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Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM Lens Review (for Nikon)

Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM lens  


May 2011 (updated March 2012)
(tested with Nikon D90 and D7000)

The Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM was announced in December 2009. It was an upgrade to the existing 17-70mm lens, adding image stabilization (OS) and a larger aperture at the long end of the zoom. The lens is available in five different mounts, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, and Sigma. This review is based on the Nikon version. This is a DC lens, which means it's designed specifically for DSLRs with APS-C sensors (DX, etc). (For all of Sigma's letter designations see here).

The lens is made mostly of plastic. The exterior and extending barrels of the lens are made of plastic. The zoom and focus rings are rubber coated. The lens mount is metal. There are two switches on the lens, an auto focus/manual focus switch, and an OS on/off switch. There's also a zoom lock tab which only works at 17mm. I've never locked the lens. The zoom is fairly stiff (yet smooth) on my copy and has no zoom creep whatsoever. It's an HSM lens, so focusing is fast an accurate. The front element doesn't rotate, so using filters is no problem. The OS (Optical Stabalization), works as advertised. Sigma claims a gain up to 4 stops. Although billed as a Macro lens, it's not true macro. The maximum reproduction ratio is 1:2.7, so it's really more of a close-up lens.

Sharpness in the center of the lens is very good throughout the zoom range wide open and gets better stopped down. Wide open the borders are also good, with the corners being a little soft. Stopped down to f/5.6 and the corners are very good. I found the sweet spot of the lens to be mid range in the zoom between f/5.6 and f/8.

Distortion is not a problem with this lens. There is some barrel distortion at 17mm and pincushion distortion at 70mm, all of which is easily correctable. The mid range of the zoom shows little to none of either. Vignetting is most noticable at 17mm wide open. Stopped down to f/4 and it's all but eliminated. Chromatic aberration is well controlled and not a problem. Flare also was not a problem. I found the bokeh to be average, good, but not great.

I bought the Sigma 17-70mm OS because I wanted a fast lens (large aperture) that also had image stabilization. I primarily use it for family gatherings. Although I have a few f/1.8 primes, I found a few shortcomings with them, especially with one situation. That situation is a birthday party, specifically getting shots of the birthday cake and the blowing out of the candles. When I used my 35mm f/1.8 lens I found it to be a little short, especially when I was at the opposite end of the table. Even though I bumped up the ISO and increased the shutter speed a bit camera shake was still an issue at times. Using a flash wasn't a good option since it would light everything up, spoiling the scene. The Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 OS may be a better choice for this situation since it has a constant f/2.8 aperture. But I chose the 17-70mm instead for the longer reach, close-up capability, and the cheaper price. Although at 70mm the max. aperture is f/4, the image stabilization compensates for it, allowing for slower shutter speeds.

The Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM lens is probably on my camera 90% of the time when I shoot indoors. Although I usually use a flash, for the times I don't the large aperture and image stabilization allow me to photograph under low light conditions. At 17mm it's wide enough for most group shots and the 70mm at the long end let's you zoom in for close-ups and portraits. For dedicated portraits though I usually use my Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G. The 17-70mm OS also makes a nice walk around lens. I've used it for landscapes as well as street photography. The macro feature let's you get closeups of flowers, bugs, etc. Overall it makes a great all around lens. I prefer it over the three Nikon kit lenses I've used, the 18-70mm, the 18-55mm VR, and the 18-105mm VR. Those three lense are all probably a little sharper than the Sigma 17-70mm OS, but in my opinion not enough to matter. I found the Sigma to be more useful because of the large aperture and close-up capability.

Update March 2012 - I ended up dropping the 17-70mm and switched to the Sigma 17-50mm OS after comparing the two. I found the 17-50mm to be sharper and produce better overall image quality. I do miss the extra reach and closeup capability of the 17-70mm, but felt the 17-50mm was the better choice.



Focal length 17-70mm
Maximum aperture f/2.8-4
Minimum aperture f/22
Lens Construction 17 elements in 13 groups
Angle of view 72.4o - 20.2o
Closest focusing distance 22cm (8.7 in)
Maximum reproduction ratio 1:2.7
Number of diaphragm blades 7
Auto focus type HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor)
Filter diameter 72 mm
Macro Yes
Dimensions 79 mm (3.1 in) x 88.9 mm (3.5 in)(Diameter x Length)
Weight 535g (18.9 oz)

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