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Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM Interchangeable Lens Review

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM review.

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Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSMThis is possibly the most desired additional lens type for any SLR owner, reaching out from the top end of the ‘standard’ range to medium telephoto and one that is almost universally offered by all the manufacturers. At a wide-open aperture of f/2.8, this offering from Sigma is competing with the big boys!


  • Focal length 70-200mm
  • Angle of view 34.3-12.3degrees
  • Max Aperture f/2.8
  • Filter size 77mm
  • Construction 17 elements in 14 groups
  • Focus type Internal HSM
  • Closest focus 1.8m
  • Size 86.2x184mm
  • Weight 1.27kg
  • Mount Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax,
  • Tripod Bush Yes, supplied

Build and Handling
As you unpack this lens you find it is supplied in a well padded case and with it comes a dedicated lens hood and the usual lens and mount cap. Being an EX designated lens, you will find the two year extended warranty card from Sigma-Imaging UK, giving a total of three years warranty. There is also a multi-language leaflet explaining the lens’s functions.

The weight and feel of the lens is pleasing as it is slightly lighter than it’s predecessor and sports the matt textured EX finish. Already mounted on the lens is the removable tripod collar with a good-sized released knob. This is Sigma’s quick release type with the hinge and pull knob that can be removed without dismounting the lens from the camera. The collar has two white lines marked on it to indicate horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait) orientations. It is easier by far to turn the lens and camera combination in this collar than to contort the tripod head off centre to achieve a portrait style shot. The collar is well placed at the balance point with a camera fitted.

The lens has Sigma’s HSM (HyperSonic Motor) focussing system that is not only relatively quiet in operation but allows manual over-ride without turning the autofocus off. The internal mechanisms of the focus and the zoom systems on this lens means that it stays at a constant length at all settings. Polarising filters are easy to use, as the front element does not rotate during operation.

The zoom ring has a grippy surface and is smooth in operation without being too stiff. Markings indicating the focal length occur at 70, 85, 100, 135 and 200mm.
The focus ring is nearly twice as wide and is situated in front of the zoom ring and distance window. It has a similar grip surface in a slightly smaller pattern, a tactile difference that further helps differentiate the two. This seems a little loose at first until you realise that it is clutched to facilitate the autofocus and stiffens up as soon as it is used to manually focus. Focussing was quick, with little hunting in all of the versions we tried.

The distance window, situated between the two adjustment rings, gave a good indication of the focus distance and was also marked with a standard depth of field scale for the wide end at f/11, f/16 and f/22. Marks for f/22 at the tele end are also given.

On all but the Nikon mount version, a switch of the push-pull variety for the auto/manual focus change is situated on the left side of the lens near he mount to the camera.

Optical performance
Lenses with large apertures attract large prices because they have to be well designed and made to produce satisfactory results when used wide open. And in this respect, this lens was surprisingly pleasing. As with any lens, stopping down slightly improves the performance and this was also the case.

At the 70mm end the lens performed best at around the f/8 mark before starting on the downward slope towards reciprocity, whereas at 135mm and above it continued to improve to between f/11 and f/16 before peaking.

The lens performed slightly better at the 70mm end of the zoom range than at the 200mm end, but was still sharp enough at the long end for all practical purposes.

Chromatic aberration is very well controlled throughout the entire zoom range and the worst case I could find was near the edge of the frame at f/22 with the lens fully extended and that was still well below the threshold where it would become apparent to the naked eye.

I would rate the colour rendition and contrast of this lens as good, with the colour being neutral rather than cold or warm. Contrast was maintained throughout the range, even wide open.

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM

Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM
70-200mm at 70mm and f/8
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM
70-200mm at 200mm and f/8
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM
70-200mm at 70mm and f/2.8
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM
70-200mm at 200mm and f/2.8

Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM

Optional Converter
This is another of the lenses that Sigma state is matched to their dedicated tele-converters, the 1.4x EX and the 2x EX.

With the lens fitted to the 1.4x EX the lens becomes a 98-280mm f/4 fully autofocusing zoom and with the 2x EX converter it transforms to a 140-400mm f/5.6 autofocus, both of which are still relatively small in size and retain the non-extending/rotating advantages of the mother lens. The autofocus speed is virtually unaffected with the 1.4 EX fitted, although it slows and hunts a little more with the 2x EX in the light path.

DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM.

A pleasing improvement over it’s predecessor which is well built despite the weight saving. It feels right. The petal hood is also an improvement that is a better fit, especially when reversed. The addition of HSM makes a considerable improvement to the autofocus speed.
The weight and size made this a comfortable lens to keep on the camera all day when appropriate. The only drawback over some of the marque lenses is the lack of a stabilisation system, but this is accounted for in the price, which is excellent.

In summary the main positive points of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM are:
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSMOptical quality
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSMWeight and balance
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSMPerformance with converters
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSMTripod mount.
Value for money

Negative points are:
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSMCompeting against stabilised lenses/ no stabilisation
Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSMAutofocus slightly slower than marque lenses.

Check the latest price of the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM here

Test by Ian Andrews

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conrad 15 10.9k 116
I've owned this lens for a little over a month now, and so far I'm very happy with it. With a constant aperture of 2.8 it's as fast in that respect as I was looking for. The focusing may indeed not be as fast as marque competitors, but it's fast enough to track birds in flight, I found, and that's fast enough for me. And the HSM makes it virtually silent, which is very nice, too. Optically speaking I'm very happy with the results, even at 2.8 I really can't complain (although I have to admit that my primes are better at 2.8, but the difference is not so great that it would have to be noted as a serious disadvantage). When I compare it to what I had, it's a bit of a beast - heavier than most other lenses I own, and the biggest I've ever tried to fit in my Lowepro Slingshot 200 bag. (Fitting it in when on the camera, a 20D, requires removing all filters, etc., otherwise I just can't get it in.) But apart from that, it's great, and I can heartily recommend it.

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Hi Conrad,
I am thinking to buy this lens but I am not 100% concerned that it's what I am looking for. Some years ago I started with car racing photography and I like it. Last September I went to the Spa Six-hours with my equipment: the Olympus E500, Zuiko 14-45 F/3.5-5.6 and Zuiko 40-150 F/3.5-5.4 and I've found out that I needed a lens with a better F number. I've also been to LeMans Classic and I noticed with sunny weather the AF is fast enough while using C-AF but when it starts to gets darker (or cloudy) I usually get out focused photos or the C-AF is far too slow. At both events I have had full press access to the track, so no annoying fences, poles and other things which could disturb the AF.
At Spa, I have been invited to work for a racing team as photographer, so I can't show up with my tiny and easy zoomlens at the big circuits. So I found this one, which comes out all the reviews as a fast AF lens with a good intensity of light. However in some reviews I read that it has a serious front focus problem. Is that true, did you notice that too?
Hmm, that's quite a long comment. I would have send this to you by PM but as I am new here I have to wait for a month before I am able to use PM's.
Robin Middelburg

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