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Sigma has made a significant name for itself via its famous ART line of lenses. But did you know Sigma also has a Sport line? Lesser known than the ART lenses, the Sport lenses are the incredible workhorses of the photography world (and deserve recognition). The Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport (Canon and Nikon Mount) is the newest addition to the Sport line, featuring a loved focal length. A big contender in the telephoto field, this lens may just be the top dog you didn’t see coming.
This lens focal length is so splendid, that the Digital Photography School even has an article on why you need a 70-200mm lens!
I have tried many different 70-200mm F/2.8 lenses in the past, and currently own the newest one from Canon’s L line. This version of a favorite millimeter stands out. Before we even get into the construction, I can tell you that this lens is not the heaviest by far as compared to other brands like Tamron, and Rokinon, and older versions of the Canon and Nikon. As someone who tends to shoot sporting events for a good 12 hours at a time, my back is bowing in thanks at the decreased weight. Weighing in at a teeny bit less than 4 pounds, this is by far a more useable weight. The lens size is customary for this focal range at 3.7 inches in diameter by 8.0 inches in length.
The body is constructed out of a clever mixture of a very durable form of plastic, metal, and a new compound known as TSC (short for Thermally Stable Composite). The lens feels durable, and I found it to be more shock resistant than many of my other lenses. The glass itself is a high-grade glass mixture – 24 Elements in 22 Groups. I like the tactile feel of the focus and zoom rings, and it is very comfortable to use.
This lens is built to work, and as such, its weather sealing is incredible. I feel very confident taking this lens out for a spin in whatever situation I find myself in. With the recent rains and odd weather in Southern California, I was still able to take this lens out in ease at a local outdoor sporting event. The weather sealing is a testament to a highly effective dust and splash proof structure with special sealing at the mount connection, manual focus ring, zoom ring, and cover connection.
That said, do use your best judgment to determine whether the weather is good enough to go out and shoot or not… weather sealing is not equivalent to weatherproof! As for the glass, the forefront and rear lenses incorporate water and oil-repellent coating that allows water to be wiped away easily. It prevents oil and fat from sticking to the surface, even in challenging shooting conditions, making lens maintenance easy.
The only downside I find with the lens construction is that you cannot remove the customary tripod foot (that many 70-200mm lenses have). This lens is also still technically heavier than the latest Canon or Nikon versions, but I’d argue this is a fair trade for how shock resistant and durable it is.
As is customary for the Sigma lenses, the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport features a slew of unique and useful features. Before we even get into them, it is worth mentioning that at this time, this lens is available only in Sigma, Canon, and Nikon mount. Sigma does offer a mount conversion service in case you want your lens to fit onto a different camera brand.
Sigma has gone the extra step to make sure that the mechanics of their lenses work as well as Canon and Nikon native lenses. The Canon mount version is compatible with Canon’s internal chromatic aberration control, and the Nikon version works with Nikon’s electromagnetic diaphragm.
A nice added feature for any telephoto lens is the focus range limiter switch, which restricts the range of distance your lens can focus. I use this feature myself when I photograph dog agility shows to make sure that the lens doesn’t focus on any obstacles near me but remains locked on a running dog that is far away.
As the name suggests, this lens uses HSM (Hyper Sonic AF Motor) for its focusing. HSM uses ultrasonic vibrations to drive the focusing group. This motor benefits an internal focusing system.
You can easily override the HSM for manual control via a finger switch on the lens. A feature that goes along with this aspect is the Manual Override (MO). With MO, a photographer can continue using autofocus as usual, before making any final manual adjustments using the focusing ring around the lens. The lens can focus as close as 1.2m away from the subject unless restricted by the focus limiter.
The lens comes with a locking lens hood, which is superb considering the number of times the hood on my other lenses go flying off because they get bumped! The lock is sturdy, but still very easy to use when you need to get the hood off in a flash.
With a sport and action lens like this one, strong autofocus is the key to success. I photograph a slew of canine athletes, and you’d be surprised how incredibly fast those small champion papillons are! Additionally, to ensure the dogs are not distracted by the sound of my camera or lens, quiet autofocus is pretty high up on my list of needs too.
Lucky for me – and anyone else interested in this telephoto model – the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 checks all of these boxes. The HSM motor keeps the autofocus noise to a minimum or nonexistent, which allows me to get a wee bit closer to the dogs as they make their impressive jumps and leaps.
The autofocus is rather accurate – even on small moving subjects like an Italian greyhound dog, through to bigger canines such as the border collie. The lens allowed me to capture the agility competition with ease. The focus was very smooth too, with little focus hunting, even when the clouds took over and the location became quite dim. No manic focusing movements either, like I’ve experienced with Tamron’s equivalent of this lens last year at a tradeshow.
In comparison to my Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM III lens, this one performed just as good, and I would certainly consider it as an additional.
Although zoom lenses may never be quite the same level of sharpness as fixed focal lengths, this one still performs brilliantly despite this fact. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, even when shooting wide-open, throughout the entire zoom range. Centre sharpness at 70mm is excellent and just fine at all other focal lengths. Corner sharpness is high at 70mm, but at 100mm and beyond, corner sharpness takes a significant downturn at larger apertures. If you want to get the entire frame sharp, you’ll probably have to switch over to F/11 or so. That said, this isn’t unusual for zoom lenses. The contrast it produces is also excellent.
The F/2.8 wide aperture gives a nice subject separation and bokeh (the out of focus areas in an image). The depth of field is creamy and smooth, and very pleasing to the eye. The 11 diaphragm blades help to keep bokeh looking natural.
There is some vignetting on the edges. Some people like this, others don’t. I enjoy the natural vignetting that is contrary to popular opinion, but for those that find it a nuisance, keep this in mind.
The image stabilization system in this particular 70-200mm is superb. This lens incorporates Intelligent OS, which is the latest algorithm to deliver image stabilization. The intelligent OS works horizontally, vertically, or diagonally – whatever direction your lens is being held or used. The mode can be adjusted by a switch on the side of the lens and has two modes from which to choose.
The optical stabilizer was effective up to four stops – fantastic for a telephoto lens. The panning stabilizer was equally impressive, allowing me to track my subjects with ease while handheld. I took this lens out for a swing at a local concert as well. The F/2.8 aperture paired with stabilization, allowed me to expose my shots quite well.
The glass coating on this lens does a fine job decreasing flaring and ghosting – an annoying issue that plagues photographers when the light hits the lens at a bad angle. The chromatic aberration control is quite good as well, with the optical array comprising of 24 elements spread across 22 groups. This includes nine FLD pieces of glass and a single SLD lens, all of which are used to help control chromatic aberration.
The Canon mount versions of this lens also benefit from compatibility with a full set of in-camera corrections for lens aberrations (a big yippee for me as a Canon user).
At a price tag of US$1,500, while this may seem hefty to some, it’s actually much more affordable than equivalent lenses of this caliber. There is a lot of bang for your buck. Moreover, it’s a very worthwhile investment for those shooting outdoors or in questionable conditions, as this lens is built to be the perfect workhorse.
I genuinely loved this model. It was very easy to use for my athletic needs!
Have you used this lens? What are your thoughts? Please share in the comments below.