Lens Review – Sigma 180mm macro

Marco photography as I’ve mentioned in a previous post is pretty amazing to me. To be able to see things magnified which you can’t see with the naked eye fascinates me to no end. If you are in the market for a macro lens, don’t pass up Sigma’s line of lenses. Sigma 180mm macro lens review

Description from B&H.

The Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG APO Macro IF HSM lens is a high performance telemacro lens that can focus from infinity to full 1:1 lifesize reproduction without accessories. Convenient for photographing subjects, which are not easily approached, the 180mm f/3.5 Macro features apochromatic design, two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements, and a floating inner focus (FIF) system. A focus limiter switch aids in faster AF by restricting the movement of the focusing mechanism to a smaller portion of its enormous range. Usable with Sigma’s 1.4X EX teleconverter as a 252mm f/4.9 lens providing AF function from infinity to about 47″ or with the 2X EX teleconverter as a 360mm f/7 lens in manual focus.

This lens is designed as a high-quality macro lens, good for film or digital SLR cameras. The improved DG lens design corrects for various aberrations. This macro lens is specially coated to get the best color balance whilst cutting down on ghosting caused by reflections from the digital image sensor. The lens provides the utmost correction against lateral chromatic aberration, which is a serious problem for digital SLR cameras.

  • Close focus capability of 18″
  • Hyper Sonic Motor for quiet & smooth autofocus with fulltime manual focus override
  • Inner focusing improves handling and focus operation from infinity to close-up by keeping the lens’ length constant
  • Filter Size     72mm
  • f/Stop Range     3.5-32
  • Minimum Focus Distance     1.5′ (46cm)
  • Magnification     1:1
  • Angle of View     13.7°
  • Groups/Elements     10/13
  • Tripod Collar     Yes
  • Length     7.1″ (182mm)
  • Maximum Diameter     3.2″ (80mm)
  • Weight     2.1 lbs (965g)

My thoughts.

I’ve owned this lens for a few years now and it’s been a solid performer.  Super, super sharp! Even with the Sigma 1.4x teleconverter it produces really nice images.  As mentioned, you do get 252mm with the teleconverter but you also have to keep in mind you are losing light with the extra magnification.  Being this is not an image stabilized lens… it’s something to think about.  Less light, slower shutter speeds, more chance of camera shake at the longer focal length.  A monopod or tripod is highly recommended when shooting the Sigma 180mm macro and Sigma 1.4xTC combo.  I consider myself to be a fairly steady shooter and I find the combo a challenge shooting hand-held.

Focusing isn’t blazing fast with this lens but I manual focus with it 95% of the time. With the limited depth of field, the auto focus does a decent job but I find I get better results and have more control on the final image when I manual focus.

One thing nice about the lens is the focus limiting switch. This keeps the lens from traveling from the minimum focusing distance to the max, which is beneficial if you know your subject is going to be at a certain distance.

The finish of the lens is the older mat version, the new Sigma 150mm macro lens has the smooth coating. I’ve not experienced chipping or cracking. It’s held up very well.

I wanted to show a friend of mine how the lens performed at 1:1 so he could see all the details. Pretty amazing what the lens can pick up.
Wildflower… very shallow depth of field.

I’ve owned the Canon 100mm macro non “L” version and loved the lens.  Very easy to use, not very heavy, super sharp.  If you are just starting out in macro and are a Canon shooter, I would highly recommend this lens.  The new Canon “L” macro,  I haven’t shot with… but… from seeing sample images, hard to tell where the extra money you will spend on the lens is going.

One of the main things which attracted me to the Sig 180 is the bokeh… this thing crushes backgrounds and does it in a very pleasing way.

I have several friends who shoot with the Sigma 150mm macro lens and love it!  This is a newer version of the lens and will be available in June.  The older version is very nice also and lighter in weight.

All in all… this is a stellar lens in my opinion. It isn’t image stabilized, it’s a little older compared to what Sigma is offering now, it’s heavy… the AF is decent… but.. all that being said… It’s going to stay in my bag until it dies or I break it. I love the quality of images this lens produces. The colors/contrast are very nice and like most true macro lenses which produce 1:1 magnification… it’s super sharp! Did I mention I love the bokeh as well? It’s what sold me on the lens.

Give it a try or again… if you are just starting out… the Canon 100mm non “L” is a great starting point.

Miner Bee in a cactus flower. I really like how you can see the pollen in the shot.
As you can see, the lens doesn’t just have to be used on insects and flowers, it’s great for newborn shots. You can isolate the little fingers, toes and so on. This makes for a great collage when it comes time for the sales session. Newborn examples with the shot being straight out of camera. Lots of great little details in the image.
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About the Author
Frank Hatcher | Professional photographer based out of Phoenix Arizona.

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