Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 OS review - Quality
  • Written by

Quality

Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration and focus shift

Despite its small focal ratio the new Sigma has some longitudinal color aberrations (loCA, a.k.a. “axial color” or “bokeh CA”) showing mainly up at the short end as magenta coloration in the foreground. But I did not experience focus shift.

 

loca_sigma100-400c_100mm_25948-50

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration (loCA). 100% crop, 100mm, 5.0 (top), f8.0 (bottom), left = foreground, right = background

The Nikon shows slightly less coloration:

loca_nikon80-400G_102mm_25958-60

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR Longitudinal Chromatic Aberration (loCA). 100% crop, 102mm, f5.0 (top), f8.0 (bottom), left = foreground, right = background

 

Sharpness and contrast

Let’s have a look at the theoretical performance of the new Sigma first and compare it to the performance of the Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR:

 

mtf_sigma100-400f5-6-3os

Above: MTF Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f5.0 (left) and 400mm, f6.3 (right)

 

mtf_nikon80-400f4-5-5-6g

Above: MTF Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 80mm, f4.5 (left) and 400mm, f5.6 (right)

 

These charts show the lens-performance of both lenses at their largest aperture without influence of diffraction. This is a bit misleading as diffraction at apertures of e.g. f6.3 already robs 10-15% of contrast from the reproduction of finest details. The Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR is also at a slight disadvantage as its focal ratio is 1/3 of a stop brighter. To read these charts you need to know that higher values are better and the closer the line-pairs are together the less astigmatism (= resolution depends on the orientation of the test-pattern) the lens has. The x-axis displays the distance from the optical axis (=center of the sensor) in mm. I’ll show you the real-life performance at 4 mm (center), 13 mm (APS-C/DX-corner), and 20 mm (FF/FX-corner) on a 36MP Nikon D810 body.

From the charts, overall contrast (red lines) from the new Sigma should be very high, even a bit better than from the Nikon. The green 30 lp/mm line(s) also indicates a very good resolution of fine details from the new Sigma at the long end with only some astigmatism in the last millimeters of the FF-corner. At the short end the new Sigma and the Nikon look pretty similar with the Sigma again producing a bit more astigmatism especially around the APS-C/DX corner. Let’s see how this theoretical performance translates into real life results in the sharpness test based on Siemens-stars.

What follows are near-center results (first column) followed by APS-C/DX-corner results and FF/FX-corner results on a D810. Processing was done in Lightroom 6.10 from RAW at Camera Standard settings. Noise-reduction is set to 0, sharpening to 35/0.5/36/10, with no extra tone, color, or saturation adjustment. The Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR used in this comparison was shot on a D800. To compensate for the softening AA-filter I used sharpening of 70/0.5/36/10.

White-balance was adjusted to a neutral white and I did some exposure compensation to make the brightness of all crops match. So you will not see light fall-off in the corners. Removal of lateral color aberrations is ON, longitudinal CA are not corrected.

The following are all 100% crops!

First up is an overview of the wide-open performance at different focal lengths. You can jump to the detailed results at different apertures and comparisons with other lenses by clicking on the crops of the respective focal length.

Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

stars_sigma100-400C_100f5_24789

Above: 100mm, f5.0

stars_sigma100-400C_155f5-6_25118

Above: 155mm, f5.6

stars_sigma100-400C_250f6_25099

Above: 250mm, f6.0

stars_sigma100-400C_400f6-3_25023

Above: 400mm, f6.3

Sigma’s new lens performs best around 155mm focal length where it is very sharp across the full frame. On the short end the FF/FX-corner suffers a bit and towards the longer end the lens becomes gradually softer with 400mm being the weakest length of the lens. Still the performance at the long end is very respectable. If you want to see all the details and comparisons with the competition from Nikon, read on. Or fast-forward to the performance at long distances.

 


Performance at 100mm:

 

Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 100mm; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

stars_sigma100-400C_100f5_24789

Above: 100mm, f5.0

stars_sigma100-400C_100f5-6_24790

Above: 100mm, f5.6

stars_sigma100-400C_100f8_24791

Above: 100mm, f8.0

stars_sigma100-400C_100f11_24792

Above: 100mm, f11

stars_sigma100-400C_100f16_24793

Above: 100mm, f16

Following is a comparison with the Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR:

stars_sigma100-400C_100f5_24789

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f5.0

stars_Nikon80-400_105f4-8_65156

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 105mm, f4.8

In comparison to the Nikon the new Sigma produces a softer FF/FX-corner but otherwise looks very similar.

 


Performance at 155mm:

Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 200mm; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

stars_sigma100-400C_155f5-6_25118

Above: 155mm, f5.6

stars_sigma100-400C_155f8_25119

Above: 155mm, f8.0

stars_sigma100-400C_155f11_25120

Above: 155mm, f11

stars_sigma100-400C_155f16_25121

Above: 155mm, f16

Following is a comparison comparison with the Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR:

stars_sigma100-400C_155f5-6_25118

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 155mm, f5.6

stars_Nikon80-400_150f5-6_65177

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 150mm, f5.6

At 150mm focal length the Nikon has a slight advantage in the APS-C/DX image-circle and the FF/FX-corner.

 


Performance at 250mm:

Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 250mm; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

stars_sigma100-400C_250f6_25099

Above: 250mm, f6.0

stars_sigma100-400C_250f8_25100

Above: 250mm, f8.0

stars_sigma100-400C_250f11_25101

Above: 250mm, f11

stars_sigma100-400C_250f16_25102

Above: 250mm, f16

Following is a comparison with the Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR:

stars_sigma100-400C_250f6_25099

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 250mm, f6.0

stars_Nikon80-400_200f5-6_65229

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 200, f5.6

This is not an exact match in focal length and aperture as the Nikon is shown here at 200mm and f5.6. So any of the slight differences between the two lenses should not be overrated.

 


Performance at 400mm:

Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 400mm; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

stars_sigma100-400C_400f6-3_25023

Above: 400mm, f6.3

stars_sigma100-400C_400f8_25043

Above: 400mm, f8.0

stars_sigma100-400C_400f11_25044

Above: 400mm, f11

stars_sigma100-400C_400f16_25045

Above: 400mm, f16

Following is a comparison with the Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR:

stars_sigma100-400C_400f6-3_25023

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 400mm, f6.3

stars_Nikon80-400_400f5-6_65428

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 400mm, f5.6

At 400mm both lenses lose a bit of their punch with a loss in overall contrast and fine details. The new Sigma holds up a tad better in the center but is almost indistinguishable from the Nikon at the APS-C/DX- and the FF/FX-corner.

Overall Sigma’s new design shows a very well balanced performance over the zoom range with the short end just lagging a bit behind the Nikon but otherwise giving the 2.5x more expensive competition a good run for the money.

 


Performance at long distances

The Siemens-star test-targets are shot at a distance of 40x focal length (i.e. at 8 m for 200 mm focal length). But performance of lenses also depends on the shooting distance. Therefore I present another series of test-shots of a city around 1 km away. Processing was done in Lightroom 6.10 from RAW at Adobe Standard settings. Noise-reduction is set to 0, sharpening to 35/0.5/36/10, with no extra tone, or saturation-adjustment. There’s no tinkering with vignette-control so you see it here as it is produced by the lens. I used AF in live view at the largest aperture and did not change focus for other apertures. The Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR used for comparison here was shot only a few minutes apart and processed the same.

First up is an overview of the wide-open performance at different focal lengths. You can jump to the detailed results at different apertures and comparisons with other lenses by clicking on the crops of the respective focal length.

Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_100f5_24818crops

Above: 100mm, f5.0

city_sigma100-400C_150f5-3_24840crops

Above: 150mm, f5.3

city_sigma100-400C_200f5-6_24842crops

Above: 200mm, f5.6

city_sigma100-400C_290f6_24858crops

Above: 290mm, f6.0

city_sigma100-400C_400f6-3_24866crops

Above: 400mm, f6.3

Again this lens performs well across its zoom-range in this long distance test. If you want to see all the details, read on. Or fast-forward to the next chapter on rendering of point-light sources at night-shots.


The main image shows the complete scene wide open to give you an impression of the angle of view and to judge vignetting. You can access the respective shots up to f16 via the links beneath the main image. All shots were made at ISO 64 and VR switched off. Following the main image are 100% crops from the center, the APS-C/DX-corner and the FF/FX-corner from the new Sigma and the Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR to compare performance and then from the new lens at smaller apertures down to f11. As usual I have selected the diagonal that provided the better corner results as almost any lens is a bit decentered.

You can click on each image to access the large original. Please respect our copyright and only use those images for personal use.

Results at 100mm focal length:

Sigma100-400C_100f5_24818

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f5.0; also available at f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16

city_sigma100-400C_100f5_24818crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f5.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_102f5_24918crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 102mm, f5.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

At 100mm the Nikon is sharper in the center while both lenses perform similarly at the APS-C/DX- and FF/FX-corner.

city_sigma100-400C_100f5-6_24819crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_100f8_24820crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_100f11_24821crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f11; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner


Results at 150mm:

Sigma100-400C_150f5-3_24840

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 150mm, f5.3; also available at f5.6, f8.0, f11, f16

city_sigma100-400C_150f5-3_24840crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 150mm, f5.3; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_150f5_24906crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 150mm, f5.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

At 150mm both lenses perform pretty similar in the APS-C/DX image circle while the new Sigma has a slight lead in the FF/FX-corner.

city_sigma100-400C_150f8_24838crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 150mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, vFX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_150f11_24837crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 150mm, f11; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner


Results at 200mm:

Sigma100-400C_200f5-6_24842

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 200mm, f5.6; also available at f8.0, f11, f16

city_sigma100-400C_200f5-6_24842crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 200mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_200f5-6_24955crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 200mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

The new Sigma wins the comparison at 200mm.

city_sigma100-400C_200f8_24843crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 200mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_200f11_24844crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 200mm, f11; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner


Results at 290mm:

Sigma100-400C_290f6_24858

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 290mm, f6.0; also available at f8.0, f11, f16

city_sigma100-400C_290f6_24858crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 290mm, f6.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_300f5-6_24882crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 300mm, f5.6; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

At 300mm the Sigma is better in the APS-C/DX image circle.

city_sigma100-400C_290f8_24857crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 290mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_290f11_24856crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 290mm, f11; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner


Results at 400mm:

Sigma100-400C_400f6-3_24866

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 400mm, f6.3; also available at f8.0, f11, f16

city_sigma100-400C_400f6-3_24866crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 400mm, f6.3; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_nikon80-400g_400f6-3_24878crops

Above: Nikon 80-400/4.5-5.6G VR at 400mm, f6.3 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

Again the Sigma is slightly ahead of the Nikon at 400mm.

city_sigma100-400C_400f8_24865crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 400mm, f8.0; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

city_sigma100-400C_400f11_24864crops

Above: Sigma 100-400/5-6.3 OS at 400mm, f11; 100% crop from center, APS-C/DX-corner, FF/FX-corner

In this long distance test the new Sigma repeated its good performance.

 

Rendering of point-light sources at night-shots

Night-shots pose a different challenge for lenses as the contrast is even higher than under bright sun and point-light sources can reveal some weaknesses such as coma, haloing and color-aberrations that do not show up as prominently in other test-shots. The 100% crops below the main image show the effect of coma in the FF/FX-corner of the new Sigma and the Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G VR at various apertures:

night_sigma100-400c_100f5_25351

Above: Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f5.0; also available at f5.6, f8.0, f11

night_sigma100-400c_100mm_25351-3-4

Above: Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 OS at 100mm; FF/FX-corner at f5.0 (left), f8.0 (middle), f11 (right)

night_nikon80-400g_100mm_25372-4-5

Above: Nikon 80-400mm f4.5-5.6G VR at 100mm; FF/FX-corner at f5.0 (left), f8.0 (middle), f11 (right)

 

The new Sigma has no coma to speak of, just like the Nikon. There’s only a tad more color-fringing with the Sigma than with the Nikon.

 

Flare/ghosting

A strong light-source shining directly into the lens could produce strange colorful ghosts-images or reduce contrast considerably through flare and glare. The appearance of flare and ghosting depends on factors like the aperture, the focal length, and the angle of the light hitting the lens. So to judge the proclivity of the Sigma for these artifacts I went through a series of well calculated shots against a strong light source to provoke flare, glare, and ghosting.
Below you can see some of the more spectacular effects at 100mm focal length with the light inside the image circle near the center (see left image below) and some surprising glare where the light is well outside the image circle but still shining into the lens (right image below).

flare_sigma100-400C_100f8_25907-13

Above: Flare and ghosting. Strong light hitting the Sigma 100-400mm f5-6.3 OS at 100mm, f8.0

When the light was further outside the frame (but still shining into the lens) there was almost no flare, glare or ghosting.
At longer focal length you should make sure that strong light-sources are well outside the image circle as they can considerably lower the overall contrast.

Next check out my sample images!

Check prices on the Sigma 100-400mm OS at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!
Buy Gordon a coffee to support cameralabs!

Like my reviews? Buy me a coffee!

Sigma 100-400mm OS

hero_sigma100-400c_25321

Check prices at Amazon

Follow Gordon Laing

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2020 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Website design by Coolgrey