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Friday, December 1, 2006

Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro HSM

A new lens with macro capability and high image quality

Sigma APO 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG Macro HSM

A telephoto zoom is an important part of most outdoor photographers’ gear. But unlike the casual shooter, for a pro or serious amateur, a fast maximum aperture becomes essential because we often find ourselves shooting in relatively low light, such as at dusk or dawn. Yet such fast lenses can often be expensive and out of reach for some photographers. With the Sigma APO 70-200mm ƒ/2.8 EX DG Macro HSM, a fast telephoto zoom for less than $1,200, I was curious to see how well this affordable zoom would perform.

Though the feel of a lens doesn't directly translate to optical quality, it's nevertheless a concern. I wasn't disappointed with the lens' solid construction. Weighing in at 48.7 ounces, the lens balanced beautifully when it was attached to my Canon EOS 20D. The zoom and focus ring offer just the right amount of resistance and don't have a "sloppy" quality to them. The lens also includes two important physical features a nonrotating front element and a removable lens collar.

The maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 makes a huge difference when shooting, especially in the early-morning hours. A slower variable aperture lens would have produced a dim image in my camera's viewfinder, making it hard to compose and more difficult for the camera to detect focus. However, focus was fast and quiet as a result of the lens' HyperSonic Motor.

Because of the 1.5x magnification factor of my camera, the lens provided a focal-length equivalent range of 105-300mm, which required caution with my shutter speed when I was handholding the lens. Thankfully, the large maximum aperture allowed a fast shutter speed without boosting my ISO beyond 400, which would have been necessary with a slower lens.

One of the key features that I particularly enjoyed was the lens' macro capability, which features a reproduction ratio of 1:3.5 at a minimum focus distance of just 39.4 inches from the image plane. I appreciated the ability to shoot distant-subject and small-detail shots with a single lens.


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