Walk into any photo equipment store and you’ll find a vast array of tools available to a photographer to make his or her vision a reality. I like to think of photography equipment as falling into one of two categories: core or accessory. Core equipment is essential to making photographs. Accessories just help make the whole process that much easier. If money is tight, and for most of us that’s indeed the case, choose to save on accessories. Do not choose to save on core equipment. You’ll regret it. One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was starting out in photography was from a pro who said to me – buy fast glass at the beginning.
What’s fast glass? Well, lens speed refers to the maximum aperture diameter, or minimum f-number, of a lens. A lens with a small f-number (say f2.8) will have a large maximum aperture. Such a lens, through its design, can allow more light to the focal plane which means the photographer has the option to dial in “faster” shutter speeds. The ability to tap into faster shutter speeds with your equipment means more options when it comes to making your vision for a photograph a reality.
When photographers looking to buy a new lens ask me which one I would suggest, I tend to answer their question with a question of my own. What do you like to shoot? You need to pick the right tool for the job. The beauty of some lenses, however, is they’re good for more than one job. Today I’m going to review just such a lens – the Sigma 70mm f2.8 EX DG Macro.
Here’s the spec sheet on the Sigma 70mm f2.8 EX DG Macro –
Focal length: 70mm
Image stabilization: No
Number of bladed in diaphragm: 9
Angle of View
35mm format: 34.3
SD format: 20.2
Minimum focusing distance (cm/in): 25.7 / 10.1
Filter Size: 62mm
Dimensions (mm x mm/ in x in): 76 x 95 / 3.0 x 3.7
Weight (g/oz.): 525 / 18.5
Hood (included): LH620-01
Here’s how Sigma Canada describe the lens:
“This is a large-aperture medium macro lens suitable not only for shooting flowers, insects, and other members of the small world, but also for landscapes and portraits. Mounted on an APS-C size digital SLR camera, it delivers an angle of view equivalent to 105mm. SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass with a high refractive index and the latest optical design are used for sharp images, and a Super Multi-Layer Coating minimizes the occurrence of flare and ghosting. In addition, a floating focus system is used to keep in check fluctuation of aberrations due to the shooting distance, and to deliver high resolution and high image quality at all shooting distances.”
There are a few key points in the Sigma write up which I would like to highlight. The first is they mention that this lens is suitable to macro, portrait and landscape work. I’ve used it for all three and am thrilled with the results. This lens is indeed a triple threat! The second point I would like to highlight is the design of the glass. Terms such as Special Low Dispersion and Super Multi-Layer Coating may seem like engineering gobbledygook to some of us photographers but what it all adds up to is really sharp images. That’s the bottom line. How sharp you ask?
Well here’s a portrait shot I took of a little girl recently…
and a small section of the same shot at 100%…
Here’s a shot taken with the lens in macro mode…
and a small section at 100%…
© Peter Carroll
I used the Sigma 70mm f2.8 EX DG Macro in this recent portrait session too…
So what do I like about the Sigma 70mm f2.8 EX DG Macro lens? I like its sharpness. I like the build quality. The matt black finish wears well and the lens feels robust. I like its bokeh (nobody gives a better definition of bokeh than Joe McNally. He calls bokeh the out of focus junk in the background).
What leaves me a little wanting? It’s not the quietest lens in the world. On a few occasions I did find it tend to search and take a stutter to lock AF. Flipping the focus limiter to “limit” does indeed help as it should but even then it’s not always point and lock. It’s important to keep in mind, however, how this lens will be used. I would characterise the Sigma 70mm f2.8 EX DG Macro as a very solid lens for the majority of studio and portrait work. You can grab another tool out of your photography toolbox if you plan on photographing Formula 1 cars zipping around a track at 200+ mph.
In summary I would definitely recommend the Sigma 70mm and consider it a solid investment in core photography gear.