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.
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: http://vimeo.com/64665246
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: