Sigma APO MACRO 180mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens - Quick Review

HvalHval Posts: 110Member
edited July 2014 in Gear Reviews
Good afternoon All. I said I would buy the above lens and I have. I received it Friday. I had a quick play around with it in the store and have had a quick play around with it today. Am I glad I bought the lens? So far - yes; definitely yes.

Please remember that I am an enthusiastic amateur and not a professional photographer. I am not formally trained and have taught myself all I know (which isn't much). I have been taking photographs, on and off since the 1970s, when given my first camera a Kodak Instamatic. Since then I have used film cameras (my favourite being my Canon T90), developed film, moved in to digital cameras (have owned approximately 15 to 20 of them).

This is going to be a brief review of the lens after such a short time using it. I shall, hopefully, add further details in the future. I shall also add photographs to my Lens review set as I go along. Please note that the lens has not been calibrated for the cameras used. Also I did not use a remote release to take the photos, but they were taken from a tripod

So, are we sitting comfortably? Then let us begin.

I have read a number of reviews about this lens, and spoken with one or two people who have actually used it in anger. The comments in this review, unless otherwise stated, are my own opinions. I am not going to provide many technical details that can be obtained from other web sites.

The packaging gives great initial impressions. The lens comes with a two part hood. It can be used with both parts together or either part alone. Having written that, one part is really an extension for the real hood. Unfortunately I haven't yet found a way of storing the extension in the lens bag with the lens/ hood.

The lens itself is slightly off balance, which I noticed on both my D800 and D300. It's not that bad, but it is noticeable, especially when mounted on a tripod using the lens foot provided. The lens weighs in at 1,640g (57.8 oz). Closest focussing distance is 0.47 metres (18.5 in). The lens takes an 86mm filter (I bought a UV filter from Sigma). The lens has 9 diaphragm blades, which give a pleasing bokeh. The appearance and physical feel of the lens are not as good as the Sigma 18-35mm f1.8, but are still good.

Something that does surprise me is how poor the lens foot/ collar is. I am surprised. It is a very simple mechanism. The lens collar can not be left loosened so as to be able to rotate the lens. This lens collar must be tightened, otherwise there is significant play in the lens collar/ lens. The foot is also too small for the lens and too close to the lens body.

The lens is either AF or Manual. When in AF mode it is possible to set the lens to "Full", "0.67m to Infinity" and "0.47- 0.67m". In all cases, AF is practically silent. It is not the fastest in any situation, but this is not normally an issue with macro photography. Focusing from infinity coming towards one self seems to be a lot faster than focussing from close out towards infinity. Chasing ants with focussing was not great. There is image stabilisation - off, mode 1 and mode 2. For the photos I took image stabilisation was switched off.

Focussing with the lens is manual is really rather good. The focus ring is large and pleasingly knurled. The motion is quite pleasantly wighted (slightly too light for me, but still very good).

When using the lens I was not able to get the lens down to f2.8. Even in todays relatively bright sun shine (i.e. it was day light, it wasn't raining, and I could feel heat from the sun through the clouds). I found this lens a lot easier to focus than my Nikon 80-400mm due to a brighter image. I quote this Nikon lens as I was playing around with it at the same time.

There is very, very slight chromatic aberration. I didn't test for pin cushion, but apparently there is some. There is also mild vignetting.

I have uploaded a photo stacked image of a poppy flower head here: - https://www.flickr.com/photos/hval01/sets/72157645129578447/

I shall add more images in a while.

If anyone has any questions please ask. I may not answer immediately, but I shall do so as soon as possible - if I know the answer.

EDIT ONE
Link to photos of car keys - https://www.flickr.com/photos/hval01/sets/72157645547431975/

EDIT TWO - 2014 07 07 @ 11:39hrs BST
The high winds outdoors are preventing me from carrying out macro photography, so I have photographed a pine cone indoors. The link is here. https://www.flickr.com/photos/hval01/14615130993/in/set-72157645599823183

EDIT THREE
Photos of a small figurine and tortoises. Also a couple of hand held shots out the window.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/hval01/sets/72157645148300930/
Post edited by Hval on

Cheers,

Hval
____________________

Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth

Comments

  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited July 2014
    Thanks for your review HVAL, I enjoyed it.

    I think that you will have a lot of fun with this lens. I am enjoying my 200mm macro (so basically the same as yours) and realize that I have a very long and steep learning curve ahead of me.

    Photostacking is not something that I have ventured into yet. Probably a winter project.
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • HvalHval Posts: 110Member
    WestEndBoy,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I have used the CamRanger for taking photographs for photo stacking in the past. I like the Cam Ranger. It is fairly intuitive, but I still mess up on some things.

    Cheers,

    Hval
    ____________________

    Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth
  • michael66michael66 Posts: 231Member
    Good afternoon All. I said I would buy the above lens and I have. I received it Friday. I had a quick play around with it in the store and have had a quick play around with it today. Am I glad I bought the lens? So far - yes; definitely yes.
    This lens was on my short list. Unfortunately, I went with the Tamron 150-600. Now I'll have to wait a while,but is seems that most places have this lens on back order. You might want to take a look here; Reint Jakob Schut on Flickr. He uses this lenses extensively. Absolutely amazing stuff.
  • HvalHval Posts: 110Member
    Michael66,

    Thank you for that link. I am really impressed with the photographs taken by Reint Jakob Schut. I just hope that one day I may achieve the same quality.

    Cheers,

    Hval
    ____________________

    Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth
  • HvalHval Posts: 110Member
    UPDATE - I have placed links to a further two albums in my first post.

    Cheers,

    Hval
    ____________________

    Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,135Member
    edited July 2014
    Just a thought. When I want more than 100-105mm macro lens I just use my 100mm Tokina Macro on a DX body for an effective 150mm.

    Also, I don't see the point in the extra glass and weight to make a f2.8 macro at 180mm (at 100mm f2.8 is ok because it is not adding much weight). At 180mm better to make it an f3.5 or f4 lens since the DOF is so shallow at f2.8 you won't want to be shooting there hardly ever anyway. Maybe Nikon will update their old 200mm f4 macro lens someday. Then it will be lightweight plastic.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • HvalHval Posts: 110Member
    Donaldejose,

    You obviously haven't lived in the miserable climes of the West Coast of Scotland. Any additional light gathering capabilities help. If I had a 3 metre diameter lens I might just have the light gathering capabilities provided by places that know what the sun looks like, and what colour it is

    Cheers,

    Hval
    ____________________

    Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    Just a thought. When I want more than 100-105mm macro lens I just use my 100mm Tokina Macro on a DX body for an effective 150mm.

    Also, I don't see the point in the extra glass and weight to make a f2.8 macro at 180mm (at 100mm f2.8 is ok because it is not adding much weight). At 180mm better to make it an f3.5 or f4 lens since the DOF is so shallow at f2.8 you won't want to be shooting there hardly ever anyway. Maybe Nikon will update their old 200mm f4 macro lens someday. Then it will be lightweight plastic.
    Your assumption is that the photographer will want the entire subject to be in focus.

    There are times when I have mine wide open when I am shooting at a lower reproduction ratio (say 1:2 - 1:4) to gather extra light. The bokeh does provide a pleasing effect.

    Keep in mind that wide open on the higher reproduction ratios is f/5.6 or higher on my f/4.0 (not sure exactly). When shooting at the maximum reproduction ratio, I imagine that the Sigma won't go to 2.8.

    When I stop down enough to "get the whole subject" into reasonable focus, the bokeh on these lenses suck (actually, the boheh only looks good when the background is almost entirely melted away). I usually prefer to have part of the subject out of focus with pleasing bokeh.

    So having the ability to shoot at f/2.8, unexpectedly, does have its merits.

    Also, my 200 f/4.0 is a fabulous landscape telephoto, especially with a tripod. I imagine the Sigma is the same way.
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,135Member
    edited July 2014
    I realize some people do shoot macro shots at f2.8. I just question how often that is used; even with the Nikon 105mm macro. As to bokeh. You can "dissolve" the background two ways: 1. Use large aperture. 2. Compose the shot so there is a lot of distance between the subject and the background.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • SquamishPhotoSquamishPhoto Posts: 608Member
    At or close to 1:1 it doesn't matter much if you are at f4 or f2.8, not much of anything is in focus at either f-stop
    Mike
    D3 • D750 • 14-24mm f2.8 • 35mm f1.4A • PC-E 45mm f2.8 • 50mm f1.8G • AF-D 85mm f1.4 • ZF.2 100mm f2 • 200mm f2 VR2
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,135Member
    edited July 2014
    Agreed. So why put that extra weight into the 180mm lens with the f2.8 aperture? Most macro shooting will be f16 or f22. Seems the extra weight for a 180mm f2.8 is always carried and very seldom used.
    Post edited by donaldejose on
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited July 2014
    I think that a lot of Macro shooting will be at f16 to f22, but not all. Consider the following shot at f/5.0 and f/4.2 respectively:

    Crimson Flower

    or

    Butterfly

    Now neither are really pushing the macro envelope of a 1:1 reproduction ratio, these shots required my Macro lens nevertheless. I tried shots like these stopped down, but by f/8.0 the bokeh starts to look crappy.
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • HvalHval Posts: 110Member
    edited July 2014
    I went for the 180mm for a few reasons, the main one being that more often than not, for the macro photography I try t do, I can not get close enough to the subject. I take photographs out in "the wild", if you can call deepest, darkest central belt Scotland that. I rarely take photographs in a "studio" (posh name for the living room). That f2.8ness of the lens gives it more light gathering capabilities. I may joke a lot about the weather here, but in all seriousness it is bad. My wife says that "Scotland is a lovely place to visit, but she would never choose to live here". The people are great, the scenery can be stunning. The weather and the midges are hell. There is a phrase that is used to describe the pale and sickly colour of the skin for people who live here - peely-wally. A very good, apt description.

    See those lens reviews people write? I have to take all of them with a pinch of salt as the lens are never tested in weather conditions like those here around Glasgow.

    Edited for a typo.
    Post edited by Hval on

    Cheers,

    Hval
    ____________________

    Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,135Member
    I would think the 180mm focal length is great, reviews seem to say the lens is sharp, f2.8 will provide a brighter viewfinder: all good. I was just wondering if making it in f3.5 or f4 would have saved a lot of weight and money without diminishing the f-stops which are actually used with a macro lens.
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    I suppose that is hard to say. I know that I am glad mine goes to f/4.0. F/2.8. It would be nice to try, but I would not compromise a macro ability for it. Despite the fact that it is already heavy, a little extra weight won't make any difference to me.
  • HvalHval Posts: 110Member
    edited July 2014
    Apologies for not texting with the D300 yesterday. Never got an opportunity. I have taken a few photographs with my Nikon D300 and the Sigma 180mm f2.8 macro. The four photos may be seen here: - https://www.flickr.com/photos/hval01/sets/72157645594606475/

    2014:07:09 - Sigma 180mm f2.8 Macro - Glasgow - 012

    2014:07:09 - Sigma 180mm f2.8 Macro - Glasgow - 004

    2014:07:09 - Sigma 180mm f2.8 Macro - Glasgow - 006

    2014:07:09 - Sigma 180mm f2.8 Macro - Glasgow - 005

    2014:07:09 - Sigma 180mm Macro - Test 3 014

    2014:07:09 - Sigma 180mm Macro - Test 3 012

    2014:07:09 - Sigma 180mm Macro - Test 3 004

    Something I have noticed is that when used for macro on my D800 f2.8 is not available. If focussing further away, it is.

    I have researched why there are two image stabilisation settings. Apparently OS 1 is for situations where you might tilt up and down, while OS 2 is for panning sideways. I have not used either.

    Something else I have learned. Do not attempt to hand hold this lens for close up items and small f numbers. Even in very bright light it does not work for me. Perhaps if my hands did not shake.
    Post edited by Hval on

    Cheers,

    Hval
    ____________________

    Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    F4.0 is not available on my 200 in macro mode as well. The 105 is the same (2.8).
  • donaldejosedonaldejose Posts: 3,135Member
    Maybe because when you focus at 1:1 you are extending the tube and losing some light?
  • HvalHval Posts: 110Member
    edited July 2014
    It is an internal focusing lens, so the lens doesn't extend physically. Someone did explain it to me and I can not, for the life of me, remember the explanation. I seem to ember it is due to the subject being close to the lens.

    EDITED TO ADD
    I have read up a little bit. It appears that as you approach 1:1 magnification a lens would need to extend to maintain a fixed focal length. This applies even to internal focussing lenses. To get around this a compromise is made where the lens won't be able to use f2.8.
    Post edited by Hval on

    Cheers,

    Hval
    ____________________

    Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth
  • HvalHval Posts: 110Member
    I went out today in nice weather (for Glasgow). The following photographs may be found at: - https://www.flickr.com/photos/hval01/sets/72157645200541879/


    2014:07:10 - Glasgow Botanic Gardens - Sigma 180mm Macro - 035

    2014:07:10 - Glasgow Botanic Gardens - Sigma 180mm Macro - 032

    2014:07:10 - Glasgow Botanic Gardens - Sigma 180mm Macro - 028

    2014:07:10 - Glasgow Botanic Gardens - Sigma 180mm Macro - 027

    2014:07:10 - Glasgow Botanic Gardens - Sigma 180mm Macro - 023

    2014:07:10 - Glasgow Botanic Gardens - Sigma 180mm Macro - 016

    2014:07:10 - Glasgow Botanic Gardens - Sigma 180mm Macro - 009


    Cheers,

    Hval
    ____________________

    Owner of an extremely high quality Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth
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