Over the years, Sigma has put out some great lenses for Sony’s full frame system.
Today, we’ll be looking specifically at the Sigma 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro, a monster of a lens that promises 1:1 magnification and a short minimum focusing distance.
Quick note: we’re looking at a more recent version of the lens, not the original 2012 edition.
In a crowded macro market, how does this telephoto lens stack up against its competitors?
Let’s find out.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Incredibly sharp images
- Fantastic macro performance
- A heavy-duty build
- Fast autofocus
- A great mid-budget pick
Size & Weight
First up, let’s talk about size and weight. As is tradition with Sigma’s Art series lineup, the 105mm F2.8 is pretty darn large. While not as big as some of their older DSLR-based offerings, it’s still a chunky piece of glass.
The lens measures about 5.3in (13.4cm), looking quite large on my camera. By the way, adding the lens hood adds at least another inch. Like, this thing barely even fits in my camera insert.
As for weight, we’re looking at roughly 25.6oz (725g), being a bit heavier than most lenses its size.
Thankfully, all this extra weight (and size) comes in the form of great build quality.
Is the lens well-built?
To start, the lens barrel itself is a balanced mix of metals and plastic. The plastic isn’t cheap garbage, however, it’s a compound known as “TSC”.
Most Sigma lenses are made out of this “thermally stable composite” and I’ve never had any durability issues with my other Sigma lenses.
The circular-shaped lens hood is also made of plastic polycarbonate, but it certainly still feels heavy-duty.
It’s got a nice rough-touch texture to really add in the extra premium feel. To help with removal (it’s reversible, by the way), it has a ribbed texture.
I’ve seen this lens hood used on many Sigma lenses (including my amazing APS-C 30mm F1.4) and I’ve never had any issues with durability or sticking.
The included lens cap is a rather generic plastic clip-style cap that you’ll see on pretty much every camera. It does the job just fine.
On newer lenses, Sigma has also included a really nice metal magnetic cap, but that’s not the case with this one.
Finally, like most Art lenses, it includes a padded case.
This is always a nice thing to see, as it really exemplifies the premium feel of this lens (and, of course, keeps it safe from damage).
As for weather sealing, the Sigma 105mm F2.8 DG DN offers “a full weather-sealed dust and moisture resistant design”.
I’m frankly not entirely sure if this means it’s entirely weather sealed, but I haven’t had any issues in light rain or other slightly adverse conditions.
Maybe just don’t take it under any waterfalls with you.
Built to last?
As I’ve made abundantly clear, the build quality of this lens is nothing short of excellent.
I truly do believe, between the bulletproof construction and the weather sealing, that this lens is built to last.
It’s huge, heavy, and high quality, just as we’ve come to expect with Art series lenses.
As for ergonomics, this is a large and heavy lens. You can handhold it, but you’ll start to get tired and get hand fatigue (which can result in a shaky hand thus blurry shots).
For this reason, I’d highly suggest using a tripod.
If you do have to handhold it though, the gigantic focusing ring actually provides a really nice gripping point.
Additionally, the lens offers a physical AF/MF switch and focus hold button along with an aperture declick switch (more on that later!).
Finally, aesthetics. Beauty is subjective but I’m a fan of how this (and other Art lenses) look.
The design is fairly minimalist, with the white text engravings popping quite nicely against the sleek black barrel.
It’s kind of boring, to be frank, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At least it has the iconic Art-series “A”!
Next up, let’s talk about sharpness. If there’s one thing Sigma excels at every single time, it’s pure sharpness.
As you’d expect, the Sigma 105mm F2.8 is absurdly sharp, even wide open. Stopping down does little to improve it because, well, there’s really nothing to improve.
It should be noted that diffraction does set in pretty quickly on this lens. We start to see noticeable quality loss at F11 and at F16 corners start to look pretty muddy. This isn’t a big deal, however, as you’ll likely rarely push your aperture that high.
Overall sharpness was absolutely fabulous. I’m really not surprised, as it is an Art lens, but I certainly am pleased.
Now we get onto the juicy stuff: macro performance.
As I stated in the intro, the magnification is 1:1 and it’s paired with a great 11.6in (29.5cm) minimum focusing distance.
This is pretty much best in class (only comparable to Sony’s 90mm F2.8).
Focus Limiter Switch
Another fantastic feature is the focus limiter switch. Normally, autofocus will try to go through the whole range, thus resulting in a lot of hunting when close-focusing.
Moving the switch, however, allows you to select preset distances (11.6in-19.7in and 0.295m-0.5m being the closest) to where the focusing motor will “stop” hunting.
This allows you to easily switch the lens between macro mode and “everything else” focusing mode.
Macro/Bokeh Looks Great
Cool features aside, the macro photos that come out of the Sigma 105mm F2.8 just look fabulous.
Detail is incredible, contrast is strong, and images just look so good.
The bokeh is gorgeous. Really creamy and the transitions between in-and-out of focus elements look fantastic.
There’s also no bokeh warping (cats-eye effect) or nervousness to be seen.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
Now that I’ve sung it’s praises, let’s talk about any sort of optical quirks and flaws.
Every lens has to have SOMETHING optically wrong with it right? Well… that’s not really the case here.
To start, a slight vignette is a bit noticeable when shooting wide open.
However, it’s easily remedied by either stopping down or applying some very minor adjustments in post processing.
Distortion is incredibly minor as you’d expect from a telephoto perspective.
We see about 1% pincushion distortion which is barely noticeable and, even then, is easily fixed in post-processing.
As for chromatic aberrations, I found nothing. Literally, I’m pretty sure this lens is flawless in that regard.
Even in extreme cases (like branches against a sunny sky), there was genuinely zero fringing anywhere to be seen. Incredible.
Finally, flare resistance. Just like every other aspect of this lens, it’s about as good as you’d expect.
When shooting directly into the sun, I did see a VERY minor amount of ghosting, but it’s so minimal that I’m not even concerned (there wasn’t even loss of contrast).
You shouldn’t have any issues if you use the lens hood and don’t shoot directly into mid-day sun.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall optical performance was absolutely stellar. Sigma has long been known for their sharpness but even this is just… really a step above.
The Sigma 105mm F2.8 shows virtually no optical flaws, macro shots look amazing and the bokeh is beautiful.
Next up, we’ll be focusing on focus. A lot of macro lenses that I’ve tried (like Sigma’s 70mm) have had iffy autofocus performance.
The 105mm, thankfully, performs pretty well. Like I mentioned earlier, the lens does offer a focus limiter which drastically cuts down on any sort of hunting issues.
Outside of macro usage, I found the autofocus to be pretty accurate, playing quite well with EyeAF and AF-C (tracking).
Video AF, on the other hand, fell a bit short.
There’s very heavy focus breathing and the focusing motor, while mostly quiet, does make a little bit of a grinding/buzzing noise.
For this reason, I’d be hesitant to suggest using this lens for video. However, it’s a macro lens, so you probably weren’t intending to do that anyway.
Lastly: manual focus. The lens uses a focus-by-wire system so anytime you spin the focusing ring it actually just sends a command to the in-lens motor to refocus.
This is common in modern lenses and for this reason, manual focus doesn’t feel as great as it does on dedicated manual glass.
I would like to note that even though Sony’s option features hard stops and distance markings, the Sigma still felt quite good to use.
Focus assists such as peaking and magnifier worked great, and I never felt like I was being truly held back by the manual focusing on this lens.
Finally, there’s just a few random features and notes I want to go over.
First up, there’s no built-in lens stabilization.
The Sony lens does feature stabilization, but I honestly don’t that it’s as big of a deal these days.
Most newer bodies have IBIS anyways, so the days of needing in-lens stabilization are slowly fading.
One feature I alluded to earlier was the manual aperture ring. I’m an absolute sucker for aperture rings so this was great to see.
It works quite well, and there’s even a switch for clicking and declicking the aperture! This is an awesome feature to see, especially on a lens that would be considered “mid-budget”.
Unlike some lenses, though, this completely negates the ability to change aperture in-camera. I always shoot manual (and prefer physical rings) but some photographers may be turned away from that.
Great for Everything
Finally, I just want to point out the fact that this lens isn’t just great for macro, it can work for everything.
The fast autofocus and the amazing edge-to-edge sharpness make it a formidable portrait lens (EyeAF works so well!).
Then for those who like doing telephoto landscapes, you really won’t find many better options.
My Final Thoughts
Now that I’ve absolutely sung the praise of this amazing lens, I’d like to offer just a couple alternatives for your consideration.
Sony FE 90mm F2.8
The lens’s biggest competitor would be the much more expensive Sony FE 90mm F2.8.
I’ve already mentioned a few times the strength the Sony holds. It offers better manual focus and stabilization, although for a steeper price.
Voigtlander 65mm F2.0
Speaking of manual focus, if you’re looking to get the absolute best focusing experience possible, why not consider a fully manual lens?
The Voigtlander 65mm F2.0 is an incredible macro lens that features zero electronics. The build quality is literally unmatched, it’s razor sharp, and the manual focus experience is pure gold.
It is, however, very expensive in comparison. It’s like attaching a Bugatti to your camera.
So yeah, if I hadn’t made it abundantly clear yet, I absolutely love this Sigma lens.
If you’re looking for a well-built lens that excels at macro but can also work for other subjects, then the Sigma 105mm F2.8 is the way to go.
Razor sharp images, good autofocus, a nice build and a low price make it an attractive mid-budget pick.
If you’re interested in learning more, I’ll drop a purchase link below. Thanks for reading!
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