A fast, stabilised, medium-telephoto lens that can be used with 'full frame' and APS-C sensor DSLR cameras and supports hand-held shooting in low light situations.Sigma has been producing fast tele zoom lenses for hand-held photography since the late 1980s and, although the new 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS lens claims to be a second generation model, we estimate it's the sixth in a line that reaches back to the original AF 70-210mm f/2.8, which was designed for 35mm film SLR cameras. Interestingly, the main difference between the new lens and its immediate predecessor is the addition of the company's Optical Stabilisation (OS) system. . . [more]
Sigma has been producing fast tele zoom lenses for hand-held photography since the late 1980s and, although the new 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS lens claims to be a second generation model, we estimate it's the sixth in a line that reaches back to the original AF 70-210mm f/2.8, which was designed for 35mm film SLR cameras. Interestingly, the main difference between the new lens and its immediate predecessor is the addition of the company's Optical Stabilisation (OS) system.
Sigma's new 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS lens, shown with the removable tripod mount but without the supplied lens hood and end caps. (Source: Sigma.)
Although designed primarily for 'full-frame' DSLRs, the new lens is also usable on cameras with smaller APS-C sized sensors. Photo Review conducted all Imatest testing of the lens using our standard Canon EOS 5D body but we also carried out some shooting tests with the lens on an EOS 40D and have provided comparison shots showing the differences in field-of-view coverage with both sensor sizes.
The 70-200mm focal length range is cropped to become equivalent to 112-320mm on the EOS 40D, which has a 1.6x crop factor. On Nikon, Pentax and Sony DSLRs, the focal length would equate to 105-300mm.
The fast f/2.8 maximum aperture is available throughout the zoom range. This feature is valuable when shooting in low light environments or photographing fast moving situations where a higher shutter speed demands maximum light transmission.
Using this lens on a camera with a smaller sensor changes the types of shots it best suits slightly. On the 'full frame' camera, the 70-200mm focal length provides a natural-looking perspective for portraiture and sports photography, while also being suitable for photojournalism and photographing wildlife, particularly from hides. Cameras with smaller sensors bias the lens more towards the sports and wildlife applications, but remain usable for portraiture and photojournalism.
Build and Ergonomics
Regardless of which camera body you use this is a large and heavy lens that is unlikely to suit an entry-level camera body. On the two cameras we used, it felt significantly better balanced on the EOS 5D than the slightly more compact and lighter EOS 40D, although it was still usable on the latter.
Build quality is quite impressive. The main barrel appears to be made from metal and covered with a solid, matte black coating made from high-quality polycarbonate. Overall fit and finish are excellent and the impression of quality is reinforced by a well-engineered, metal mounting plate.
The optical design of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS showing the location of the exotic lens elements. (Source: Sigma.)
Twenty-two lens elements are arranged in 17 groups to make up the optical design. Two FLD glass elements, made from the highest level low dispersion glass available provide similar performance to fluorite glass by optimising light transmission. Three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements minimise chromatic aberrations.
Super Multi-Layer lens coatings have been applied to reduce the effects of flare and ghosting. The nine-diaphragm blades close to a circular aperture to create attractive bokeh in out-of-focus areas.
Without the lens hood, the barrel measures just under 20 cm in length when fitted to a camera. Fitting the supplied lens hood adds roughly 10.5 cm to the total length. Internal focusing and zooming systems ensure the overall length of the lens doesn't change during zooming and the filter thread does not rotate, allowing use of angle-critical attachments.
The 46 mm wide zoom ring is located 25 mm back from the front of the lens. It carries a 34mm wide, broadly-ridged rubber grip ring. The trailing edge of the zoom ring is stamped with focal length marks for 70mm, 85mm, 100mm, 135mm and 200mm positions and these numbers line up opposite a white mark in the inner barrel just behind the zoom ring.
The focusing ring is a 20 mm wide band just behind the zoom ring. It has a 10mm wide ridged rubber grip that makes it easy to turn the ring through just over one quarter of a turn as you move from the closest focus (140 cm throughout the zoom range) to just past the infinity mark. A distance window just behind the focus ring shows distances in metres and feet ranging from 1.4 metres to infinity.
Slider switched for the focusing and stabilisation modes are located just left of the distance window. The upper one switches between AF and MF, while the lower one has three positions: off, 1 and 2. Position 1 compensates for both horizontal and vertical movements while Position 2, which is designed for panning shots, only counteracts vertical camera movements, allowing you to pan across the scene without interference.
Sigma claims photographers can gain up to four f-stops of shutter speed advantage with the system. Additionally, since compensation for camera shake is visible in the view finder, the viewfinder image is more stable, making it easier to focus shots.
A built-in HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) ensures autofocusing is both fast and relatively quiet. Full-time manual focus override is available when focus is set to AF. For Sony and Pentax mounts, the AF will not function on cameras that do not support HSM.
The lens is supplied with a removable tripod collar (TS-21), front and rear lens caps, a large, petal-shaped lens hood, a hood adapter and carrying case. The hood adapter extends the length of the lens hood, increasing its effectiveness when the lens is fitted to DSLRs with APS-C sized sensors. (Neither the adapter nor the lens case was supplied with the review lens.)
As we found with the Sigma 85mm lens we reviewed, resolution at the widest apertures was a little disappointing and edge softening was revealed by our Imatest testing across the aperture and focal length ranges. However, it was not severe enough to have a major affect on the appearance of most of our test shots. Indeed, it actually enhanced the bokeh in some close-ups.
Imatest revealed a distinct resolution 'sweet spot' between about f/4 and f/9.5. Best performance was at f/5.6 with the 100mm focal length. Around this point, the resolution of the lens slightly outstripped the potential of the camera's sensor, indicatign superior performance.
Diffraction kicked in around the f/13 point but produced only a gradual loss of resolution down to f/22. The graph below shows the result of our tests conducted with the lens on the EOS 5D body.
Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible at all focal length and aperture settings. In the graph below showing the results of our tests, the red line marks the boundary between ‘negligible' and ‘low' CA.
Some rectilinear distortion could be seen at each end of the zoom range. We found slight barrel distortion with the wider focal lengths and slight pincushioning at 200mm, with little distortion evident around the 100mm mark. Vignetting was also quite obvious at the f/2.8 aperture at all focal lengths but had largely been resolved by f/4.5.
Autofocusing was fast and generally accurate, although there were occasions when the lens hunted a little while finding focus at close distances in subdued lighting. The image stabiliser enabled us to shoot hand-held with the 200mm focal length at shutter speeds down to 1/30 second and obtain more than 70% of sharp pictures for non-moving subjects.
The generous lens hood made it almost impossible to force this lens to flare unless the sun was in the image frame. Even then, test shots were much less flare-affected than we anticipated.
Buy this lens if:
- You want a fast zoom lens for subjects that require longer focal lengths.
- You require high resolution for much of the aperture range at all focal lengths.
- You want fast and quiet autofocusing.
- You take a lot of backlit shots.
Don't buy this lens if:
- You can't handle the almost 1.5 kg weight.
Based on JPEG files taken with the Canon EOS 5D:
Vignetting at f/2.8, 70mm focal length.
Vignetting at f/2.8, 100mm focal length.
Vignetting at f/2.8, 200mm focal length.
Distortion at 70mm;
Distortion at 100mm;
Distortion at 200mm;
Canon EOS 5D; 70mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/11.
Canon EOS 5D; 85mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/11.
Canon EOS 5D; 100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/11.
Canon EOS 5D; 135mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/11.
Canon EOS 5D; 200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/11.
Field of view coverage comparisons: the top image is taken with the 'full frame' EOS 5D; the lower image comes from the 'APS-C' EOS 40D. The lens was set at 70mm for both shots.
Field of view coverage comparisons: the top image is taken with the 'full frame' EOS 5D; the lower image comes from the 'APS-C' EOS 40D. The lens was set at 200mm for both shots.
Portrait shot with the EOS 40D; 100mm focal length, ISO 800, 1/50 second at f/5.
Wildlife shot with the EOS 40D;135mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/4.5.
Stabilisation test with the EOS 5D; 200mm focal length, ISO 3200, 1/30 second at f/8.
EOS 5D; 100mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1000 second at f/2.8.
EOS 5D; 200mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/1000 second at f/2.8.
EOS 5D; bokeh with the f/2.8 aperture at 200mm focal length, 1/1500 second at ISO 200.
Picture angle: 34.3 degrees to12.3 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 22 Elements in 17 Groups
Lens mounts: Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony/Minolta
Diaphragm Blades: 9 (rounded)
Focus drive: Hyper-Sonic Motor
Minimum focus: 140 cm
Maximum magnification: 1:8
Filter size: 77 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 86.4 x 197.6 mm
Weight: 1430 grams
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.8
- Handling: 8.5
- Image quality: 8.8
- Versatility: 8.0
- OVERALL: 9.0