If you were to draw up a set of specifications for the ideal macro lens, the Sigma 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro Art ($799) is what you’d end up with. It’s a full-frame macro, built just for mirrorless camera systems, with support for life-size subject reproduction and superb construction, the modern features you want from a pro camera lens. It’s the macro to get if you’re working with an L-mount or Sony camera system, and the recipient of our Editors’ Choice award.
Made for Mirrorless Systems
The 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro Art looks and feels like most other macro lenses of its focal length. It’s a little bit longer than most prime lenses (5.3 by 2.9 inches, HD), and a bit heavy for its size (1.6 pounds), but balances well on a full-frame mirrorless body, including the Sony a7R IV with which we tested it.
The outer barrel is a mix of metal and polycarbonate, and there are internal seals to protect your camera sensor from dust and splashes. A reversible lens hood is included, and the front element accepts 62mm threaded filters. In addition to the normal array of anti-reflective coatings, the 105mm includes fluorine on its exposed glass—it repels water and grease so the lens is more easily kept clean.
Sigma markets the lens for E-mount cameras from Sony, and in L-mount for cameras from Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma itself. It projects an image circle that’s large enough for use with full-frame sensors, but also works with cameras that use APS-C chips, including the Sony a6600 and Leica CL.
On-lens controls include a manual focus ring, finished in rubber, and an aperture control ring in metal. The aperture ring can be set from f/2.8 through f/22, either in third-stop increments or freely turning without clicks—there’s a toggle to switch between the two modes. The ring also has an A setting, which moves control to the camera body, also lockable via a switch.
Focus controls include an AF/MF toggle, a focus limiter switch, and an AF-L button. The limiter is used to speed up autofocus, preventing the lens from hunting across its full range if desired. Close-up and distant-only settings are available, as well as a full-range option. Depending on your camera model, you can change the function of the AF-L button if you’d like.
The limiter system is beneficial. Even on a camera with a superb autofocus system, the 105mm takes a bit of time to drive across its entire range—if you prevent it from trying to hunt close when photographing distant subjects, or vice versa, there’s no chance of the lens trying to look too close, or too far away, speeding up initial acquisition.
It also cuts down on noise—the motor itself is pretty quiet, but the focusing elements make a little bit of noise when they move, which is a concern for video use. There’s also a heavy focus breathing effect visible—typical of a macro, its angle of view narrows when focusing closer.
The nearest focus distance is 11.6 inches, measured from the camera sensor. It’s there that the lens projects a life-size (1:1) image of a subject onto your camera’s sensor. It’s about six inches from the front element, enough distance so that you can avoid casting a shadow on what you’re photographing.
Stabilization isn’t included. It could be a sticking point if you use a camera without an in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system, but most full-frame models include the feature. With the a7R IV I was able to net consistently blur-free shots at shutter speeds as long as 1/8-second, even when focused in macro range.
It’s a useful feature for a macro, though. If you’re using a Sony model without IBIS, think about the FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS as an alternative. Short of adapting lenses from other systems, there are no L-mount alternatives that include optical stabilization.
In the Lab With the 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro Art
I tested the 105mm DG DN Macro Art along with the 60MP Sony a7R IV and software from Imatest. Even shot wide open, the pair puts up outstanding resolution, close to the best we’ve seen from any lens for the system, at 5,200 lines. Resolution is nearly as strong at the edges of the frame as at the center, indicating a flat field of focus and making the lens a good fit for archival imaging.
It gets a little bit better as you narrow the aperture, delivering the absolute best resolution we’ve seen from any lens with the a7R IV at f/5.6, at 5,380 lines, just a hair better than the Sony FE 135mm F1.8.
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It starts to lose a bit of resolution at f/8 (5,100 lines) due to diffraction, but you’ll still get excellent results through f/11 (4,660 lines), and very good quality at f/16 (3,990 lines). Cameras with fewer pixels are less prone to exhibit diffraction, but you should try to avoid using f/22, even with a typical 24MP sensor model—on the a7R IV, it delivers images that are visibly soft at 60MP (2,400 lines).
Photos are free of distracting color fringing, and if you work in JPG format, in-camera corrections compensate for the modest pincushion effect you get in Raw format. Adobe hasn’t yet added a profile for the lens, but we expect one-click corrections to be included with the next Lightroom Classic release.
The Ideal Macro
Photographers shopping for a macro lens for an L-mount or Sony E-mount camera needn’t look much further than the Sigma 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro Art. It’s as good an example as you’ll find for any camera system—exceptionally sharp, with reliable autofocus and a pro-grade build that’s suitable for use in the field and studio alike.
Some may lament the lack of optical stabilization, but if you have a camera with IBIS you won’t miss it—and most models with which the lens works with include the feature. I didn’t miss it, even when working handheld.
Others may be turned off by electronic manual focus, which doesn’t provide quite the same tactile feel as a purely mechanical macro, and I’d point to the Voigtlander Macro APO-Lanthar 110mm F2.5 if you prefer a modern lens with vintage handling—it doesn’t autofocus at all.
But for everyone else, the Sigma 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro Art is the lens to get. Its optics are outstanding, and the cost is less than first-party options like the Sony FE 90mm Macro, making it an easy pick for our Editors’ Choice award.