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Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens Review

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the 180mm f/2.8 telephoto macro lens from Sigma with optical image stabilisation.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM
Price : £1,300
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Sigma 180mm F2 (11)

This telephoto macro lens from Sigma is the first 180mm macro lens capable of life size magnification with a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture. This lens also sports optical image stabilisation and silent HSM focusing, with full time manual override.
Sigma 180mm F28 Hsm Dg Ex Os

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM Handling and features

This lens certainly isn't a lightweight optic, due to the fast f/2.8 maximum aperture and optical stabilisation system. With a weight of over 1.6kg, it will balance better for hand-held shooting on larger camera bodies and using the vertical battery grip with the Nikon D700 body used for testing certainly helps. A removable tripod collar is provided for attaching a support.

Sigma 180mm F2 (12)

Sigma's HSM focusing motor provides extremely fast, silent and accurate autofocus at distances over a metre and a half from the sensor plane. The lens rarely hunts for a lock, even in reasonably low light conditions. Even at closer distances, focus speeds are decent and a three stage focus limiter is provided to minimise the chances of the lens hunting through the entire focus range. Focusing is performed internally, so the 86mm filter ring does not rotate, which makes this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters, if you can find one large enough to fit.

The optical stabilisation system fitted to this lens promises sharp hand held photos at shutter speeds up to four stops slower than would normally be possible. The optical stabilisation system provides a very steady viewfinder image and with care, sharp shots are possible at 1/25sec around half the time, which is three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb would allow.

Sigma 180mm F2 (15)

 

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM Performance

As far as sharpness is concerned, this lens really delivers. Sharpness is already excellent acros the frame at maximum aperture and reaches outstanding levels across the frame when stopped down to f/5.6.

 

Resolution at 180mm
Resolution at 180mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D700 using Imatest.


Chromatic aberrations exceed 0.75 pixel widths towards the edges of the frame when stopped down beyond f/11. Although this level is still low, it may become visible in large prints or harsh crops from the edges of the frame that contain high contrast edges.

 

Chromatic aberration at 180mm
Chromatic aberration at 180mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc. to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Nikon D700 using Imatest.


Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is fairly typical for a telephoto lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. The corners are 1.8 stops darker than the centre of the image at maximum aperture and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.

Distortion is very well controlled, with Imatest only detecting 0.183% pincushion distortion. This low level of distortion should be virtually imperceptible.

No issues out of the ordinary were had regarding flare and loss of contrast when shooting into the light. A deep hood is supplied with the lens, along with an extender for times when the lens may be used on an APS-C format camera.

Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Sample Photos

 

Value for Money

The Sigma 180mm f/2.8 macro lens costs around £1300 and offers optical stabilisation, silent autofocus with full time manual override and life size magnification at its closest focus distance.

If you can live with a slightly shorter focal length then Sigma also offer two 150mm macro lenses with a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture. One version also sports optical stabilisation and is considerably cheaper at around £690. A version without stabilisation is also available for around £600.

Canon's 180mm macro lens costs around £1140 and also offers life size magnification and silent focusing with full time manual override. The maximum aperture is a little slower at f/3.5.

Nikon don't do a 180mm macro lens. Their closest alternative is the venerable 200mm f/4 macro lens, which costs around £995. This lens is one of Nikon's older lens designs, so it lacks a silent focusing motor and optical stabilisation. The maximum aperture is a full stop slower than the Sigma lens also.

Tamron's 180mm macro offers the same maximum aperture as the Canon lens, but lacks a silent focusing motor, although it only costs around £635.

Finally, if you require a macro lens with a focal length greater than 100mm for use with Sony A-mount cameras, then the options listed above from Sigma and Tamron are your only choices.
 

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM Verdict

Although the price may seem on the high side for a lens from a third party manufacturer when compared to the prices of lenses from Canon and Nikon. If the excellent optical quality and features such as the fast f/2.8 maximum aperture, optical stabilisation and fast, silent autofocus are taken into account, then this lens looks like it may be worth the premium.

Those serious about macro photography, using a telephoto focal length to increase the working distance will love this lens. It's sharp, well built and very well featured.
 

 
  The Sigma 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM lens combines superb sharpness, good build quality and fast focusing.

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM Pros

Superb sharpness, even at maximum aperture
Effective optical stabilisation
Good build quality
Fast focusing, especially for a macro lens
Hood extender supplied for use on APS-C cameras

 

Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO EX DG OS HSM Cons

CA towards the edges of the frame may become an issue for some applications
Price may be a little higher than many might expect for a lens from a third party manufacturer

 

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  


Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Specifications

ManufacturerSigma
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sigma SA
Lens
Focal Length180mm
Angle of View13.7
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size86mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus47cm
StabilisedYes
Construction
Blades9
Elements19
Groups14
Box Contents
Box ContentsCase, Bayonet type Hood (LH927-01), Hood Adapter (HA927-01), tripod socket (TS-21) supplied.
Dimensions
WeightNo Data
Height203.9mm

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Comments


15 Dec 2012 7:06AM
Do not want to appear negative but when testing handheld shutter speeds it can help to specify the magnifications used.
Focusing close increases image magnifications in much the same way as using a longer focal length lens. Increasing lens focal length requires a faster safe handheld shutter speed. So does focusing particularly close.
Nikon in the instructions for the 105 mm macro VR suggest focusing closer than about an 8 foot wide subject requires a shutter speed one speed faster than normal. The eight foot wide suggested will vary from photography to photographer
By one to one magnification several shutter speeds faster than handholding at infinity are required. This is why sharp handheld one-to-one magnifications pictures are very difficult to obtain.
If this lens was tested for camera shake improvement with a subject about 6 feet wide, a three speed improvement reported plus 1 speed used for extra magnification matches the suggested Sigma four speed improvement; which is likely to be based on focusing nearer an infinity subject distance.

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theorderingone 10 2.4k United Kingdom
18 Dec 2012 2:31PM
Of course Len. All lenses with stabilisation are tested in the same way, focusing on a target approx 2metres away.

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