10.10.2012

I bought another lens. It's an "old news" lens but I like it.


Over the last four years I've played with a lot of lenses. Some good.  Some really good. And a handful that were mediocre. But whenever I talked to my photographer friends about good medium telephoto lenses for APS-C cameras someone would always toss in the "really, really good Sigma 70mm f2.8 Macro."  But something always kept me from buying the lens. When I shot with Canon's APS-C cameras I used the 60mm 2.8 macro and it was pretty good. With full frame cameras I always seemed to fall back on the Zeiss 85mm or one of the Canon or Nikon 85's.

My optical sweet spot  for portraits (based on my years with "full frame" 35mm film) has always been a 90, 100 or 105mm focal length.  When I switched to the Sony a77 cameras I started looking around again. I have the 85mm Sony lens but that works out to about a 128mm equivalent focal length. I love the lens and I'm sure I'll get plenty of use out of it when I buy a VG-900 or an a99 but I wanted something shorter.  

I could use the wide end of my very nice Sony 70-200mm 2.8 G lens but I really wanted something smaller, lighter and more single-focally.  And having used the 85mm wide open to good effect I wanted something extra crisp at 2.8.  The 70-200mm is great from about f4 on down but it can be just a tad softer wide open.

I started looking again.  Then, in the middle of the week several unconnected people mentioned the Sigma 70mm.  When a client called last week to book me for a shoot today, which was all about portraits that would run big on large posters, I decided to get the Sigma 70, test it and use it if it passed the test. It did.

The lens is sharp wide open and insanely sharp by f4.0. It uses the old screwdriver AF so it's noisy when it's looking for sharp and it's a real macro lens so it tends to be geared for lots of range in the close area which means it hunts more than a lens with a different slip differential.

I don't really care. In the bright light of a white background, studio set up the camera and lens combo focused promptly and with ample authority. I just got back to the studio after spending the better part of the day shooting. I've been reviewing the files I shot at 1:1. They are very, very good.

So, the lens is four years into its product cycle and noisy when auto focusing (manual focus is silent and easy with focus peaking). I don't care. It's sharp wide open in a way most lenses never achieve. It has a crispy character and it cost less than five hundred anemic American dollars.  I love it. It reminds me of my old Nikon 105mm f2.5 lens, once considered the ultimate portrait lens. Only sharper.  Images to follow.




16 comments:

Carlo Santin said...

Looking forward to the pics. I'm seriously considering buying the NEX-6 when it comes out. It has everything I need in a modern camera and with focus peaking I can use my older lenses with a cheap adapter. I have some nice Nikon lenses that I would prefer to keep using, but it's nice to see that there are some great auto focusing alternatives for NEX. I've tried the 7 several times and I like it more and more every time I try it.

ginsbu said...

Enjoy the lens. It was on my list when I was contemplating a switch to Nikon. It amazes me that there are still so few options for portrait lenses in the 70mm range for APS-C.

David Liang said...

I been thinking about this lens too but I'm stuck between this and the Tamron 60mm f/2. That lens is just all sorts of interesting and very well priced, I have the Tammy 17-50 and 28-75 which I love, so I'm stuck smack in the middle. Can't wait to see your pictures maybe it'll sway me one way or the other.

hugo said...

When I had a Canon APS-C and was looking for a 2-in-1 macro + portrait prime lens, it took me a really long time to decide between this one and the Tamron 60/2. Eventually I decided to get the tamron because of the faster aperture, smaller size because it's an APS-C lens only, and more importantly internal focusing.

The 70mm/2.8 macro is a favorite of Sigma Foveon DSLR users. Given how much the SD1 can resolve, it tells you how impressively sharp and detailed this lens can make your pictures.

Looking forward the pictures !

Craig Yuill said...

Sharpness aside, I'm interested in the bokeh a lens produces. I take it the Sigma excels in that department as well.

Biro said...

I recently bought my first Sigma lens - the 28mm f/1.8 prime for Pentax. It was on sale for $329. Other than a slight grittiness to the zoom mechanism, the lens is outstanding. Definitely a keeper. In fact, Sigma's 19mm and 30mm f/2.8 primes are the only reason I'd consider buying a Sony NEX 6.

Claire said...

Yup, the 70-200 and 50-150 are not only wonderfully sharp wide open, but produce buttery smooth bokeh. Those Sigma high end EX can be deceiptively good !!!

Marriott said...

An excellent choice. Still, would you consider a Pentax adapter with the wonderful DA 70mm 2.4 Limited? It weighs only 130g (less than 5 ounces) and is a lovely, all-metal jewel with bite, bokeh and character.

Bold Photography said...

An .. interesting choice! 70mm seems like an odd focal length for portraits - so, I'm wondering how you *feel* about the images.

Terry Schmidbauer said...

That one was on my list when I was shopping for a longer macro. I went with the Sony 100mm 2.8 macro and I am mostly happy with it for both macros and portraits. But I'm still interested in seeing your photos from this Sigma. What was the main reason you went with this lens? Was it the focal length?

cidereye said...

With the APS-C crop factor taken into account it is a 105mm lens.

Kirk Tuck said...

Focal length and reputed sharpness

Kirk Tuck said...

And that's a favorite focal length I've worked with for years...

Steve said...

If the 70/2.8 macro is anywhere near as good as their 150/2.8 macro, you should be more than satisfied with it.

Kirk Tuck said...

Just looked at yesterday's big ass studio raw files and I'm very happy with the lens. A bit of CA (purple) but one button correction. Sharp like a razor.

CWM said...

I own both ...the Sigma is better, but heavier. The Tamron does give you f/2, but not that great wide open. DP Review uses the Sigma as a "reference" largely because it comes in a variety of mounts. Still, the Sigma 70mm is on my list as one of the "best lenses ever." Other than the weight (not that bad), it is as good as it gets at f/5.6 on either a DX or FX sensor.