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Sigma 400mm F5.6 APO (AF) v3: 1995 > Review RSS Feed

Sigma 400mm F5.6 APO (AF) v3: 1995 >

Sharpness 
 8.4
Aberrations 
 9.1
Bokeh 
 8.3
Handling 
 8.4
Value 
 9.3
Autofocus 
 6.7
Reviews Views Date of last review
11 87,748 Sun January 20, 2019
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Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $431.56 9.00
Sigma 400mm F5.6 APO (AF) v3: 1995 >
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Description:
This is the later 1994/1996 version of sigmas 400mm tele-Macro AF/MF f5.6 APO prime - see sigma history page, later updated with the redesigned barrel and hsm as per pic 1 in 1996.
Second version was introduced in 1988, see here. The first apo version was from 1980 (no review page).

"World first Apochromatic Ultra telephoto lens with macro capability of 1:3 reproduction ratio. The lens has a great advantage to take macro photography of moving subjects which needs longer working distance. Incorporating inner focusing of 2nd and 4th lens group with two Special Low Dispersion glasses, the lens produce high optical performance for the subject from infinity to macro focus range.
The lens has a matte “ZEN” finish like other Sigma lenses.


Note that deteriorated Zen coating (goes sticky with age) is best cleaned off with eg meths, and/or stabilised with painters fixative to keep the markings.

Construction 10 Elements in 7 Groups
Focal Length 400mm
Maximum Aperture ƒ5.6
Minimum Aperture ƒ22
Field of View 6.2°
Minimum Focus Distance 160cm
Number of blades 9
Maximum Magnification 1:3
Zooming System N/A
Filter Size 77mm
Diameter 92.5mm (max.)
Length 257.2mm
Weight 1,645g

Detailed review by Optical Limits (photozone.de).
Mount Type: Pentax KAF2/KAF (screwdrive AF)
Price History:



Add Review of Sigma 400mm F5.6 APO (AF) v3: 1995 >
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Community Manager

Registered: March, 2007
Location: Toowoomba, Queensland
Posts: 23,610

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 20, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $520.00 | Rating: 7 

 
Pros: Fast autofocusing, lightweight and relatively compact
Cons: Insufficient sharpness until f/8, sticky lens hood
Sharpness: 7    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 5    Handling: 9    Value: 9    Camera Used: K-1 Mark II    New Or Used: Used    Autofocus: 8   

I had high expectations for this lens. Being an EX prime, I would have expected great sharpness and clarity from this lens. Unfortunately, things didn't go to plan. After struggling to nail focus on it for a while, I settled on a +8 setting for the focus adjustment, but still couldn't nail focus consistently on distant or near subjects despite being careful about technique when shooting with long telephoto lenses.

The focused subject rarely seems to have the type of sharpness that I would be impressed with at 100% magnification, except for when used in good lighting and at f/8-11. The colour rendition and micro contrast isn't anything more spectacular compared to even the DA 55-300. Bokeh is quite a harsh looking rippling that can be distracting in some settings. Overall, although I wouldn't personally recommend it, at that price point there are not too many other options and this one as an AF lens is up there amongst some stiff competition in the DFA 150-450.

What makes it a worthwhile 400mm prime is its portability and hand-holding ability. If used in full sun (with it behind you), and at f/8-11, then it is capable of producing some nice results. Outside of these parameters, it will struggle to provide much satisfaction in the photographer.

Magpie not in flight by Ash

Foraging magpie by Ash
   
New Member

Registered: January, 2012
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: August 29, 2018 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Image quality, minimum focus distance, focus ring
Cons: Zen finish, outdated lens construction, AF failure
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 8    Value: 8    Camera Used: K-1 & K20d    New Or Used: Used    Autofocus: 4   

It is a lens of its own kind.

I had been looking forward to FA* 400 5.6. Yet it is too rare and pricey. First, I had fun with Tokina SD AT-X 400 5.6 MF. Although Tokina's glass is not outstanding and the minimum focus distance is hardly convenient by today's standards, the color of photos it produces is great.

Then I exchanged some P645 stuff with a nice Pentaxian and got this Sigma. Although the Zen finish has deteriorated already and the AF does not work properly, I can work around them successfully with MF.

I have not tried any FA* telephoto prime lenses, but this Sigma has its own signature image quality, colour rendition and bokeh. The contrast is lower than most Pentax DA* lenses, which makes photos less eye-catching at first sight, yet comfortable to look back.

I have tried to use it together with my 60-250 F4 in turns, on both K-1 and K20d, for close-range birding several times. Its focus ring is wide enough, throw long enough and touch smooth enough that I feel as good with manual focusing as auto-focusing with other lenses!

For a quality AF 400 5.6, it looks heavy from the number, but does not feel so. I often use it with Pentax HD 1.4x and Pentax-F 1.7x TCs. I can use the liveview function on K-1 for easier MF. With training, I can MF with K20d through the OVF as well.

Most importantly, I am shocked to find out its image quality truly stands out! With one TC, you can still tell the photo is taken with a prime lens - the resolution, the colour and so-called '3D look'. With two TCs, it works like a low-cost and light combination for casual birding. The successful shots still look satisfactory to me.

Sigma telephoto lenses of this era are not easy to come by. They are rare - well looked after ones are even more so. But if you don't mind MF and want to have a taste of Sigma's vintage IQ, you can't be wronged.

If all you want is a very cheap telephoto MF prime, the Tokina is definitely worth your consideration.

Samples with K20d:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1076122795869035&type=1&l=4b6ff44fc8
   
Forum Member

Registered: January, 2015
Posts: 71
Lens Review Date: February 22, 2016 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $380.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharpness, length
Cons: Mixed results with AF
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-50 & K-5   

Updating my review after more extensive use:

Best between f/6.3 and f/9.0 - you would have a tough time distinguishing between stops in this range. Some IQ is lost wide open at f/5.6 but it's still good. I always find myself using f/6.3 with slightly higher ISO instead of f/5.6

AF was hit or miss on the K-50, but I am now shooting with a K-5 and so far it seems to be more reliable. Pretty good through the viewfinder at about a -7 adjustment, but almost unusable through live view, as it just hunts and hunts. Manual focus is tough because the focus ring is not highly damped, and DOF is very thin. When the AF locks in results are wonderful.

Here is a sample with the Sigma 2x APO converter, which is not officially blessed to work with this lens. It mounts on the lens fine but AF doesn't work well, so this is with MF.



Highly recommended if you can find one for a decent price; you would need to break the bank to get this quality and length elsewhere on Pentax. One would hope that it will AF better on the K-70 and newer bodies with better AF algorithms and more points.
   
Loyal Site Supporter

Registered: January, 2014
Location: Sth Gippsland Victoria Australia
Posts: 4,434
Lens Review Date: April 24, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $450.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Good sharpness from wide open, little CA, relatively light weight, focus limiter, MFD, built-in hood, 77mm filters
Cons: Reports of AF mechanism failure, lens hood sticks, lens cap not pinch type
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 8    Handling: 8    Value: 9    Camera Used: K-30, K-3, K-S2, KP    New Or Used: Used    Autofocus: 8   

This lens did not sell in big numbers in K-mount and is now difficult to find. I bought my copy from a private seller on ebay, near-new, at what I thought was an amazing price. Given the dearth of options for an autofocus long lens in K-mount, I felt like I won the lottery. Its contemporary rival, the FA 400 f5.6, costs 4-5 times as much.

The lens comes in a sturdy leather case. It has a built-in lens hood - good in theory, but it sticks while extending and retracting. (Guide it so it tracks straight and it's fine.) Construction is otherwise very good, with a quality finish and solid tripod mount.The old-style lens cap should be replaced with a pinch-type. 77mm filter size is convenient (also fits on my DA 12-24).

Minimum focus distance is 1.6m, which is quite short for a long lens, and allows for a pseudo-macro function.

As with most screw-drive lenses, AF is noisy but reasonably fast and accurate on the K-3 (much better than on the K-30 or K-S2). A large focus ring with rubberised grip and longish throw makes manual focus a pleasure. There is a ring to switch between AF and MF, but no MF override.

The relatively light weight (about 1.3kg) makes the lens reasonably portable and useable handheld, although of course a tripod is recommended.

Image quality is good. It is reasonably sharp and contrasty, even wide open; it improves on stopping down a little (f6.3-f8 seems to be the sweet spot). Colours are good (although not quite Pentax colours). Bokeh is generally pleasant, but can be busy. CA is well controlled. Can't see any vignetting when used on APS-C bodies. I have rated sharpness as 8. It's not as good as my FA*300 f4.5, even when that lens is combined with the Kenko 1.5x TC.

I have tried this lens once with the Kenko 1.5x TC (despite the name the magnification is really 1.4x) for the equivalent of 560mm f8: autofocus worked satisfactorily (the ambient light was good) and the image results were OK, but I'm not sure there was any improvements from cropping (on the K-3 anyway).

This is a good compromise for birding in good light on a limited budget: fast enough, long enough, sharp enough, light enough, and affordable enough to suit my needs. The value is very good. It is a significantly cheaper option than using an F/FA*300 f4.5 with a good teleconverter, although it does give up image quality to that combination.

Note that there are some reports of the AF gear assembly coming away from the baseplate on this lens (and its 300mm f4 tele-macro sibling). Provided there is no further damage, this problem can be fixed by bonding the assembly to the baseplate. I decided to get my copy checked before the problem arose - I figured it was cheap insurance, and worth it for such a fine lens. All clear: repair guru Ben at http://www.cameracheckpoint.com.au reported that the AF gear assembly fix had already been done. The seller told me that he had bought the lens new and had had nothing done to it, so it must have been done in the factory. My conclusion is that Sigma addressed the problem during the model run.

Image samples here: Sigma 400mm f5.6 Tele Macro images - Flickr - Des(Australia)

Review last updated 7 June 2019.
   
New Member

Registered: January, 2010
Posts: 23
Lens Review Date: December 11, 2014 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Very sharp and affordable
Cons: Not a zoom lens
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 9    Camera Used: Canon, Sony   

It sounds silly as I "complain" about it not being a zoom lens. This prime lens has all the merits being a prime lens but the convenience of a zoom lens. Highly recommended.
   
New Member

Registered: August, 2012
Posts: 14
Lens Review Date: July 28, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $550.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Sharpness, resistance to CA, large focus ring, bokeh, macro capability
Cons: Prone to gear stripping with fast AF motors, noisy AF, short lens hood difficult to extend completely
Sharpness: 8    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 6    Value: 10   

I bought this lens while on a budget since I wanted to start exploring the world of nature photography. I was surprised by this lens' performance. It's sharp even wide open, and sharpness peaks at f/7.1 in my copy. AF is quite fast thanks to the limiter, although noisy since it's screw operated. This lens has a story of gear stripping with more recent AF motors. Mine showed a minor problem of bending of a gear support down in the AF gearbox, which caused the AF to occasionally not moving. I repaired it by myself easily, and now the AF is fast and steady, and locks on with accuracy on target. I did not experience CAs even on high contrast subjects. Flare resistance is quite good, despite the large front element. The ZEN finish grants resistance to scratches, the build is solid, quite heavy but it's still possible to shoot without a tripod/monopod. The macro feature grants a 1:3 ratio and is quite useful for butterflies and other insects. The sweet thing is that this lens sells for about 500 bucks on ebay, and it outperforms more heavily priced similar lenses, like the canon 400/5,6 L or the pentax FA*400/5.6. If you are into nature photography and have the chance to buy this glass at a fair price you certainly won't be disappointed.

   
Pentaxian

Registered: February, 2010
Location: Blunsdon,Wiltshire, UK
Posts: 1,216

3 users found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 17, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $299.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Sharp,close focus,compact
Cons: None
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 10    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    New Or Used: New   

I purchased this lens from ebay boxed as new.
I use it mainly for the close focus. It's great for butterflies.
White Admiral by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Common Lizard by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Common Lizard by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Broad Bodied Chaser by Gary Chalker, on Flickr

Marbled White Butterfly by Gary Chalker, on Flickr
   
Junior Member

Registered: March, 2011
Location: Michigan
Posts: 29
Lens Review Date: June 28, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $375.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp even at f5.6, close focusing
Cons: Can be really diffcult to get the lens hood to extend at times

I bought the lens off of eBay and the matching teleconverter from B&H (used). Images or pictures are very sharp. You can make some very unique macro shots with this lens. I use primarily for flower shots. The bokeh is very good.

About the only issue is the lens hood. If you are going to use it(and you should)make sure you extend immediately when using outdoors since sun light will make it very difficult if not impossible to extend the hood.
   
Site Supporter

Registered: February, 2009
Location: Indianapolis
Posts: 341
Lens Review Date: February 26, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $350.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Very sharp, fairly light, excellent images with TC
Cons: Occasionally lens mount snaps open

A lovely lens, no doubt. I previously owned the 400 f5.6 APO version 1 (72mm filter) which was nice but didn't have the bulid quality of this lens. I have had excellent images with this lens at f5.6 even with a Tamron or Pentax 1.4X-S TC. My only beef is the tripod mount, it pops open. I have luckily caught the lens but it has scared the dickens out of me. Also mine is a manual focus lens and my eyes aren't getting better, the day will come when I have to go autofocus. Until that time though I am quite happy with this lens.
   
Veteran Member

Registered: May, 2008
Location: Hampshire
Posts: 732

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: January 18, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $560.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp snappy quick AF
Cons: Its a beast (huge) suprisingly so

The lens is sharp even wide open.

Macro (close focus) 3:1 is nice as is the focus limiter.

it big and heavy but rewards are so great you don't regret carrying it.

CA is well controlled and is practically non-existence even in the hardest of conditions.

Will focus well even in low light suit both the 1.4 and 2x sigma matched converters.

I would be very surprised to see any 400mm lens surpass this beauty from any make but as its original price was £2500-£3500 it was always a class act.
   
New Member

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Norfolk, England
Posts: 8
Lens Review Date: January 26, 2009 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp even at f5.6. Macro shots a bonus.
Cons: Very slight play in the K-mount.

I bought this lens second hand about 6 months ago and I have been delighted with the quality of shots it delivers. Nearly all my photography is of birds, perched or in flight.

The superb resolution coupled with the K20D sensor is a marriage made in heaven. There is no fringing when shooting against the light.

There is an independent review on the net which claims that this lens is a match for the Canon prime 400mm and I have no reason to doubt that. http://www.photozone.de/Reviews/45-canon-eos-aps-c/306-sigma-af-400mm-f56-hs...report--review The review criticises the MF/AF selector ring but the one on my lens is very positive.

I use this on a Pentax K20D and can employ very tight cropping and still get usable images. Some of my images are shown at my web page:
http://davecurtis.fotopic.net/

This lens does everything I ask of it. Given the shortage of prime telephoto lenses it is a great shame that this lens is not available new.

Dave
Add Review of Sigma 400mm F5.6 APO (AF) v3: 1995 >



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