Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro: Serious Business

 

Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro

Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro

The Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro has a price tag thatis targeted at an advanced audience. Shridhar Kunte sees if it is worth.

Despite being a third party manufacturer, Sigma now offers a wide range of macro lenses, of varying focal lengths and for different camera mounts. Commendably, all their macro lenses are made for full frame cameras. The focal length of 150mm is rather unusual for a macro lens, so we were curious to see how it would perform on our test bench. With the HSM motor built in the lens to some extent it will lure the Nikon entry-level camera owners

Features
Despite its full frame capabilities, this Sigma lens is bound to be popular with owners of cropped sensor DSLRs. Due to the crop factor, it gives a field of view similar to a 225mm lens, while having a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8. Moreover, with a Hyper Sonic Motor built into the lens, it will probably lure a Nikon D3100/D5100 user, as an ideal telephoto-macro solution.
The lens provides a minimum focus distance of 0.38m, which is good enough to light the subject with an external flashgun or even studio lights. Three Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass elements have been used in the lens construction in order to overcome any optical aberrations.
It has also been specially coated to get the best possible colour balance while cutting down on ghosting caused by reflections from a digital image sensor. The lens incorporates a Floating Internal Focusing (FIF) system, due to which, the front element does not rotate. This makes it easy to work with polarising filters and ring flashes, both of which are vital tools for nature and macro photography.
The lens is equipped with Optical Stabilization, which allows you to shoot at shutterspeeds up to four stops slower than usual. However, if you are making macro photographs, we would recommend you to switch off OS and use a tripod instead.

Handling
At first glance, the Sigma 150mm looks like a pro grade lens. Packed in a full weatherssealed metal skin, it looks elegant and durable. The lens balanced perfectly on the Nikon D700 and D7000. On both these cameras the balance was perfect. The broad, rubberised focus ring is smooth and ideal for photographers who wish to use manual focus for utmost precision. The lens is on the heavier side and fortunately, Sigma has been smart enough to include a detachable tripod mount.
When the tripod collar is attached, I found it difficult to access some of the switches on the lens barrel, but one can get past this difficulty by adjusting the collar’s position. The tripod collar has enough surface area on which you can mount the quick release plate. The distance and magnification scale window is large and clear. The lens hood locks on tightly and extends far, to eliminate stray sunrays from entering the lens.

Performance
The focusing is quite fast, but it could have been better. In low light, it hunts for a bit before locking focus. The focus limiter switch helps solve this problem to a certain extent. The images captured in different lighting conditions show good colour balance and contrast. The centre sharpness is excellent from f/11 to the widest aperture. Bokeh is quite smooth, and looks really beautiful.
The distortion is remarkably low, despite the long telephoto focal length. There is some vignetting at the widest aperture, but it can be controlled by stopping down the aperture to f/4. There is a very slight hint of chromatic aberrations when shooting against the light. The OS works very well for normal shooting, but when it comes to macro shots, I only got an advantage of 2 stops.

Conclusion
One should understand that this is not a macro lens for beginners. It is large, expensive and probably not as convenient as a 90mm or 105mm lens. However, it is ideal for shooting live subjects like insects as these demand a larger, practical working distance.
At Rs. 74,990, the lens may seem expensive, but if you are looking for a similar proprietary lens from Canon or Nikon, it would burn a hole in your pocket. So, if you are a butterfly enthusiast who wants a long macro lens that offers decent value for money, the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro is what you should consider.

Final Ratings
Features
Optically stabilised, Hyper Sonic Motor
13/15

Performance
Excellent bokeh, decent sharpness
28/35

Build Quality
Splash-proof design
23/25

Ergonomics
Focus limiter switch, tripod collar
12/15

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty
4/10

OVERALL: 80%
Value For Money: 2.5/5 stars

Tags: Shridhar Kunte, Lens review, Macro Lens, October 2011, Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro, SHooting Insects