Sigma 70-200 1:2.8D EX APO HSM Review
When I was still getting to know photography, my camera and lenses in particular, I was learning that to get brighter, sharper shots in low light, especially with a longer focal length lens I needed more light, I realised it was something larger aperture lenses could offer me, in particular a f2.8 zoom lens.
My tele zoom at the time was a Sigma 70-300 4-5.6 DG and I would struggle in the mid afternoon on a nature walk or on a cloudy day to get sharp blue free shots at lower ISO using a D3200, after a discussion on where I should look for a replacement lens with a good mate of mine, he pointed me towards the 70-200 f2.8.
The cheapest you can buy, thats good quality and robust, with great optics and did i say cheapest?
Thats right its the mk1 Sigma 70-200 f2.8D EX APO HSM.
This wonderful lens can be had for £360 on the used market, the slightly newer model has only different grip patterns, and would out of having some years off the older model, be bought for a bit more, however the mk3 and current version is a step up in some aspects, which includes Sigmas 4 stop OS (Optical stabilisation).
Anyway back to the mk1, introduced at the time silent motors that were built in to lenses was brand new, and revolutionary, and film cameras were about to be joined with consumer based digital cameras, in 1999 Sigma exploited a gap in the market where Canon and Nikon charged high amounts of money for their 70-200 2.8 lenses, Sigma brought theirs out at a fraction of a cost.
The lens features a aluminium chassis, which is part covered in plastics, covered in Sigmas signature matt paint, featuring 3 external adjustment rings, Aperture (1 stop values), Zoom, and the foremost, a large and vast focus ring with that EX excellence gold band for added emphasis you are holding Sigma's finest efforts, before the mount there is a tripod mount collar, which is quickly removable, there is also a focus distance scale window, at the very end you will find a full glass element, with APO coatings which glimmer with a red, pink, green, blue and orange brilliance as the elements descend into the housing, topped by a 77mm filter thread.
The body is very rugged, stands up to abuse well, dont be worried about buying a slightly physically challenged model, if its taken 17 years of abuse at the brutal hands of a professional photographer its doing good for itself, and cosmetics should worry you. (70--200 2.8's lend themselves to usually the harshest of a photographers exploits, but can also be right at home in a warm cushy studio).
Here the photos will do the talking, I will be showing many uses this lens has, as the 70-200 range has MANY uses, ofcourse it depends if you are using this range on a crop sensor or a full frame sensor, I personally used mine on both, and found it a Excellent focal range to have at hand.
Low light concert photography
Despite the lack of OS, the lens is great at low light, focuses fast, true and accurate, it can hunt a bit in the darker shadowed areas of a subject, but this is forgivable
Use with tele converters to extend your reach, such as doubling the focal range with a 2x, equating in a 140-400mm f5.6
Now this isnt a key lens for motorsport, as you will find it lacks reach for most venues as the run off zones on a track side are large and has you further away from the action, tele converters help but we will learn to avoid these if possible.
Its never a bad thing to include some track, spectators and run off in the shot, here for example some wind scattering mud that someones mistake made its way onto the track causing a nice dramatic shot.
This lens (and focal length) is excellent for use in portraits, it creates a squashed flattering look to the face, and narrow depth of field.
The lens performs well as a portrait lens, it can hunt a little if the eyes are dim lit and are your focus point, but the key thing to deal with is its weight, held at eye level for a while can be an issue, but this is the case for any 70-200 being used like this, a monopod can get around this issue
I find this lens an excellent addition to a car shoot, it offers stunning bokeh, separation and clarity for a distinctive look during the shots.
Overall the lens is solidly built, I cannot stress enough how tough and ready to go it is, but its a true performer optically also, you do get some vignetting at wider apertures, as to be expected, but the sharpness is just top notch, I rarely see a flaw with its detail and resolution, as to be expected, wider apertures wont give you the sharpest of shot, this is to be found f4 and above, f8 being the absolute sharpest in my opinion, but it is very usable at f2.8, at 70mm or even at the full reach of 200mm
To sum it up
The Sigma 70-200 f2.8 EX APO HSM offers great sharpness, crisp and detailed shots, in a variety of situations, it is a must have focal length, but on a tighter budget, if you have begun expanding your lens collection, and a tele 2.8 is what you need, I couldn't recommend the mk1/2 70-200 f2.8 any stronger.
The hyper silent motor is quiet and fast to track and lock on, its not as fast as the Nikon version granted, but its good none the less.
Well built, and well designed, with few drawbacks, to what I have found only to be the lens mount, mine has become slightly worn, so i can get slight movement once fitted to my camera, also the screws have come loose a few times, requiring me to disassemble the mount plate and apply locktite glue tot he 3 screws to prevent this happening again, so be mindful of this when buying, it is do able at home but only if you are confident in the task, otherwise a repair centre will be needed and will charge a small fee.
A fantastic lens that was a must for me, and 2 years later I still love it, until i replace it with a OS version at a later date, this will always travel with me for pleasure or business .
Optical quality: 4/5