Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM Telephoto Long SLR Camera Lens (review)

The Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM provides SLR camera owners an excellent value for money option for wildlife, astronomy, bird watching and other photography subjects that are far away and require a telephoto long zoom lens. It doesn’t matter which brand of SLR you own because Sigma offers the lens at the same price in mount versions for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Sigma SLR cameras.

Sigma 120-400mm (180-600mm 35mm equiv) F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM Lens (review)

As an added bonus while the lense is designed for use with full frame 35mm digital SLR cameras it works equally as well with SLR’s that have medium size APS-C imaging sensors. The corresponding effective increase in focal length for APS-C SLR’s is 180-600mm for Pentax/Sony/Nikon and 192-640mm for Canon.

Example Images

The following example images show what the lens is capable of when paired with a Pentax K7 APS-C sensor SLR camera. Click any photo to view EXIF details at Flickr.

Most of these example photos were taken with lens stabilisation turned on and the Pentax K7’s inbody stabilisation turned off because this meant the image in the viewfinder was more stable. Bear in mind when viewing the photos that I’ve only owned the lense for 1 month so my photos taken with it will improve further over time.

Sydney Flight Path & Handheld Moon Photo

Qantas Airbus A380-842 VH-OQF flying over sydney

Qantas Airbus A380-842 VH-OQF plane flying over sydney

Headon View - Plane Flying in At Sunset With Lights

First Quarter Moon Phase - Handheld photo. Distance: 383519km Illuminated: 52.2%

Australian Bird Watching

White faced Heron Egretta novaehollandiae - Sigma 120-400mm lens f4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM testing

Rainbow Lorikeet in Palm Tree - Leichhardt Sydney

Wildlife Watching in South Africa

Eastern Cape-South Africa

Sleeping Male Lion - Eastern Cape - South Africa

South Africa Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape-South Africa

South Africa Eastern Cape

Eastern Cape-South Africa

My Review

The lense is distributed in Australia by CR Kennedy and sold by all major camera retailers and online stores. Sigma’s official page for the lens has more details about specifications.

I bought my Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM Telephoto Long SLR Camera Lens from Dirt Cheap Cameras for $940 Australian dollars.

No it isn’t super pin sharp or quite as fast at the 400mm end as some other telephoto lenses with a similar zoom range but it costs far less money than them. I found that it performed very well wide open and at mid-zoom. At full zoom the minimum F5.6 aperture meant much greater care had to be taken and the camera had to be kept far more still to take a sharp photo. Closing the lens down a few stops to around F9 resulted in quite sharp photos, even at full zoom.

The HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) ensures a quiet & high-speed auto focus and in lens stabilisation is impressive at reducing blur. Focusing is generally fast but can hunt a bit if you suddenly try and focus on something starting with the lens already at 400mm. I found it more effective to zoom most of the way to a far off animal, focus and then zoom to maximum 400mm and slightly readjust refocus.

Note that at 1.75kg it is not a light lens and you would get tired hanging it around your neck all day. Sigma includes a good quality padded case to store it in when not used and the lens survived being transported by numerous hotel porters and baggage handlers for 4 flights without suffering any damage.

Build quality is very good being largely metal so the lens has a solid quality to it. During my African Safari trip the vehicles I traveled in often generated a dust cloud but the lens is well sealed, has a large petal hood and did not suck any dust in. Zoom creep is an issue if you hang the camera off your neck partly zoomed. It’s best to fully retract it to 120mm and engage the locking switch.

Overall given strong to OK light and paired with a modern SLR this lense is capable of great results and is a good long term investment for any amateur/semi-pro photographers kit.

Other People’s Reviews

“Super tele lenses (400mm+) tend to be rather expensive being and as such often limited to professional use. However, there’re a few lenses where the manufacturers were able to keep a rather moderate price level and the Sigma AF 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM APO OS is surely among to more popular options in this class. Besides a very long max. focal length it does also feature Sigma’s Optical Stabilizer (OS, ~4 f-stop potential) and that’s all for as little as around 700EUR/900US$. This may still sound a little steep in absolute terms but e.g. the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 USM L IS, obviously its primary competitor, costs about 1200EUR/1600US$. Regarding this amount of price difference it may be worth to spend a thought or two … if the Sigma is capable of performing adequately.” – Sigma AF 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 DG HSM OS – Full Format Review / Lab Test Report

“Being priced at £675, this lens represents a good value choice for those looking for a super-telephoto lens, without the extortionate price tag associated with some camera manufacturer’s own lenses in this range. For it’s price, it has excellent build quality and a good range of useful features, such as Optical Stabilisation and silent focusing, but some aspects of handling could still be improved, like the looseness of the zoom mechanism. The lens does have some limitations, but so long as you are aware of these, it is still capable of producing very good quality images in the right hands.”
Ephotozine – Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM Interchangeable Lens Review / Nikon 700D test.

“As a landscape lens I really liked the Sigma 120-400 lens for its great range and convenience. It gave me as good as the results I currently get from my 70-200 and my 300mm Canon lenses and better results at 400mm than I get with my 300mm coupled with a 1.4x converter. So now I can take just one zoom lens and leave the two other lenses and the converter behind.”
Darwin Wiggett Lens Review: The Sigma 120-400 4.5-5.6 APO HSM Telephoto Zoom / Canon EOS-1ds Mark III test


2 responses to “Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM Telephoto Long SLR Camera Lens (review)”

  1. Wow I want this lens!! Those are all nice shots I’ve heard so much about the Sigma’s. Thanks alot for the post.

  2. Great telephoto lens for amateur or semi-pro photographers at that price point. Love the wildlife photos especially the bird on a tree and the close-up shot of the elephant.

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