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
I have used this lens for portraits because it is a phenomenal portrait lens. But my real use for it is capturing dog sports! Strong and accurate autofocus is key for me. If that is subpar, the lens doesn’t stay along for the ride.
Lucky for me (and for the viewers reading this), the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM checks this box in a very big way. The HSM motor keeps the autofocus noise to a minimum or nonexistent. This allows me to get a wee bit closer to the dogs as they make their impressive jumps and leaps.
The actual autofocus was quite accurate. Even on small movement subjects like speedy chihuahuas, to bigger canines such as the excited collies, the lens allowed me to capture the agility competition with ease.
The focus was very smooth and I suffered very little hunting, even when the clouds took over and the location got quite dim.
No manic focusing movements either, like I’ve experienced with Tamron’s equivalent of this lens last year at a tradeshow.
In comparison to my Canon 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM III lens, this one performed just as well. I would definitely add it to my kit as another lens.
Another factor as to whether or not I can recommend a lens is its sharpness. Sharpness is due to several different things. The first is technical sharpness, in which the lens’s accurate autofocus and glass quality come into play.
The second is what I call the ‘theory of sharpness’. How sharp a subject appears is not just the focus the camera captures. It is also the amount of contrast on your subject.
With this lens, I was pretty impressed with the final image output however, very nice contrast! The term “sharpness” is, in fact, an illusion. For an image to be considered sharp, it needs to have contrast.
If there is little contrast in the image, the subject will not look three-dimensional regardless of whether the focus is perfect or not. Our vision naturally detects edges to register sharpness, and shadows and highlights in order to record the depth of a subject.
Zoom lenses will never be quite the same level of sharpness as fixed focal lengths. But this one still performs brilliantly despite this fact. Sharpness and contrast are great, even when shooting wide-open, throughout the entire zoom range.
Centre sharpness at 70mm is excellent and just fine at all other focal lengths. Corner sharpness is high at 70mm, but at 100mm and beyond, corner sharpness takes a significant downturn at larger apertures.
If you’re wanting to get the entire frame sharp, you’ll probably have to switch over to f/11 or so. That being said, this isn’t unusual for zoom lenses (it’s actually pretty expected).
Depth of Field & Bokeh
The f/2.8 wide aperture gives a nice subject separation and bokeh (the out of focus areas in an image). The depth of field is creamy and smooth, very pleasing to the eye. The 11 diaphragm blades help to keep bokeh looking natural.
There is some vignetting on the edges. Some people like this, others don’t. I enjoy the natural vignetting.
For those who find it a nuisance, keep in mind that it does occur with this lens.
The image stabilization system in this particular 70-200mm is superb. This lens incorporates Intelligent OS, which is the latest algorithm to deliver image stabilization.
The intelligent OS works horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, whatever direction your lens is being held or used.
The mode can be adjusted by a switch on the side of the lens and has two modes to choose from.
The optical stabilizer is effective up to four stops, fantastic for a telephoto lens. The panning stabilizer was equally impressive, allowing me to track my subjects with ease handheld!
I took this lens out for a swing at a local concert as well, the f/2.8 aperture paired with stabilization allowed me to expose my shots quite well.
Chromatic Aberration & Flare Resistance
The glass coating does a fine job decreasing flaring and ghosting, an annoying issue that plagues photographers when the light hits the lens at a bad angle.
When light hits the lens wrong, it can wash an image out. Flare and ghosting resistance helps maintain contrast.
The chromatic aberration control is quite good as well, with the optical array comprising of 24 elements spread across 22 groups. This includes nine FLD pieces of glass and a single SLD lens, all of which are used to help control chromatic aberration.
The Canon mount versions of this lens also benefit from compatibility with a full set of in-camera corrections for lens aberrations (a big yippee for me as a Canon user).
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.