Sigma Macro 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Review: Third Party Excellence

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The Sigma Macro 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM has a lot going for it. It isn’t just the first Sigma macro lens to feature Optical Stabilization but also works great as a portrait lens as well as having 1:1 macro abilities. It’s also not the most expensive in the Sigma line up, which means this could be a great all-rounder in the right hands.

Design

Owning a lens that works as a traditional prime and a Macro expands its potential usage, as well as creativity. Reproducing a subject almost life-size on the sensor expands the possibilities of shooting so many things on a small level. If you never tried it before, it opens up a new world of possibilities. But firstly, let’s look at the lens’ statistics.

The lens is very solidly made with a very simple layout. You get the usual distance scale, along with three switches to control focus limiting, auto to manual focus and switching optical stabilization on and off. There is no weather sealing so take care in moist environments.

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The lens is made up of 16 elements in 11 groups, A Special Low Dispersion (SLD) lens and a high refractive index SLD lens. A Super Multi-Layer Coating provides a reduction in ghosting and flaring and features internally a nine-blade rounded diaphragm for nice highlights. The aperture range goes from f/2.8-f/22, with a minimum focusing distance of 31.2cm / 12.3in. The filter sizes 62 mm and can fit a bayonet type lens hood, which is supplied with the lens. The whole thing weighs in at the 726g. The substantial, front focus ring works smoothly with just the right amount of feedback. This helps with manual focusing when in macro mode.

The Sigma’s 105mm/168mm on a crop sensor focal length is in the middle of the spectrum, acting like a short telephoto lens, along with the macro capabilities. As mentioned earlier, this is the first macro lens to feature Optical Stabilization system which is rated at 4 stops, which is, in reality, half if you are using it in the macro mode. One thing that is noteworthy is to always have OS switched off when taking the lens on and off the camera. It’s also advisable to turn off the OS when mounted on a tripod.

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The autofocusing using Sigma’s HSM (Hypersonic Motor) is fast and quiet and when supplied with good light, but does start to hunt for focus when there are really low levels of light. To be fair, the lens is not better or worse than comparable lenses in low light and works reasonably well with the OS turned on. The focus limiter switch on the side of the lens helps the autofocus system stay within a focusing range, which ultimately gives you more accurate autofocusing and speed.

Image Quality

Opening up a lens to its widest aperture is usually the acid test of sharpness. The Sigma Macro 105mm does very well with center sharpness at f/2.8 with only very small amounts of corner softness. Everything is cleared up by f/4, with ultimate sharpness hit at f/5.6. Vignetting is present using narrow apertures, but just like with sharpening, stopping down a little reduces the effect, with things barely noticeable at f/5.6.

Chromatic Aberration is handled very well with this lens only showing very small amounts in the corners on a full frame sensor. Distortion is relatively non-existent, but the lens can be susceptible to some flare, especially if you have the sun right in the corner of the frame.

Bokeh is nice, smooth and pleasing, especially in macro mode where you can get a very shallow depth of field. The lens handles different colored backgrounds very well, creating a nice transition between colors. Arguably, the background blur is more pleasing in macro mode than when used as a regular lens. Some may like a prime lens such as this to go wider than f/2.8, but it seems the rest of the range going from 50mm to 180mm in this series has the same aperture which is fitting for its price point.

Both regular and macro mode images come out very sharp with pleasing colors. It’s really a testament to third-party lenses these days, how much they have come along and at this price point, the Sigma Macro 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM does extremely well in both regular and macro mode.

How Does It Compare?

This will depend on the camera body you intend to use. As we are working with a Canon body, around the same focal length and a macro lens is the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro which has a slightly higher price tag than the Sigma. Image quality is comparable with both lenses, especially stopped down to f/4. The Canon has arguably the better image stabilization and AF system, is also weather sealed and possibly the better all-around package. If image quality and price are your primary factors, then the Sigma is a good choice.

Conclusion

The image stabilization system on this lens may jump around at times, but it’s really the only downside. Images look very sharp even when wide open and stopped down are sharp across the frame. Having built-in macro facilities truly extends the range of this lens. If you’re happy with a third party lens and it is fully compatible with your camera body, then the Sigma Macro 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM could be a good choice for both regular and macro work.

Pros
Macro
Sharp
Great bokeh

Cons
IS system
No weather sealing
High switches

Deals – Amazon $361
B+H – $519

Review Breakdown
Design 90%
Performance 80%
Lens 90%
Optics 90%
Price 90%

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