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Sigma produce an impressive range of long telephoto lenses and this offering, at 135-400mm is one of their more budget orientated offerings. Designed for full frame 35mm cameras, but now upgraded to DG specs for digital, we take a look at how it performs.
- Focal length 135-400mm
- Aperture f/4.5-5.6
- Construction 13/11 elements/groups
- Angle of view 18.2-6.2° (Full Frame)
- Filter size 77mm
- Closest focus 2-2.2m
- Dimensions 89x183.6mm
- Weight 1.245kg
- Price (SRP) £479.99
- Mounts available Sigma, Canon, Nikon, KM, Pentax
Build and handling
The build, design and handling of this lens is virtually identical to its longer sibling, the 170-500mm. The main barrel, with it’s layout of tripod collar, manual focus ring and wider zoom ring in that order from the camera body forward are identical and the layout is intuitive. The tripod collar is Sigma’s quick release type, with a quarter turn on the knob releasing it for orientation on the tripod while a pull on the knob allows it to hinge away to release the whole lens/camera combo from the collar.
Rotating the zoom ring, marked at 135, 200, 300 and 400mm, extends a single trombone out by some 86mm at the long end. The rear focussing is internal, so the front element does not rotate, making life easy for filter users with the popular sized 77mm filter thread. Despite the long extension, the lens displays virtually no play in the trombone and maintains good balance on the tripod collar. When supported by a hand on the zoom ring, the manual focus ring is in the right place to focus manually with a single finger. That is not to say that the autofocus is bad, it isn’t. Although this lens does not have Sigma’s HSM mechanism, the autofocus is goods enough for most subjects and not too noisy. The accuracy is good, which is handy because the system does not allow manual adjustment.
There is a cone shaped hood supplied that is a positive bayonet fit and the lens comes complete in a semi-soft padded case with its own carrying strap, nice touches for a budget lens.
At a fraction under a 3x zoom ratio, this lens falls just within the range where not too many compromises need to be made in order to extract a decent performance from a zoom and this is where Sigma seem to excel. Distortion is extremely well controlled and a barely measurable 0.09% pincushion at the short end, which increased to a minimal 0.207% at the long end is as close to nil as you are likely to get!
Three special low dispersion elements go a good way to banishing chromatic aberrations and the DG coating has done it’s magic on the contrast as well as cutting down on internal reflections. As with almost all telephoto lenses, the performance is better at the shortest end of the focal range and when the lens is closed down by a stop but the consistency across the frame as the focal range increases is quite impressive and bodes well for use on full frame cameras, either film or digital. The resolution is not stunning but is good enough for most hobbyists’ purposes.
Flare also is well controlled and I was unable to induce it with a strong torch shone down the lens.
Both heading away and coming towards the camera, the lens just managed to keep these flying birds in focus.
Both shots at 400mm on a Canon EOS 20D
The focal range of the lens is ideal for picking things out of a crowd, like this little boat from a harbour full of them. 281mm at f/7.1 on Canon EOS 20D
Despite being framed against a blank sky there is no CA showing in this shot taken at 320mm and f/8 with fill flash off the Canon EOS 20D’s built-in unit.
Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions
135-400mm set at 135mm and f/4.5
135-400mm set at 400mm and f/5.6
Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses
This lens is lightweight for it’s pulling power although still fairly well made and including a metal lens mount. The lightness makes it a little harder to keep still but when it is well held it performs nicely for its price. Well presented, with case and hood included, it is good value for money. If you need this kind of reach with an adequate AF performance but don’t want to dig deep enough for faster glass and sonic motors, this one will serve you well.
In summary, the positive points of the Sigma 135-400mm f/4.5-5.6 DG are:
Good value for a good reach lens
Well-controlled distortions and aberrations
Good AF speed and accuracy for a non-sonic motor
Light weight a bonus for carrying
The negative points are:
Resolution not stunning (although reasonable for class)
Light weight a disadvantage for keeping still.
Check out the latest price for the Sigma 135-400mm f/4.5-5.6 DG lens here.
Discuss this lens and other related lens subjects here
Test by Ian Andrews www.wildaboutkent.co.uk