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 Sigma 100-300mm F4 EX APO IF HSM Lens Review (for Nikon)
Sigma 100-300mm f/4  


 

September, 2011 (update March 2013)
(tested with the Nikon D50, D90, D7000, and D600)

The Sigma 100-300mm F4 APO IF HSM was released in early 2001. An updated version, the 100-300mm F4 EX DG APO HSM was announced in September 2005 and released shortly after. The newer DG version added better coating but was optically the same. The DG moniker simply meant it could be used with digital SLRs (for all of Sigma's letter designations see here). This is a film or full frame lens (FX), but it can also be used on a DX camera, giving it a field of view of 150-400mm. It's an HSM lens which means it has an internal motor and will auto focus with all of Nikon's DSLRs. It was made with Nikon, Canon, Sigma, Sony/Minolta, and Pentax mounts. The Sony/Minolta and Pentax mounts did not have an HSM. The lens had a MSRP of $1800 US, but sold new in the $1100-$1200 range.

The Sigma 100-300mm f/4 is built solid. It's mostly metal. The zoom and focus rings are rubber coated and turn very smoothly. The distance meter window is plastic and the aperture ring appears to be plastic as well. The lens includes a detachable tripod collar. There's no manual focus switch, but the lens can be manually focused just by turning the focus ring. This is an IF (Inner Focus) lens which means that the lens doesn't extend when zooming and focusing. As such the front element doesn't rotate so using a polarizer or other filter is no problem. It's an EX lens which means it has superior finish, build, and optical quality.

At 100mm and f/4 this lens was very sharp in the center. The corners and borders were very good. From 200-300mm the center remained very sharp. The corner and border sharpness fell off slightly. But stopping down to f/5.6 - f/8 the lens was very sharp throughout the range. Chromatic aberration was barely visible throughout the range at any aperture. Barrel distortion was very slight at 100mm with a tiny bit of pin cushion distortion at 300mm. There was very little vignetting wide open throughout the range. Stopping down to f/5.6 and it was all but eliminated. I would suspect it would be more present when used with a full frame camera. Flare and ghosting weren't a problem.

I bought this lens back in 2006. At the time I really wanted the Nikon 80-400mm VR lens, but it was in high demand and low supply. So I decided to get the Sigma 100-300mm f/4. I didn't regret it. This is my favorite lens to use. It's very sharp, almost prime lens sharp. It focuses fast enough for sports and birds in flight. I love the fact that the lens length doesn't change when zooming or focusing. I often use it with Sigma's 1.4x teleconverter. This makes it a 140-420mm f/5.6 lens, with a field of view of 210-560mm with a DX camera. With the teleconverter sharpness decresses a bit, but it's still very good. When mounted on a tripod it's well balanced. The tripod collar also makes a great handle and can be easily removed to reduce the weight of the lens. The Sigma 100-300mm f/4 was discontinued a few years ago. Since then there have been rumors of a new version with image stabilization, but nothing has surfaced yet. The lens is hard to come by. Used copies appear on eBay every now and then. They usually sell for around $850.

Update March 2013 - I made the switch full frame (FX), when I bought the Nikon D600 DSLR camera. The Sigma 100-300mm f/4 is a stellar performer with the larger sensor. There is a little more vignetting as compared to a DX sensor, but it is easily correctable.


Specifications:

Focal length 100-300mm
Maximum aperture f/4
Minimum aperture f/32
Lens Construction 16 elements in 14 groups
Angle of view 24.4o - 8.2o (FX)
Closest focusing distance 180cm (70.9in.)
Maximum reproduction ratio 1.5x
Number of diaphragm blades 9
Auto focus type HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor)
Filter diameter 82 mm
Macro No
Dimensions 92.4mm (3.6in) x 224mm (8.8in)(Diameter x Length)
Weight 1480g (52.2oz)




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