Macro lenses are fun to play with, and besides they are essential for most photographers, in terms of their versatile usage areas. The Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS Macro HSM is one of Sigma’s long-termed produced lenses, and I had a chance to review this lens before the “Art” version comes out.
Sigma has been producing modern macro lenses in different focal lengths, such as 105mm, 150mm and 180mm, and Sigma also used to produce short focal length macro lenses in like 50mm and 70mm macro. However, within all these ranges, 105mm macro is the most versatile version in my opinion. First of all, 105mm is certainly an ideal focal length for macro photography, that creates a safe distance between you and your subjects; by preventing you to block the light falling onto the subject, and even preventing you to scare your little living subjects. As a matter of fact, I’d suggest 150mm or 180mm macro lenses for capturing living objects in the nature, but even 105mm will be enough for at least starters. I’ve tested this lens for both 1:1 macro and portrait purposes, and here you will find the results from a photographer’s perspective.
Sigma has been producing this lens for a long time, and with this recent version, it’s finally equipped with Hyper-sonic Motor and optical stabilization. In comparison to old versions, this recent version focuses silently, and all the elements stay inside the lens when focusing. Sigma’s HSM works in similar way like Canon’s USM and Nikon’s SWM, and so far, I’m quite happy with its silent focusing.
There are three switches on the lens; focus limiter, OS mode selector, and AF-MF switcher. The focus limiter is a three-way switch that enables AF range limit. You can select between full AF range, 0.45m to infinity, and 0.312-0.45m, depending on what you are shooting.
Focusing speed is above the average, and it is dead silent when the OS modes are off. On the other side, after activating the OS modes, the lens becomes noisy when focusing, and you can even hear the noise of moving inner elements. When autofocus is first activated, the OS mode starts working very noisy and after releasing the AF button, it takes about three seconds for the OS motor to stop with a rattle. To put it more explicitly, OS modes are quite noisy in comparison to other lenses with stabilizers.
Speaking of OS, there are two OS modes on this lens. While the first OS mode provides a traditional blur reduction, the second version prevents vertical shake when shooting subjects moving horizontal to the camera. Most importantly, the OS works flawlessly. I captured non-blurred images even with 1/30 shutter speed.
The lens is solidly built, and it comes with two lens hoods made of hard plastic; one for full-frame cameras, and hood adapter for cropped sensor cameras. The exterior of the lens is plastic as well, but it feels sturdy. The only downside of this one and other Sigma lenses with similar coatings is, they can be scratched easily and thus creates shiny patches on the coating. Therefore, it is better to keep this lens in a pouch. Also, the manual focus ring is smooth and tight enough to make micro adjustments. On the other hand, when the lens is not attached to a camera, it feels so delicate as all the inner elements feel like floating inside the lens. Macro lens users will be familiar with this, but on this Sigma lens, you can feel it a lot more. So, if you ever get this lens, don't be surprised when you first take it out of the box.
The selection switches are placed perfectly for right-handed photographers, and it allows you to switch between different focus ranges, AF-MF, and OS modes respectively. However, I found it quite hard to operate these switches as they were tightly built.
The lens has 62mm filter thread, and this is quite good for those willing to invest in filters, as most filters in this size are cheaper than the common 67mm, 77mm, or 82mm filters. By the way, Sigma doesn't recommend to use more than two filters on this lens due to high amount of vignetting, so you need to choose between your UV or CPL when using this lens.
After shooting different subjects under different conditions, I can happily say that this lens is definitely sharp. With the accurate focus, you can rely on this lens for sharp images. As a former Canon 100mm and Nikon 105mm macro lens user, I must say that this lens is sharper than the Nikon AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, and it is as sharp as Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM IS. Also, I barely noticed chromatic aberration on some images, and even with wide apertures I couldn't notice any color fringing. Vignette is a little bit more when shooting at narrow apertures, however some photographers like it. But, both coma and vignette can be removed with just one click on ACR, by default lens profile, without making any other adjustments.
What I Liked
- Fast autofocus
- Silent autofocus when OS modes are off
- Sturdy build
- Optical Quality
- Low chromatic aberration
- Portrait performance
- Box contents that include carrying case
- Affordable price
What I Didn’t Like
- Noisy OS modes
- Moving inner elements feel delicate
- Exterior coating
- Switches on the lens are quite hard
Sigma 105mm HSM macro lens is a high quality lens with some good features. Even if it has some downsides such as noisy mechanism, the optical quality and its affordable price compensate these easily. If you're after a sharp, all around macro lens, then go with the Sigma. Also, with 1.4x and 2.0x Sigma teleconverters, you can achieve 147mm or 210mm telephoto macro lenses results. If you are a Sigma 105mm HSM macro user, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.