The Sigma Art lineup is legendary. Over the years, Sigma has consistently put out excellent glass that even rivaled OEM alternatives.
Today, we’ll be looking at the Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro, a very well-loved 1:1 Magnification macro lens.
So, how does it stack up to the competition? Let’s find out.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Ridiculously sharp
- Great flare/vignette/CA control
- Excellent build quality
- Poor autofocus speed
- Good alternative to Sony's 90mm
Size & Weight
First up, let’s talk about size and weight. A lot of the Art series lenses were originally made for DSLR, so Sigma just added a built-in adapter to make them mirrorless-friendly.
For this reason, Art series lenses (including this one) are huge. The 70mm F2.8 weighs a chunky 30oz (850g), thanks in part to its excellent build quality (more on that in a second).
An interesting thing to note is that the lens is actually external focusing. It measures about 4in (10cm) when retracted, but will push out to roughly 5.2in (13.2cm) when fully extended.
So, while perhaps not as huge as the 14mm F1.8 Art, this lens is still quite large. It seems that Sigma once again went for a “quality over size” approach.
Is the lens well built?
As I alluded to earlier, the build quality is nothing short of excellent.
The lens barrel itself is a nice mix of metals and plastic compounds. The plastic isn’t cheap though, being a compound known as “thermally stable composite”. Most Sigma lenses are made out of this material, and I’ve never had any durability issues on my old Sigmas.
The rounded lens hood is also made out of this same plastic material, feeling rather lightweight but still strong enough. Also included is a nice padded lens case to keep this HUGE lens safe while traveling. It’s little things like this that really seal in the premium touch.
As for weather-sealing, the lens isn’t fully secure but it does offer “dust and moisture protection”, which is a better offering than a lot of the Art series lenses.
Overall, the Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro certainly feels built to last. It’s heavy, huge and high-quality like we’ve comes to expect with Art lenses.
As for ergonomics, this lens is rather large, but it’s comfortable enough to use. The large focusing ring provides a nice gripping point, and I found it easy to carry around for a while.
Being a macro lens, of course, means that you may want to think about using a tripod. There’s no image stabilization built into the lens, which is unfortunate, but most Sony shooters have IBIS anyways.
Still, IBIS isn’t flawless on it’s own, so I would have loved to see image stabilization built-in.
As for aesthetics, the lens looks like… any normal lens. It rocks a few different shades of gray (not quite 50), and the plain white text contrasts quite well with the sleek gray barrel.
The extending barrel, if I’m honest, does make it feel a little “cheaper”. It sort of gives me low-budget zoom lens vibes, but that’s just my opinion.
Next up, let’s talk about sharpness. My sharpness tests don’t tend to get super scientific, so I’ll just jump right into it.
Even wide open at F2.8, this lens is stupidly sharp. Genuinely one of the sharpest lenses I’ve seen, especially at this price point.
Not really much more to say than that. In the macro field, the sharpness of this lens is only matched by much more expensive Sony 90mm F2.8.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
Generally, all lenses I review tend to suffer from some sort of major optical quirk or flaw. This one though, not as much.
Distortion is pretty much non-existent, which is great to see for a macro lens.
Not much more to say there.
Vignette, on the other hand, is minor but still noticeable.
When shooting wide open, you’ll see a very slight drop in exposure around the corners, but stopping down to F4 completely remedies it.
Regardless, it’s nothing you can’t easily fix with a single click in post-processing.
Chromatic aberrations are literally flawless.
Even in extreme cases (such as shooting branches against a sunny sky), I didn’t see anything at all.
Finally, flare resistance is pretty spectacular.
Even when shooting into direct sunlight, the lens held contrast and I noticed only minimal ghosting.
Bokeh is somewhat subjective, but I thought the 70mm F2.8 looked great. The bokeh is circular with very little warping near the edges of the frame.
Backgrounds are, predictably, creamy. Subject isolation is fantastic, even when using the lens for non-macro purposes.
While not quite comparable to a dedicated F1.4/F1.8 lens, this could be used for portraiture as well.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall, I’m incredibly impressed with the optical performance.
Sharpness is great, optical flaws are minimal, and bokeh is gorgeous.
The Sigma 70mm F2.8 performs even better than some lenses that are twice its price.
So it’s sharp as a tack, but how are the macro capabilities? Quite strong.
As mentioned prior, the lens offers 1:1 magnification.
What’s really interesting is that the extending portion of the lens barrel actually includes a magnification scale, so you can see roughly what sort of magnification you’re at.
Minimum focusing distance is about 10in (26cm). Overall, the lens delivers great macro performance thanks to its spectacular image quality. However, it does fall short in one major way: autofocus.
Focus Limiter Switch
Autofocus is where this lens falls a bit short. While not terrible, it does take over a second to rack focus from minimum to infinity.
Luckily, Sigma has included a “focus limiter” switch on the lens barrel, which changes how far out the lens will attempt to focus to.
This means that you can set it to close focus only when doing macro work, so that way the lens won’t try to go all the way out to infinity.
As stated, autofocus is painfully slow for a such a modern lens.
That being said, macro photography is generally a “slower” paced genre, but it’s worth noting for photographers who may consider this lens for other non-macro purposes.
So, autofocus is slow, but how’s the manual focus experience?
The lens, like many on E-Mount, uses a focus-by-wire system. It feels a little sluggish, but Sigma has tuned it to allow for very precise focusing.
This is great for acquiring flawless focus, but unfortunately it means the lens will take multiple turns to go from minimum all the way to infinity.
Either way, I still found manual focus to be entirely usable.
My Final Thoughts
Before we round out the review, I want to offer a few alternatives. The Sigma 70mm F2.8 is a great lens, but not without some shortcomings.
Sony FE 90mm F2.8
First off, the Sony FE 90mm F2.8 is an absolute beast of a lens.
It shares similar optical quality with the Sigma, but also has quicker autofocus and image stabilization.
If budget is no concern, grab the 90mm. Otherwise, the Sigma still runs at about half the price.
Sony FE 50mm F2.8
The closest competitor price-wise will be the Sony FE 50mm F2.8. It’s also 1:1, but has a much wider focal range, so you’ll need to get in super close to get comparable shots.
Although you shouldn’t expect groundbreaking sharpness or build quality, the lens is still quite capable, smaller, and has quicker AF.
So, is the Sigma 70mm F2.8 worth the purchase? I would say yes, but only if you’re going to use it for exclusively macro.
The lack of image stabilization and the slow autofocus are bummers, but to achieve the price & incredible sharpness there had to be some compromises.
Overall, the lens offers a great value to macro shooters. If you’re interested in picking one up for yourself, I’ll leave purchase links below. Thanks for reading.
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