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The Complete Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 EX APO DS HSM OS Field Review

by Chris Gampat on 11/27/2010

And so it ends, the Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 EX OS for Canon EF mount is ready to be shipped back after the loan period. After exhaustive tests and trials on both the Canon 5D Mk II and 7D, we’ve come to a couple of conclusions about this lens that place it far ahead of anything we’ve seen before from Sigma.

Complete Testing

Stabilization Test- A very, very informal test when shooting out my window one night.

Day 1- First impressions and technical specs of the lens

Day 2- Photographing a squirrel

Vs the Canon 80-200mm F/2.8 L Magic Drainpipe- The Canon version is a 20+ year old lens, and many people couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

Vs the Magic Drainpipe again- This time we added a flash and tried different apertures after we received complaints about the initial test.

Day 3- Sharpness tests. We found significant softness at 135mm

Day 4- Video test at the Top of the Rock in NYC and shooting ice skaters

Day 5- The lens performed well when shooting an engagement session on the boardwalk of Long Beach, NY.

Ergonomics

The Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 EX OS has a very good feel to it. I much enjoyed the newer, smoother texture to the lens vs the older fine sandpaper feel I’ve experienced. The newer texture feels much like that of the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II ISlens. Perhaps Sigma did this purposely.

In practice, I found the zoom ring to be great but found the focusing ring to be too thin for my liking whenever I needed to manually touch up the focusing. The switches also seemed a bit of a pain to get to at times and removing your eye from the viewfinder to do this is very recommended.

Other photographers that know me know that I’m a guy that values speed and mobility over anything else. Because of this, the tripod collar stayed off of the lens for most of my testing. Though the collar was designed very well, it just made the lens lots more bulky.

The hood proved itself to be extremely solid. At times when it bumped into something or someone, it felt like it would crack. In my month of testing the lens, it hasn’t done so.

The lens seems and feels lighter than my Canon 80-200mm F/2.8 L. In practice, this meant that when switching out lenses I was able to change lenses faster than with my own 80-200mm. Though this can be said to be negligible, if you’re shooting out on the sands of a beach (as I did) or you’re paranoid about your 5D MK II‘s sensor getting dirty then this is a big deal.

Autofocusing

Sigma must be commended on a job well done in this department. The new HSM system is significantly faster than the previous versions of this lens. For most shooters, this will be more than good enough at the price point that the Sigma 70-200mm F/2.8 EX OS is at.

With the Canon 7D, it also tracks moving targets very well.

Image Quality

The images that come out of this lens are very life-like and true in color. Personally, I’ve felt the Canon and Nikon versions of this lens to render colors to be warmer. For sure, the bokeh (out of focus areas) are much better looking and creamier with the Canon and Nikon versions. Once again though, this quality will be attractive to photographers that cannot afford the more expensive Canon and Nikon versions of the lens.

If you’re shooting in studio or need life-like skin tones, then get this lens.

Durability

As stated in the ergonomics section, this lens was bumped about quite a bit. It survived and kept on shooting though. I never dropped it, so a true test could not be conducted.

Sharpness

Despite the fact that we had problems with the lens at 135mm, it was very good throughout most of the range. Most of the images are more than usable and as we saw in our blind test, most people couldn’t tell the difference between an ancient Canon legend and a brand new Sigma lens.

That said though, the lens should be praised for it’s micro contrast in the image quality.

Who is it for?

If you’ve got the money for the Canon version, go buy the Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS II. This lens is for those that cannot afford it and still consider the older version of 70-200mm. This is a great alternative and it is worth looking at for this crowd.

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