An update of Sigma's pro-quality 70-200mm f/2.8 APO EX zoom of the late 1990s, Sigma's new 70-200mm f/2.8 full-frame, digitally-optimized (DG) macro zoom ($889, street) offers improved coatings for suppressing flare, dramatically closer focusing, and "full-time" manual focus that allows manual touch-up, even when set to AF. This is also the first Sigma moderate tele zoom to use elements of high-tech and expensive ELD (Extraordinary-Low-Dispersion) glass-a component of the firm's longer APO super teles-for better control of chromatic aberration.
HANDS ON: Like Sigma's earlier version, this lens is large (over 10 inches long, with hood) and heavy (more than 3 pounds). Surfaced with a pro-black, hard-coated, baked-on, crinkle finish, it feels sturdy and very well constructed. The manual focus collar spins smoothly, with a long turning radius that enables very fine manual focusing. The zoom ring turns stiffly, but it will probably loosen with use. Its AF action, in the Canon mount, is fast and very quiet, thanks to Sigma's Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM).
IN THE LAB: SQF performance at 70mm and 135mm were in the Excellent range, while at 200mm the rating, surprisingly, slipped through Very Good to Good. Distortion control, however, was visibly superior to Sigma's previous 70-200mm. DxO Analyzer 2.0 tests found only Slight barrel distortion (0.17%) at 70mm and Slight pincushion distortion at 135mm (0.22%) and 200mm (0.30%). Light falloff left the corners by f/5.6 at 70mm; by f/9 at 135mm; and by f/8 at 200mm-not up to the standard set by the earlier lens, which showed no visible vignetting at 70mm. At the uniform close-focus distance of approximately 38 inches, maximum magnification ratios ranged from 1:8.8 to a powerful 1:3.3.
CONCLUSIONS: The bright f/2.8 maximum aperture suits this new Sigma lens to a wide range of applications, including portraiture, sports, and, of course, low-light work. Its uniform close-focusing distance of just under 40 inches, its 1:3.3 maximum magnification ratio, and its ultrasilent HSM AF motor combine to make this a compelling choice for nature and wildlife close-ups, too.
• Fast, close-focusing, and extemely well constructed.
• Very little distortion.
• Some softness at 200mm.
70-200mm (72.16-196.03mm tested), f/2.8 (f/2.92 tested), 18 elements in 15 groups. Focusing turns 150 degrees counterclockwise. Zoom ring turns 70 degrees counterclockwise. Focal lengths marked at 70-, 85-, 100-, 135-, and 200mm.
• Diagonal View Angle: 34-12 degrees.
• Weight: 3.13 lb.
• Filter size: 77mm.
• Mounts: Canon AF, Nikon AF, Pentax AF, Sigma AF, Sony AF.
• Included: Lenshood, softcase.
• Street price: $889.