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Sigma 70-200mm/2.8 EX DG OS Lens Review

by Shun Cheung, December 2010 (updated March 2011)


The new Sigma 70-200mm/f2.8 APO DG HSM with optical stabilizer (OS) is an updated version for the popular fast 70-200mm zoom. For the first time from a third-party lens supplier, a 70-200mm, f/2.8 zoom has optical image stabilization. This lens is available in 5 different versions for the following lens mounts:

  • Canon EOS EF mount
  • Nikon F mount
  • Pentax
  • Sigma
  • Sony Alpha

Since I am a Nikon user, we received the Nikon version for testing, and I tried it on two different Nikon bodies: the full 35mm frame (FX format) 12MP D700 and the APS-C (DX) format 16MP D7000. I also had both Nikon’s 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR version 1 and version 2 on hand for some side-by-side comparison.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the lens available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

Sigma Lens Specifications

  • Focal Length: 70-200mm
  • Maximum Aperture: constant f2.8
  • Optical Construction: 22 elements in 17 groups
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 1.4 meters/4 feet 7 inches
  • Filter Size: 77mm
  • Weight: 1.43 kg/3 lb 2.4 oz
  • Length: 19.8 cm/7.8 inches

Auto Focus

Auto focus on the Sigma 70-200mm/2.8 OS works smoothly and accurately. The AF motor is very quiet.

Optical Performance

The Sigma 70-200 produces reasonably sharp images throughout its zoom range. In side-by-side comparisons, the excellent Nikon 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR II is a bit sharper. The difference is especially noticeable on the new 16MP APS-C format Nikon D7000, whose high pixel density is very demanding on the optics. When mounted on that camera, you need to stop down the Sigma a couple of stops to get critically sharp images. Version 1 of the Nikon lens is well known to have soft corners at 200mm. I am glad that the Sigma has no such problem.

The Sigma lens has the typical barrel distortion on the short (70mm) end and pincushion distortion on the long (200mm) end. The latter is noticeable when you have straight lines near the edge of the frame, but the Nikon lenses have the same issues, which is quite normal for this type of lenses.

Chromatic aberration is kept very low. In many test images, I hardly observe any color fringing on various light-to-dark transitions.

Version 2 of Nikon’s 70-200mm/2.8 AF-S VR is notorious that it has focal length “breathing,” i.e. the focal length decreases when you focus onto near-by subjects. While all similar zooms have this same problem to some degree, it is especially serious on the Nikon version 2. The Sigma 70-200mm/2.8 OS has similar issues and seems to be as significant as the Nikon lens. To me, this is merely a minor problem, but that is something I should point out.

Optical Stabilization/Vibration Reduction

This feature works very well as advertised. I am rather conservative about the number of stops OS can provide, and the Sigma 70-200mm/f2.8 OS has no problem providing the usual 2, 3 stops while hand holding this lens under dim light with shutter speeds around 1/50 sec or so. The same is true for Nikon’s counterpart. Some people claim that they can get 4 stops of improvement; I find that is rather optimistic.

Lens Construction and Handling

The Sigma 70-200mm/2.8 has a high-quality construction with a rugged, all-mental lens barrel. The construction is top notch and this lens is heavy. However, unlike most modern Nikon lenses, the Sigma does not have a rubber O-ring around the lens mount to seal moisture out when the lens is mounted onto a camera body.

Typically I handle a 70-200mm/2.8 zoom with my left palm supporting the bottom of the camera body and use fingers from my left hand to rotate the zoom ring. On the Sigma lens, the zoom ring is all the way to the front and since the lens is rather long, I can no longer use my left palm to support the body. The direction of the zoom rotation is the same as the Canon convention but the opposite of the Nikon convention. The same is true for the focusing ring.

The Sigma lens has a completely detachable tripod collar. For many years, Nikon was never able to produce a good removable tripod collar for their 80-200mm/2.8 lenses and 300mm/4 lenses. Those that are completely detachable have a rough rotation.. Eventually Nikon designed two 70-200mm VR lenses where only the tripod collar foot is detachable. The collar ring is permanently fixed onto the lens. The Sigma collar is both completely detachable and while it is on, rotates very smoothly. To their credit, Sigma has achieved something Nikon was never able to do.

However, I have some concerns about this detachable collar. On the Sigma lens, you loosen a big knob to rotate the lens barrel around the collar, and after it is loosen, you pull on that same knob to remove the collar. I find it a little too easy to unintentionally detach the collar while you merely want to rotate the lens. When you have that set up on a tripod, that means you could easily drop the entire lens + body combination onto the ground.

The Sigma 70-200mm/2.8 comes with an unusual lens hood. The primary lens hood is a typical petal type hood but is quite long. Additionally, Sigma has a APS-C extension hood that works just like a teleconverter; one can add that extension between the front of the lens and the main hood. When the Sigma lens is used on a DSLR body with an APS-C type sensor (i.e. Nikon DX format), one can insert this extension to make the hood even longer and more effective for the narrower angle of view.

While the version of the Sigma 70-200 OS I tested has an Nikon F mount, its mount is like that for the Nikon AF-D lenses instead of AF-S lenses. The mount on AF-S long telephotos should have an extra notch that mates with standard Nikon teleconverters such as the TC-14E, TC-17E, and TC-20E (all versions) that have an extra tab to prevent you from mounting the teleconverter onto an AF-D lens with screwdriver type auto focus. Since the Sigma does not have that notch, you cannot use those Nikon teleconverters on it unless you file off a tab on the teleconverter. Instead, you must use Sigma teleconverters for Nikon.

Conclusion

The new Sigma 70-200mm/2.8 APO DC HSM lens is a well built, good-quality tele zoom that is designed to compete against top-of-the-line zooms from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Sony with similar specifications. For the most part Sigma has done a fine job, but their initial $1800 price tag was only slightly lower than the brand-name equivalents. It happens that both Canon and Nikon have updated their respective 70-200mm/2.8 within the last 18 months with excellent versions. In particular, Nikon has been providing $400 instant rebates to their new 70-200mm/2.8 AF-S VR II when purchased with a qualified DSLR body. Therefore, with those combo deals, one can get the Nikon version for a lower actual cost. At the end of January 2011, Sigma lowered their price to $1400, making it a far more competitive alternative.

Overall image quality from the Sigma is very good, perhaps slightly less sharp than Nikon’s excellent 70-200mm/f2.8 AF-S VR II. Sigma’s construction quality is top notch but is curiously missing the rubber ring around the mount to seal off moisture. Although some reviews praise Sigma’s tripod collar, which is definitely well made and rotates smoothly, I find it a bit too easy to unintentionally detach the lens from the tripod. The fact that one cannot use Nikon teleconverters on the Nikon-mount version is a disappointing drawback for those who are interested in the Nikon version.

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the lens available. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

More


Text and photos © 2011 Shun Cheung.

Article revised March 2011.

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Rashed S , March 26, 2011; 02:33 P.M.

I used this lens, the previous version and found the quality of the images it deliver is real superb on my Nikon cameras, both the D3X and the D2X, the OS system with the new lens must again have a better return images.

I am severally using the 24-70MM F2.8 HSM from sigma under all sort of condition and it doing a great job for my photography, specially when the landscape photography is concerned.

David Callard , March 31, 2011; 07:10 A.M.

I am a long time Sigma user and I've always found their lenses to be of sterling quality. Admittedly I have only bought the pro level lenses so I can't speak for the cheaper amateur versions.

Jim Ducey , April 23, 2011; 12:39 P.M.

I use this lens on a Canon 7D and it works well with the Kenko 300 pro telextenders 1.4 and the 2X

Jim


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