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Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 APO DG Macro Interchangeable Lens Review

|  Sigma AF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG MACRO in Interchangeable Lenses
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This lens is one of two virtually identical offerings from Sigma in the extremely popular 70-300 category in which almost all manufacturers have at least one contender. Although still in the budget sector, this one, the APO version, is the better of the two offerings. We take a look at what you get for your money.

Sigma 70-300mm APOSpecifications

  • Focal length 70-300mm
  • Aperture f/4-5.6
  • Angle of view 34.3-8.2°
  • Filter size / type 58mm
  • Construction Elements/groups 14 elements in 10 groups
  • Focusing type Rotating & extending
  • Closest focus 1.5m (0.95m in Macro mode 1:2)
  • Weight 0.55kg
  • Dimensions (Dia x length) 76.6x122mm
  • Mounts available Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax
  • Tripod bush No
  • Price £199.99

Build and Handling
Physically identical to it’s cheaper, non APO sister lens with the first 12mm given over to accommodate the AF/MF switch situated on the left of the barrel, the next third is occupied by the zoom ring which is marked at 70, 100, 135, 200 and 300mm. Although not hard to move, you do know you are moving a fair amount of glass as the front element travels forward some 55mm through the range.

The next part of the barrel has a basic depth-of-field scale marked and, again on the left, carries the switch to enable ‘Macro’ photography. The final 25% of the barrel forms the focus ring, which, in manual focus, is nicely torqued. Once switched to Autofocus, it cannot be over-ridden and becomes stiff for that reason. In normal mode, focussing can extend the lens a further 17mm. There is a red ring around the lens to denote the APO version, which is needed if you have the two lenses side by side!

One of the features of this lens is the ‘Macro’ mode, which allows photography to a ratio of 1:2. Not true Macro, but a useful feature just the same. It works between the focal lengths of 200-300mm and is engaged by sliding the switch once the lens is extended past 200mm. This allows the focus ring to travel further, and the lens to extend another 14mm, in order to focus closer. This brings the total extension, at 300mm and at the closest focus, to some 86mm. At this length, more than half of the lens is rotating during focussing, which can be awkward to hold still. The AF performance is adequate for a lens in this price bracket. Not fast, but quick enough for most purposes and although the motor makes a noise, it is not so noisy as to scare off the target.

Optical Quality
This is where this APO lens differs from its sister, utilising two extra SLD (special low dispersion) glass elements in the front group, making three in total. SLD glass is denser, accounting for the slight increase in weight over the lesser lens.
As is normal with this type of zoom lens, performance is better at the shorter focal length, tailing off a bit as the zoom is extended. However, unlike some, the drop off is not too marked and in its class, this lens performed well throughout the range.

The extended focus, providing the 1:2 macro facility, is especially useful and performed well giving good definition at close quarters. The new multi-coating, which gives the lens it’s DG (optimised for digital) classification, helps a design that is good to start with, that extra bit of help in controlling artefacts. CA is well controlled and distortion reasonably well managed, although there is a slight pincushion effect at the 300mm end. (Easily cured in software on digital images)
The extra SLD elements do indeed help to improve the resolution.

Above and below: Shot at focal lengths of 190mm and 70mm from the same spot. Both at f/8 in aperture priority on a Canon 300D.

Used in Macro mode, this lens shines as this shot of a Southern Hawker Dragonfly in flight shows. Taken on a Canon 1D with the lens set to manual focus. 1/800sec at f/8 and ISO500

These views of the local Lifeboat along with a relief boat show the versatility of this type of zoom lens.


Due to the compact size and weight of the lens, it is one that you are likely to have with you when you come across something unusual. Wild hops are not common, even in Kent. 1/1600 at f/8, ISO400 and 300mm in Macro (close focus) mode. Canon 300D

Despite not being the fastest of lenses, it is still usable in low light conditions. This five bar gate at the end of a country lane was taken at 1/80sec at f/8 and 70mm. ISO400. Canon 1D.

Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions

70-300mm set at 70mm and f/8

70-300mm set at 300mm and f/8

70-300mm set at 70mm and f/4

70-300mm set at 300mm and f/5.6

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

Prior to the DG upgrade, this lens already had an enormous reputation for its picture quality compared to its price. The upgrade has only enhanced this. The usefulness of the lens is greatly added to with its ability to focus down to less than a metre and anyone wishing to photograph large insects such as butterflies or dragonflies will find it one of the most useful lenses for this discipline, being light enough to carry on a neck strap all day with the focal length allowing the luxury of not needing to get too close. Many of these types of insect are too large for 1:1 photography in any case!

In summary the main positive points of the Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 APO DG Macro are:
Excellent optical performance for price.
Good close focus ability (1:2)
Light enough to carry all day.

Negative points are:
Long extension when close focussed and zoomed.
Front element and extension rotates during focussing

Check the latest price of the Sigma 70-300mm F/4-5.6 APO DG Macro here

Test by Ian Andrews

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I bought this lens about 6 months ago to use with my Canon 450D and have been consistantly disappointed with the results. I find that for subjects more than about 20m away, it usually does not focus accurately. The photos are not crisp and sharp as they should be. I have frequently been ashamed of my photos that are not nearly as good as photos I have taken previously. People tell me I have camera shake, which I do not believe as I have never had a problem with camera shake before and even at 1/1000 sec or using a tripod, the problem is the same. The Sigma lens does not autofocus accurately especially for further subjects.

For closer subjects it is better but not consistantly good: I have taken a few excellent photos with this lens, but they all seem to be closer than about 15-20m. However even many of the closer subjects are not in crisp sharp focus. the few macro photos I have taken using manual focus have been very good.

I made a mistake buying this Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 APO DG Macro lens. Just to be sure, I borrowed a canon lens and had much better results - so I have now purchased a Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens which is excellent. The canon lens was three times the cost but definitely worth it. (does anybody want to buy my second hand Sigma lens????)
I'd agree with the review.

I've been using this lens in PKAF fit for almost a month, and have no complaints about it, either for photographing flowers or aircraft. At 189, I consider it very good value for money, especially as you get a very nice fitted padded case with it.

All told, if you need a telezoom that offers good performance and don't want to pay out huge amounts of money, take a look at the Sigma 70-300 f4-5.6 APO DG Macro.
I agree with Macca35 ^^

I got this lens on this July, mount on my Canon 1000D, and so far i like this do excellent job specially in outdoor shooting, bird, car,flower and some some bugs. Is good in performance and good on budget too.
I've used a DG version on my Pentax KM for some time,I have just ordered the APO version and expecting great things from it, especially on wild bird photography, of course with Pentax having the sense to build in anti shake,
I shouldn't have the probelm previous reviewers have had.
I have this lens for my sony alpha. I have also used the canon version. On the canon i was disappointed but with the sony this lens is great.

The sony alpha has Built in image stabilization which really makes a difference.

Photos in low light are a bit hard and slow to focus and are noisy
however macro photos are good in daylight/sunlight it takes good portraits and you get a good DOF at f/22

i like this lens the only thing i find a pain is the slow focus and the macro switch is a little fiddly some times.
I purchased this lens about a year ago, and use it as my main lens, i have to say that my first lens purchase was the Tameron 70-300 with macro. and compared to that lens the sigma is streets ahead. i shoot mostly hand held when out in the field. and the pictures are always sharp enough, but i do find that the auto focus is about 3mm out it tends to focus just before your intended point (fitted to a Canon eos 350D)

i would recomend this lens to anyone looking at a good entry level lens but there a just a couple of tiny little niggles.

1. With the supplied lens hood fitted it does suffer from realy bad zoom creap under its own waight. while walking around using the neck strap this can be bothersom.

2. the most annoying niggle is one i have recently found. it would appear that it has an issue even when manually focusing that you can NOT get a sharp shot (even using a tripod with remote shutter and using canons mirror lock up function) if you have a circular polarising filter attatched. this may be just down to the filter i have (Camlink).
I would very much like to hear from anyone else as to other brands of circular polarising that maybe do work with this lens.

as for its slow auto focus under normal conditions, i dont use it, i prefer to manually focus anyway. even for wildlife shots. but thats just me
I've had one of these lens for 2 years now. Started off fine but over the last year I noticed I was getting poorer images that were not clearly focused (even PS couldn't help!) - this was most noticeable at between 200-300mm. Even changing around with the meter settings on my 450d resulted in the same. Then 3 weeks ago I heard the fast clicking sound and the autofocus stopped working, change the focal length and it worked again.

This I find is a common problem with this lens, with the motor shredding all or some of the teeth on the AF Gear. Indeed there are several You Tube "fixes" available to those with patience and somewhere other than the kitchen table to work on.

This regretfully means for me, that the lens will either get returned to Sigma for a repair costing iro 86 with a 6 mth warranty, or replaced with the Tamron and get their equivalent lens for 130 with a 5 year warranty.
Peace of mind for 40 more?

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