Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens Review
The highly-anticipated Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens has hit the streets and we were very anxious to evaluate it.
The 70-200mm f/2.8 lens class is an extremely-popular one with the full range of photographers, from beginners to professionals, finding such a lens to be an invaluable part of their kits. A telephoto zoom is quite often the second most important lens in many photographers’ camera kits (just behind a general purpose zoom lens) and the 70-200mm focal length range is ideal for a wide range of uses. Add in a wide f/2.8 aperture with Optical Stabilization and the telephoto lens becomes especially versatile, ready to tackle many of the low light situations photographers find themselves in, including at sports and stage events.
Because of the usefulness and popularity of this lens class, most of the larger lens manufacturers have a stabilized 70-200mm f/2.8 lens in their lineup and Sigma has had such a lens in the Sports variant’s predecessor, the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Lens. That lens was released back in 2011. While that lens was not especially old, somewhat surprising is that it took Sigma so long to introduce this utra-popular lens model under the Global Vision series badge (“Sports”, in this case). More than six years have elapsed since the announcement of Sigma’s first Global Vision series lens. During that time, each of Sigma’s Global Vision lenses (especially in the Art and Sports lines) have been impressive performers with attractive pricing.
The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens had a lot to live up to, and we were anxious to learn how well it did so. That the Sigma 70-200 Sports lens is priced significantly lower than similar Canon and Nikon lenses makes it especially enticing from the start.
Focal Length Range
What is a 70-200mm lens useful for? That might be an easier question to answer if the word “not” were inserted before “useful” in the previous sentence. The list of uses for a short-mid-telephoto focal length range is incredibly long, with portrait photography likely taking the most prominent position on the list.
Containing a superset of the classic 85-135mm portrait focal length range, 70-200mm lenses are ideal for capturing pleasing perspectives of people. At the wide end of this range, head and shoulder portraits show a nice perspective as do any portraits captured from longer distances. At 200mm, even very tight headshots retain a nice perspective for a great look, one that typically includes few discernable background subjects.
A set of focal lengths illustrating portrait use is shown below (captured with a different lens).
With this lens, people can be photographed in the home, in the yard, at the beach, at the park, in the studio or at a wide variety of events and venues. Portrait subjects can range from infants to seniors, from individuals to large groups (if enough working distance is available). Engagements, weddings, parties, events, theater, stage performances including concerts and recitals, speakers, kids’ events, families, small groups, senior adults, graduating seniors, fashion, documentary, lifestyle … all are great uses for the 70-200mm focal lengths.
That portrait photography is one of the best revenue-producing photography genres helps justify the acquisition cost of this lens and you likely noticed the paid applications in the just-shared list of portrait uses.
Another photographic discipline that involves people is sports photography. While the 200mm focal length may be modestly too wide for large field sports, it works very well for closer action such as that found at track and field meets and on the basketball court. Basketball is typically played indoors and with the f/2.8 aperture (more on this in a bit), indoor action sports are within this lens’ capabilities.
By virtue of the longer focal lengths and aided strongly by the wide f/2.8 aperture, the background of 70-200mm images can be diffusely-blurred and that attribute is great for portraits, sporting events and performances where the background cannot be fully controlled.
Unless your wildlife subject is very large and/or very close, the longest native focal length in this lens (I’ll discuss the teleconverter options later in the review) will usually be found far too short for this task. If capturing environmental wildlife portraits or captive (zoo) wildlife, this focal length range may be perfect.
When landscape photography is mentioned, many immediately think of wide angle lenses. However, telephoto focal lengths are an extremely important part of a versatile landscape kit. These long focal lengths can create excellent landscape images, especially when there is a distant subject to be emphasized, rendered large in the frame. Photographing mountains is an especially good use of this lens’ focal lengths and it is so easy to take great telephoto landscape images that it feels (slightly) like cheating. Another great way to employ telephoto lenses for landscape photography is to focus on closer details, such as colorful leaves, allowing a strong background blur to isolate those within the image.
Cityscapes are essentially landscape images with cities in them and this focal length range is often a great choice for more-distant city views. Street photography, often done in cities, is another ideal use for the 70-200mm range.
A 70-200mm lens is my most-used studio lens, working especially well for product images and many other general studio applications.
Mount a 70-200mm lens on an APS-C-format camera and the angle of view (AOV) becomes like that of a 112-320mm lens on a full frame camera. While the narrower AOV does not greatly change the uses list for this lens, these AOVs make widely-framed portraits less ideal and many will prefer this AOV range for sports and wildlife pursuits.
I’ve hinted to the wide aperture this lens has and the fixed f/2.8 max aperture available over the entire focal length range is indeed a big asset. What are the advantages of a wide aperture? More light reaches the imaging sensor and it provides a shallower, better-subject-isolating depth of field.
While those photographing landscapes with this lens may not find the wide f/2.8 aperture mandatory (and those hiking to remote landscape destinations may not appreciate the weight that accompanies an f/2.8 lens), those capturing portraits or photographing low light events, including sporting events, definitely will. The f/2.8 aperture represents the widest aperture available in a 70-200mm zoom lens and, even with the improvements we’ve seen in contemporary interchangeable lens cameras’ high ISO performance, f/2.8 remains the minimum aperture I want to have when photographing indoor activities.
I often talk about the compositional advantages of a clean border and one way to achieve that look is to blur the background to oblivion. Zoom to 200mm, open the aperture wide to f/2.8, move in close to your subject and watch even a very busy and distracting background melt away. A blurry background is an excellent way to draw the viewer’s eye to your subect and keep it there.
Let’s take a look at an aperture (and focal length) comparison.
If you already have a lens covering some or all of these focal lengths, how does the f/2.8 example compare to that of your current lens’ maximum aperture?
The wide aperture also invites stopping action in low light and handholding the camera in perhaps even lower light levels. This is the specific aperture required to enable the higher precision AF capabilities (most often the center AF point) in some cameras, further aiding in ideal image quality. Another f/2.8 advantage is the bright viewfinder image it makes available.
What are the disadvantages of a wide aperture? I already mentioned the weight that goes with this attribute; increased size and cost compared a narrower aperture lens with a similar focal length range are additional drawbacks. From my perspective, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
Image stabilization has now been available in camera lenses for a long time, but I still love this feature and I often count on it making a clear improvement in my images. Rated for up to 4-stops of compensation, Sigma’s OS (Optical Stabilization) adds greatly to this lens’ usability versatility.
Testing the lens under ideal conditions, using an ultra-high resolution Canon EOS 5Ds R, most of my 70mm images were sharp at 1/6 second exposures and about half were sharp at 1/5 second with a strong taper off in keeper rate at longer exposures. The last sharp 70mm image was captured at .5 seconds. About 3/4 of the 200mm results were sharp at 1/30 second and about 2/3 of the 1/20 second test images were sharp. The sharp image rate dropped slowly at longer exposures with the last sharp image captured at 1/8 second.
Photographing outside, perhaps in the wind or on unstable footing? Expect to need faster exposures than those I reported. But, also expect a similar amount of assistance from OS as it is still similarly and significantly compensating for shake.
I’ll talk more about the Sigma USB Dock later, but the dock permits this lens’ OS to be further configured to one of three settings described by Sigma as:
Dynamic View Mode – This mode offers a recognizable OS effect to the image in the viewfinder. This helps to ensure the composition of images quickly.
Standard Mode – This is the default setting. The OS effect is well-balanced and suitable for various scenes.
Moderate View Mode – This mode offers an excellent compensation of camera shake, and achieves very smooth transition of the image in the viewfinder. The composition of the image remains natural even when the angle of view keeps changing.
One of the great advantages of optical stabilization in a telephoto lens is the stabilized viewfinder making composition easier.
While OS is great for reducing camera shake in images, it is also very helpful for framing subjects while taking photo. Having the viewfinder view stabilized permits the shutter release to be timed with the just-right composition. Dynamic View Mode, my preference for general purpose photography, provides a beautifully-stabilized viewfinder image and the default Standard mode shows a moderately-stabilized view. In Moderate View Mode, stabilization is difficult to recognize in the viewfinder. Regardless of the mode, if OS is switched on, the full ability of OS will be applied during image capture.
Modes I (normal) and II (panning mode) are available via a switch.
This OS system is rather quiet with a click being heard at startup and shutdown. The scene in the viewfinder often bounces noticeably when OS starts and stops. Expect to sometimes see noticeable drifting of the framing while this system is in use.
Handheld video recording is nicely assisted by OS. OS also provides a still subject to the camera’s AF system, permitting it to do its job better.
Sigma advises turning OS off when this lens is tripod-mounted.
Of paramount importance to most photographers is a lens’ optical performance.
Diving right in, this lens turns in superb full frame corner-to-corner performance wide open at 70mm. This lens delivers very sharp results across the entire frame at 70mm f/2.8 and very little difference can be seen at 70mm f/4. The longer the focal length, the more obvious the improvement seen at f/4 becomes and the more that improvement is needed over the f/2.8 performance.
At 100mm, slight peripheral softness starts becoming visible at f/2.8 and that softness reaches the center of the frame by 135mm. Stop down to f/4 and these mid focal lengths become very sharp while showing slight peripheral improvement at f/5.6.
At 200mm, the center of the frame is slightly soft at f/2.8, but this lens is very sharp across the frame at 200mm f/4 with the extreme corners being a slight exception (illustrated below).
Following are some outdoor comparisons captured with a Canon EOS 5Ds R. These 100% resolution cropped images were captured in RAW format and processed in Canon’s Digital Photo Professional using the Standard Picture Style with sharpness set to “1”. The following examples are from the center of the frame.
Look for the sharpest portion of the frame at f/2.8 with the details showing the least change at f/4 indicating the center of the plane of sharp focus. At 70mm, practically no change is seen at f/4 and none is needed. At 115mm, little difference is seen at f/4 and wide open results are very good. At 200mm, there is a noticeable difference seen at f/4 and all will appreciate this difference. The eye example was taken from closer to mid-frame.
Focus shift, the center of the depth of field shifting forward or, more commonly, backward as the aperture narrows is not an issue with this lens.
We’ll take a closer look at the extreme full frame corners next with the extreme top-left corner featured in these results. This reviewed lens showed good overall optical alignment, so the selected corners mean little aside from knowing which corner of the crop is the absolute corner of the frame. For each focal length, a set of relatively close and relatively distant examples are provided.
As always, vignetting affects wide open aperture corner brightness and contrast and that explains a primary difference seen in the f/4 results. The 70mm and 115mm corners are looking stellar, even wide open. At 200mm, some softness can be seen in the closer results, but the distant results appear noticeably better.
I mentioned vignetting – it is always present in wide aperture corners unless using a camera that does not include the entire image circle (an APS-C model in this case). At f/2.8, this lens shows about 2 stops of shading in the corners with about 1/2 stop more at 200mm and 1/2 stop less at 100mm. The rule for reducing vignetting is to stop down the aperture. At f/4, about .8 stops of shading shows in the wider focal length corners and just slightly more (just over a stop) shows in the longer half of the range. By f/5.6, it is highly unlikely that vignetting will be visible in images and it continues to be reduced further as the aperture is narrowed.
As hinted to, images captured with APS-C format cameras do not show shading nearly as readily and the barely-recognizable close-to-1-stop of shading in 200mm corners is essentially the only consideration in this regard.
With sharpness and vignetting covered, let’s look at other factors that can affect image quality. If all of the wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum refracted identically, a lens designer’s job would be a lot easier. Because they do not, we get aberrations caused by various wavelengths of light being magnified and focused differently.
The most frequently noticed type of CA (Chromatic Aberration), lateral (or transverse) CA, shows as different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) as this is where the greatest difference in the magnification of wavelengths exists. If it is a zoom lens, lateral CA is nearly always present in some amount in at least some of the focal lengths.
Fortunately, lateral CA is easily software corrected (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. Also fortunate is that this lens performs relatively well in this regard, avoiding much of the color fringing.
The extents of the zoom range typically show the most lateral CA with the finging colors reversing in the middle of the focal length range and that is again the case with this lens. These amounts of lateral CA will be visible in some images, but they are not too strong. Slight color fringing remains present at 100mm, but 135mm results appear very nice.
A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration, but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to look for. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing while the spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.
In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.
The above images are 100% EOS 5Ds R crops showing silver (a neutral color) jewlery. Any foreground and background specular highlights showing different surrounding colors indicates that these issues are present. In these f/2.8 examples, the 70mm results show only a touch of these aberrations with the amount increasing to moderate at 200mm. Color fringing differences are not resolved by f/5.6.
Place a bright light source such as the sun in the corner of a complex, high-count lens element/group design and some effects of flare are going to be seen. Stop down to a narrow aperture to accentuate the flaring results. Still, this lens performs at the level of the best-available options at this focal length range and it performs considerably better than its predecessor.
There are two lens aberrations that are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point, instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners and generally appears as a comet-like or a triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma), or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either meridional (radiating from the center of the image) or sagittal (perpendicular to meridional). Remember that lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.
The above images are 100% crops from the extreme top-left corner of EOS 5Ds R images. While the focal length range of this lens is not optimal for avoiding star trails without a tracking mount, placing the north star in the center of the frame tosses out all of the sharp star formulas and makes this test possible. Especially with the amount of magnification provided by this lens’ focal length range, these results are quite good, though the stretched stars show that it is not perfect.
Linear distortion is another attribute practically guaranteed to be present with a zoom lens and though there again is some, this lens performs well in this regard. With straight lines running along the edge of the frame, 70mm will show very slight barrel distortion, curving those lines outward in the center of the frame. Zooming in, the barrel distortion transitions through negligible distortion and by 100mm, slight pincushion distortion is present. The pincushion distortion gradually increases until becoming moderately strong at 135mm and very slightly stronger by 200mm.
With long focal lengths and a wide aperture, that this lens can create a strong background blur is unquestionable. The quality of that blur, referred to as bokeh, is also good. Here are some f/8 examples of out-of-focus specular highlights.
The normal concentric rings are present around the borders of specular highlights, the outer transition is not harsh and the centers are very smooth. The first three examples are 100% crops while the second 200mm example and “CE” example are full images reduced in size. At f/2.8, mild cat’s eye bokeh, a form of mechanical vignetting illustrated by the CE sample, can be seen in the corners throughout the focal length range.
Aiding in the roundness of the results above is this lens’ 11-blade aperture. This is the highest blade count in our lens database that includes 428 models at review time. This number shared by only a handful of other lenses, six Sony FE models. With 11 rounded aperture blades, this lens will create 22-point starbursts from point light sources when narrower apertures are used (f/16 in this case).
The points on this sample star are a bit soft and grading that result is of course subjective, but it appears decent looking.
At the wide end, this lens is delivering best-in-class image quality. It is quite remarkable, especially for a zoom lens. At 200mm, the wide open center-of-the-frame performance is not quite as good, but this lens is still performing at least nearly as good as the best from an overall perspective.
The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 Sports lens is driven by Sigma’s HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor). This is the same motor type that has been implemented in all of the Sigma Art and Sports series lenses to date. Combined with the highly recommended Sigma USB Dock, this AF system is very customizable.
The 70-200 Sports internally focuses quietly with only some faint shuffling and clicks heard and it focuses relatively fast in the default “Standard AF” mode.
Using the dock, two custom modes are available for programming (C1 and C2) and AF speed options of “Fast AF Priority” and “Smooth AF Priority” are available in addition to the standard/default mode. Smooth AF Priority offers a slightly slower but very smooth-performing autofocus, ideal for use with video capture. Fast AF Priority seems self-explanatory and Sigma has indicated that it comes with a “… slight risk of decrease in accuracy”. On this lens, the Smooth AF Priority makes a modest, but noticeable difference, slowing AF down slightly. I’m finding the difference between the Standard AF and Fast AF Priority options very difficult to discern. I usually make the latter my default because fast usually proves similarly accurate for me (I didn’t perceive a difference with this lens) and … I like fast.
Unless one is primarily using manual focusing, a lens’ autofocus accuracy is very important for realizing the image quality a lens is capable of producing, especially with the relatively shallow depth of field this lens can produce at 200mm and f/2.8. In this testing, consistency is especially important as consistency can be calibrated into accuracy if necessary, either in-camera or via the dock. Usually, third party lens manufacturers are required to reverse engineer camera autofocus algorithms and the result is commonly the weakest aspect of these lenses.
Overall, this lens provides reasonable AF performance. At the wide end and especially at longer distances, the review lens back focuses strongly on the 5Ds R I am testing with and definitely required calibration. Still, the AF consistency on the wide end, especially at close distances, is occasionally not so great and that makes calibration more challenging. AF performance at the long end was better, though still not stellar. The focus distance selected, if not correct, was seldom off by a significant amount.
Those using this lens on mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILCs) and those autofocusing using DSLRs’ sensor-based AF systems should experience stellar AF accuracy.
This lens is the first of its class in the Sigma line to receive AF Function buttons. By default, the buttons function as AF stop buttons, cancelling/disabling AF functionality. I use AI-Servo (continuous) focusing mode for shooting sports, but sometimes like to shoot a focus-and-recompose images such as a portraits during the event. The autofocus stop feature makes it easy to obtain focus lock, disable autofocus and recompose for a framing that places the active focus point(s) off of the subject, including in the periphery of the frame. Another great use for this feature is when an image has been captured but the framing is not optimal. Simply press a focus stop button and capture enough images to be stitched together during post processing. Of course, switching the lens to manual focus mode also works for these techniques.
The AF Function button can be further configured using the Sigma Dock (for Sigma and Nikon mounts) or the camera’s custom function (for Canon). Three of these buttons are provided, positioned on the top, left side and bottom, 90° apart. It seems that the button on the bottom (hard to reach) should have been moved to the right side where it would be positioned on top when shooting vertically (especially with a battery grip in use).
The 70-200 Sports lens supports FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing. A focus limiter switch provides the full focus distance range or optionally limits the focus range to between 9.84′(3m) – ∞, for potentially faster focus acquisition. Using the Sigma USB Dock (more on this later) and a custom mode, the autofocus range can be customized as desired. Note that the switch setting is ignored when a customized mode is in use.
Common is for 70-200mm lenses to magnify a scene differently as the focus distance is changed and this lens has that feature.
As illustrated above, the effective angle of view changes considerably as the focus distance changes. Photographers using focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus and anyone very-critically framing a scene should be aware of this focus breathing behavior.
Focus distance settings are displayed inside a small window and available at a glance.
While non-cinema lenses are generally not parfocal and that attribute can be individual lens-specific, the review lens is not parfocal. Plan on refocusing after a focal length change.
The manual focus ring is very smooth with ideal dampening. The 144° of focus ring rotation is ideal for precision work at 70mm with adjustments happening slightly fast at 200mm, though not problematically so. The subject framing always remains nicely centered for a good quality overall manual focusing experience. The focus ring being positioned to the rear of the zoom ring is not my preferred design.
The Sigma 70-200 Sports gets a typical-for-its-class and quite good overall 0.21x maximum magnification spec. Following is a comparative look at the specs of some similar lenses. Interesting is how the different minimum focus distances relate to the different maximum magnifications in this list.
ModelMFDMM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens47.2″(1200mm)0.21x Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E AF-S FL VR Lens47.2″(1200mm)0.21x Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens37.4″(950mm)0.21x Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Lens55.1″(1400mm)0.13x Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens37.8″(960mm)0.25x Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens37.4″(950mm)0.16x
The tight head shot sample portrait below was captured at near-minimum focus distance with this lens set at 200mm.
Despite the very tight framing, facial features are not appearing warped (the nose is not appearing enlarged) from a too-close perspective.
To reduce the minimum focus distance and thereby increase the maximum magnification, mount an extension tube behind this lens. Infinity and long distance focusing are sacrificed with an extension tube in use, but some modest maximum magnification increase can be realized using extension tubes behind this lens.
The Sigma 70-200 Sports is compatible with the Sigma TC-1401 and TC-2001 teleconverters, providing 1.4x and 2.0x magnifications of the original focal length while retaining the original minimum focus distance, translating to a 1.4x and 2x higher maximum magnification spec respectively.
Here is a look at the TCs mounted behind this lens:
The addition of a Sigma TC-1401 1.4x Teleconverter creates an attractive full frame 98-280mm OS lens with the max aperture narrowing by 1-stop to f/4. While the focal length versatility provided by the TC is very nice, magnifying the image by 1.4x does not go unnoticed with image sharpness taking a noticeable hit at 280mm f/4. However, stop down to f/5.6 or f/8 and the results look better. The 1.4x adds some barrel distortion that nicely corrects this lens’ native pincushion distortion. There is very little additional lateral CA with the 1.4x, though what is there is slightly more-blurred, making it appear slightly larger.
While this lens is modestly sharper wide open at wider-than-200mm focal lengths and the with-extender results will appear similarly improved at these focal lengths, the reason for using an extender is to gain a longer focal length than is natively available in the lens and that means any with-extender focal length below the 143mm mark can be better-served without the extender in place. There are times when the full with-extender focal length range is desired, but the most focal length increase with a teleconverter is obtained at the 200mm setting. Thus, the with-teleconverter results at 200mm are the most important to consider.
With the TC-1401 mounted behind the 70-200 Sports, autofocus speed remains good and focus hunting was not an issue even in low light conditions as long as some contrast was available for the AF system to lock onto.
Use the Sigma TC-2001 Teleconverter to create a 140-400mm OS Lens with 2-stops of aperture loss. As you would expect, increasing the image magnification results in a noticeably softer image. I am seldom enamored with the performance of 2x teleconverters and you will not likely find the 400mm f/5.6 image quality acceptable. Stop down to f/8 or f/11 and the results are improved – not amazing, but improved enough to be useful when getting closer is not an option. F/8 is wide enough to use for the wildlife and sports photography that these focal lengths are especially well suited for as long as the lighting conditions are relatively bright.
With the 2x TC mounted, lateral CA is blurred more strongly and the 200mm pincushion distortion is mostly erased. With an f/5.6 max aperture, this combo will still autofocus on any DSLRs using conventional phase detection AF. While teleconverters can impact AF speed, it is hard to notice that happening with this combination and I again encountered no focus hunting in even low light conditions with contrast available for AF to lock onto.
Build Quality & Features
Universal among Sigma’s Global Vision lens lineup is classy modern styling, visually featuring various reflectivity levels of black finish. The style difference for this upgrade is perhaps less dramatic than some of Sigma’s previous updates, featuring mostly matte black, but the style is improved nonetheless as illustrated below.
To keep this lens as light as possible and also for economic reasons, Sigma utilizes Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) materials along with traditional metals in the design. While there is some plastic feel to the lens, it seems quite well-built and the quality finish looks nice, providing assurance that the Sigma 70-200 Sports is a quality product.
Like all of the other current 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses, this one features a fixed-size design. After flaring outward rapidly from the mount, the lens’ diameter gradually increases until the objective end. The various lens sections all have tight tolerances and, with the exception of the section to the front of the focus ring, gradual transitions. That the focus ring does not smoothly transition into the barrel section in front of it seems like a missed opportunity.
The zoom and focus rings are nicely-sized and smooth with ideal resistance. These rubberized rings are sharply-ribbed for a high quality feel and are raised modestly above the barrel for ease of locating. Differentiating between the zoom and focus rings is easy (even with gloves on) thanks to the large space between them and the tapered slope found in the center of the substantially-sized zoom ring. This ring’s 60° of rotation provides a good rate of transition between focal lengths.
My strong preference, especially for a 70-200mm f/2.8-class lens, is to have the zoom ring behind the focus ring. The left hand ideally holds the camera and lens at its balance point during use and this lens’ balance point is at or just behind the back of the tripod foot when a 5Ds R is mounted. Thus, holding the lens with comfortable access to the zoom ring means the right hand must play a support role for a less-than-optimal scenario. That this tripod foot extends forward with a rounded front helps to circumvent this problem by providing a palm rest, but a rear-positioned zoom ring works best. When shooting from a tripod or monopod, the zoom ring position is not an issue. The zoom ring location is also a non-issue if focal length adjustments are not needed or not needed in haste.
The 70-200 Sports zoom ring rotates in the Canon-standard direction (opposite of the Nikon standard).
This lens’ four switches are easy to find on the significantly-raised switch bank. The glove-usable switches have a relatively low profile on the switch bank and each firmly, assuredly clicks into position. That all four have three positions means that a bit more attention is required, especially when the center position is desired. The AF/MF switch, like the rest of the Art lenses, has a white background indicator when in the AF position.
This lens has, minimally, a dust & splash proof mount as indicated by the rear gasket seal. In the press release, Sigma mentioned that the lens features a “… dust- and splash-proof structure … with [a] water- and oil-repellent coating on the front element [to] ensure safe use even in the most challenging shooting conditions.” [Sigma]
The Sigma 70-200 Sports is noticeably larger and heavier than other lenses in its class.
ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens52.2 oz(1480g)3.5 x 7.8″(88.8 x 199.0mm)77mm2018 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E AF-S FL VR Lens50.5 oz(1430g)3.5 x 8.0″(88.5 x 202.5mm)77mm2016 Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens63.5 oz(1800g)3.7 x 8.0””(94.2 x 202.9mm)82mm2018 Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Lens50.5 oz(1430g)3.4 x 7.8″(86.4 x 197.6mm)77mm2011 Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens52.2 oz(1480g)3.5 x 7.9(88.0 x 200.0)772016 Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens52.9 oz(1500g)3.5 x 7.6″(87.9 x 193.0mm)77mm2017
For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens Specifications using the site’s Lens Spec tool.
When using any one of these lenses, you will know that there is something in your hands and, if you use one for several hours at a time, you will likely have tired arms and shoulders afterwards. That feeling will be slightly magnified using the 70-200 Sports lens. Still, these are one of the most useful classes of lenses available and they are well worth the investment and effort to use.
Here is the Sigma 70-200 Sports lens alongside its 70-200mm f/2.8 contemporaries:
Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:
Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8 GM OSS Lens Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E AF-S FL VR Lens Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens
The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.
Use the site’s product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens to other lenses.
All 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses have 77mm filter threads … except this one. Bucking the trend is the Sports lens’ 82mm threads. While not substantially different than 77mm filters, 82mm filters are larger and more expensive.
A lens of this size and weight creates a significantly-front-heavy situation for a tripod-mounted camera. Thus, all 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses I’ve used came with a tripod ring included, providing a balanced attachment point. The Sigma 70-200 Sports lens includes a remarkably-strong, remarkably-smooth-rotating tripod ring that click-stops at each 90° mark. This non-removable ring integrates smoothly into the lens barrel. The grippy engraved-metal easy-to-use locking knob is relatively narrow and significantly-raised. What is removable, via four screws, is the tripod ring’s foot. Ideal is that the foot comes with an integrated Arca-style lens plate dovetail with two safety stop screws included. No longer is an accessory plate necessary for attaching this lens to Arca-compatible clamp and the lack of an accessory plate enables a more compact lens. As smooth as the front of this plate is, the rear of each side of the dovetails is not rounded and a bit sharp in the hand.
Sigma, as you might expect, includes the lens hood in the box. The semi-rigid plastic Sigma LH914-01 Lens Hood is a moderately large, petal-shaped hood that provides significant protection to the front lens element from flare-inducing light, from impact, and from dust and moisture. The interior of the lens is ribbed to avoid light reflecting into the lens and the exterior features a thin mold ribbed ring and rubberized rear section to aid in grip during installation and removal. With a push-button release, this hood is very easy to install and remove.
This lens arrives in a useful, nicely padded, double-zippered case. A shoulder strap is provided, but a belt loop is not. It would probably be impractical to have this big case hanging from a belt anyway.
Sigma’s lens caps are great and that point is a great way to cap off this section of the review.
Sigma Global Vision and the Dock
Sigma’s Global Vision lenses (this is one) get a classification of “A”, “C” or “S”, representing a primary Sigma-intended designation of “Art”, “Contemporary” and “Sports”. A full description of these categories can be found in the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Lens press release.
As I’ve stated many times, I am not a fan of the rather narrow categorization structure. This lens gets an “S” stamped in a classy chrome circle on the lens barrel, indicating its “Sports” designation. There is also no reason why artistic images cannot be captured with this lens, and considering it was recently released, it certainly could be considered “contemporary” for a while.
I have also not hesitated to say that I am a fan of what Sigma is doing with the Global Vision lineup. The lenses in this series continue to impress and gain popularity – just don’t limit the lens’ use to its letter designation.
A great feature of the Global Vision lenses is compatibility with the Sigma USB Dock. The dock, working in conjunction with the Sigma Optimization Pro software, allows the lens’ firmware to be updated (bug fixes, compatibility updates, feature enhancements, etc.) and allows precise autofocus calibration at four distances for four focal lengths.
The second row of options illustrate what is available for programming into the C1 and C2 Custom switches. These settings become immediately available at the throw of a switch. I programmed Custom switch 1 to “Fast AF speed priority” and “Dynamic View Mode”.
Price and Value
When you compare the performance of this lens to the Canon and Nikon alternatives and then compare the prices, the Sigma 70-200 Sports appears to be a nice deal. While it is not an inexpensive lens, when the usefulness of the 70-200 Sports lens is considered, the price tag seems very good.
The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens is available in Canon EF (reviewed), Nikon F and Sigma SA mounts. My standard disclaimer: There are potential issues with third party lenses. Since Sigma reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer electronics and algorithms, there is always the possibility that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. Usually a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer via a firmware update, but this cannot be guaranteed. Compatibility with the Sigma USB Dock is risk reducing as Sigma can release firmware updates for dock-compatible lenses. Sigma USA provides a 4-year limited warranty.
The evaluation lens was online-retail-sourced.
Alternatives to the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens
As already noted, the biggest lens manufacturers all have 70-200mm f/2.8 lens models in their lineups. The standout difference is price: the Canon option costs about 40% more, the Nikon about 86% more and the Tamron G2 is roughly 13% less (not including rebates). That puts the Sigma 70-200 Sports in the lower part of the pack as far as price is concerned.
For Canon users, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III Lens will likely be at the top of the considerations list. From an image quality perspective, the Sigma lens is a bit sharper wide open at 70mm in the center and corner areas of the frame but the Canon looks better in the center at 200mm. The Canon has less vignetting. The Sigma handles flare a bit better with less contrast loss, but produces more flare artifacts at specific focal lengths/aperture settings. The Sports lens has less barrel distortion at 70mm but similar pincushion distortion at 200mm.
Looking at the Sigma 70-200 Sports vs. Canon 70-200L IS III specs comparison, we find that the Sigma lens has more aperture blades (11 vs. 8), is larger, uses larger filters (82mm vs. 77mm) and is significantly heavier (63.5 vs. 56.3 oz, 1800 vs. 1595g w/ tripod ring). The Canon has a rear-positioned zoom ring that is my strong preference. As mentioned above, the Sigma lens is notably less expensive.
For those with Nikon-based kits, comparing the Sigma 70-200 Sports to the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8E AF-S FL VR Lens makes the most sense. The image quality chart reveals that the Sigma looks very good at f/2.8 compared to the Nikon, even at the longer focal lengths. The Sigma also shows less CA. The Nikon shows slightly less vignetting over the entire focal length range, has less barrel distortion at 70mm and better flare performance at that focal length as well (the two lenses are more similar at other focal lengths in those regards).
Comparing the Sigma 70-200 Sports vs. Nikon 70-200 FL VR specs., we see that the Sigma has more aperture blades (11 vs. 9), is heavier (63.5 vs. 53.0 oz, 1800 vs. 1500g w/ tripod ring), has a larger diameter (3.71 vs. 3.48″, 94.2 vs. 88.5mm), takes larger filters (82mm vs. 77mm) and features slightly shorter focus and zoom ring rotations. The Nikon will make a considerably larger impact on your wallet.
The Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD G2 Lens, another third-party offering, will be an attractive option for those interested in the Sigma 70-200 Sports lens. The image quality comparison illustrates that the Sigma is noticeably sharper at 70mm and the Tamron is better in the middle of the focal length range before things even out around 200mm. Vignetting between the two lenses is more similar than different, the Tamron has more barrel distortion at the wider focal lengths while the Sigma shows more pincushion distortion at the opposite end of the focal length range. The Sigma shows slightly less flare.
Moving onto the Sigma 70-200 Sports vs. Tamron 70-200 VC G2 specs. comparison, once again the Sigma has more aperture blades (11 vs. 9) and is heavier (63.5 vs. 56.7 oz, 1800 vs. 1605g w/ tripod ring). The Tamron is smaller (in diameter and length), has a lower maximum magnification (0.16x vs. 0.21x), features a 1-stop higher rated stabilization rating (5 vs. 4) as well as Mode 3 stabilization. One interesting thing to note is that when the Sigma and Tamron lenses framed our test chart identically at the 200mm mark, the Sigma lens was actually 2.36″ (.72m) further away from the chart, indicating that it provides a slightly more telephoto view at 200mm.
Most will find an optically stabilized 70-200mm f/2.8 lens filling a crucial role in their kits. This class of lens is one of the most-used and most-important.
The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens has a visually attractive, very high-grade, “dust- and splash-proof” build quality that functions very well and delivers great image quality with optical stabilization aiding significantly in this regard. I’m less fond of this lens’ extra weight over its competition, the front-positioned zoom ring is not optimal and my experienced conventional phase-detection AF accuracy has not been as stellar as it could be. What this lens delivers for the low price will win it many fans.
The Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Sports Lens has what it takes to be one of your most-used lenses.
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