Independent lens manufacturer Sigma has several macro lenses to its credit.
This recently introduced 180mm macro lens is a replacement for Sigma’s earlier version – the 180mm f/3.5 EX DG Macro. The new lens is not only ‘faster’ (f/2.8 verses the earlier f/3.5) but also boasts of OS (Sigma’s version of Optical Stabilizer). The lens is available in Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony mounts.
Design and Build Quality Exquisitely finished in dull black, the Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS lens is a high-performance telephoto lens designed for full-frame sensor cameras. It can be used with APS-C models too. When used with the smaller sensor camera bodies, its equivalent focal length is 270mm (Nikon APS-C bodies). This is a professional quality lens with excellent build quality. The lens mount is made of metal but the filter thread appears to be made of plastic. The lens weighs 1750g (actually weighed) with the supplied lens hood and the APS-C hood adapter. Filter size is 86mm. The lens we tested had a Nikon mount and was made in Japan.
The lens is constructed with 19 elements in 14 groups, including 3 FLD (a variety of Low-Dispersion glass) glass elements that correct for colour aberrations. The lens employs a floating Internal Focussing (IF) system that offers improvements in the lens’ focussing abilities at closer distances. Autofocussing is aided by a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) that is responsible for quick, quiet and accurate autofocus. Ten data transfer contacts adorn the rear of the lens. Manual focussing is possible.
The Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS lens has a minimum focussing distance of 0.47m (approx. 18.5”) measured from the sensor plane. The aperture range is from f/2.8 – 22. On the left side of the lens we have three switches: the top one is the Focus Limiter switch which allows the user to set 3 different focussing limits – 0.47- 0.67m, 0.67m-infinity ’ 0.47m-infinity (shown as FULL on the lens). The middle switch is the AF-M switch, while the lower switch controls the Optical Stabilizer with 3 settings – OFF, 1 and 2. The lens being heav y, has a collar with a tripod socket. The collar allows easy orientation of the lens from horizontal to vertical when mounted on a tripod. A plastic window covers a scale for magnification and distance (in meters and feet). The lens has a 9-bladed diaphragm which aides in producing smooth ‘bokeh’. The APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS lens is compatible with Sigma’s APO teleconverters.
The lens being heavy, is best used on a tripod. Fortunately, the lens comes with a tripod collar. This of course does not mean that you cannot use it hand-held, because, as mentioned earlier, it also has a Optical Stabilizer. Sigma’s website does not say how many stops advantage the stabiliser offers. The manual focus ring was smooth, just perfect. The Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS lens can be used not only as a high-quality macro lens, but also as a telephoto lens for portraits, weddings and close-distance sports. When used with a APS-C sensor camera body, it could also be easily used for not-too-distant wildlife.
The Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS lens was tested using a Nikon D600 body on a Manfrotto 055 Pro tripod with a ball-head. At life-size (1:1) magnification, it offers a ‘working distance’ of approx. 0.22m /8.6-inches (as measured from the front of the lens). A greater working distance allows for better illumination of the subject, either with ambient light or man-made light sources. Autofocus was fast even in low light. Sharpness (centre as well as corners) was acceptable at f/2.8 and improved with every f/stop till f/11. Honestly, the 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS macro amazed me with its fantastic sharpness. The ‘sweet spot’ seemed to be between f/8-f/11. At f/16 and further up, a slight loss in sharpness could be seen, apparently due to diffraction of light. Flare was very much visible in strong against-the-light shots but we did not notice any signs of chromatic aberrations, which is a good thing. We did not notice any barrel or pincushion distortion and I would have no hesitation of using this lens for architectural photography. Darkening of corners was evident from wide open aperture (f/2.8) up to f/8.
Value for Money
The Sigma APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS lens is available at an MRP of Rs.99,990. About a lakh of rupees for a 180mm lens at first seems quite high, but if you consider that it is a true macro lens capable of 1:1 reproduction ratio at a good working distance of 0.22m/8.6 inches, having a maximum aperture of f/2.8, and also considering its excellent performance, I think the lens value is absolutely justified.
+ Maximum aperture f/2.8
+ Excellent image quality
+ Provided with tripod collar
– Manual override of AF not possible
|Design and Build Quality||18/20|
|Darkening of Corners||3/5|
|Value for Money||8.5/10|
Sigma has one more feather in its cap! The APO Macro 180mm f/2.8 EX DG OS lens is great for macro as well as general photography. If I were looking out for a macro lens, this would be it! Sharpness of images out of this lens is just superb! Its fast f/2.8 maximum aperture allows you to shoot in low light and with greater AF precision. Definitely Best Buy!