Okay, I caved. I picked up a 400mm lens. I wanted the extra reach of a 400 to crank in images from the far side of the wetlands here on our farm. Of course, who wouldn’t love to have the Nikon 200-400mm but price does matter.
The first thing to be said for the Sigma 120-400mm f 4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM Lens is that it’s Heavy. Like 4 pounds heavy! Heavy enough to break the camera mount on most DSLRs if the attached lens is carried with the camera strap alone. It’s why Sigma includes a lens strap. It attaches to the lens at the lens collar. Did I mention that it’s built like a tank!
A few particulars in the event you are not familiar with this lens. The Nikon verson of the Sigma Lens (It’s also available in Canon, Pentax and Sony mounts) functions the same way as G Type Auto Focus Nikon Lens. That is, those without an aperture ring. The lens has an on board focusing motor thus it works with all Nikon DSLRs including the D40 and D40X. A switch allows selection of Auto Focus or Manual focusing. The lens also permits manual focusing in the auto focus mode. With the Camera set to one shot AF (AF-S) , it is possible to override manually while the shutter release button pressed halfway.
The Sigma Optical Stabilizer quite effectively compensates for image blurring caused by camera shake. It works with all Nikon Digital Cameras as well as the Nikon F6. For tripod shooting, the OS must be turned off. (OS generates minute motion in order to work thus leaving OS on with the lens locked on a tripod will cause increased battery drain).
The lens has a lens lock which allows the user to lock the lens at 120mm to prevent lens creep when carrying. The included lens hood attaches bayonet style and reverses on the lens for packing in its case which is quite nice by the way.
So, how does it do? Quite well actually. The lens is quite sharp to 300mm but drops off fully extended to 400mm. It is quite soft at below f/8 at 400mm. I obtained peak sharpness with the lens extended fully to 400 shooting at f/8 and f/9.
Higher intermediate stops required a boost in ISO. Auto Focus worked well on my D90’s and D40X. Likewise for OS which allows handheld shots at shutter speeds about 4 steps slower than one could get without using OS and still get sharp results. Its not a macro lens but with minimum focus at about six feet, it does work well on close ups.
I’m quite pleased with the Sigma. While the images are not as razor sharp at 400mm as they are with the Nikon at 300mm, it works very well at the distances for which I will use it. As I said at the top, I’d love to have the Nikon 200-400 but it’s more than six times the price of the Sigma. You get what you pay for.
See you soon on most of this same blog.