There is seldom a day when I leave the house without my most trusted and beloved lens- the 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto! Throughout all of my years as a photographer, I have tried, tested, fell in love with, or hated, various versions of this iconic focal range.
This is why I was very excited to try this brand new release from Sigma. This lens intends to improve upon (if not reinvent) arguably the best telephoto lens there is!
The Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport is the newest addition to the Sport line. A big contender in the telephoto field, let’s see whether this is indeed the workhorse that will take the industry by storm.
What Is a Telephoto Lens
To start us off, a telephoto lens is a long lens that allows you to photograph distant subjects easily. This is due to how long their focal length is. A lens is considered a telephoto lens if it has a focal length of over 60mm.
Many people confuse telephoto lenses with zoom lenses. They are actually different things. A telephoto lens can be (but does not have to be) a zoom lens.
Telephotos come in a variety of focal lengths. The most popular is the 70-200mm.
This lens allows the photographer to sit far back and not disturb what is happening while taking photographs. A telephoto lens is useful for action photography in general.
Specifications & Features
Before we jump into the cool features, the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport is available only in Sigma, Canon, and Nikon. Sigma does offer a mount conversion service in case you want your lens to fit onto a different camera brand after you buy it! That’s pretty cool.
Sigma also prides itself on going the extra mile for compatibility. As a result, the Canon mount version is compatible with Canon’s internal chromatic aberration.
For action photographers, the significant benefit of the Sport line is its ability to survive some really wild conditions. Created with a workhorse mentality, the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport features a slew of unique and useful features.
This lens has a focus range limiter switch. In layman’s terms, this is a button that restricts the range of distance your lens can focus.
I use this feature myself when I photograph dog agility shows. It helps me make sure that the lens doesn’t focus on any obstacles near me but remains locked on a running dog that is far away.
I also use this for concert photography to make sure that microphones and other such obstacles aren’t an issue.
Another great feature is the image stabilization system. This incorporates Intelligent OS, the latest algorithm to deliver image stabilization. The mode can be adjusted by a switch on the side of the lens and has two modes to choose from.
This lens utilizes a rad HSM (Hyper Sonic AF Motor) for its focusing. HSM uses ultrasonic vibrations to drive the focusing group. This motor benefits an internal focusing system.
The HSM can be easily overridden for manual control via a finger switch on the lens.
An aspect of the lens that I think is really cool for those that shoot in difficult conditions such as a live concert is the Manual Override (MO) mode which can be triggered on the lens.
With MO, you can continue using autofocus as normal. Then you can make 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 also comes with a locking lens hood. This is great considering the number of times the hood on my other lenses goes flying off because it got bumped!
The lock is sturdy, but still very easy to use when I need to get the hood off in a flash. It also comes with a very nicely padded and durable case.
As I mentioned earlier, I have tried a lot of 70-200mm lenses. I mean, a lot. Every new one on the market. The 70-200 was actually the first lens I ever bought myself twelve years ago.
This Sport version of the lens caught me by surprise for sure.
Before we even get into the construction, right off the bat I can tell you that this lens is not the heaviest by far. I tend 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 a useable weight by far. Yes, the Canon equivalent is lighter. But the reason this lens is a smidgen heavier is worthwhile.
In regard to length, the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport is a customary 3.7 inches in diameter by 8.0 inches in length.
The physical build of this lens is fantastic. And it lends to its workhorse properties (weather sealing and shock absorbency). 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. I found it to be more shock resistant than many of my other lenses. The glass itself is made of a high-grade glass mixture, 24 Elements in 22 Groups.
I really liked the tactile feel of the focus and zoom rings, very comfortable to use.
The weather sealing is incredible. I took this lens out on a very cold and foggy morning, as such, the air was full of water droplets and wetness.
I felt very confident taking this lens out for a spin in whatever situation I found myself in. The weather sealing is a testament to a highly effective dust and splash proof structure. It has special sealing at the mount connection, manual focus ring, zoom ring, and cover connection.
As for the glass, the forefront and rear lenses incorporate water and oil-repellent coating. You can wipe away water easily and it prevents oil and fat from sticking to the surface, even in challenging shooting conditions.
At the same time, the maintenance of the lens surface becomes easier, as mentioned by Sigma. Working in tandem with weather sealing, and it sounds like little is impossible with this 70-200mm lens.
There’s only one downside I find with the construction. The customary tripod foot (that many 70-200mm lenses have) cannot be removed. This lens is also still technically heavier than the Canon or Nikon versions. I’d argue this is a fair trade for how shock resistant and durable it is.
But the lack of a removable foot doesn’t bother me, but can bother some photographers.
Ease of Use
Before getting into all of the technical garble of whether this lens is worth the investment or not, I think ease of use is just as important (if not more so in some regards).
Picking up this Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 was like holding an old friend. The design was very familiar and comfortable. This focal length is likely the most comfortable telephoto you will ever use.
All of the on-lens adjustments were within easy reach and quick finger access, even for small hands like mine! I was able to leap right into this lens’s use without a shadow of a doubt. I honestly forgot I wasn’t using my own 70-200mm lens multiple times.
If it wasn’t for this lens being a beautiful black color versus Canon’s off-white, it wouldn’t even occur to me that something was different.
As such, ease of use was a big, positive, thumbs up for this guy.
Focus & Sharpness
The Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM ticks off every wants and needs list you may have if you’re looking to capture action! The incredible patented HSM motor within the lens ensures that the autofocus doesn’t make loud and obnoxious noises, therefore keeping your subjects undistracted. This also allows you to get a bit closer for some really nice tight shots.
The autofocus itself is superb. The accuracy is down to the very incremental movements, or even just small subjects (such as 4 lb dogs leaping over jumps!). This allows me to capture agility trials with ease.
A big problem with many lenses is something called hunting- that’s when the lens is unable to find focus and keeps going in and out looking for it. Thankfully this lens doesn’t suffer much with this problem. Even when the location got darker, which tends to prompt hunting, the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM performed brilliantly.
However, with so many different versions of this focal length on the market, what would cause me to recommend the Sigma version? One key word: sharpness. This lens is sharp on both a technical level and that of its superb autofocus and quality glass.
Sharpness is technically an illusion, how sharp something looks is due to the contrast of your subject. Lots of contrast equal sharper looking image! This lens produces brilliantly contrasted images that appear very sharp.
Despite zoom lenses never being the same caliber of sharpness as fixed focal lengths, new technology makes sure that the difference is incremental at best. This lens looks sharp even when capturing wide open at f/2.8.
Center sharpness at 70mm is fantastic and great throughout its other focal lengths. Corner sharpness is excellent, but does drop a bit when going to 100mm and beyond at a larger aperture..
Depth of Field & Bokeh
F/2.8 is a fairly wide aperture, offering a beautifully creamy bokeh. Bokeh refers to the parts of an image that are blurred or out of focus! The bokeh looks quite natural with this lens because of the 11 diaphragm blades.
However, there is some vignetting and darkening of the corners in wide apertures. I have always liked this look as it pulls the eye to the center of the frame, but some may not be as kind to it- just something to keep in mind!
Image stabilization is a system that helps your lens account for unexpected hand movements or other shake. This lens features something called Intelligent OS, which is a brilliant stabilization system from Sigma. The intelligent OS works horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, whatever direction your lens is being held or used. Pretty cool,right?
Image stabilization can be turned on or off with the flick of a convenient switch on the side of the lens. You can also choose between two stabilization modes as well.
Chromatic Aberration & Flare Resistance
In luxury lenses, the glass tends to have a coating on it to aid with a variety of things. This ranges from reducing flare and ghosting to accounting for UV rays and weather sealing. This lens is no exception, the ART line from Sigma has great coating for the glass.
There are also 24 elements spread across 22 groups in the optical array of this lens, which includes nine FLD pieces of glass and a single SLD lens, all of which are used to help control chromatic aberration. As such, this lens has minimal to no chromatic aberration.
The Canon mount versions of this lens also benefit from compatibility with a full set of in-camera corrections for lens aberrations, acting very much like a native lens.
Chromatic aberration is that really annoying neon purple fringe. It can wrap around your subject in an image where the subject is heavily contrasted against the background.
This problem tends to plague lenses with wide apertures.
I loved playing with this lens. The price tag may seem hefty may seem hefty to some but it’s actually much more affordable than equivalent lenses of this high caliber.
If you shoot outside as much as I do, in conditions that are less than favorable (that just comes along for the outdoor adventure), you will get so much bang for your buck out of Sigma’s Sport line.