For the last month, I've been shooting with Sigma's 17-70mm Contemporary Macro Zoom Lens. Sigma markets the lens to "prosumers" as the ideal all-purpose lens for APS-C DSLR cameras - an upgrade to the 18-55mm kit lenses packaged with many entry-level cameras . The lens received high marks from a variety of reviewers, so I was excited to try it.
A NOTE ABOUT THIRD-PARTY LENSES
Purchasing a third-party lens used to be a somewhat questionable decision. Companies like Sigma and Tamron offered lenses of questionable quality. Build construction was sometimes poor and inconsistent. Since, both companies have stepped up their game. In fact, some third-party lenses, like Sigma's 18-35mm f1.8 lens, have no equal when compared to offerings from Canon or Nikon. In 2015, third-party lenses are a viable option for many photographers.
The first thing of note when unboxing the lens is the construction. The lens is heavy. Heavy, not in the, "carrying this around all day is going to be a painful" way, but the "it feels well made" way. The buttons and zoom ring feel much like knobs you'd find on high-end appliances or automobiles. It's a good looking lens, from construction to design. The font and markings are clean and the lens has good lines. The metal mount is solid and a welcome upgrade from the plastic mount found on many kit lenses (a questionable practice). The body is made of plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap, and the glass is of good quality especially considering the price tag.
- Number of Blades: 7
- Minimum Aperture: f22
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 22cm
- Filter Size: 72mm
- Weight: 465g (16.4oz)
- Optical Image Stabilization (VR for Nikon users)
- Hyper-Sonic Motor
Image quality is subjective. If you're a professional photographer, you'll notice some vignetting in the corners, some chromatic aberration at the ends of the focal range, and a little softness when shooting wide. Yet, if you are a professional photographer, you're likely not considering the Sigma 17-70mm lens. However, if you're an amateur, price-conscious photographer, looking for an upgrade to your everyday lens, Sigma's 17-70mm is a welcome upgrade.
The lens is reasonably fast, stopping down to f2.8. It produces sharp images (particularly at 50mm, f3.5-8) and doesn't suffer from much distortion or lens flare. The 17-70mm range (about a 25-105mm 35mm-equivalent) makes it an excellent walk-around lens.
MACRO, BOKAH, AND MORE
The lens is marketed as a "macro" lens, and it does focus much closer than your kit lens, but doesn't quite extend far beyond 1:1 ratio. Calling it a "close-up" lens might be a more accurate description. Still, the few macro shots I've taken with the lens has been a noticeable improvement. The lens produces a pleasant looking bokah, but you really have to either really step far back from your subject and shoot pretty telephoto or shoot close at a wide angle to achieve the appropriate aperture. Shooting portraits at 17mm is going to produce the obvious distortion, but the effect produced at f3.5 at 35mm was still rather nice. Lens distortion is present when shooting wider than 50mm, but requires nothing more than a checkbox in Lightroom to fix, and images stay rather sharp from f3.5-8.
For most enthusiasts, it's hard to image that you'll be disappointed with the Sigma 17-70 DC Macro (OS) HSM | C lens. If you find you have outgrown your kit lens, it makes a fantastic upgrade. I can't imagine out-growing this lens anytime soon.
Price, build quality, focal range, speed, sharp images up to f8.
Lens distortion up to 50mm and vignetting at the ends of the focal range.