For decades, perhaps no lens has proven more of a workhorse for professional photographers than the wide-aperture, wide-to-telephoto 24-70mm F2.8 zoom. It’s no wonder. Versatile, fast, and relatively compact, this optical formula covers focal-length sweet spots for almost all types of photography, from wedding and portraiture to nature and architecture.
Sigma’s new version of this classic, the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG HSM OS Art, brings optical stabilization (OS), quick AF, and sharp and contrasty images in a built-like-a-tank package.
One reason pros shoot with 24-70mm F2.8 lenses so often is the fast aperture. The f/2.8 wide aperture is constant throughout the range, allowing shooting in low-light situations. Such fast glass is important for weddings and event photography, among many other situations. In addition, having f/2.8 available on the long end allows portrait photographers to shoot wide open, blurring backgrounds.
Shooting with an f/2.8 zoom also allows for easier viewing when composing shots. Framing shots in a bright viewfinder allows photographers to see more details, which helps to assure that everything is included in final shot.
In addition to the fast glass, the new Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens offers optical stabilization. This allows photographers shooting in churches, concert halls, or other dark venues to shoot at even slower shutter speeds than normal and not on a tripod.
Whether you shoot family portraits, sports teams, commercial assignments, travel images, architecture, or landscapes, you will find this lens useful. It’s wide range, quality optics, and durable build make it a welcome addition to any camera bag.
Design & Features
The Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM is an Art lens offering among the Sigma Global Vision optics. Sigma’s “A” lenses are known world-wide for their innovative optical designs and professional-level construction. Sigma’s Art lenses have set the bar for quality construction, sharp optics, and ground-breaking designs.
The 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens features 19 lens elements arranged in 14 groups. The design includes four aspherical elements. Three of the lenses are made of Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass. Besides multi-coatings to minimize flare, the front element is treated with a water- and oil-repellent coating.
The aperture is made from 9 blades to create pleasing out of focus highlights. The barrel is made of rugged metal. All 24-70mm lenses are hand-crafted in Sigma’s single factory in Aizu, Japan.
The 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens is designed for use on full-frame cameras. For APS-C shooters, it becomes equivalent to a 35-105mm F2.8 lens. It measures 3.5” in diameter and 4.2” long. The included lens hood adds another 1.2”. Total weight is 34.9 ounces.
Optical Stabilization (OS) is controlled with a two-way switch. When “On,” the lens stabilizes its optics, allowing users to shoot at slower shutter speeds. The “Off” setting should be used when shooting from a tripod.
The Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art is built from metal and a Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) material, which reduces weight and resists expansion with changes in temperature. The lens mount is made of brass for durability. A rubber ring seals the lens against the camera body.
Zooming from 24 to 70mm can is accomplished by turning the .8” front rubber ribbed ring through 65° of rotation. This extends the length of the lens about 1.25”. Rotation of the zoom ring is well-damped such that there is no lens creep with the lens pointed straight up or down.
The Sigma 24-70mm features three focusing modes, which are selectable via a switch on the left side of the lens barrel. The AF setting allows the Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) to focus quickly according to the AF mode set on the camera.
If a user wants to manually focus, there are two choices. If using a continuous or AI servo focus mode, the middle setting, Manual Override (MO), allows for tweaking after the camera performs regular autofocus. In the Manual (M) mode, operation is fully manual.
In MO and M modes, the 24-70mm focus is adjusted by turning the .3/8” rubber ribbed ring toward the back of the lens. Focusing from infinity to the minimum focus distance completes 90° of rotation. Manual focus is smooth and nicely damped.
While the Sigma 24-70mm is does not have true macro performance, it can be focused down to 15”. At this distance and with the lens set at 70mm, magnification is a respectable 1:4.3.
Included with the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens is a front cap, an end cap, and a petal-shaped hood. This zoom, as with all the Sigma Global Vision lenses, can be mounted in the Sigma USB dock to change lens characteristics and update firmware. The 24-70mm is covered by a four-year manufacturer’s warranty.
Handling in the Field
The Sigma 24-70mm is a joy to use in the field. It’s rugged construction provides confidence during all types of shooting, and the continuous f/2.8 aperture throughout its range allows for easy framing of subjects.
The first thing you notice when you pick up the 24-70mm is its quality construction. The metal barrel and nicely knurled focus and zoom rings give the optic a high-end feel. Zooming, is smooth and well-damped. And weight distribution when mounted is nice. The Art lens’s good balance makes hand-holding quite easy.
Despite the 24-70mm’s f/2.8 aperture, the lens doesn’t feel gigantic. You get the feel that you have a top-level optic in a svelte package.
While today’s cameras offer greatly reduced noise levels at high ISO settings, there is nothing like shooting at your camera’s base ISO to provide nearly noise-free shooting. With the continuous f/2.8 aperture, shooting even at the ends of the day or indoors can be done at ISO 100.
Autofocus is quick, even in low light. How low? I was able to focus in my dimly lit basement down to -1.33 EV. That’s an exposure of 20 seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100. Even with the bright f/2.8 aperture, there’s no way I could manually focusing in such a low-light condition.
While you might gravitate toward the Sigma 85mm 1.4 DG HSM Art lens or the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art lens, both great choices, taking along the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 for full-length and environmental portraits is a good idea, too.
The longer end of the 24-70mm zoom range allows photographers to depict not just the subject’s head-and-shoulders but also full-length poses. During a recent portrait session, shooting senior pictures in a local state park, I shot some of my images with the Sigma 135mm F1.8. But, when I wanted full-length poses along a rustic wooden fence, the 24-70mm at 70mm picked up the leading lines of the fence while moderately compressing the colorful fall trees behind the subject, Jackson Winters. Shot wide open, the subject stands out against the distracting tree trunks and fall leaves.
For another pose, Jackson sat under a porch roof and on a sandstone wall. Shooting wide open at f/2.8 helped him stand out from the architecture behind him. Not the brightest location, the wide aperture allowed shooting at a reasonable shutter speed even at ISO 100. To boot, the 24-70mm’s optical stabilization (OS) can help make sure shots are sharp.
During this same portrait session, Jackson wished to pose in his football jersey on the school’s playing field. The wider end of the zoom allowed the running back to featured against the backdrop of the goal posts, home-team bleachers, and scoreboard. Placing a subject near the camera at with the lens set to a wide field-of-view emphasizes the foreground subject while showing the setting.
Then zooming back out to 70mm, I was able to capture a relaxed, full-length pose next to the goal posts. While shooting nearly wide open at f/4 in the fence/woodland scene (above) allowed the background to go out-of-focus, for the goal post pose stopping down to f/11 allowed viewers to read the “Lucas Stadium” sign in the background.
The Sigma 24-70mm makes a great travel lens. It’s versatile range makes it good for anything from landscapes and seascapes to waterfalls and fall foliage. At the wider settings, you can shoot grand vistas, capture those prize-winning postcard shots. At the longer end, frame out unwanted elements and compress textured scenics with graphic, geometrical elements.
For a quintessentially Cleveland shot, Sarah posed inside the “C” of script “Cleveland” with the Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame right behind. With the sun out, I added an 82mm Sigma polarizer filter to increase the contrast and blue-up the sky.
The Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens is a fine choice for shooting buildings and other structures. The wide end allows for shots in tight spaces, from within cities to the inside of houses and commercial structures, and the longer end allows for compressing architectural elements from a distance.
On the wide end, the focal lengths of 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm allow photographers to
depict buildings large in size from fairly close at hand. Seeing a high move in and spectacular blue skies with it, I took a trip to Columbus, Ohio, to shoot cityscapes. Choosing spots along the new Scioto Mile greenspace, I shot images of the bikeways, newly restored Scioto River, and the US District Courthouse.
To keep the vertical lines from converging, I kept my camera level front to back and left to right. That often requires cropping out part of the image, but the files produced from the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 are sharp enough that, on a reasonably large sensor camera, you can afford to cut out 40% or 50% of your image and still have lots of detail.
The Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 is a great tool for nature photographers. From scenics to close-at-had wildlife, this fast zoom will allow you to compose and shoot quickly.
During the third annual Lakeside Chautauqua Photo Workshop along Lake Erie, our group rose early to photograph sunrise at Marblehead Lighthouse State Park. The limestone rock shelves along the shore provide a great location for early morning shots. The Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 provided just the right focal length to capture sunrise colors, silhouettes of trees, and a passing boat.
While helping to lead a photo safari at The Wilds, a research and conservation facility in southeastern Ohio, our bus pulled up alongside a mother Indian rhinoceros and her baby. The vast rolling hills are a savannah-like home to these and other protected exotic species. The Sigma 24-70mm zoom, with a Sigma polarizer attached and the OS turned on, preserved amazing detail in the grazing rhinos.
I also carried the Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens with me as our family enjoyed the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium. With animals all around, it’s hard to know what to shoot next. One of the best places to get oh-so-cute in-your-face shots is at the Tower Ridge Giraffe Experience, where Masai giraffes will eat right out of your hand. The 24-70mm F2.8 allowed me to work fast, capturing this eager mammal, tongue out.
Sigma’s latest iteration of the professional workhorse standard zoom, the 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Art lens, is handy, quick, and well-built. Its ergonomics will have you shooting freely. It’s fast f/2.8 aperture will let you shoot in all kinds of situations. And its robust build will guarantee to keep you shooting for many, many years.
If you are looking for a professional zoom to cover the most used focal lengths–24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 70mm—check out Sigma’s professional and affordable 24-70mm zoom.