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Thread: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

  1. #1

    Default Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    Thanks for PhotoProZero's introduction to this lens (

    For those not familiar with this class of Macro lenses, The Canon L 180, Tamron 180 and Sigma's own 180 were all f/3.5 max aperture, and none of which are with any sort of image stabilization.

    As the corporate literature introduces:

    The Sigma APO Macro 180mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM

    Designed for use with full frame digital SLR cameras. May also be used with smaller APS-c size sensors with a corresponding effective increase in focal length to about 260mm with most cameras

    Focuses down to 1:1 magnification ratio at its closest working distance of 18.5 inches

    Optical Stabilizer allows for hand held photography

    A lens hood, front & rear lens caps are included with the lens.

    This is the world's first 180mm macro lens incorporating a magnification ratio of 1:1 and a large maximum aperture of F2.8.

    It benefits from Sigma's original Optical Stabilizer function and the wide F2.8 aperture allows faster shutter speeds for narrow depth of field, enabling photographers to emphasize the subject.

    Three FLD ("F" Low Dispersion) glass elements provide excellent correction for color aberrations. This lens incorporates Sigma's floating inner focusing system. This minimizes aberrations which occur as shooting distances change, and enables stable rendering of the image from infinity to 1:1 magnification. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp and high contrast images even at the maximum aperture.

    Equipped with Sigma's own propriety OS (Optical Stabilizer) system, this lens offers the use of shutter speeds approximately 4 stops slower than would otherwise be possible*, enabling handheld close-up photography. The incorporation of HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) ensures quiet and high speed autofocus as well as full-time manual focus capability.

    This lens has a rounded 9 blade diaphragm creating an attractive blur to the out of focus areas of the image.

    At 1:1 magnification, this lens has a focusing distance of 47cm/18.5in, which is a greater working distance than shorter focal length macro lenses. This is advantageous when taking pictures of highly sensitive subjects such as butterflies and insects. Attaching Sigma’s optional Tele Converter's allows photographers' to shoot with an even greater working distance or with a magnification ratio larger than 1:1.

    APO Macro 180mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM - Macro Lenses -

  2. #2

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    This review is not so much a 'new' review but perhaps a different look into this lens.

    As this is a brand new lens, and not an improvement of a similar lens, it might be expected that there might be some teething problems, as with many new models introduced. The question is whether it can be fixed, and in this case, perhaps by re-calibration of the test lens?

    During my tests, I found the AF behavior quite different. Could be a lot of things as hinted at later.

    I am not sure, but I believe the 7D AF architecture is a scaled-down version of the 1D MkII series cameras. Like I said, I am not sure, but it seems likely, especially the way the 7D can do AF Point Expansion.

    That being said, I feel that a lot then depends on the actual subject matter, lighting conditions and so forth, and more importantly for higher-end cameras, the way the AF platforms are adjusted/customised in one's camera that may affect the entire behavior of the camera/lens AF efficiency and accuracy.

    I won't get into the 1D (up to Mk II) / 7D AF architectures as that may take a separately written technical paper, which I am not capable of doing, so I'll just report my initial findings and impressions.

    1) In LOW LIGHT (Inside the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple)

    1DS MkII - Single central point (TWO - you can toggle TWO in the 1 series cameras for more accuracy), NO AF expansion, contrasty subjects: AF was QUICK and LOCKED ON accurately, and positively. With lower-contrast subjects, lens hunted and could not lock on, which probably appears to be the case with ANY tele macro lenses.

    I pointed at a NEAR object, touched shutter button ONCE and fired, then swung my camera to a FURTHER object, touched shutter button ONCE and fired. Whatever I focused on was in the center of the frame, generally except where I did FLR.

    Other examples are included below. All subjects, I used the same shutter technique:

    Last edited by Dream Merchant; 8th September 2012 at 07:51 AM.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    Some more examples:

  4. #4

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    Decided to move 'outdoors' a little after the initial surprise that the lens' AF was working inside the temple in dim light.

    Last edited by Dream Merchant; 8th September 2012 at 02:57 PM.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    And walking around Chinatown was where the first hint of AF problems started appearing in daylight.

    Focusing on near subjects was no problem, but when I swung my camera to something further away, the lens focuses moderately FAST, but LOCKS ON and is BACK-FOCUSED.

    You may not see it clearly, but in the viewfinder, it's out of focus but I can still shoot. I guess the lens is relaying the information that it IS in focus as I have a function set where if it's not in focus, my camera cannot shoot.

    This situation sometimes got a little worse in that I could not even fire.

    Funny thing is, slightly closer up, with dimmer, higher-contrast subjects, it focuses fast and locks on accurately!

  6. #6

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    For these non-moving subjects, basically some of the AF settings I toyed around with were:

    1) Central Point (TWO) AF No-Expansion Single Shot
    2) Central Point AF 7-point Expansion (expanding up to 13 made no sense) Single Shot
    3) Off-Center AF point No-Expansion Single Shot
    4) Off-Center AF Point 7-point Expansion Single Shot (expanding up to 13 made no sense)

    5) Central Point No-Expansion Servo
    6) Central Point 7-point Expansion Servo (expanding up to 13 made no sense)
    8) ALL Points No-Expansion Servo
    9) ALL Points 7-points Servo (expanding up to 13 made no sense)

    For moving subjects, I used Central-Point No-Expansion Servo and ALL Points No-Expansion Servo

    Again, I do not wish to go into the technicalities of selecting different platforms because it would really take up a different review, and a technical one. The technical papers can be found out there on the net.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    A different day and a different camera based on the same AF architecture - 1D MkII

    Results were slightly better, but by only a very slight margin.

    As usual, I focused on a NEAR object, then a FURTHER one away. Same shutter technique was used - press once to acquire AF lock then fire. Only thing was that many times, instead of locking with back-focusing, on the further away subjects, the camera refused to fire. For the purpose of this review, I then switched off the AF and fired the camera to show viewers the amount of back-focus, which was slight, but still renders the subject OOF.

    Please remember that these tests were done with the initial reports on AF issues posted by PhotoProZero.

    Last edited by Dream Merchant; 12th September 2012 at 04:14 AM.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    You do have to admit that when the lens focuses properly, the resulting bokeh is nothing short of astounding at f/2.8! Also, as I stopped down the lens, the characteristics of the bokeh seems to hold up very well! Another point to note is that I tend to set my working cameras such that very little or no additional contrast or saturation is added. These I add in post if necessary, which might explain why the more natural colour rendition of this lens. More tests shots will follow.

    Last edited by Dream Merchant; 12th September 2012 at 04:13 AM.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    Taking a break from AF issues, in these shots I wanted to show how well the Sigma 180mm F2.8 Macro DG HSM OS renders colours as well as the bokeh. Also, this would demonstrate the effectiveness of the OS as this was shot on an overcast day towards the evening.

  10. #10
    Moderator ed9119's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    Thanks DM ..... Sigma has been advised to be more careful in future in giving us a properly calibrated unit (on all lenses) for a fair review to be carried out.

    For that matter..... ALL manufacturers/distributors will be similarly advised to prep properly calibrated units for us before a review of their products

    p/s This is the first couple of times we're working with Sigma (this lens and the DP2 M cam) ...... so we all learn from this
    Last edited by ed9119; 9th September 2012 at 11:47 AM.
    shaddap and just shoot .... up close

  11. #11

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    That's great Ed!

    I feel this Sigma lens could be a crackerjack of a lens if adjusted properly!

    Lifesize reproduction, f/2.8 (also great for portraits!), the necessary weight to help make the lens stable (light tele lenses tend to be more unstable off-hand) plus the Optical Stabalizarion!

    And the fact that this high speed lens has virtually NO CA, something which other reviewers can attest to!

    Let the photos demonstrate. These shots of a car window were taken outdoors with some overhanging greenery.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    In this last series of shots I took with this lens, again, the crispness wide open and bokeh, plus the lack of CA AND the LACK of FLARE is quite nice!

    One thing I found was that mounted on a tripod, at faster speeds (as reflected by one other reviewer), there appears to be no issues, but I found that at slower speeds, leaving the OS switched ON while tripod-mounted gave problems. Photos will show. Also, at f/16 and f/22, the extreme end, exposure seems to be darker so you might have to compensate EV.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    To sum it up, I fell this lens can be quite stunning, especially when you open wide at f/2.8 for portraits and such, the sharpness when slightly stopped down, the contrast and colour rendition, the lack of CA and Flare, stopping down - the bokeh holds up very well, and the Optical Stabalization.

    Downside to some could be the weight. For me, the weight actually helps keep the lens stable (assuming proper holding off-hand holding techniques). And yes, the filter size is large at 86mm. Since I don't do macro shooting, I wonder if Macro shooters, which I roughly catagorize as Flower and Insect shooters, use more than a protective filter and polarizer, or do they need to have a whole series of filters? If the case is latter, then high-quality filters at 86mm could get a little pricey.

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    west coast

    Default Re: Another look at the SIGMA 180mm F2.8 APO Macro DG HSM

    Thanks for the hands on review.


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