Fstoppers Reviews Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS Macro HSM Lens

Fstoppers Reviews Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS Macro HSM Lens

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.

Focusing

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. 

Build Quality

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.  

Shot with Nikon D810, f/9.0, 0.8s, ISO400

100% crop shows the details and magnification clearly

Image Quality

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. 

Sigma 105mm is a good telephoto prime lens at the same time.
Nikon D810, f/6.3, 1/320, ISO 200

What I Liked

  • Fast autofocus
  • Silent autofocus when OS modes are off
  • Sturdy build
  • Optical Quality
  • Sharpness
  • 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
  • Vignetting

Nikon D810, f/3.0, 1/400, ISO 200
Model: Bambino Alessandro

Conclusion

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. 

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14 Comments

Thomas Starlit's picture

I have been using this lens extensively for more than a year now, on Nikon D610 and D810. I do agree that it has an odd "rattle" when not mounted and also that when OS is engaged it makes a funny rasping noise. At first I thought this was a malfunction, but it is completely harmless and none of it is too noisy in my opinion.

I mainly shoot portrats and headshots which it does perfectly. The sharpness is impeccable. Very little vignetting. I adore the images that it produces, the colours, the blur, everything.

Spy Black's picture

"However, within all these ranges, 105mm macro is the most versatile version in my opinion."
On a full frame body, yes.

" As a matter of fact, I’d suggest 150mm or 180mm macro lenses for capturing living objects in the nature..."
I use a Sigma 400mm f/5.6 APO macro for that myself. The 150 and 180 are great on crop frame bodies that way.

Anonymous's picture

Are you using the 400 on a tripod? I can't imagine keeping it steady, handheld, for really small subjects and it would be difficult to use flash from the kind of distance that would require.

Spy Black's picture

I do use it handheld, I just raise the ISO so I can use a high shutter speed and stop it down a stop. Occasionally I'll use a tripod if conditions permit. I tend to use a beanbag mostly, as it's more portable and easier to use against rocks and trees when I'm outdoors.

Although I typically don't use flash with this lens, it's easy enough to use flash with it. Minimum focus is roughly 4 feet. Here's the full frame from a virtually on-axis shot with on-axis flash, shot f/8 @ ISO 100, at closest focus on a Nikon D600 full frame body, to give you an idea of what kind of magnification you can get at that distance full frame.

Anonymous's picture

Oh. I was thinking of a bit higher magnification and/or small animals. I mostly use macro for bugs and flowers but here's a shot of a coin I did for my brother. He wanted to document a potential mint flaw.

Spy Black's picture

The 400 is really more for shooting timid creatures like butterflies and birds. It doesn't have built-in 1:1 magnification. For what you're doing a 50 or 100 is a better choice, depending on sensor crop.

Anonymous's picture

I have the 90mm Tamron on a full frame camera. I'd like to have the Sigma 180 or Nikon 200 but I still think 400 is too long, especially for butterflies (in flight). I would think it would be too difficult to find them before they're gone. Well, horses for courses...

Spy Black's picture

I personally don't try to shoot butterflies in flight (I can't see being able to do that with any long lens), so this works for me. A 180 or 200 is certainly an excellent range as well. After all, you can crop. ;-). This shot below was shot with a Nikon 1 J4 with it's lens around 75mm equivalent, then cropped to something more around 300-400mm equivalent..

Anonymous's picture

I'll crop if I have to but after getting the final composition in camera, I hate to settle for less. For some subjects, it's all about the composition. For macro, it's all about the details. :-)
I guess I gravitate to macro, night photography, wildlife, etc. because it's so dang difficult. Getting a good result just makes me feel better about all the money I spent on gear! ;-)

Quentin Decaillet's picture

When I switched from Canon to Nikon, that was the only lens I bought that wasn't a Nikon. It is a particularly sharp lens, but its built quality is very poor – which probably explains the price difference with the Nikon 105mm macro.

I use it for beauty in studio, for very close portraiture outdoors, or for details and makeup shot when documenting weddings. It's extremely versatile despite its far from perfect AF. I wish AF was a tad faster, but also better in challenging lighting scenarios. This issue seems to be quite recurrent with all Sigma lenses… as soon as you are shooting in low light or backlit situations, AF falls apart, and your best bet is MF.

Zoran Bakovic's picture

First lens I bought for Nikon d750, mostly use it for studio product shots, occasionally for other stuff. Build quality is not top as you mentioned, but I can't say enough good things for IQ. Really pleased with it.

Oleh Brevus's picture

I also use this lense and yes, it is super sharp! Quite low price for such a macro lense. Simply love it!

Burak Erzincanli's picture

Great photos Oleh!

Oleh Brevus's picture

Thank you!