Sigma 100-300mm F4 EX DG IF APO A-mount lens review by whiteheat

reviewer#13217 date: Apr-3-2015
sharpness: 4.5
color: 4
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4.1
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Minolta 75-300mm BBC
Sony DT 55-300mm
Sigma 70-200mm DG EX IF APO (non-HSM)
Sigma 400mm Telemacro
price paid:$720 USD
positive:Sharp even wide open
Quick focusing speed
Not particularly weighty
Good build quality
Great price
negative:Nothing really to speak of
If they could have done so, I would have liked it to be much more compact - but not at the expense of image quality.
It is a little heavy, but that's a good thing in this case
comment:I bought this lens from new on a special run out offer in 2009. I have used it extensively as a candid portraiture lens first on A300 (APSC) and then on the A99. I thought I would use it for a good long while before writing a review that would do it justice. After 6 years and X thousands of shots later, that time has come.

As a portrait lens, that is, capturing people in their natural state - unaware of the camera, it is an outstanding lens. It is sharp wide open and sharpens a fraction more when stopped down, but the difference is really small. If you get the camera to subject to background distances right, you can get good bokeh. I can't quantify that though - I don't really know how. No matter, it is decent enough.

It is a normal screw drive lens, no HSM, SSM or PZD, so it might not be the fastest focusing lens but I find it more than adequate to say the least. But it locks on to target fast and doesn't hunt in most light. If the light drops to a certain level then of course it will not have enough light to work as it should, but as I use it in full daylight, I've never really had any hunting issues.

The colours come out very nice, not quite as saturated as Minolta glass, but accurate none the less and with good contrast. Perhaps, the colour may be slightly warm and tend toward a slight yellow cast but I don't notice it in the main and as soon as I wash the output through Lightroom, whitebalance is about as balanced as it'll ever be.

I can't say I notice distortion that much but it is there. I only know that because as soon as I apply the appropriate lens profile correction in Lightroom, I can see the image 'move' slightly as it de-contorts, the distortion is being corrected. That said, the image looked perfectly fine before the correction in any case.

I think the flare control is excellent on this lens. I always try to take some shots with my subjects directly backlit. Only on one occasion did I encounter a veiling haze. To date I've never had any ghosting or flaring with this lens but I always use the enormous lens hood.

Ergonomically, I find this lens a joy to use. It handles very well and what heft it does have is nicely balanced by the A99, although I tend to use the vertical grip on the A99 when using this lens. It is very useful to have the vertical grip to use this lens in portrait mode. I switch between landscape and portrait all the time. I would not be able to keep the camera as steady as necessary in portrait mode without the vertical grip. It is really essential to get sharp shots when hand holding.

The build is solid enough. Perhaps not as solid or tank like in construction as a Tokina lens, but none the less, it is strong and well built enough. But like all these lenses, they are still delicate, precise optical instruments, so I wouldn't be letting it smack in to things or get banged around. That said, it has worked just fine for me, no issues what so ever. No sign of wearing gears or anything like that. However, I have the A99 switched to 'low' focusing torque, not the 'hi' setting. I'd be afraid to start putting to much stress on the lens gearing - not just on this lens - on every lens.

I would not call this lens a walk around lens. It is a little large for that. None the less, a walk around lens is what I use it for, so being inconspicuous is not likely to happen. It gets me my shot every time, well almost, and when it doesn't, it was usually my fault for some reason, not the lens.

I've marked the lens quite conservatively, so the scores might not be as optimistic as some people would mark such a good lens. Even I wanted to mark it higher but then I wanted to retain some objectivity and allow for the possibility that other lenses might handle these characteristics better than this one. I had a hard time NOT to give it 5's across the board, because as others have mentioned, it really is a great lens. It is probably the sharpest zoom in this range I've ever encountered, but then again, I've not had the pleasure of the Sony 70-300mm G SSM, so there may be a better lens - I just could not say. The last word - I can't fault this lens, it performs brilliantly in every department.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 29
  • sharpness: 4.71
  • color: 4.72
  • build: 4.86
  • distortion: 4.76
  • flare control: 4.62
  • overall: 4.73 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania