The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art lens is the first prime macro of Sigma’s Art range, built for optical quality which is an Art Series priority instead of autofocus speed or image stabilization. This lens comes in Sigma L-mount, Canon EF, and Sony E-mounts. Strangely, Sigma has left Nikon out of this party, at least for now.
This lens certainly lives up to the optical quality label as it is extremely sharp across the range, but we’re going to find out whether that’s enough to justify spending on a dedicated macro lens by looking at the design, build quality, and how well it works in real life.
The old Sigma 70mm macro was much loved by many macro photographers, so is the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art a worthy replacement? Let’s find out!
The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art is perhaps a bit of a quirky lens. 70mm is a somewhat odd choice of focal length, and the maximum aperture of f/2.8 isn’t anything new.
Indeed, what makes this lens stand out for a 2018 release is what’s missing, and that’s a lack of any optical stabilizer. It’s also missing an internal focus design, and it’s the first Art series lens not to have Sigma’s HyperSonic Motor (HSM) for focusing.
The 70mm f/2.8’s lack of internal focusing means that when you focus towards the macro range, the inner barrel extends out of the lens housing, and it’s marked with reproduction ratios that you can see as it extends. Sigma says that external focusing gives better image quality on macro lenses, but there are plenty of internally focusing lenses with brilliant optics out there too.
Practically, you should use the lens hood when the inner barrel is extended so that it protects the front element from damage. If you want to use different camera lens filters, then the thread for the 70mm f/2.8 is a tiny 49mm due to the extending barrel, but it does have a non-rotating front element.
Sigma Art lenses have a reputation for being big and heavy beasts, but the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art is more reasonably sized and weighs 515g.
Most modern macro lenses come with an optical stabilizer designed for macro photography, like Canon’s Hybrid IS, for instance, but Sigma has decided not to have any image stabilization in the 70mm f/2.8 lens. This makes the lens really hard to use apart from on a tripod.
Yes, hardcore macro photographers know how important good tripods are for macro work, but those looking for a more flexible macro lens that can be handheld while out walking will struggle to hold the lens still long enough to focus without some kind of image stabilization.
So, Sigma designed this lens for serious macro shooters who only work with a tripod and who care about image quality above all else. That’s fine, but it does limit the appeal of this lens somewhat unless you have a Sony FE camera with Sony’s In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS) to help you.
Build quality is good, and the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art comes with a lens hood and a decently-padded pouch. It does have some water and dust resistance, but it doesn’t have the excellent weather sealing of the new portrait specialist Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, which is a shame.
The lens mount is brass, and the body is a mixture of metals and thermal composite plastics, but it doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy.
Optically, the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art has an iris diaphragm with nine rounded blades, and Super Multi-Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting. It has 13 elements in 10 groups, and that includes two “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) elements, two Special Low Dispersion (SLD) elements, one anomalous partial dispersion/high refractive index elements, and two aspherical elements.
The maximum aperture is f/2.8, minimum is f/22, and the minimum focusing distance is 25.8cm.
The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art in Use
The autofocusing system is powered by a coreless DC motor, and it isn’t too sluggish considering it’s a dedicated macro lens. It’s certainly not as fast as other Sigma lenses as far as AF goes, but it’s not bad at all.
The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art shows no distortion, but vignetting is quite bad at f/2.8. There’s good news as far as chromatic aberration goes. There were no purple, green, or blue fringes to be seen.
As mentioned earlier, this lens is sharp. Even at f/2.8, the center of the image is sharp, and performance is best in the f/4-f/11 range. Diffraction creeps in at f/22, but that’s to be expected.
Edge sharpness is good too. Although the edges are slightly soft at f/2.8, they sharpen up through f/4-f/11, which is the optimum range.
The lack of any kind of image stabilization marks this lens down a bit for me. Yes, if you only ever shoot on a tripod then lack of IS in the lens isn’t an issue, but it can make all the difference when using your camera handheld where you can’t use a tripod.
How Does It Compare?
Around the same price bracket, you have the Laowa 60mm f/2.8 2X Ultra-Macro lens. Venus Optics claims that this is the world’s first 2:1 macro lens with infinity focus, and unlike the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art it’s available in Canon, Nikon, Sony A, Pentax K, and Sony E mounts.
The Laowa 60mm is manual focus only, which makes it hard to use for general purposes, but for macro work, some photographers prefer precise manual focus. The 60mm also doubles up as a portrait lens, but again, manual focus will put some people off.
Both lenses produce nice bokeh, but the Laowa 60mm has a 14-blade aperture that gives it the edge here. On the downside, it’s also not as sharp as the Sigma 70mm, and it does suffer from distortion. It’s not the easiest lens to use, but the Sigma 70mm has its own handling quirks too.
The Sigma 70mm is probably the best choice for dedicated macro shooters who prize image quality above all else, while the Laowa 60mm doubles up as a decent but not great portrait prime lens too, as well as having that amazing 2:1 magnification feature to capture the macro world in a way you’ve never seen it before.
|Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art||Laowa 60mm f/2.8 2X Ultra-Macro|
|Optics||13 elements / 10 groups||9 elements / 7 groups|
|Diaphragm||9 blades||14 blades|
|Weight||515 grams||503 grams|
The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO Art is amazingly sharp at all apertures, and does not suffer from distortion or chromatic aberration. This lens will suit the serious macro photographer who likes to work with a tripod, but it’s not a lens that adapts to hand-held shooting very easily in low-light conditions due to the lack of image stabilization.
It’s an affordable macro lens that does what it was designed for very well indeed, but the appeal for a broader photographic audience is limited. If you want a macro that will double up as a portrait or general-purpose lens, then the Sigma 70mm f/2.8 probably isn’t the lens for you.