Sigma 400mm f/5.6 Tele Macro

 

Sigma 400mm f/5.6 Tele Macro

Sigma 400 5.6 telemacro

Sigma 400mm f/5.6 Tele Macro
Introduction – Sigma 400mm

I spent a lot of time to find a cheap birding lens. One of the interesting candidate is the Sigma 400mm Tele macro.

Sigma 400mm versions

The best version of the Sigma 400mm lens is the 400mm f/5.6 Apo tele macro. There are several earlier versions as well, but none of them are really good optically. The best is the 400mm Apo tele macro which is the subject of this review.

How to identify the Tele macro ?

See the picture on the page. It is written on the lens“Sigma Apo Tele macro”, the Apo macro is quite inferior optically, and looks different.

Sigma 400mm Tele macro Optical quality

This lens is quite good optically. The only problem is that most copies only works on wide open aperture (f/5.6) on Digital cameras. Earlier times it was possible to re-chip these lenses, but not today as far as I know. Don’t think in extremes though regarding the picture quality: the Canon 400 f/5.6 is much better. Actually if we find a fully functioning copy the Sigma has quite good resolution, even better than the Canon’s, but the images are softer and colors are not so saturated. It is a much older lens, the autofocus is also much worse, than the Canon’s. But that is the point it is usually way cheaper on the used market and can make acceptable images, with some post processing the pictures can be quite nice.

Sigma 400mm Tele macro mechanical and build quality

The lens is huge and not light: the weight is approximately 1.3 kg, but this is normal for such a lens. Compare to the other telephotos this is a fairly light lens.

Sigma 400mm sample pictures

No sample pictures: I checked two copies of the lens: one for Canon and one for Sony mount. The Sony was fully functional, the Canon works only wide open. Unfortunately I cannot find the pictures I made with these lenses. With some post processing the images can be usable even with the wide open aperture, but doesn’t have so much ‘vow’ effect as the Canon 400mm f/5.6. If I compare with the Canon 200mm f2.8 image quality, the Sigma is nowhere near that quality, but at 400mm perhaps a little better,(especially at f5.6, not contrast, but resolution, the Canon 200mm with the 2x converter attached). The Sigma is much cheaper though, than the Canon 200mm.

Sigma 400mm sweet spot/sharpest aperture

The lens is sharpest at f8. As a long lens, the best aperture in usage would be f/5.6. At f/5.6 is not as good as the Canon 400mm f/5.6. At f/8 aperture it is better, regarding contrast and sharpness as well.

The lens has been discontinued for a while. This one is not bad, but there are issues to. The tested sample only worked on open aperture (5.6). Although it is not bad on 7d or 50d body,  but the lens is clearly sharper at f8. On a 30d body sharpness atf5.6 is not bad (but not excellent), contrast can be better (I suspect at f8 better). Sometimes can be find fully working copies on the used market. I checked copies for Canon and Sony mount. They seems identical for image quality. There were also a Hsm version of the lens, which photozone has tested, I haven’t checked this version of the lens. The Hsm version is only exist in one or two mounts, not all of them. This lens has a little brother: the sigma 300mm f/4 reported to be also good quality. In ideal case this (400mm f/5.6) lens can be found used around 200 Euros, but the double price for a fully working copy also realistic. The build quality, and autofocus operation doesn’t match canon ”L” quality. According to photozone.de this lens has more resolution than the mighty canon 400/5.6 L but the pictures published with the Canon usually much better. Partly the reason can be that more folks using the Canon, and autofocus accuracy, speed, and contrast of the Canon are much better, partly because Sigma picture published on the internet has been perhaps made mostly with the open (f/5.6) aperture.

How compare to smaller focal length lenses ? is it good for macro ? According to me for macro work this lens is not sharp enough, at least when we compare to real macro lenses. The 1:3 magnification of the Sigma 400mm f/5.6 are not the best either. Any other 60, 100, 105, 180mm macro lenses from Sigma, Canon, Nikon are much sharper, and lighter as well.

Compatibility:

Compatibility with newer camera bodies is not tested. On a Canon 30d and on a Sony a100 it worked, apart from the aperture setting, which only works on the Sony. In extreme cases a non-compatible lens can lock the camera.

Pros:

Good value used
Good resolution at f/8
Low CA

Cons:

Most copies only works wide open on digital cameras
Old lens, time can eat it.

Bottom line:

For an amateur photographer a fully usable (some copies work only wide open at f/5.6 aperture at digital camera bodies) used copy is a very good bargain for 400 Eur, if it is in a good acceptable condition. For a professional or somebody with high expectations for quality (functions, picture quality) according to me should look elsewhere. The copies which only works at f/5.6 cost less, you need to check if you like the quality or not.

Sigma 400mm f/5.6 telemacro specifications

Item
Sigma 400mm f/5.6 Telemacro
Mount:
Canon EF, Sony A mount, Nikon F, and perhaps others as well
Filter size:
77 mm
Lens elements / groups:
10 lenses / 7 groups
Exotic Lens elements:

2 SLD elements

Weight:
1.3kg ( 3 lbs. )
Dimensions:
256 x 91 mm ( 10.08 x 3.58 ” )
Close focus distance:
1.6 m ( 5.25′)
Autofocus:
Yes, some copies HSM
Internal focus:
the HSM yes
Stabilizer:
No
focus preset modes:
No
Switches:
AF-MF, focus limiter
Lens Mount:
Metal
Format:
Full frame
Magnification:
0.33x
Reproduction ratio:
1:3
Aperture blades:
9 diaphragm blades
Distance scale:
Yes
Manual focus override:
No
Focal length:
400 mm
Max Aperture:
f/5.6
Min Aperture:
Angle of view:
6° 10′ on Full frame
FTM (Manual focus override):
No, Yes on HSM
Focus limiter:
Yes
Lens hood:
Built in
Tripod mount ring:
yes
Tilt / shift:
No


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