Lens review

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

26 May 2017
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality and image stabilization

The following chart  presents a comparison between parameters of full frame lenses designed for reflex cameras which focal length ranges start around 70-120 mm and end by 400 mm. It’s obvious the new Sigma is the slowest aperture-wise but you get the lowest weight and the smallest dimensions instead. The minimum focusing distance might be a serious drawback of the tested Sigma C 100-400 mm because it is clearly weaker than minimum distances of its predecessor and rivals too.

Photos below allow you to assess the dimensions of the tested Sigma both in a folded position and at its longest. We positioned it between the Canon EF 70-300 mm f/4.0-5.6 USM and the older Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM.

Sigma C 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM - Build quality and image stabilization

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Sigma C 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM - Build quality and image stabilization

The Sigma C 100–400 mm f/5–6.3 DG OS HSM starts with a metal bayonet mount which goes round contacts and a rear element which is less than 2.5 cm in diameter. It is also hidden quite deep inside a well-darkened barrel; at 100 mm it is situated almost 2 cm inside the tube and when you pass to 400 mm that value increases to close to 6 cm.

Sigma C 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM - Build quality and image stabilization

The proper barrel of the lens starts with a smooth part covered by plastics on which you can find a white dot, making the alignment with a camera easier. Further on you see the name and parameters of the lens and over them you find a window with a distance scale, expressed in feet and meters. On the left side of the lens you find an inscription ‘Made in Japan’ and over it there is a whole series of different switches. The first of them, FOCUS, is used to control the focusing mechanism and there are three positions available: AF, MO and MF. Apart from standard positions (the manual focus ring still works even in the AF mode) you also get the MO (Manual Override) option which allows you to operate the ring even if the autofocus is in the continuous mode. The next switch is used to limit the autofocus range and once again there are three positions available: FULL, from 6 meters to infinity, and from 1.6 meters to 6 meters. Then you see an OS switch, controlling optical stabilization (modes 1,2, and OFF) and finally a CUSTOM switch – you can choose from three positions, OFF, C1, and C2 which direct you to pre-saved focusing modes available after calibrating the lens with the Sigma USB Dock.

Sigma C 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM - Build quality and image stabilization

Further on, you see a manual focus ring, as wide as 25 mm which moves very evenly and is ribbed, allowing you a firm grip. Running the whole distance scale takes a turn through an angle of about 120 degrees.

Then you find an immobile part of the casing with a „C” mark meaning the lens belongs to the “Contemporary” series and a LOCK switch for blocking the position of the zoom. Unfortunately it works only at 100 mm. It might come in useful from time to time as the front element system has a slight tendency for zoom creep when you move the lens more vigorously.

An aperture ring, as wide as 47 mm, is the next part of the lens. Most of it is covered by comfortable, rubber ribs; under them you see focal length marks at 100, 135, 200, 300 and 400 mm. The ring moves evenly and is properly damped.

The rest of the lens consists of a small part of the casing with the front element system and a hood mount. That part extends with the increase of focal length on a uniform, quite solid tubus. As a result the length of the lens increases by 6 cm.

The front element is 61 mm in diameter and just slightly sheltered by the casing; it is surrounded by a filter thread, 67 mm in diameter, which doesn’t move.

Sigma C 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM - Build quality and image stabilization

The optical construction of the lens consists of 21 elements positioned in 15 groups. As many as four of them were made of low-dispersion SLD glass. Inside there’s also a round aperture with nine diaphragm blades which can be closed down to values ranging from f/22 to f/29, depending on the focal length used.

Buyers get in the box two caps and a hood. The lens doesn’t offer you a possibility to use a tripod adapter. The hood has distinct thumb indents so, if you put your fingers in those places you can change the focal length value comfortably using a push/pull mechanism action, similar to the ‘pump’ known from old Canon devices.

Sigma C 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM - Build quality and image stabilization

Optical stabilization

In order to check the optical stabilization unit’s efficiency we set the focal length at 400 mm and, for every available exposure time ranging from 1/400 to 1/4 of a second we took several dozen photos with the stabilization switched on and off. Then we calculated the percentage of blurred photos for every time of exposure. The appropriate graph, showing that percentage, correlative with the exposure time expressed in EV (and the 0 EV point corresponds to 1/320 of a second), is presented below.

Sigma C 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM - Build quality and image stabilization

As you see the maximum distance between both curves amounts to 3.7-3.8 EV and such is the efficiency of the new Sigma’s stabilization mechanism. It is a really good result but we should mention the fact that the Sigma is still actually a bit worse than its brand name rivals. The Canon EF 100–400 mm f/4.5–5.6L IS II USM was as efficient as 4 EV, and the Nikkor AF-S 80–400 mm f/4.5–5.6G ED VR could reach even 4.3–4.5 EV.