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Sigma APO 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 EX OS DG Lens Review (for Nikon)

Sigma 80-400mm OS  


 

August, 2009 (updated January, 2011)
(tested with Nikon D80 and D90)

This lens was first introduced in 2002. It was Sigma's first lens with image stabilization (OS - Optical Stabilization). It was later updated with the DG designation (DG for Digital). To be honest, I'm not sure if the lens itself was actually updated or Sigma just added the DG tag to it as Digital SLRs became more popular. (For all of Sigma's letter designations see here). This is a full frame lens which will work fine with Nikon's digital FX and DX cameras.

The 80-400mm OS has an EX designation which means it has a superior build quality. The exterior is made of mostly metal with some plastic. The zoom and focus rings are rubber coated. The lens features a zoom lock which can only be used at 80mm. It prevents zoom creep (which does occur), when the lens is pointed downward. There is also an auto focus/manual focus switch and an OS switch. The OS switch has three settings, off, mode 1, best used with stationary subjects, and mode 2, for moving subjects. The lens comes with a removable tripod collar which makes a great handle when being hand held. The front end doesn't rotate so using a polarizing filter is not a problem. The lens can also be used with Sigma's teleconverters, but only with manual focus. This is a heavy lens at 61.7 oz (1750 g). I used this with a Nikon D80 and D90 with the additional battery grip. With a smaller camera it might be hard to work with hand held, especially when the zoom is extended, making it 11.5 inches long (14 in with the lens hood - as seen below on the D80).

Sigma 80-400mm OS Extended

 

At f/5.6 from 80-300mm the lens is sharp in the center, with some corner softness. Stop down to f/8 and the corners sharpen up nicely. From 300-400mm overall sharpness drops slightly, but not enough to cause any concern. Again, stopping down to f/8 will sharpen the entire frame. There is some visible light fall off in the corners, especially at f/5.6 at 400mm, but unless you're shooting at a blank wall or sky it's not noticable. Two stops down and it's no longer an issue. There is some barrel distortion at 80mm and pincusion distortion from 120-400mm, but nothing that can't be easily corrected with post processing. Chromatic aberration is well controlled thanks to two Special Low Dispersion glass elements in the front lens group and one in the rear group. Flare and ghosting is a non issue

Autofocus is fairly quick. However, this lens does not feature Sigma's Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM). Shooting fast moving objects such as birds in flight can be a challenge. For slow moving and stationary subjects the autofocus is accurate, although it did tend to hunt under low light conditions.

The image stabilization works as advertised. On a DX sensor the effective max. range is 600mm (400x1.5). I don't have the steadiest hands, yet I could consistently get sharp images at 1/80 sec shutter speed at 400mm. The example below was shot with a Nikon D90, 1/125 sec., f/14, ISO 200 at 400mm. The hawk was about 60 feet away from me. I was pointing the camera up at a 45° angle. The first photo is the complete image, resized down to 17%. The second photo is a 100% crop of the hawk. This is the jpg file straight from the camera, no post processing. In camera sharpening was set at +6.

Sigma 80-400mm OS resized 17%

Sigma 80-400mm OS 100% crop

If you look at the closeup of the hawk's beak you can see very slight camera shake. Not perfect, but more than acceptable considering the focal length and angle I was holding the camera at. Using the lens took a little getting used to. The OS "clicks" in as you press the shutter release button. I found taking a three shot burst of my subject provided the best results, with the second or third shot being the sharpest.

I also used the lens with Sigma's 1.4 teleconverter, making it a 112-560mm f/6.3-7.8 lens. With Nikon's DX sensor crop of 1.5 the effective max. reach is 840mm. Unfortunately, the lens does not autofocus with the teleconverter attached and image quality does suffer a bit.

Overall, if you're looking for a longer lens, this might be one to consider. Now discontinued, used copies can be found on eBay and camera dealer websites. The image stabilization is almost a must for a lens this long. The only drawbacks you might find are the size and weight, slow(er) autofocus, and price (although, even when new, this lens was cheaper than other lenses with the same range and features, ie Nikon's equivalent is $1600.)

 

Specifications:

Focal length 80-400mm
Maximum aperture f/4.5-f/5.6
Minimum aperture f/22
Lens Construction 20 elements in 14 groups
Angle of view 30.3o - 6.2o
Closest focusing distance 180 cm
Maximum reproduction ratio 1:5
Number of diaphragm blades 9
Auto focus type AF
Filter diameter 77 mm
Macro No
Dimensions 95 mm (3.7 in) x 192 mm (7.5 in)
Weight 1750 g (61.7 oz)


For more info visit Sigma's product page here.



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