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Is the Sigma 135-400 mm lens any good

Chris Hansen , Aug 12, 1997; 12:21 a.m.

I am thinking about purchasing the new Sigma 135 to 400 mm lens. Is this lens capable of proffesional results? Does anyone have any experience with this lens?


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Bob Atkins , Aug 12, 1997; 12:19 p.m.

Any lens is capable of "professional" results, since:

  • (a) It's a totally meaningless term.
  • (b) It's the photographer that counts.
  • (c) For small prints, almost any lens can produce marketable images.

Informed opinion suggests the 135-400 is good at the short end and usable at the long end. At 400mm it isn't as sharp as the Sigma 400/5.6 APO Macro. If what you really want is a 400mm lens, buy a 400mm lens!

This is not a lens for a pro who is attempting to make a living via nature photography. It's OK for an amateur who wants decent images and isn't going to be shooting at 400mm all the time.

These comments also apply to most of the other similar lenses (80-400, 200-400 and so on).

Stanley McManus , Aug 12, 1997; 02:54 p.m.

Assuming that optical quality is of great importance to you I think that you would be better off with a lower ration zoom like an 80-200 or 100-300 and then buying a separte 400mm non-zoom lens. The scuttlebutt (sp?) is that the new Sigma 400 APO is the best in the under $631 price range. I think that you might get better responses if you told us what you are going to shoot with the stupid thing. If you told me that you want to do fast action sports, I would probably change my answer.

If you don't want to waist your time do a search on Sigma, Tamron and Tokina and see what that turns up in this site. Then save you money, sell your Acura for a used Hundai and get a real man's lens like the Nikkor 400mm f/2.8. After toting it around for a summer no beach bully will kick sand in your face!

Bill Meyer , Aug 13, 1997; 05:04 p.m.

Simply put, no it's not. They don't use the quality glass that Canon, Nikon or Minolta are going to use in their "pro" lenses. Of course, you pay for this glass. Okay, so what's the difference? Color and contrast and sharpness, etc. Like Bob said, most any lens can produce excellent prints, but compare some blow ups and you'll start noticing a difference. I'd suggest the 400mm f/5.6 APO as well, or even the 300mm f/4 APO with a 1.4x tc, but nothing will compare to Canon's 300mm f/4 "L" lens. Look at the used classifieds here and on photoshopper. Invest in the best and you won't be dissapointed. I don't think you'd be dissapointed in Sigma's new fixed lenses either. I don't agree with the arrogance that Stan issued about having a Nikon 400mm f/2.8. Because you have a great lens doesn't mean you're a great photographer. The great photogrpaher's are the one's who are humble and love what they do and it shows in their work.


Stanley McManus , Aug 13, 1997; 06:13 p.m.

Hey Bill! I wasn't being arrogant. Several people (well maybe just one) have mentioned buying a very long and fast lens instead of a new car. The idea is to get what you want and need in the first place and avoid the extra cost of trading up later. The original message did not mention what camera the lens would be attached to so I quite naturally assumed it was a Nikon. But a Canon or other 400mm f/2.8 will build your muscles equally well and when that beach bully kicks sand in your face and attempts to steal your girl, you can flatten the guy with one punch! Unless your girl is also a photographer with a big lens and then she can flatten him for you.

Bob Atkins , Aug 13, 1997; 06:39 p.m.

You have to answer the question asked. If someone asks about a 135-400 Sigma zoom, it's not likely they want to fork out $4000-$8000 for a prime 400/2.8. You could answer any question about telephotos by saying "get a 400/2.8"! It's like recommending everyone who asks you about which car to buy get a Ferrari!

The Sigma lens is perfectly fine for many photographers. I've seen much worse lenses highly praised! I wouldn't want to depend on one myself, but a lot of photographers are happy with them. It's a middle of the road lens with price and peformance to match.

Many amateurs wouldn't want the weight and worry of carrying a 400/2.8 around, even if they could afford one. The biggest, fastest lens isn't the best lens for everyone.

Bill Meyer , Aug 14, 1997; 04:02 p.m.

Sam - sorry, didn't mean to offend you, but I agree with Bob. I figure anyone asking about a Sigma lens isn't thinking about purchasing a $7000 lens. And like Bob said, because it has big glass doesn't mean it's the best for everyone. Unless you really need the 2.8 aperture, you're just as good getting an f/4 like the 300. But I won't badger this subject anymore.


JEFF HALLETT , Sep 29, 1997; 05:03 p.m.

a few points to consider. go through Outdoor Photographer, Nature Photographer and other magazines that bother to put the aperture/ film iso etc. with the shots seen. how often do you ever see an image shot at F2.8 or even F4? the 400 2.8's are wonderful, sharp, bulky, shaky and cumbersome chunks of glass that will burn your bank account and your shoulders. if someone thinks his slides are that much sharper with it then spend the money. i use a Sigma 400 5.6 and have been published 3 times with it. so i am quite satisfied with my small investment. the only times my images show anything other than tack sharp is when i made the error or when i use a 1.4x TC. an 8x loupe does not lie either. i certainly agree with Bob, big glass isn,t for everyone.

Mark Mitchell , Oct 25, 1997; 08:17 a.m.

Yep, In a perfect world, we could all go out and pickup a 400 2.8 & shot to our hearts content. I personally can't afford one, but a year ago found the Tamron 200-400 5.6 and have been very happy since. Sharp? Yes, just not as sharp as the 400 2.8. The color and contrast is also very good, and it only relieved my wallet of $495.00.

Ed Erkes , Oct 26, 1997; 12:11 p.m.

In a recent issue of the Natural Image (Vol 12 #4), George Lepp compared the Sigma 135-400, the Tokina 80-400, and the Tamron 200-400. All three lenses performed similarly. Sharpness was best in the 300 & under zoom range, but marketable images could be made at 400 mm, especially if closed down one stop. He rated the Sigma lens a slight favorite because of slightly better sharpness and better autofocus operation. These lenses aren't going to be as sharp as the prime telephotos, but you can make some good images with them. A boring subject with poor composition in bad lighting is not going to be enjoyable to look at no matter how sharp it is. I say get out and enjoy photography with what you can afford.

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