The Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro Art lens carries on a weighty tradition: it’s a Sigma Global Vision update on the company’s legendary Macro 70mm F2.8 EX DG, renown for its incredible sharpness. While those experienced with this go-to macro might find it hard to imagine improving upon the previous version, the new Art lens does that and more.
Sharp, contrasty, and with an oh-so-pleasing bokeh, the Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro Art is a welcome addition to your bag, whether you shoot nature, small wildlife, travel, architecture, commercial, weddings, or portraits.
The new 70mm macro is part of the Sigma Art lens lineup, which is known for durable build quality, innovative and outstanding optics, and pro-level performance. The extensive updates of this 70mm macro focused on keeping the Art line’s dedication to superior optical performance while adding focus-by-wire AF; SLD elements; FLD elements; and aspherical elements, not to mention a revised lens body and new seals. In addition, outstanding bokeh is achieved through thoughtful optical design and a rounded-blade, nine-piece aperture.
What’s especially nice about the new 70mm F2.8 macro is that its small size and weight (just over 1 lb. and 4 inches long), as well as it versatility, make it a welcome addition to your bag. Mount this short telephotos, and you’re ready to shoot flowers, butterflies, landscapes, architectural details, products, weddings, portraits, and more!
Design & Features
The Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro Art lens is one of the Sigma Global Vision Art lenses. Sigma’s Art lenses are renowned wide for their exceptional optical designs. This new macro offering features several lens element types that reduce chromatic aberrations, which, when present, create fringes of different colors along high-contrast edges.
Photographers most often purchase a prime macro lens because these optics are designed to excel at short distances and high magnifications. The 70mm does both. Some specialists need to copy flat subjects, such as stamps, bills, or coins. A dedicated macro lens reproduces flat fields with little to no distortion.
Of course, a top-shelf macro lens also performs well from short distances to infinity, making such a lens a dual-purpose optic: it can shoot close-ups and still serve other needs, such as portraiture, wedding, commercial, travel, architecture, and landscape photography. The new Sigma macro is just that: a top-level lens, offering all kinds of versatility.
The new 70mm macro utilizes 2 SLD elements, 2 FLD elements, and 2 aspherical elements, which all help minimize axial chromatic aberration. Axial or longitudinal chromatic aberrations occur when different wavelengths of light are focused at different distances.
In the new macro, 13 elements are arranged in 10 groups. A 9-blade diaphragm controls light from f/2.8 to f/22. The diaphragm’s rounded blades help create exceptionally smooth bokeh. The front takes 49mm filters.
The Sigma 70mm F2.8 macro has a combination of matte and shiny black finishes.It is made of Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) material, along with metal. TSC is lightweight and expands and contracts very little due to changes in temperature.
Measuring 2.8 inches wide and only 4.2 inches long, the 70mm macro Art lens is rather diminutive in size. The lens hood measures 2.4” long. Its total is just 18.2 ounces.
Focusing in the 70mm macro is achieved thanks to an innovative electronic design. A coreless DC motor is controlled by a focus-by-wire system, which eliminates mechanical connections between the camera body and lens. Manual focus is achieved by turning the ample focus ring. Ribbed and rubber, the focus ring is near the front of the lens and measures an ample 1.5” wide.
The 70mm macro can focus from infinity down to 10.2 inches, which provides a maximum magnification of 1:1.
The Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro Art lens fits Canon, Sigma, and Sony E-mount bodies. For the Sony users, the Sigma Mount Converter MC-11 allows either a Canon or Sigma mount lens to be attached.
When mounted to enabled Canon cameras, the Sigma 70mm will provide data for the in-camera Lens Aberration Correction function.
Sigma offers mount conversion services. If you shoot one camera system and then decide to change to another system, Sigma can convert your lenses to other mounting systems, allowing you to continue using your current optics.
The new 70mm optic is compatible with a number of Sigma accessories, including the following:
- Sigma Electronic Flash Macro EM-140 DG ring flash
- Sigma Tele Converter TC-1401 (1.4x converter)
- Sigma Tele Converter TC-2001 (2x converter)
- Sigma USB Dock, which allows users to update lens firmware and customize functions
As with all other Art-series lenses, each Sigma 70mm F2.8 Art lens is tested using Sigma’s 46-megapixel Foveon A1 MTF system to assure superior performance before leaving the Japanese, family-owned factory.
Included with the Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro Art lens is a Sigma 49mm front lens cap, a Sigma end cap, a Sigma LH708-01 lens hood, and a Sigma case. As with all new Sigma lenses purchased from USA authorized Sigma dealers, the 70mm macro is covered by a four-year warranty against defects in manufacturing and workmanship.
Handling in the Field
The bright view afforded by the fast macro prime is a pleasure when composing images. Shooting with the 70mm F2.8 macro makes lining up images quick and easy, from close-ups of insects and found objects to details of architecture and portraits of people. The fast glass allows shooting at high shutter speeds during the day and reasonable hand-holding in darker conditions.
The balance of this diminutive lens is quite ergonomic. Of course, at high magnifications, smaller apertures and slower shutter speeds are necessary for maximum depth-of-field. Mounted on a variety of bodies, from DSLR to mirrorless, the 70mm balances well on a tripod.
The field-of-view of the 70mm focal length offers advantages and disadvantages. On a full-frame camera, the 70mm focal length provides 34.3° field-of-view. This means that your image will often show your subject with some of the background behind it. For some macro shots, this is just what you want. In the case of the lead shot of this article, the tiger swallowtail butterfly, the 70mm focal length not only captures the butterfly but also the prickly teasel plant behind it.
The bit of background captured by the 70mm focal length can be used to your advantage to show context: a mushroom in the woodland, a rusty tool near a shed, or a model posed before an ornate building.
Another benefit of shooting with a 70mm focal length is close working distances. If you are shooting alone and need to re-position a small subject, such as a salamander, then reaching within arm’s length is just the ticket.
Of course, both of these advantages also imply times when you might want a longer macro: when you want to limit backgrounds, such as a distracting garden behind a flower, and when you don’t want to get too close to your subject, such as photographing skittish butterflies.
For me, while I like long macros for some subjects, I love shorter macros, which allow you to include some background elements. Contextualizing subjects is challenging in that you have to really watch for distracting backgrounds, but, when you do it right, the added visual interest and location information adds another dimension to your photography. Remember, backgrounds can often be just as important to a photo’s success as subjects themselves.
The Sigma 70mm F2.8 Macro also fits APS-C cameras. For those with cropped sensors, you will have a slightly longer macro, something akin to a 105mm to 150mm F2.8. This is a great focal length range, too. The 105mm to 150mm macro length isolates subjects a bit more yet still provides the same working distance.
Many photographers purchase a dedicated macro lens to shoot subjects found in nature. Macro lenses allow close-ups of butterflies and beetles, flowers and fungi, seedlings and salamanders…you get the idea: anything small turns into a world begging for exploration.
Do you have acquaintances who insist that where you live is boring? Nothing is boring if you poke around with the 70mm macro! The overgrown spot by your back door or garage becomes a jungle of cool creatures. A trip to the local garden turns into infinite floral photos. Wade into a nearby creek to capture patterns of water, critters under rocks, and perching dragonflies and damselflies.
A good example of how close-to-home macro shooters can practice their craft is mushrooms. Mid-summer I walked to the edge of our driveway and noticed a beautiful clump of white-brown-and-pinkish mushrooms, freshly emerged. I grabbed my Gitzo tripod and the new 70mm macro and set to work. With the sensor on a plane parallel to the fungus caps, namely, directly above, I tightly cropped the clump with a small border of the woodchips below. The result is a textured image with beautifully soft pastels framed in dark earth tones.
Zooming in on the image reveals incredible details that many passers-by might not see: Radially aligned scales formed as the mushroom grew and expanded, lined margins belie gills below, and pinkish umbels poke up slightly from the center of each top. Macro images are meant to be enlarged to reveal these types of intricacies. Close-up images are often at their best showing small subjects in their fullest glory.
The new Sigma macro doesn’t have to be limited to close-up nature subjects. Travel photographers will find that this lens excels at other distances besides close-at-hand. The Sigma 70mm can be an important tool for documenting parts of the landscape and their details.
On a recent trip along the Mohawk River in East-Central New York, my family and I pulled over at the Mohawk Valley Welcome Center – Erie Canal Lock 13 Rest Area along the westbound side of I-90. Besides the usual comfort facilities and a nice canal-themed playground, the roadside park offers extensive interpretative history. Among other things, you can walk around Canal Boat 115 (below).
I used the 70mm to explore the canal boat. First I used the lens’s moderate telephoto perspective to capture a shot of the whole boat. Then I moved in closer and grabbed shots of a variety of boat details, including its kerosene tank and a braided rope fender. While you can’t zoom a prime, you can zoom with your feet. Moving in or backing up a short distance allows you to depict whole subjects or interesting parts of them.
While most people might first think of the Sigma 70mm F2.8 macro as a tool for photographing small subjects in-close, this fast prime also makes a great portrait lens. On a full-frame camera, you are on the short end of the optics typically used for photographing people. At this focal length, you may include behind subject and a bit of the background for context.
While waiting this summer for our window to set up at the Ann Arbor Art Fair, I took the opportunity to photograph Annabelle. Shot wide open, Annabelle is nicely sharp, and the green behind her creates a nice background to her floral dress.
Don’t forget that on a cropped sensor camera, the new macro becomes a moderate telephoto in the 105mm to 150mm range, also great focal lengths for portraiture. You get a longer lens with a narrower field-of-view while still being able to shoot at f/2.8 for limited depth-of-field.
Not only does the 70mm F2.8 produce amazingly sharp images with limited depth-of-field, it also does so with beautiful bokeh. The Japanese term, bokeh, refers to the ability of a lens to make out-of-focus areas appear especially pleasing. The more that out-of-focus background or foreground elements are rendered attractively, the better the lens’s bokeh. Many factors affect bokeh, including the design of the optics and, notably, the shape and number of the diaphragm blades.
Sigma engineers made bokeh a priority in designing the 70mm F2.8 Macro. The combination of thoughtful lens design and the lens’s nine-blade, rounded aperture create buttery out-of-focus areas. Such pleasing bokeh is useful for many subjects. One example is portraiture: the above black-and-white photo of Annabelle shows how smoothing out the background trees and buildings draws attention to her playful expression.
In the photo below, an orange zinnia stands out against stems and leaves below. Shot in bright sun, the background lines had the potential to greatly distract from the blossom; rather, thanks to the 70mm’s fine bokeh, their soft rendering makes them part of the attractive image, not a detractor from it.
You might not immediately think of the 70mm macro as a lens to use for architecture, but it excels at bringing out detailed sections of interesting structures. I decided to explore this optic’s architectural uses by photographing the William W. Cook Legal Research Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
To capture the whole building, a wide angle lens is necessary from nearly any angle. But mounting the 70mm and walking a short distance across the street on the south side I produced a 70mm image that asks readers to ponder the magnificent stone block colors and lighter trim, not to mention the variety of windows, arches, lamps, buttresses, and other features.
Stepping a bit closer, the 70mm is perfect for doors and arches. With the 70mm pointed straight—level left-to-right and up-and-down—the carefully designed optics capture the parallel lines of the buttresses, arch walls, and doors with virtually no distortion.
Zooming in even further—namely, by walking in closer—I focused on just one copper lamp. The 70mm macro is up to the task, showing fine details of the light and the stonework behind it.
Much of the above this is a long way of saying this: The Sigma 70mm F2.8 Macro is a great lens for capturing all kinds of subject details. Whether it is the feathers of a bird, the winds of a butterfly, the brushstrokes of a painting, or the design features of product, the new Sigma macro adds to any photo narrative.
A local car show provided a great opportunity to focus on details. Sure, you can capture shots of the show itself—people, the venue, vendors, and, of course, entire cars—but perhaps one of the most rewarding opportunities is showing details: name plates, wheels, engines, wood trim, and other aspects of magnificent cars.
On a late July afternoon, two of our daughters and I attended the Sunday Drive Car Show at Malabar Farm State Park. We were delighted to meet Dan Shields of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, who spectacularly restored a 1923 Ford Model TT. The Model TT is a Ford truck that used the same powertrain as the Model T but utilized a stronger worm-drive axle and a platform bed.
To depict the gorgeous restored truck, I walked around the vehicle, shooting various parts of it—from brass plates and the radiator to wooden wheel spokes and the on-board fire extinguisher—with ease. The bright f/2.8 viewfinder made framing the shots quick and enjoyable.
One nice aspect of photographing the Model TT truck with the 70mm was being able to work at a short distance. While I also love longer macros, such as the Sigma 105mm, the Sigma 150mm, and the Sigma 180mm, in the tight spaces of a car show, the 70mm is a great choice. I could get in close to the fenders, engines, and interiors without getting in the way of others enjoying the cars.
The Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro Art is a versatile, sharp, and well-built option for those looking for their first macro lens. For photographers who already have a longer macro, the new 70mm offers a shorter option allowing for capturing context.
The new 70mm macro is a great optic for nature, small wildlife, travel, architecture, commercial, wedding, or portrait photography, but, beyond this versatility, I think one of the greatest benefits of this optic is that no place is boring when you’re toting the 70mm macro. Ditches become rambunctious gardens full of adventure. Old barns are studies in rusty nails, weathered wood, and textured stone. And a box of mementos becomes a visual narrative of a life’s journey.
With a macro, small domains become the source for infinite series of photos just waiting to adorn your favorite wall or gallery space.
Borrow a copy or buy one, and start shooting with the Sigma 70mm F2.8 DG Macro Art. With its short working distance, sharp and contrasty images, excellent color rendition, and oh-so-pleasing bokeh, a world of photographic beauty and intrigue awaits you!