Is the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM worth owning?

Started Jan 25, 2013 | Discussions
jonikon
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Is the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM worth owning?
Jan 25, 2013

I've been looking for more reach with my D7000 than the 70-300mm affords me for some birding in my back yard and have concluded a 400mm lens would be adequate and also be (barely), hand holdable. Unfortunately there is a dearth of affordable lenses in the 400mm range and while the Nikon 80-400 is a worthy consideration, it is well over my lens budget of $700, and the Tokina 80-400 does not have a motor or VR. However there is another choice, the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM which is within my budget if purchased ued and, has VR and HSM , I have tracked some Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM  auctions on ebay and have found they sell in the range of $500-700. While this lens gets generally good reviews from buyers on Amazon and B&H, I found that the professional reviewers (SLRgear.com and Photozone) did not have much good to say about it, which has given me pause.  I have also looked at web images from this lens and some appear to be quite good. Needless to say, I am in a bit of a quandary over whether to purse a purchase of  this lens or not.  I realize the Sigma 120-400 is not comparable to a pro lens, but is it "good enough" for casual use to consider purchasing a used one for almost half the current street price  of a new lens? Or is this lens so flawed that  I should I just pass on it?

Some opinions on IQ and focusing  from those who  have used the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM would help me make a decision, and would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
- Jon

 jonikon's gear list:jonikon's gear list
Nikon D7000 Nikon D5100 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR +10 more
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turbsy
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Re: Is the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM worth owning?
In reply to jonikon, Jan 25, 2013

I bought it when it was just released and used it on a D300.  It never seemed to get sharp at 400mm and i had a problem with the AF.  I had to send it in to Gentec (Sigma service in Canada) twice and never felt they really did anything.  I also own the 70-300mm VR witch i found sharper even after cropping. After a year with the sigma i sold it and bought a 300mm f4 af-s and TC14E 2. There is a night and day difference between them but i understand that that combo is out of your price range.  After all that i have seen some really good work shot with this lens on flikr so I might have had a bad copy.

Hope that helped.

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alexsid
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Re: Is the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM worth owning?
In reply to jonikon, Jan 25, 2013

I used it on Nikon D80 and D7000 and was quite happy with its autofocus performance. It is a bit soft at 400mm but still quite good.

One of leading Canadian wildlife/landscape photographers used it for some of his work and seemed to be happy enough:

http://darwinwiggett.wordpress.com/2010/02/23/lens-review-the-sigma-120-400-4-5-5-6-apo-hsm-telephoto-zoom/

http://darwinwiggett.wordpress.com/tag/sigma-120-400mm-lens/

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AC1
AC1
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Re: Is the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM worth owning?
In reply to jonikon, Jan 26, 2013

It is most unfortunate you should want to take photos of birds, for you have chosen one of the most difficult objects to photograph. However it can also be one of the most rewarding.

The truth is you can never have enough reach for bird photography and i am sure 400mm will prove inadequate in many instances. i have no experience with the 120-400, but like you and many others learnt the hard way. So the following is my experience.

Started with the nikon 70-300 and was very soon disappointed. In certain circumstance it was ok but really not suited for Birding, my copy had poor IQ. Then bought a Sigma 100-300 f4. Even more of a disappointment. Sent it back to sigma for recalibration but no noticeable difference. So having waisted money on the first two, took some advice offered on this forum.

Bought the nikon 300 f4 + 1.4tc. Eureka, the perfect (entry level) combination in the Nikon line up. There is no comparison. The IQ, speed of focus and consistency is way above the other two.

I have since moved on and now own the nikon 500f4 VR, and again another leap in performance. In terms of IQ though the 300f4 can hold its own with the 500. The only draw back to the 300 as i see it is lack of VR, however i would not let that be a deterent it is an excellent lens that can achieve great results.

My advice is not to waste any more money and go straight to the Nikon 300f4 + 1.4. if not new try second hand.

All the best with your bird photographu.

AC

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jonikon
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Re: Is the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM worth owning?
In reply to AC1, Jan 26, 2013

AC1 wrote:

It is most unfortunate you should want to take photos of birds, for you have chosen one of the most difficult objects to photograph. However it can also be one of the most rewarding.

The truth is you can never have enough reach for bird photography and i am sure 400mm will prove inadequate in many instances. i have no experience with the 120-400, but like you and many others learnt the hard way. So the following is my experience.

Started with the nikon 70-300 and was very soon disappointed. In certain circumstance it was ok but really not suited for Birding, my copy had poor IQ. Then bought a Sigma 100-300 f4. Even more of a disappointment. Sent it back to sigma for recalibration but no noticeable difference. So having waisted money on the first two, took some advice offered on this forum.

Bought the nikon 300 f4 + 1.4tc. Eureka, the perfect (entry level) combination in the Nikon line up. There is no comparison. The IQ, speed of focus and consistency is way above the other two.

I have since moved on and now own the nikon 500f4 VR, and again another leap in performance. In terms of IQ though the 300f4 can hold its own with the 500. The only draw back to the 300 as i see it is lack of VR, however i would not let that be a deterent it is an excellent lens that can achieve great results.

My advice is not to waste any more money and go straight to the Nikon 300f4 + 1.4. if not new try second hand.

All the best with your bird photographu.

AC

I found that there are two versions of the Nikon 300mm f/4. One is AF-S with a motor in the lens and the other one is screw drive without a motor and much less expensive in the used market. Do you know if there is much difference in  these two lenses optically?.

- Jon

 jonikon's gear list:jonikon's gear list
Nikon D7000 Nikon D5100 Nikon 1 V1 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR +10 more
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AC1
AC1
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Re: Is the Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 AF APO DG OS HSM worth owning?
In reply to jonikon, Jan 26, 2013

jonikon wrote:

I found that there are two versions of the Nikon 300mm f/4. One is AF-S with a motor in the lens and the other one is screw drive without a motor and much less expensive in the used market. Do you know if there is much difference in these two lenses optically?.

- Jon

I would definitely go for the AFS. I say this not from experience (i have the AFS version) but because AFS is supposedly better and i have achieved excellent results from it.

good luck

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