photographing people. The wide end has great portrait photography capabilities, even indoors if adequate ambient light is available. The long end, typically more-easily used outdoors, will provide a more-compressed appearance (due to the longer subject distance). With that look comes a stronger background blur (the background blur becomes more-strongly magnified). Parents chasing kids can find plenty of uses for this entire focal length range, including for their at-the-park and at-the-beach needs.

In-the-field/equestrian needs are another specific example of a use well-suited for the 100-400.

People participating in sports make great subjects for this lens. While selecting a telephoto lens is a good choice from a safety concern perspective (safety both from and for the subject), it also is a good choice because there is typically a physical or designated barrier, such as a fence or the perimeter lines on a sports field, preventing a closer shooting location. While a full-frame camera-mounted 400mm lens may still seem short when photographing deep into large-field events, in front of an APS-C model where it provides an angle of view equivalent to a 150-600mm lens on a full-frame camera, a 100-400mm lens can cover a very significant portion of even large soccer, football, field hockey, lacrosse, etc. fields. Those using a full-frame camera might find some cropping necessary in more-distant results from these venues, but modestly closer action will be nicely handled by this range.

Sports photography needs can cover this entire focal length range, and having the ability to track a continuously-properly-framed athlete from a distant location to a close position is a great asset. Having a zoom range vs. using a prime/fixed/single focal length lens means that the proper cropping can be established and maintained in-camera. This results in full use of your camera's imaging sensor, which in turn (potentially) results in better overall image quality.

I use all of the focal lengths in this lens for landscape photography and usually carry a lens covering the 100-400mm range for such use. It is often easy to create attractive, compressed perspective landscape images when using a telephoto lens. Long focal lengths can make even a mediocre sunrise or sunset look amazing.

Along with parents, wildlife, sports, and landscape photographers will make up large percentage of the owners of this lens. Still, there are many additional uses for this wide 4x focal length range. Photojournalists with restricted access to their subjects may find this focal length range useful. This lens works well for product photography. Air shows will find this lens model well represented.

Here is an example of what this focal length range looks like in front of a full-frame camera (using a different lens):

100-400mm Focal Length Range Example

As mentioned, those using an ASP-C/1.5x FOVCF sensor format DSLR will see an angle of view similar to a full-frame-mounted 150-600mm lens. This shifted-narrower angle of view range moves the 100-400mm range deeper into the sports and wildlife uses, with bird photography and big-field sports being especially good uses of the focal length range. While still good for portrait photography on an APS-C camera, tightly-framed portraits are most comfortable, with lots of space needed for full body portraiture.

Sometimes, laziness (or perhaps, "relaxation" sounds better) is a good reason to use the 100-400mm focal length range. Sit in the comfort of your car, avoid the need to cross a creek, stay back from the surf, etc.

The list of uses for this focal length range is huge and goes far beyond those I've listed here. If I am not using it as my primary lens, a lens covering the 100-400mm range is usually handling much of the balance of my needs, such as complementing a 600mm lens when photographing wildlife or a 24-70mm lens when photographing landscapes.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Front View on Camera

Max Aperture

Because aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length and because this lens' maximum opening does not increase adequately with focal length increase to maintain the same ratio, this lens has a variable max aperture, ranging from f/5 to f/6.3 as the focal length range is increasingly traversed.

As always, the lower the aperture number, the more light the lens will allow to reach the sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (examples: f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11) increases or reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a substantial factor). Allowing more light to reach the sensor permits freezing action and handholding the camera in lower light levels and can also permit use of a lower (less noisy) ISO setting. In addition to allowing more light to reach the sensor, increasing the aperture opening permits a shallower DOF (Depth of Field) that creates a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths), and improved AF performance.

The advantages of a narrow aperture, because the lens elements can be reduced significantly in size, include smaller overall lens size, lighter weight, and lower cost. Those are factors that we all can appreciate, and they apply to this specific lens.

A downside to the variable max aperture is that the widest available f/4.5 max aperture cannot be used over the entire focal length range. Your camera will automatically account for the change in auto exposure modes, but using the widest-available aperture in manual exposure mode is complicated somewhat.

The bottom line is that this lens has a relatively narrow aperture at any specific focal length, and this lens is not an ideal choice for stopping low light action or for focusing in low light conditions. When the sun goes down, action sports photographers using this lens (or similar models) will be forced to use very high (noisy) ISO settings to keep images bright enough without compromising the fast shutter speeds necessary to freeze subject motion. This lens is not the best choice for indoor sports or for anything else that moves quickly in low light.

Here is a comparative look at the max aperture step-down by focal length for this class of lens.

Modelf/4.5f/5.0f/5.6f/6.3f/7.1
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens100-134mm135-311mm312-400mm  
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens100-150mm151-253mm254-362mm363-471mm472-500mm
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens80-134mm135-249mm250-400mm  
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens 100-112mm113-234mm235-400mm 
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens 100-111mm112-233mm234-400mm 
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports 150-184mm185-320mm321-600mm 
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C 150-179mm180-387mm388-600mm 
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens100-115mm116-161mm162-400mm  
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 Lens 150-212mm213-427mm428-600mm 

Yes, this lens has an f/5 max aperture, but ... f/5 is only available for 13mm of the focal length range, from 100mm through 112mm. That is enough to count, and that is enough to give you f/5 in when you require it. That most of the differences shown in the above table are only 1/3 or 2/3 stops should be considered.

The following images illustrate the maximum blur this lens can produce at the specified focal length.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Maximum Blur Example

This lens cannot create the shallowest depth of field among equivalent focal length lenses, but because of its long focal lengths, it can create a very strong, often highly-desirable, background blur.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Angle View

Image Stabilization

You likely noticed the "OS" in the product name by now. The longer the focal length, the larger subject details (captured at the same distance) are rendered and the more still the camera must be held to avoid subject details crossing imaging sensor pixels. OS, Optical Stabilization, is an extremely valuable feature in any lens and an especially valuable feature in a telephoto lens.

"The SIGMA 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG DN OS | Contemporary incorporates powerful image stabilization (OS) of four steps built into the lens. When combined with a camera body with image stabilization built-in, the lens corrects for pitch and yaw axis rotations, providing even more powerful image stabilization." [Sigma Corporation of America]

When OS activates, the difference seen in the viewfinder is dramatic. Immediately, careful framing at 400mm becomes significantly easier, with little drifting or jumping of the framing.

The ultimate advantage of OS is sharper images under low light conditions. Testing with a Sony a7R III under ideal conditions, most 1/13 second handheld exposures were sharp at 100mm, with sporadic sharp images were made at durations as long as 0.2 seconds. At 400mm, most 1/40 second images were sharp, the keeper rate at 1/30 was reasonable, and some sharp images were made at 1/15 second.

We should not forget that image stabilization aids AF, providing a clearer image to be used for calculations.

This OSS system is very quiet. Only a slight hum is heard by an ear next to the lens.

Two OS modes are provided on this lens, Mode 1 (general-purpose) and Mode 2 OS (for panning with a subject, one axis of stabilization is provided). The mode switch includes the off setting, typically recommended for tripod use.

While narrow apertures may not be optimal under low light conditions, this lens' optical image stabilization system can save the day in such conditions, significantly increasing the versatility of this lens, improving usability and, in many situations, considerably improving the image quality delivered.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Angle View Extended with Hood

Image Quality

Perhaps the best feature of the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens's sibling predecessor was the sharp image quality it delivered. I expected that the DN version would produce the same, and I was not disappointed.

In general, lenses are not as sharp at their wide-open apertures as they are when stopped down one or two stops. This lens does not provide much stopping down headroom before reaching openings where diffraction comes into play, creating softness over the entire image. Fortunately, this lens does not need to be stopped down for optimal center of the frame image quality. It is extremely sharp wide open, and little improvement is realized by selecting a narrower aperture.

In general, lenses are not as sharp in the periphery, where light rays must be bent more strongly than in the center. This lens, however, produces impressively sharp image corners, even with a wide-open aperture. Stopping down slightly improves corner sharpness modestly. The 400mm corners show some lateral CA impact.

Below you will find sets of 100% resolution center of the frame crops captured in uncompressed RAW format using a Sony a7R III. The images were processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method with the sharpening amount set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

100mm: f/5.0 | f/5.6   f/5.0 | f/5.6
200mm: f/5.6 | f/8.0   f/5.6 | f/8.0
300mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0
400mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0

Be sure to find details in the plane of sharp focus for your evaluations. These results are showing impressive performance.

Focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA), is not an issue with this lens (many modern lenses automatically correct for it).

Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme bottom-left, then top-left corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture the closer (second set) images.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

100mm: f/5.0 | f/5.6   f/5.0 | f/5.6
200mm: f/5.6 | f/8.0   f/5.6 | f/8.0
300mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0
400mm: f/6.3 | f/8.0   f/6.3 | f/8.0

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle can be counted on to show the worst performance a lens is capable of, but these samples are looking very nice.

Corner sharpness does not always matter, but it does matter for many disciplines, including landscape photography. When the background is not in focus, such as for people and wildlife portrait photography, corner sharpness often does not matter.

When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings. Corners are darkened by about 1.5 stops at 100mm, increasing slightly to just over two stops over the longer half of the range. By f/8, corners are shaded by just over one stop, with 135mm corners faring modestly better. At f/11, just under to just over one stop of shading is seen.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the just-over 1 stop of shading showing at f/ may be visible in some images, especially those with a solid color (such as a blue sky) showing in the corners.

One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern showing in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better not to have this aberration in the first place.

Color misalignment can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples. These are 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of ultra-high-resolution a7R III frames showing diagonal black and white lines.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

There should only be black and white colors in these images, with the additional colors indicating the presence of lateral CA. There is impressively little color showing in these samples, with the 400mm results showing the strongest color separation, as expected from the corner crops viewed previously.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

In the examples below, look at the fringing colors of the foreground vs. background out of focus specular highlights. Any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects have been introduced by the lens.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

There is a relatively strong amount of color separation showing in these results.

Flare and ghosting are caused by bright light reflecting off of lens elements' surfaces, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes-interesting but often destructive artifacts. Sigma is not promoting any special lens element coatings used to combat flaring, but certain is that quality coating has been used, as this lens performs well in that regard. Placing the sun in the corner of a long focal length frame and stopping down the aperture is a recipe for sure flaring effects, but this lens does not show strong amounts from a relative standpoint.

Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes very challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can be quite destructive to image quality.

Two lens aberrations are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either meridional (radiating from the center of the image) or sagittal (perpendicular to meridional). Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The images below are 100% crops taken from the top-left corner of a7R III frames.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Coma Example

These results look very nice.

From a geometric distortion perspective, this lens has slight pincushion distortion at 100mm that increases to rather strong at 400mm. Most modern lenses have lens correction profiles available (including in-camera), and distortion can easily be removed using these. Still, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level as some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions reduced.

The amount of blur a lens can produce is easy to show, and telephoto lenses are advantaged in this regard. Assessing the quality is more challenging due to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes. Here are some f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Bokeh Example

The defocused highlights appear nicely rounded at f/11 (this is not a big challenge for a narrow max aperture lens) and smoothly filled. The second set of results are full images reduced in size and looking good also.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round, and that is the shape seen here.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.

With a 9-blade count aperture, point light sources captured with a narrow aperture setting and showing a sunstar effect will have 18 points. In general, the more a lens is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. A narrow max aperture lens does not afford much stopping down before reaching apertures where diffraction causes noticeable softening of details, and these lenses typically do not produce the biggest or best-shaped sunstars.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Sunstar Effect Example

I'm not sure the f/16 effects shared above even qualify as "stars."

The design of this lens includes one FLD ("F" Low Dispersion) and four SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements for correction of aberrations and distortions. Overall, this lens produces excellent image quality.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Side View

Focusing

The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens's AF system is stepping motor driven. This lens focuses very fast, though the a7R III and IV's insisting on defocusing before refocusing in AF-S mode remains a detriment (this is not an issue in AF-C continuous focusing mode). Focusing is very quiet, with only a faint buzz heard in a quiet environment.

AF accuracy is essential for realizing the ultimate image quality a lens is capable of, and this lens has delivered only accurately-focused images. Low light AF performance is not stellar, as expected for a narrow max aperture lens.

This lens features a focus distance range limit switch that, in addition to making the full focus range available, enables distance selection to be limited to 5.3-19.7' (1.6-6.0m) and 19.7' (6.0m) - ∞, with the narrower ranges improving AF speed in some situations. When the subject is expected to stay in one of the limited ranges, selecting that narrower range setting can potentially decrease focus lock times (reduced hunting).

Sigma provides an AFL (AF Lock) button. While in continuous focus mode, this button can be pressed to lock focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. This button also acts as a custom button (C5) and can be programmed to another function using the camera's menu.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode.

Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone very-critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens shows a moderate (normal) change in subject size as full extent focus adjustments are made.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Focus Magnification Example

100mm: Far | Close   400mm: Far | Close

As illustrated in the 100% crops below, the reviewed lens does not exhibit parfocal-like characteristics. After locking focus at 400mm, the additional images (100% crops shown) were captured at the indicated focal length.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Parfocal Example

Refocus after changing focal lengths.

The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens focus ring is not my favorite. The size of the ring is adequate, but this mold-indented ribbed plastic ring is flush with the lens barrel, making it somewhat difficult to find tactilely, especially with gloves on. The rotational resistance is nice and there is no play, but the effected adjustment makes precise manual focusing challenging.

This electronic (vs. gear-driven) focus ring has a variable adjustment rate based on the rotation speed. At 100mm, a full extent focus distance change requires 150° of rotation when turning the focus ring slowly. Turn the ring fast, and 360° of rotation does the same. I know, you expected the fast rotation to have a shorter rotation angle than the slow result. Apparently, turning the ring fast causes some of the rotation to not be electronically read. At 400mm, 720° and 360° are the approximate experienced numbers.

With a minimum focus distance of 63.0" (1600mm), this lens has a .026x maximum magnification spec. While not best in class, the 0.26x number is substantial and very useful.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens38.4"(980mm)0.31x
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens35.4"(900mm)0.33x
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens68.9"(1750mm)0.20x
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens63.0"(1600mm)0.26x
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens63.0"(1600mm)0.26x
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS Sports Lens102.4"(2600mm)0.20x
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS C Lens110.2"(2800mm)0.20x
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens38.6"(980mm)0.35x
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens94.5"(2400mm)0.20x
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC G2 Lens86.6"(2200mm)0.26x

At 100mm, a subject measuring approximately 10.5 x 7.0" (267 x 178mm) fills the imaging sensor of a full-frame camera at the minimum focus distance. At 400mm, a subject measuring approximately 5.4 x 3.6" (137 x 91mm) does the same.

The blue jay below was photographed at 400mm at the minimum focus distance.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Maximum Magnification Example

The junco image shared earlier in the review was similarly captured.

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? An extension tube mounted behind this lens should provide a modest decrease and increase, respectively. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. Sigma and Sony do not publish extension tube specs, nor do they manufacture these items, but third-party Sony compatible extension tubes are available.

This Sony-mount lens is not compatible with Sigma teleconverters, though the Leica L-mount DN lens version is compatible with the Sigma Tele Converter TC-1411 and TC-2011. Those combinations result in a 140-560mm F7-9 AF ultra-telephoto lens and a 200-800mm F10-12.6 AF ultra-telephoto lens, respectively. While you'll love those focal length ranges, the teleconverters have a negative impact on image quality — especially the 2x model. Also, those max aperture openings are narrow and dark.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Extended Top View with Hood

Build Quality & Features

This DN lens features a design similar to its HSM predecessor, the bottom lens in this comparison.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN vs. HSM OS Contemporary Lens Comparison

Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) materials along with traditional metals are used in this design. The smooth shape makes the 100-400 C DN comfortable in hand. Tight tolerances are maintained, the quality finish gives the lens a nice feel, and the look is very classy.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Product Images

MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

All similar lenses extend with focal length increase. Despite this lens's 3.03" (77mm) extension at 400mm, the lens barrel impressively has no play.

As is typical for similar lenses, the zoom ring is prioritized for use. The substantially-sized, crisply-ribbed rubber zoom ring is very smooth with an ideal rotational resistance. This ring's 110° of rotation provides an ideal rate of transition between focal lengths.

A front-positioned zoom ring and rear-positioned focus ring is not my preferred design. This lens balances on the focus ring (when used with a non-gripped camera), leaving the zoom ring beyond fingertip reach. Thus, the right hand must aid in supporting the weight while adjusting the focal length. All that said, this is the normal design for lenses in this class, and it works fine.

The extension lock switch is positioned on the zoom ring, convenient for thumb access. While this lens does not quickly gravity zoom when held downward (at leat not when new), it does slowly extend if carried in that position.

The other three switches and a button are located on a noticeably raised switch panel. Classy is the white backgrounds on the AF and lock switches, visually indicating their set positions. The pair of short-throw 3-position switches require care to avoid mispositioning when the middle position is the goal (commonly used Mode I OS, for example). The solid click each switch provides is welcomed. Sigma DN lenses are compatible with lens-based optical correction.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Mount

This lens has a dust & splash-proof design, including a rear gasket seal. I have not seen Sigma promote a water & oil repellent coating on the front and rear elements, but a significant fingerprint is not too challenging to wipe away.

The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens is the narrowest in its class and not much longer than the shortest alternative, which happens to be its sibling. Best in class is this lens's weight, equaling the sibling. If you are carrying a telephoto zoom lens for long periods, this is the lens you want.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens55.4 oz(1570g)3.7 x 7.6"(94.0 x 193.0mm)77mm2014
Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens48.1 oz(1365g)3.7 x 7.6"(93.8 x 207.6mm)77mm2020
Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S VR Lens55.4 oz(1570g)3.8 x 8.0"(95.5 x 203.0mm)77mm2013
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens40.9 oz(1160g)3.4 x 7.8"(86.4 x 182.3mm)67mm2020
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens40.9 oz(1160g)3.4 x 7.2"(86.4 x 182.3mm)67mm2017
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens68.1 oz(1930g)4.1 x 10.2"(105.0 x 260.1mm)95mm2015
Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS Sports Lens101.0 oz(2860g)4.8 x 11.4"(121.9 x 289.6mm)105mm2014
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens49.2 oz(1395g)3.7 x 8.1"(93.9 x 205.0mm)77mm2017
Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens74.8 oz(2120g)4.5 x 12.5"(115.5 x 318.0mm)95mm2019
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC G2 Lens71.0 oz(2010g)4.3 x 10.2"(108.4 x 260.2mm)95mm2016
Tamron 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC Lens68.8 oz(1950g)4.2 x 10.1"(105.6 x 257.8mm)95mm2013

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

My knuckles do not uncomfortably impact the barrel of this lens when using the Sony a7R III and IV. The lens remains narrow enough to mostly clear impact.

Here is a visual comparison:

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM Lens
Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS C Lens
Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens

The same lenses are shown below, fully extended with their hoods in place.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens to other lenses.

For the size of this lens, it uses relatively small and common 67mm filters. In keeping with the overall low-cost theme of this lens, 67mm filters are relatively inexpensive. Note that a thin filter ring is difficult to access with fingertips due to the lens barrel thickness at the threads. I always recommend having a filter wrench on hand, but I especially recommend having one readily available with this lens if using a circular polarizer filter or other slim filters.

Not included with the 100-400 DN C (or its predecessor) is a tripod ring. Removal of this feature aids in compactness, weight savings, and low price. However, you may miss this feature.

While small and light for its class, this is a large, heavy lens to be hanging from a camera mounted to a tripod or monopod, and you can expect even a strong tripod and head to sag a bit upon lockdown. This makes careful frame alignment a bit challenging, requiring prediction of the final sag amount. The lack of a tripod ring also makes vertical orientation more difficult to use. When using a monopod, a monopod head or L-plate is needed to use the camera in vertical orientation, and the additional time required to change orientation will not go unnoticed when photographing action, including sports.

Fortunately, unlike its predecessor, this lens features an optional tripod mount ring. While not inexpensive, the Sigma TS-111 Tripod Socket, with built-in compatibility for Arca-Swiss clamps,completes this lens. Making space available for this ring required moving the switch bank forward of the focus ring.

Sigma TS-111 Tripod Socket

Covering the tripod ring attachment area, shown exposed in the mount image above, is the included Sigma PT-31 Protective Cover.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Tripod Mount Cover

This firm silicone ring slides over the tripod mount ring guides and holds securely in place.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Side View with Hood

The rigid plastic Sigma LH770-05 Lens Hood is included in the box. This is a relatively large hood that provides plenty of protection to the front lens element – protection from flare-inducing light and from impact, dust, moisture, etc. The interior of the lens is ribbed to avoid light reflecting into the lens, and the front of the exterior is ribbed in the other direction to aid in grip during installation and removal. A release switch is not provided, but the hood smoothly rotates and assuredly clicks into place. The rear of the hood is substantially contoured, permitting the lens to be push-pull zoomed from this grip position.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Cap

A lens case is not included in the box. Consider a Lowepro Lens Case or Think Tank Photo Lens Case Duo for a quality, affordable single-lens storage, transport, and carry solution.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Extended Top View

Price, Value, Wrap Up

The price of this lens is low, and the usefulness is very high. The image quality this lens delivers competes with much more expensive models, and this is a full-featured lens (except for the missing tripod ring). What you get for the price makes the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens a bargain.

As a "DG" lens, it is compatible with all Sony E-mount mirrorless ("DN") cameras, including both full-frame ("DG") and APS-C sensor format models, and a Leica L-mount version is also available. This lens is "Made in Japan." Sigma provides a limited 1-year limited warranty, and Sigma USA provides a limited 3-year warranty extension.

The reviewed Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens was online-retail sourced.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens on Tripod

Alternatives to the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens

Telephoto lenses are extremely popular, and manufacturers have created many options to capture that demand. At the top of this comparison priority list is the Sony equivalent model, the FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens.

In the image quality comparison with comparable wide-open apertures, the Sony lens appears to be slightly sharper in the frame's center. At 200mm and 300mm, the Sigma lens performed slightly better in the corners, and at 400mm, the Sony lens is sharper in the midframe and periphery. Stop down to f/8, and you will struggle to differentiate between the two lenses, except at 400mm, where the Sony has the advantage. Consider that 100-400mm lenses are often used at 400mm for a significant percentage of images. The Sony lens has less geometric (pincushion) distortion and less color blur.

Regarding specs and measurements, the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens vs. Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens comparison shows the Sony lens considerably heavier and larger, primarily in the diameter dimension. Related to the narrower size is the narrower Sigma filter size, 77mm vs. 82mm. The Sigma lens has an additional focus limiter setting. The Sony lens has a considerably shorter minimum focus distance and a considerably higher maximum magnification (0.35x vs. 0.26x).

The zoom ring positioned behind the focus ring makes the Sony lens easier to use for most purposes. The Sony lens has a 1/3-stop max aperture advantage at most focal lengths, is compatible with teleconverters, and ships with the tripod mount ring in the box. As you expected, the Sony lens is considerably more expensive, and the difference factor is greater than 2.

As discussed throughout this review, the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens is very similar to the DN version lens. However, the optical formulas are not identical, with the DN lens having an additional element (the FL element?) and group in its count.

In the image quality comparison, these two lenses are practically the same. The DN lens has softer corners at 400mm, with lateral CA showing effect. The DN lens has less lateral CA at the wide end, more peripheral shading at the long end, and slightly more pincushion distortion.

In regards to specs and measurements, the Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens vs. Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM C Lens comparison shows the DN lens slightly longer and extending slightly longer still. The DN lens has a tripod mount ring optionally available, and the DN's switches are positioned forward of the HSM lens's switch position to accommodate this. The DN lens costs moderately more, but the HSM lens requires an adapter, such as the Sigma Mount Converter MC-11, to mount on a Sony E-mount camera, offsetting the cost difference.

Use the site's comparison tools to create additional comparisons.

Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens Top View with Hood

Summary

As I said in the beginning of this review, most photographers highly value a telephoto zoom lens with long focal lengths, a significant percentage of these photographers are looking for a lightweight, low cost option, and no one wants to give up great image quality or deal with a lens that does not perform well. The Sigma 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG DN OS Contemporary Lens is the perfect choice to meet those needs.

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