Sigma AF 400mm f/5.6 HSM APO macro - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)
Thursday, 27 December 2007 00:03

Special thanks to Tina Jensen for providing this lens!


The Sigma AF 400mm f/5.6 HSM APO macro is the latest generation of the various 400mm variants that Sigma released over time but similar to its smaller cousin, the AF 300mm f/4 HSM APO macro, it has been discontinued recently. This is a little sad as we will see later on but the current 400mm or even 500mm prosumer zooms such as the Sigma AF 50-500mm f/4-6.3EX or Sigma AF 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6 EX OS are surely exceedingly more popular - it probably just doesn't pay to market fix-focals here anymore. As usual we'll have a look how this oldie performs on an APS-C DSLR where its field-of-view is equivalent to a whopping 640mm. Typical applications for this lens are sports and wildlife photography.

The optical construction is made of 10 elements in 7 groups with 2 SLD elements. The aperture mechanism has 9 aperture blades. As you may have noticed it's a designated macro lens. However, it doesn't really have a floating system for close focus correction typical for true macro lenses but the min. focus distance of 1.6m is good enough for a max. object magnification of 1:3. The filter size is 77mm. Looking at the product shots it's obviously a quite long lens at about 256x91mm and similar to other lenses in this class it's also quite heavy (~1.4kg). That said bigger tends to be better in tele land so that's a good sign. The Sigma is a true IF (internal focus) design so the size remains constant regardless of the focus settings and the front element does not rotate. The lens features a tripod-mount and a build-in barrel-shaped hood. A hard case is also part of the package.

The principal construction quality feels very good. Unfortunately this isn't quite true for the AF-MF switch as well as the focus limiter which felt quite loose in the tested sample. However, the extremely broad, rubberized focus ring operates smooth (no wobbling whatsoever) and damped and it's so-called ZEN finish provides a good grip. The build-in lens hood is quite stiff to extend but then there's no creeping either.

The AF speed of the virtually silent HSM drive is pretty good but if the camera decides to hunt throughout the focus range it can take a while so it may be useful to take advantage of the two-step focus limiter. The AF operation was generally very reliable but during the field tests the AF was once lost in the middle of nowhere - a little guidance into the right direction solved the issue. Full-time manual focusing in one-shot AF mode is always possible.