Review Sigma 70-200 mm 2.8 APO EX DG (C FF)

Cameras with a full frame sensor keep getting less expensive. Once you have a full-frame camera like a Canon 6D or a Canon 5D MK3, you, of course, will want to have good lenses as well. Unfortunately, the suggested retail prices for 70-200 mm f/2.8 zooms with image stabilization from Canon and Nikon top 2,000 euros. The Sigma 70-200 mm 2.8 APO EX DG OS is one of the few affordable choices for those enthusiasts who love a bright telephoto zoom.

There are many reasons to choose a 70-200 mm f/2.8. First of all, there is of course the beautiful background blur/bokeh, whereby a subject is beautifully isolated from the background. With the combination of field of view and high brightness, a 70-200 mm zoom lens is versatile: from photographing concerts, sporting events, and weddings to high-quality holiday photography..

frontlensIn addition, this type of lens is also useful in the studio and โ€“ not unimportantly โ€“ the optical performance of this type of lens is almost always high in comparison with other types of lenses. A 70-200 mm zoom lens, in short, should not be missing from any photography equipment set.

praktijkvoobeeld70200mmAt a focal length of 200 mm, this scene is simply captured with a 70-200 mm zoom on a full-frame camera, without having to worry about chasing off the fish.

We previously published a review of the Sigma 70-200 mm 2.8 zoom, which since 2010 has included image stabilization (OS), based on our test with a Canon 650D. What kind of optical performance would you get from this universal telephoto zoom if you tested it on a camera with a full-frame sensor like the Canon 5D MK3? Below, you can see an illustration of the 3x zoom range of a 70-200 mm zoom on a camera with a full-frame sensor. In most cases, you don’t need more. If I look at the pictures that I’ve made over the years with a 70-200 mm zoom, then I appear to have a preference for using such a lens mainly at 200 mm. At that focal length, I start when shooting without a tripod at a shutter speed of 1/400 second or faster. Then the high, constant f/2.8 brightness is a major plus. In low-light, the built-in image stabilization comes to the rescue, meaning you can still shoot by hand at slower shutter speeds.


Construction and auto focus

The Sigma 70-200 mm f/2.8 OS is made of high-quality plastic, and the mount is metal. The whole thing feels solid. With a weight of 1400 grams and a filter diameter of 77 mm, this is a professional-level lens. Both the zoom ring and the focus ring turn smoothly without play. The filter does not rotate when focusing, which is nice when using a gradient filter or a polarizing filter. The Sigma 70-200 mm f/2.8 OS lens comes with a spacious lens bag, a large lens hood and a handy tripod collar. Assembly and disassembly of this unit happens without having to remove the lens from the camera. That’s really incredibly handy and helps to prevent dust on your sensor.{insertgrid = 289}

The auto focus is the HSM type. In combination with a Canon 5D MK2, we noticed that the focus accuracy at maximum aperture varied: the camera indicated after some time with a beep that there was good focus, while we could measure differences in sharpness in shots made at f/2.8. It was not a systematic front focus or back focus, but more of a variation. In low light, it doesn’t hurt to take an extra shot if you choose f/2.8.

Focusing with a Canon 5D MK3 goes better, but still pretty slow, when you compare it to the modern Sigma lenses like the Sigma 120-300 mm Sports. The focusing is sufficiently quiet, and in low light, the camera rarely searches.

Image stabilization

The effectiveness of the built-in image stabilization is measured at 70 mm. The graph shows the Imatest measurements of resolution expressed as a percentage for a shot made from tripod. The resolution of an image with image stabilization and a shutter speed of 1/25 second is just as high as the resolution of a shot made with a shutter speed of 1/100 second without image stabilization. The profit of this OS is then about 2 stops. At slow shutter speeds, the resolution of the pictures made with OS is twice as high as the resolution of pictures made without OS.minidog


Almost all lenses at full aperture show vignetting when used on a camera with a full-frame sensor. That you encounter visible vignetting with the Sigma 70-200 mm at f/2.8 is to be expected. After 1 stop stopping down, it’s already a lot better; at f/5.6, the vignetting is so low that it’s no longer visible in practice. In fact, many photographers see vignetting in portraits as a plus, because the subject is even more emphasized. If necessary, vignetting is simple to remove with software afterwards.RAWvignet


Also in terms of distortion, the Sigma 70-200 mm gives no surprises. The distortion runs from barrel-shaped at the shortest focal length to pincushion-shaped at 200 mm. At both 70 mm and 200 mm, the deformation is visible to the naked eye. Even so, in practice, because of the application range of this lens, it will not very often be disturbing.


In this point, you can clearly see that Sigma has made tremendous progress in recent years to combat flare. Where the Sigma Art, Contemporary and Sports lenses are exceptionally resistant to flare, and thus rise above the competition, the Sigma 70-200 mm f/2.8 just works well. When you photograph directly into a bright light source, you can encounter ghosts in practice. The Sigma 70-200 mm gives nothing up here to zoom lenses from other brands, but it’s clearly beaten by the more modern Sigma lenses.


If you want pictures with an idyllic background blur, then the Sigma 70-200 mm f/2.8 in terms of focal length, brightness and price is one of the most attractive options for a photographer with a full-frame camera. The course from sharp to blurred is also pretty even, as you can see in the following studio shot. The nine rounded aperture blades make sure you also have a nice round bokeh at smaller apertures as well. That’s really a lot nicer than with many other lenses, where from f/4, the circular bokeh assumes the shape of the aperture.bokeh


Often, lenses initially show less sharpness in the corners, but the Sigma 70-200 mm gives even sharpness at all apertures from corner to center. The highest sharpness is achieved after 1 or 2 stops stopping down. At 200 mm, the center sharpness is slightly less good than at the shorter focal lengths. All in all, quite an achievement.



Chromatic aberration

With this Sigma, the chromatic aberration at all focal lengths is nicely low. This applies both to lateral chromatic aberration, and for longitudinal aberration (color bokeh). The application of expensive, apochromatic glass has delivered the desired results.

Conclusion Sigma 70-200 mm 2.8 APO EX DG OS test


  • Very high sharpness up to 150 mm
  • From f/4.0 low vignetting
  • Very effective image stabilization
  • Nice bokeh/background blur
  • Well built; professional construction quality
  • Favorable price


  • Distortion at 200 mm on the high side
  • Sharpness at the longest focal length lags behind the sharpness at the shorter focal lengths
  • Rather slow AF
  • Heavy

The Sigma 70-200 2.8 APO EX DG OS weighs more than 1 kilo and at the same time is relatively light for this class of lenses. Nevertheless, this lens also has effective image stabilization. Many professional photographers love to work with a large, well-made lens. We mention as a disadvantage that it’s a heavy lens, because in particular photographers who are just switching from a camera with an APS-C sensor to a full-frame camera probably have to get used to handling a camera for which both the lens and the camera weigh a kilo or more. How heavy you find this burden (sorry, I couldn’t resist) is a matter of taste. Here too, it’s wise to first try out a lens on your camera at a dealer or at one of the lens shows that Sigma Benelux organizes regularly in Houten.

With the Sigma 70-200 mm f/2.8 OS, you get the best out of the quality of a full-frame camera: very sharp pictures with a dreamy, butter-soft bokeh.

The specifications strongly resemble those of the Canon 70-200 mm 2.8 IS II, and the image quality of the Sigma 70-200 mm OS is high. The background blur is very attractive; just as nice as that of other, much more expensive 70-200 mm lenses. Both vignetting and chromatic aberration are limited quite well. And the resolution at most apertureโ€“focal length combinations is high. The suggested retail price of the Sigma 70-200 mm 2.8 OS is remarkably low. What more do you want?

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