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.
The resulting photographs were very sharp, but I was especially impressed with the lack of chromatic aberration and color fringing, which can be a big issue with D-SLRs. Despite the fact that I was using the lens with moderate to wide apertures, there was little evidence of problems, even in areas of high contrast. This is a testament to the quality of the Extra Low-Dispersion and Special Low-Dispersion elements, which are part of the lens design.
Impressive for its price, build and optical quality, the Sigma 70-200mm lens will no doubt find itself in the hands of many outdoor shooters. List Price: $1,140.
Contact: Sigma Photo, (631) 585-1144, www.sigma-photo.com.
Specs Of Note
Focal Range: 70-200mm
Filter Size: 77mm
Lens Construction: 18 elements in 15 groups
Size: 3.4 x 7.3 inches
Weight: 48.7 ounces
1 Two Extra Low-Dispersion and two Special Low-Dispersion elements
2 HyperSonic Motor for fast and quiet autofocus performance
3 Reproduction of 1:3.5 for close-up photography
4 Available for Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts