One of the standard zoom lenses that is always touted to cover the short to medium telephoto range is the 70-200mm. This zoom lens has been a great solution for everything from portrait, wedding, events or wildlife images, with a fast enough aperture for low light scenarios.
Most will look at the same-as-camera-make versions as their first port of call. But if you want a 70-200mm zoom which is more cost-effective, the likes of Sigma have some very capable options. This is why we are taking a closer look at the Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM for its very rounded abilities.
This lens may be a few years old now, but it can be picked up for far less than the latest equivalents. Plus, it contains all the fancy features you would expect in a high-end 70-200mm, such as image stabilization. Therefore, let’s take this lens for a test drive and see what it’s capable of in the real world.
Firstly, the APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM is available for a range of camera mounts, with the Canon version being the one we will be checking out today. The lens is also compatible with crop sensor cameras providing a 112-320mm equivalent viewpoint, which stretches it into the long telephoto zone.
As expected from a high-quality 70-200mm zoom, it’s a heavyweight beast coming in at 1430g, with a good amount of glass contained within. The optical arrangement consists of 22 elements arranged in 17 groups, which includes two FLD and three SLD elements, along with a multi-layer coating to maintain overall image quality. A nine-blade rounded aperture has also been included for quality bokeh effects.
Externally, the Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM has a very robust lens barrel design, which isn’t officially weatherproofed but is solid enough for general use. As far as external features go, there is the usual AF/MF switch, with the focus ring providing full-time manual override.
There is also a switch for the image stabilization system, which can be set for either horizontal or vertical use. These two modes are generally selected for either general stabilization or panning shots. The system offers four stops of compensation at the widest angles and 2-2.5 stops at the most telephoto end. Also included is a de facto standard distance scale, marking the distances in both feet and meters.
The zoom ring takes up most of the lens barrel real estate, being large and grippy and very easy to turn. The focusing ring is quite slim, with stops at either end of the range. This makes the lens feel like autofocus was the main priority in its overall design.
On the whole, the APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM feels like a very professional level lens, which comes with its own removable tripod collar and petal-shaped lens hood.
The Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM In Use
As we expected from a zoom lens of this type and age, the Sigma APO 70-200mm provides its sharpest results at the widest angle. Images start to become a touch less sharp at 200mm, but the results are still very respectable, even with the aperture wide open at f/2.8. Generally, the sharpest results across the frame come in from f/4, with the most definition across the zoom range at f/5.6. Diffraction starts to set in at f/16, with the results up to this point being very acceptable.
When the lens is set at 200mm and the aperture is at f/2.8, the very center of the frame is reasonably sharp, but the corners do trail behind wider focal lengths. If you want to play it safe throughout the focal range, then f/8 provides the most detail throughout the depth of field.
When it comes to general lens anomalies, there are very small amounts of chromatic aberration at 200mm with the aperture at f/5.6 or wider. As for light falloff in the corners or vignetting, the Sigma 70-200mm copes far better on crop sensor cameras, with minimal amounts being displayed. On full-frame sensor cameras, vignetting is slightly visible at f/2.8 but this effect is quickly reduced by f/5.6. Lens distortion is also kept well in check and can be easily corrected with a good lens profile in the likes of Lightroom.
Sigma’s very capable Hyper Sonic autofocus motor has been included, which is very fast to lock onto focus, only tripping up from time to time in low-light conditions. The system, in reality, is only a breath behind the version found on the latest model. Color and contrast rendition is also very good, with not too over-saturated colors.
How Does It Compare?
If you’ve already been shopping around for the best Sigma 70-200mm lenses, then you’ve most likely come across the latest Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports. This lens is a few hundred dollars more expensive than the APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM, but is definitely worth it for the extra outlay.
Due to the extra amount of glass contained within, the Sports version weighs in at a whopping 1.8kg, with an 82mm front filter thread and more than expected 11-blade rounded diaphragm. If you have the extra money, the f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports is definitely worth the additional spend for not just its latest features, but also for its superior optics, giving the same-brand versions and other third-party versions a good run for their money.
|Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM||Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports|
|Elements||22 elements/17 groups||24 elements/22 groups|
The Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM may not have the same ultimate quality of optics as the 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports, but it is forgiven since it’s an older lens. If you pick up a refurbished model, it can be an extremely cost-effective proposition. The lens is still highly adept in the high-quality 70-200mm stakes and still provides good value for money.
The lens provides a good degree of sharpness throughout the aperture range, with very good color and contrast rendition. The image stabilization system works very well and the lens is very quick to lock onto focus. It may not be able to compete with the latest and greatest models, but if you want a cost-effective 70-200mm with very good end results, the Sigma APO 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM still provides good quality where it counts.