Seeing the Light with the Sigma 17-70 F2.8-4.0 DC OS HSM | C

The Sigma 17-70 F2.8-4.0 DC OS HSM | C is the first lens in the Contemporary line originally announced last September. This fast aperture standard zoom is a serious step up from the bundled kit zoom that covers a similar focal length.

Here’s why:

The lightweight, compact 17-70mm F2.8-4.0 DC OS HSM | Contemporary lens came with me on a hike on the beach at Cape May Point. As we wandered the beach, I noticed this perfect alighment of a lifeguard rowboat, St. Mary’s of the Sea and the Cape May Lighthouse. I zoomed in to 30mm to emphasize the foreground while also stopping down to F/10 for great deep depth of field to keep the structures in the background sharp and recognizalbe. 1/320 F10 ISO 200 on the Canon Rebel T3i. The wide to short tele range of this lens is great for most everyday compositions.

This is a great grab-and-go lens, it truly is. Mounted on the APS-C cameras for which it is designed, it covers a range from about 27-110mm, wide angle to short tele, a very usable range for most everyday situations. A quick twist recomposes the scene to take in more of the surroundings, or to zoom in close on selected details. And between the faster apertures than the bundle kit competitors and the Optical Stabilizer switch, it’s a winner in lower-light situations.

The point of Sandy Hook, NJ, captured at 17mm with a fast shutter speed to freeze the ripples in the shallows and soften the background. On APS-C DSLRs for which it is exclusively designed, this lens is equivalent to about a 27-110mm zoom on full-frame cameras. 1/2000 F3.2 ISO 100.
Now, here we are zoomed right in on the “A” I etched into the sand at 70mm at near maximum 1:2.8 macro magnification. Every pebble and grain of sand on the focal plane is sharp and crisp wide open at F4 at 70mm. 1/1000, ISO 100, Reb T3i.
Shells upon shells. Again we’re at 70mm to get in close to show the details of this wash of shells on the beach. 1/500 F4.0 ISO 100 on the Reb T3i.
Notice how shallow the depth of field is fully zoomed, and close-focused near maximum magnification. The exposed section of the scallop shell is perfectly sharp and crisp, but the grains of sand at both left and right of frame that are just slightly off the focal plane begin to soften up. The F4.0 maximum aperture at 70mm allowed me to stay at a high 1/800 shutter speed at a low ISO (100).

As a variable aperture lens, it is very compact–just 3.2 inches long, and just a over a pound in weight. Paired with an APS-C DSLR, it is a small, yet mighty, picture-making machine. It’s the lens I’ve been keeping at the ready on the Rebel T3i for when my wife calls to me with “quick, grab a camera” because I know whatever she and my daughter are up to requiring a photo, indoors or out, it’s up to the task! The hypersonic motor is swift and unobtrusive-sounding, and the faster apertures help the autofocus sensors in the camera quickly lock onto target.

I popped on a shoe-mount flash to add some light and freeze the falling sand outside at twilight in the sandbox. We’re zoomed in to 50mm here to frame the detail of what’s most happening in this scene. Not every family memory photo needs to show faces–details of hands and feet in action can be great! 1/125 F4 ISO 100, plus E-TTL shoe-mount strobe.
Proudly showing off a handful of flowers, just inches from the front of the lens, wide open at F4 at 70mm. The shallow focus and flash-dominated foreground exposure draws the eyes to the flowers here. Shallow depth of field is a great creative photography tool!

Another key advantage of the faster apertures at any given focal length over the typical kit is that this oftentimes allows you to choose to stay at lower ISOs for the best possible image quality for the situation in front of you.

Again, we’re zoomed out to 70mm to get in close to the details, and to focus precisely on the top edge of the dominant flower in the right of the frame. The natural backlighting effect of the windowsill location was complemented with a little off-camera fillflash. Again, it’s shallow depth of field flowers, but there’s a very different feel to this image than the last, isn’t there? 1/60 F4 ISO 100, Rebel T3i.
Here we are concentrating the composition just on mum blooms, after a misting and watering. We’re at 63mm F/4, ISO 100, with a little fillflash to make all the droplets really pop.

Let’s get real for a minute here: If you’re shooting with an SLR instead of a phone, you’ve almost definitely made a conscious creative decision that the total quality of the images really matters to you. And the better the tools, the better the images. And yes, the desire for longer reach in a telephoto lens, or for an even wider field to take even more in, may lead you decide that the next lens you purchase is going to add longer or wider creativity to your kit. That’s totally and completely understandable.

Coleus in bloom. Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.0 at 70mm. I stopped down to F9 for more depth of field on the front stalk and to seriously darken the background. 1/200 F9 ISO 100 with direct shoe-mount flash. Such fine details!
Basil in bloom. Same settings as the previous image. The close-up and macro focusing really adds to the overall versatility of this fast standard lens!
Now, for this shot, I chose an off-shoe cord and a flash angle just past perpendicular to backlight the leaves on my cherry tomato plant. Look at the sharpness and fine detail, even on the high contrast edged. Same settings as previous two images. This is a rock-solid fast, compact, standard zoom lens!

Whatever you’re looking for in terms of reach, range, and budget, Sigma’s got a lot of lenses to choose from, we really do. But there’s a reason the typical kit lenses cover the range they do––it’s an incredibly versatile range for making a variety of pleasing types of photos, from landscapes to portraiture, and it is this range where most of your day to day photography of real life takes place. And this is why the 17-70, with its more durable build, four year warranty, and faster apertures is way more than a kit lens, even if the focal range is the virtually the same. Whenever you decide to step up in a standard zoom, this is a great option in terms of performance, price, and portability.

Here I am, in the airplane ride at Morey’s Piers in Wildwood, NJ. My wife made this shot at F/10 at 28mm to give serious depth of field to make all the amusement elements sharp against the blue sky. This angle made us laugh because it appears I’m riding this ride all by myself. The 17-70mm F2.8-4.0 DC OS HSM | C is very often the only lens I’ve been packing for family outings, because of its versatlity, and more importantly, its ability to deliver sharp, pleasing shots wherever its taken.

I can check out any lens in the entire Sigma catalog whenever I want, and I will tell you this: the Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.0 | C is the only lens I brought with me for a recent family outing to the Wildwood boardwalk, to my daughter’s third birthday party, and on other recent pop-up adventures.

I can’t make my point any clearer than that–I choose this lens for so many my most personal and meaningful shots.


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