Canon 100-400 L II vs Sigma 150-600 Contemporary

Talys

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Feb 16, 2017
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AlanF,

I am rarely looking to take photos of bird portraits, so usually, my camera will be set to 1/2000 or 1/4000 (depending on light), and Mode 3 IS. When I wander a good opportunity, like the photo above, I start taking handheld shots at 1/2000, and work my way down in ISO an EV or two at a time, then keep the lowest ISO shot at good focus. Basically, click click, turn dial, click click, turn dial click click. You need a few shots anyways, in case the bird closes its eyes.

At the end of it, if I have ISO 100, 200, and 400 shots of the same thing, all at good focus, I'll keep the ISO 100 :) On the above shot, I was amazed that I captured it that crisply at ISO 100. I actually have another heron portrait on my 6DII sample images thread where I took it at 1/30, again, perfectly focused! Of course, I didn't start at 1/30; it just happened that one of the 1/30 photos was shockingly focused.

I usually don't switch to IS Mode 1, because at any moment, I could be trying to catch a BIF. Also, in mode 3, I don't have to fight IS to manually focus. My thumb usually moves between the focus ring and the MF switch (and sometimes the focus limiter switch), rather than the IS switch at the bottom.

Of course, I'm not saying that it's impossible to get BIF shots on at 6.3 of f/8. And, I don't doubt the AF system on a 5DIV is superior to than 80D or 6DII -- but this is a camera that I won't ever buy, even excluding the price, because it is missing a flippy screen, which I need for other things. Even with an 80D, I've gotten tons of great handheld BIF shots at 600mm.

However, I've missed a lot more than that. I have had occasions where I've tracked the bird for several seconds, and every single shot is out of focus.

On the other hand, at 400mm, if I successfully track a bird for a couple of seconds, there will be at least some shots with the bird perfectly focused (of course, some will have AF on the wrong subject).

Even against blue sky in perfect lighting with the sun behind me, it's possible at 600mm for the AF to just wander and not lock, which I find infuriating (because that's a missed, potentially perfect shot). If I reduce zoom to about 450mm, it locks fine, and when I zoom back to 600mm, AF will continue to track. You may be entirely correct that this is a problem with the 6DII -- others who own both lenses and a 5DIV will need to chime in.

About the weight -- I agree, there is a wide distribution of people who are comfortable holding heavier lenses than others. To be clear, I don't have a problem handholding the Sigma 150-600C. I do have a problem handholding it for an afternoon of shooting, which could be anywhere from 2 - 5 hours, with a very high percentage of the time holding the lens at wildlife and waiting for a moment.

Most of the time, unless it's something I've never photographed before, I want more than an in-focus photo of a bird or an animal. What I'd really like is for that animal to do something interesting, and to catch that, I need to be patiently watching it through the viewfinder, and usually for more than a few seconds.

The difference between the 150-600C and the 100-400II is that on the former, I need at least a monopod if I'm going to do that more than a couple of times. Maybe some people can go all afternoon holding up a 150-600C for minutes at a time, but I don't think that's the majority of photographers. On the 100-400II, even if I pack a monopod or tripod, I will often not use it, unless I'm at a location that I know I'll be staying out for a good long time.
 
Oct 9, 2017
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It is a very difficult question, which lens you should buy, The Canon 100-400 II or the Sigma 150-600 C?
Of course, both are very good options and I have both (together with a Canon 400 f5.6L).
If you budget only goes up to 1000 dollars, your answer is the Sigma.
But when you can afford the Canon, you start looking for reasons to justify the difference.
Well, dont look too much, the Canon IS better, as it should for double the cost. It is better in almost all the checkpoints, like weight, AF speed, Stabilization, Construction, Image quality, minimum focus distance... but that is if we only talk up until 400 mm.
When you can get very close to the subject, you can even fill the frame more with the Canon 400 than with the Sigma 600 (because of the MFD).
But when you need the 600 mm and cannot get closer to the subject, then for me the Sigma was a better option. And filling the frame really helps on the image quality department!
If I have to choose only one, for me it would be the Sigma. With almost 2 years of use, I've found myself accustomed to the weight (and I carried the lens for more than 20 kilometers per day on a 15 days vacation on the mountains) and have no problem to handheld all day if needed. Also have a monopode I can use without effort.
Add to that the customization I made with the dock, which allows me to have a speed focus mode (in 400 mm almost as fast as the canon) and the chance to have all that range up to 600 mm all the time with me using all the focus points, and it is a no brainier for the type of environments I use the lens on.
So my wife use the 100-400 II with her 7D II and she is a happy camper!.
I settled for my Sigma 150-600 C (got the Canon 400 f5.6L in the box for a year now) with my 7D or my 1D IV. And still been able to sell pictures and won contests (had some luck).
Just wanted to share my experience with the lenses. I try to avoid extenders (even the 1.4x) since the time I sold my Canon 300 f4L IS.
Here are some pictures taken with the Sigma and I give you a link with more pictures too.

LINK:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/100100182@N07/

Samples:

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AlanF

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piovanil said:
It is a very difficult question, which lens you should buy, The Canon 100-400 II or the Sigma 150-600 C?
Of course, both are very good options and I have both (together with a Canon 400 f5.6L).
If you budget only goes up to 1000 dollars, your answer is the Sigma.
But when you can afford the Canon, you start looking for reasons to justify the difference.
Well, dont look too much, the Canon IS better, as it should for double the cost. It is better in almost all the checkpoints, like weight, AF speed, Stabilization, Construction, Image quality, minimum focus distance... but that is if we only talk up until 400 mm.
When you can get very close to the subject, you can even fill the frame more with the Canon 400 than with the Sigma 600 (because of the MFD).
But when you need the 600 mm and cannot get closer to the subject, then for me the Sigma was a better option. And filling the frame really helps on the image quality department!
If I have to choose only one, for me it would be the Sigma. With almost 2 years of use, I've found myself accustomed to the weight (and I carried the lens for more than 20 kilometers per day on a 15 days vacation on the mountains) and have no problem to handheld all day if needed. Also have a monopode I can use without effort.
Add to that the customization I made with the dock, which allows me to have a speed focus mode (in 400 mm almost as fast as the canon) and the chance to have all that range up to 600 mm all the time with me using all the focus points, and it is a no brainier for the type of environments I use the lens on.
So my wife use the 100-400 II with her 7D II and she is a happy camper!.
I settled for my Sigma 150-600 C (got the Canon 400 f5.6L in the box for a year now) with my 7D or my 1D IV. And still been able to sell pictures and won contests (had some luck).
Just wanted to share my experience with the lenses. I try to avoid extenders (even the 1.4x) since the time I sold my Canon 300 f4L IS.
+1 for everything

Stunning photos. But, with your skill, you would produce stunning shots with any lens! My wife too uses the 100-400mm II, but now on the 5DSR, while I use either the 400mm DO II or the 150-600mm C on the 5DIV when with her and the 100-400mm II on the 5DSR often myself alone. The 100-400 at 400mm on the 5DSR gives the resolution of 600mm of the 150-600mm on the 5DIV.

Of your four shots, 2 were at 600mm, one at 150mm and another at 388mm (which the 400m notch shows). Frankly, at 400mm all of those lens have the same resolution in the centre, but the 400mm DO II is ultra-sharp all the way to the edges at f/4. I too have given up extenders in the main except on the prime lens.
 

tomscott

Photographer & Graphic Designer
One thing to point out.

I agree with all the above. The issue with any lens that is outside the 5.6 parameters is that yes it is spot on for subjects that are moving slowly or are still but as soon as they start moving like BIF I have found that the 100-400mm MKII is far superior.

I made a thread about my experience, I was about to go on the trip of a life time 6 months across Africa and South East Asia with primary reason for travel being flora and fauna.

The Tamron 150-600mm vs the 100-400mm and the BIF comparisons were startling. (no experience with the sigma but I assume because its a 6.3 the results will be similar) This was also the opinion from a 5DMKIII.

The reason I bought the Tammy to start with is because it was equivalent to the 100-400mm with the lens being a 5.6 from 226-427mm and the tammy could lock out at that point. The sigma on the other hand is a 180-387mm so you enter 6.3 much sooner and you have to be careful when you are framing.

Once you go out of the F5.6 range hits are dramatically reduced.

You can have a read on the thread I created

http://www.canonrumors.com/forum/index.php?topic=27574.0

As an overview at 400mm the lens and my 5DMKIII got 88% focus hit rate, which is impressive.

At 600mm tracking a bird traveling toward the lens the hit rate dropped to 50%.

At 600mm horizontally 50-60% hit rate max.

The other thing too is that it consistently thought it was hitting and the subject was a hair OOF not tack.

The 100-400mm on the other hand is deadly consistent in comparison. I know this isnt the Sigma but I cant see it having much more luck because its at F6.3 and essentially your not even getting a 400mm lens at 5.6 not including what ever focus breathing you have.

Things to take away is if your a BIF guy I wouldnt bother, the hit rate isnt great it just cant keep up. If your shooting fairly still subjects then its great.

I ended up buying the 100-400mm and it is a beast in every way. Stick a 1.4 and it was still sharper than the Tammy. Crop down to 600mm equivalent and it was sharper.

This was a few years ago and it may work better with the newer crop of cameras with extended AF points above F5.6 like the 7DMKII, 6DMKII, 5DMKIV and 1DXMKII.

When it came to still subjects I thought the lens was a great choice.

Heres an example and a 100% crop

Rhea, South Lakes Safari Zoo, Tamron 150-600mm by Tom Scott, on Flickr

Rhea, South Lakes Safari Zoo, Tamron 150-600mm by Tom Scott, on Flickr
 

AlanF

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Agreed about the BIF bit, Tom. I use the bare 400mm DO II on the 5DIV for BIF - the wider field of view at 400mm than 600mm makes it much easier and the prime focusses so fast, and f/4 helps. However, Piovanil does say he tweaks the setting on the Sigma Dock to get fast focussing at 400mm.
 
No experience with the Sigma C, but I will explain why I just traded in my still mint condition 100-400ii. I usually had to decide which telephoto to take in my backpack - either that one or the 70-200 f2.8 (non IS). The 100-400ii is very sharp and a good lens. However it would have difficulty locking focus if light was a little dim or subject was dark (real life example - black jaguar at a zoo). My 70-200 locks on instantly. Since I usually had to choose one or the other I started taking my 70-200 so I decided to give up the 100-400ii. It is still a good lens (and if you are in the USA you can get mine right now at KEH as I said in mint condition). I just find the less responsive focus and the slightly unpleasing bokeh make it not worth keeping for me. I am also so used to internal zoom on the 70-200 that I find a lens that physically extends during zoom to be annoying. I realize the Sigma and Tamron (150-600) would have the same problem, so no easy solutions.
 
Oct 9, 2017
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The 4 previous pictures were taken in Costa Rica. I also took the Canon 100 f2.8 macro with me and use it a lot on frogs.
I made my own neoprene lens coat and a rain cover, which I used later in the tropical forest to take pictures under the rain with my Sigma:

cFAGbF.jpg


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Regarding Birds in flight, I upgraded the firmware to the last version (it is really faster to focus with that), and used the usb dock to set C2 with this configurations

- AF speed in motor priority
- MFD starting in 3,5 mts (instead of 2,8)
- IS in Dynamic OS

The lens in 400 mm locked when possible and the camera on servo mode

This example is with the old 7D in 600 mm 1/2000; f/6,3; ISO 500; TV mode on servo:

VcQdM6.jpg


This action picture is also possible with the Sigma autofocus:

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BUT...... you cannot compare the previous with the results you can get spending lots of money!
Because in Costa Rica I was in a group of wealthy men and had the chance to get something borrowed for a couple of hours, I can now show you a picture taken with a Canon 1Dx II and Canon 500 f4L IS II, using 8 tripods, 5 flashes with radios, a remote control, one local guide as assistant and MY Memory card (a real 20.000 dollars picture!).

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The picture is for real, no photoshop trick, 4 different species wrestling for the flower. Looking back, I could have made the same picture with my 7D, the Canon 100 macro and only 3 flashes.

Well, the last part was for you to understand that it is not all about the lens or the camera, and you will be very happy with every one you choose!

Regards

PS, I have a 70-200 f2.8 IS too, so in the near future I plan to exchange my Sigma Contemporary for a Sport that can support my heavy use.
 

AlanF

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Piovanil
Why are you going to exchange your C for a Sport? There are several reports that the Sport is no sharper than the C, and the Sport is really heavy with the weight concentrated in the front so it is unbalanced and difficult to hand hold.
 

tomscott

Photographer & Graphic Designer
Beautiful shots.

Like has been said many times. Put gear in the hands of people that know what they are doing and you can get incredible results without spending $$$ although there are drawbacks you can work around them.

The thing for me is its hard to get the bird in the perfect position and nail the focus at the same time. At 400 you can because of 5.6 but at 600 at 50% in focus the likelihood of hitting the bird at the right time is still not high and can be a frustrating experience.

In my infinite wisdom... decided to get rid of the Tammy in the first two weeks and spend tripple the budget on the 100-400 with a 1.4. On a FF camera the lens and extender works well as long as the subject isnt moving too fast but on a crop camera its just too much.

I bought it for Africa and tbh once you go over 600mm you struggle with atmospheric issues. Most of the time the 100-400mm was sat on my 7DMKII natively and I found it to be excellent.

Now I have the 6DMKII the 100-400mm with the 1.4 works so much better with the F* autofocus more than one point in the 5DMKIII and with the resolution increase and sharpness boost of the 6DMKII sensor you can get incredible results, cropping 50-100% is a real and decent proposition.

Lyme Park Red Deer by Tom Scott, on Flickr

I took around 100,000 images over the 6 months. Here's a couple with the 7DMKII/5DMKIII with the 100-400mm MKII from across africa and SE Asia.

Fish Eagle, Lake Naivasha, Kenya by Tom Scott, on Flickr

Lake Naivasha Kenya

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Trecked for 6 hours through Biwindi National Park Uganda for this one.

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Livingston Zambia

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South Luangwa National Park, Zambia

Indonesia

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Gunung Leuser National Park in Northern Sumatra

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Comodo Island
 
Oct 9, 2017
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AlanF said:
Piovanil
Why are you going to exchange your C for a Sport? There are several reports that the Sport is no sharper than the C, and the Sport is really heavy with the weight concentrated in the front so it is unbalanced and difficult to hand hold.

My Sigma is taking serious usage... on any kind of environment... not sure how much it will withstand, even with the lens coat and rain covers... wouldnt be nice to get the only long lens broken in the middle of an expensive trip like Africa for example.
So looking on the Sport only because it seems more ruggedly constructed. Probably ended up getting both the Sport and the Contemporary (but will sell the 400 f5.6L).
 
Oct 9, 2017
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tomscott said:
Beautiful shots.

Like has been said many times. Put gear in the hands of people that know what they are doing and you can get incredible results without spending $$$ although there are drawbacks you can work around them.

The thing for me is its hard to get the bird in the perfect position and nail the focus at the same time. At 400 you can because of 5.6 but at 600 at 50% in focus the likelihood of hitting the bird at the right time is still not high and can be a frustrating experience.

In my infinite wisdom... decided to get rid of the Tammy in the first two weeks and spend tripple the budget on the 100-400 with a 1.4. On a FF camera the lens and extender works well as long as the subject isnt moving too fast but on a crop camera its just too much.

I bought it for Africa and tbh once you go over 600mm you struggle with atmospheric issues. Most of the time the 100-400mm was sat on my 7DMKII natively and I found it to be excellent.

Now I have the 6DMKII the 100-400mm with the 1.4 works so much better with the F* autofocus more than one point in the 5DMKIII and with the resolution increase and sharpness boost of the 6DMKII sensor you can get incredible results, cropping 50-100% is a real and decent proposition.


I took around 100,000 images over the 6 months. Here's a couple with the 7DMKII/5DMKIII with the 100-400mm MKII from across africa and SE Asia.

You've done perfect! It was the right choice for you, for sure!. Travel light, with lens and cameras that can support you and you can trust on is always the way to go.
And very nice pictures you've got also!.
In my case, having already a 100-400 II "in the family", and having used the 600 mm of the Sigma, there is no choice. I've tried the 300 f2.8 IS and the 600 f4 IS old versions, but still 150-600 seems better option for me.
 
Oct 9, 2017
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With my Sigma 150-600C I've escalated mountains to follow the eagles and the Condor...

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I got into cold lagoons looking for rare egrets...

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Walk thru the endless grass fields of the Patagonia...

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Followed the flying Harriers in the glacier's land...

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Crossed the "yungas" in the search for the torrents duck...

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And many adventures more... I ended up loving the lens, just for being my pal
 

canon1dxman

EOS 90D
Sep 29, 2013
186
8
A lot of good points in the thread. We live directly backing onto the river Thames in Berkshire and so have everyday opportunities for BIF shots.
Last year, I had the Sigma 150-600C with the original 1DX and couldn't fault the image quality but always had difficulty locking onto BIF, no matter how much I tried, even with a gimbal. I had previously used the 100-400 II in Africa with great success and after chatting with a couple of well known Canon pros, bit the bullet and bought one to go with my newly acquired 1DX2.
Never regretted the change, despite the reduced range. I still fancy trying the Tammy G2 though.....
 

bholliman

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Dec 6, 2012
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Piovanil and Tom Scott - Stunning images! These show what can be done with even relatively inexpensive equipment in the hands of a skilled photographer. Very impressive.
 

AlanF

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The fantastic photos by Piovanil plus all the others in his Flickr are nearly all of perched birds or static animals in good light. The 150-600mm C is superb for those conditions, and I take mine with me for trips under such conditions. But, there other circumstances where it isn't going to be much good - namely poor light. I posted questions quoted below of what lenses to take with me to Borneo, including my 150-600mm C or 400mm DO II. At the last minute, I unpacked the Sigma and took the 400mm f/4, which saved the whole trip. Nearly all the photos I took were at dawn or dusk or at night or in the rain forest. I was shooting at f/4 and iso 6400 most of the time. The 100-400mm II was being used by wife at doubly long shutter speeds hand held. The 150-600mm at f/6.3 and its poorer IS (about a stop less in my experience) would have been a disaster. Also, on a recent trip to film puffins in flight I needed exceptionally fast AF, which the Sigma is not good at.

It's nice to have a choice of lenses, but if you have only one, then the Sigma is excellent for much, but not all of the time.

AlanF said:
I know what gear and lenses to take on a South African safari or a bird photography holiday, but my wife and I have a trip of a lifetime coming up at the end of August - Sabah in Borneo. The itinerary is:

KOTA KINABALU - Wet land, mud-flats and open country habitats.
SEPILOK – Lowland old secondary forest habitat.
GOMOTONG CAVES – Limestone habitat.
KINABATANGAN-BILIT – Riverine and flood plains habitat.
TABIN WILDLIFE RESERVE – Old secondary and primary rainforest habitat.
KINABALU PARK - Pristine montane rainforest.
PORING HOT SPRINGS – Upper hill forest

"Primary focus of this tour is on birds but we will also look at other natural history aspects including mammals (Orang Utan, Bornean Pgymy Elephant, Proboscis Monkey, Red-leaf Langur, Bornean Gibbon, Western Tasier, Clouded Leopard, Mouse-deers, Otters, Flying Squirels, Flying Lemus, Wild Cats, etc. etc. with a strong emphasis on finding wild Orang Utans), reptiles (Salt-water Crocodiles, Flying Lizards, Flying Snakes, etc. etc.), amphibians (Wallace’s Flying Frog, etc. etc) and interesting plants (Rafflesia, Orchids, Nepenthes, etc. Etc.

There will a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sabah with restricted cabin luggage - 7 kg per person with the rest in the hold. The possible gear is taken from 5DSR, 5DIV, 7DII and M5, with 400mm DO II, 150-600mm C and Canon 100-400mm II. My initial thoughts are to take the 5DSR + Sigma for me, the 5DIV + 100-400mm II for my wife, throw the 7DII as a spare in the hold baggage, and slip in the M5 with a couple of lenses for scenery.

You really do need zoom lenses, but, I'll miss the 400mm DO II. I'd even be tempted to leave the 150-600 and get a Sigma 100-400 for the 7DII and throw them in the suitcase. What would you experienced hands recommend? (Should I even consider my 300mm/2.8?). Maybe having the prime and sharing the 100-400mm II?