Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro £189.99
20th Nov 2011 | 17:25
Not the newest, but this Sigma zoom lens still has something to offer at the price
In this day and age, it's easy to write off any 'slow' telephoto zoom lens with an f/4-5.6 maximum aperture that doesn't have optical stabilisation. However, the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro still packs some impressive features at the price.
As a 'DG' lens, it's designed for digital full-frame DSLRs but is equally compatible with APS-C camera bodies that have smaller sensors.
The lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony mounts, and is an especially attractive option for Pentax and Sony users, since current ranges of these cameras feature built-in sensor-shift image stabilisation, bypassing the need for an optical stabiliser in the lens.
Effective focal lengths on most APS-C bodies are 105-450mm, and 112-480mm for Canons.
With 14 elements in 10 groups, three of the Sigma's elements are Special Low Dispersion (SLD) to help reduce chromatic aberrations, or colour fringing, and earning it an Apochromatic (APO) badge. The nine-blade diaphragm enables an aperture range of f/4-5.6 down to f/22-32.
Autofocus is based on a relatively old-fashioned and basic electric motor, rather than Sigma's HyperSonic Motor (HSM) system, but the lens focuses down to just 95cm, at least in the 200-300mm focal range.
At its longest telephoto setting, the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro lens has a 0.5x macro facility, similar to the Tamron 70-300mm Di LD Macro lens. The Sigma comes complete with a lens hood and soft pouch.
Build quality, handling and performance
Build quality and handling
Despite being relatively inexpensive to buy, the Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro's build quality feels good and solid. The lens is reassuringly weighty at 550g and measures 77-119mm, extending to 249mm at its longest zoom setting and shortest normal focus setting, with the lens hood fitted.
Switch to Macro mode using the switch on the side of the lens barrel and it stretches even further to 264mm.
The autofocus motor is quite noisy, but it's reasonably quick. There's no internal focus, so the front element rotates and extends as you focus from infinity down to the closest focus distance but, on the plus side, this enables the printing of a magnification scale on the inner lens barrel, as well as the focus distance scale which is printed around the the focus ring. The focus and zoom rings both have a smooth action and the lens doesn't suffer from zoom creep.
Impressive throughout most of its zoom range, the Sigma's sharpness drops off at the long end of the zoom range, especially towards the edges and corners of the frame. Sharpness at 300mm is poor across the whole frame with small apertures of f/16-32, which you might want to use to increase depth of field in macro shooting.
Despite its APO badge, chromatic aberrations are quite noticeable. Sigma's newer, non-APO 70-300mm OS actually performs rather better in this respect. In some of our tests under dull lighting conditions, image contrast was also a bit lacking.
Taken at 300mm, f/5.6
One of the old school of telephoto zoom lenses, the Sigma 70-300mm APO Macro lacks an optical stabiliser, which is a big drawback for Canon and Nikon camera users.
Typically solid Sigma build quality and sharpness is good from 70mm up to about 250mm.
Drop off in sharpness at 300mm, lack of image stabilisation and no HSM autofocus.
More than a one-trick pony, the Sigma doubles up as a 0.5x macro lens but, given its relatively poor resolution at the long end of the zoom range, it can't compete with a good macro prime lens. Overall, it's outclassed by Sigma's newer 70-300mm OS lens.