Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro (OS) HSM | C Real World Review

Last September when Sigma announced the reorganization of their lens line it caused quite a stir. These lenses really looked professional, but what people wanted to know was how do they perform?"

The first lens out of the stable was the 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A. This lens blew every other fast 35 out of the water with IQ and price. It was a stunning success. (See the review here.) The next up was the more modest Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro (OS) HSM | C, the first lens in their "Contemporary" lineup. This is basically an affordable upgrade from most kit lenses.

I'm no stranger to the Sigma 17-70 f/2.8-4.  I owned the original version and gave it a review a few years back (you can see it here).

The new lens benefits from a different design and some added FLD lens elements. The old lens had 17 elements in 13 groups with one ELD element and two aspherical elements while the updated version has 16 elements in 14 groups with one SLD element, three aspherical elements, and two FLD elements.  The ELD and SLD elements are the last elements before the sensor which reduces flare from light reflecting from the sensor filters. In any case, all this gobbledy-gook adds up to a lens that performs somewhat better than the original.

In the end, the lens redesign seems to have improved it a little bit on the wide end, but on the long end it has gotten quite a bit better.

The thing about this lens is that for $500 it is a stellar performer. It's sharp, has excellent contrast, and is very versatile. It has a few things that anyone should expect from a lens at this price point. The corners are slightly soft wide open, but stopped down everything sharpens up perfectly  There's a small amount of barrel distortion at the wide end and a little pincushion starting at about 35mm, but, it's easily fixed with one click in ACR or Lightroom.

The Sigma lens benefits from a redesign at a very crucial time. All of Nikon's current DX cameras are 24MP and all of Nikon's current standard zoom lenses were designed around lower resolution sensors. From my experiences having owned all of Nikon's current 24MP cameras the current Nikon lenses aren't holding up to the strength of the sensors. So far I can say that the Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro (OS) HSM | C is the best and most affordable lens to pair with your 24MP camera. Even the top-of-the line Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G falls short in comparison to the Sigma, which is less than half the price.

In addition to updated optics the lens has also received a cosmetic makeover. The new look is sleek and professional. It's manufactured using a Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) material which allows the lens to be smaller, lighter, and more durable than the original.

The new lens still has all of the features that made it a winner in my book in the past as well.

  • Speed. The aperture though variable is still plenty fast. Faster than Nikon's direct competition the 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 VR. 
  • Focal length range. This lens has the perfect focal length for most everyday shooting scenarios from landscapes and street photography to portraits and still-life and some sports. This lens has a wide enough range to cover you for most subjects.
  • Close-up focus. This is a great selling point for me. At 1:2.9 it's not a true macro, but it's still very good. I love close focusing at the wide-angle setting which allows me to do cool things with perspective distortion.
  • HyperSonic Motor. The Sigma HSM is right on par with Nikon's Silent Wave motor. Fast and quiet. Better than any other third-party offerings so far.
  • OS. While I don't rely on Optical Stabilization as a crutch, when out shooting during early morning or twilight this allows you to leave the tripod at home if you're shooting still subjects. Sigma's OS seems to have been improved since the early version and works very well even when pushed to ridiculous limits!
I almost forgot one of the biggest bonuses for the new lens! The USB dock! Along with the Sigma Optimization Pro software you can update the firmare and fine-tune the AF at all focal lengths (something you can't do with in-camera AF fine-tune). Sigma is the ONLY company that allows this kind of customization. To see how it works click here:

My final verdict is that if you can live without a constant f/2.8 aperture and you want a phenomenal lens for a low price. This is the lens to get. I am not embarrassed to say that this lens replaces my Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8G*. 

*The only caveat being that for work in extremely tough environments the Nikon 17-55 does exceed the Sigma in build quality with a more durable magnesium body.

Here are some sample images taken with the new Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro (OS) HSM | C (click on image to view large)

You can capture extremely detailed  macro images with this "kit" lens.
1/60 sec @ f/16, ISO 100

Sharp detail from edge to edge even wide open
1/125 sec @ f/4, ISO 180
Silky smooth "bokeh". Better than most inexpensive prime lenses and a lot of 3rd party dedicated macro lenses.
1/400 sec @ f/4, ISO 100

Close focus + wide-angle = cool perspective distortion
1/6 sec @ f/9, ISO 3200

Sigma's OS works like a charm to get sharp handheld shots at night.
1/10 sec @ f/3.3, ISO 3200

For tech specs and MTF charts see the Sigma website: Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC HSM (OS) | C

To buy one click here:


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I'm looking for a walk arround lens for the upcoming 70D. An I think the Sigma is the best option for me. Opticaly better then the 15-85 and more versatile than the 17-55 f2.8; and still cheaper and lighter than those lenses.
Especially knowing that it works fine on a high MP camera is important to me, since the 70D will likely have more MP too.

dimzPhotography said...

i want to buy this lens for my eos 60d Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)

Anonymous said...


According to your flicker post, you tested this lens with the Nikon D7100. Don't you?

If so, please, tell us if you also had the troubles people say in DPREVIEW about that camera and sigma lenses in general.


J. Dennis Thomas said...


Whoever posted that might have been using an older 17-70. They made 3 or 4 versions.

I had nothing but goos experiences with this Sigma 17-70. It was great. Worked better on the D7100 than the Nikon 17-55 f/2.8G.

I recommend it highly.

Hugo said...

Hello. Thank you for a great review but according DxO Mark the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 had better results in sharpness then the 17-70 f2.8 - 4 with the D7100. I have this camera and don´t know witch is the better choice.



J. Dennis Thomas said...

Hi Hugo,

I don't think you can go wrong with either lens. It really comes down to what you need. The 17-50 is faster but shorter and has no close focus.

The 17-70 is a little slower, but I think it's the more versatile lens. Longer range and near macro. The price is great too.

Personally, I love the 17-70 | C and I go with that for an everyday lens.

Adela Steinberg said...

For the 2nd to last shot, did you use an additional attachment for the wide angle effect?

Thanks for your thorough review. I think I've decided on the 17-70 over the 17-50. (And, double thanks for saving me $100!)

J. Dennis Thomas said...


No additional attachments. That was shot at 17mm, which is wide-angle.

Kolawole Dipo said...

thanks for the review. I just purchsed a D7100 as an upgrade to my D3100. I have a 35mm f1.8 but I am looking to get a sharp mid range zoom. Can you post more sample pictures from this lens and the D7100?

J. Dennis Thomas said...

Thanks Kolawole.

I wish I could post more, but I don't have the lens in my possession and I don't have the D7100 anymore.

It's a killer lens though. Trust me.