My name is Heather Larkin, and I am a professional photographer in Athens, Georgia. When I am not shooting Fairyography portrait sessions, I enjoy taking macro photos, especially as a way to unwind when I’m feeling stressed. It never fails to help relax me. I personally think it’s important to go out and “breathe the green” as I tell my husband. Our world tends to keep us moving a little too quickly, and macro photography is a great way to slow down. You see much more when you just sit and look around you for a few minutes.
I have shot with several SIGMA macro lenses throughout my photography career. When I’m out with a macro lens, I tend to gravitate towards insects, lizards, flowers, and dewdrops, but I’ve also used them to take detail shots of my portrait clients. I love seeing the tiny details of something so small made large enough to see. So when the SIGMA 105mm F2.8 DG DN MACRO | Art lens was announced, I was beyond excited to give it a try. The excellent 70mm F2.8 DG MACRO | Art is already a part of my kit, and I was very interested to see how the two lenses compare to each other.
Unboxing the 105mm F2.8 DG DN MACRO | Art
When I got the lens out of the box, I was first struck by how great the construction is. It’s a great combination of lightness and durability. I tend to beat up my lenses a little bit and I am sure that this lens could survive me! In fact, I later tripped over a chicken on the farm and fell into the wet grass while taking pictures, but I picked up the camera, dried everything off, and didn’t worry about a thing because I knew the lens was totally weather sealed and would be fine!
I especially enjoy the new aperture ring on the lens, which reminds me of the 85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, another lens I enjoy with the same feature. Being able to click through the aperture manually like my old film cameras feels nice in my hands. I also like that I can set it to automatic and change the aperture within the camera settings like I’m used to. The versatility of the choice of either is amazing!
I also noticed right out of the gate that the front element of the 105mm F2.8 DG DN MACRO | Art does not extend when it’s focusing. This is a huge advantage when taking pictures of small critters. With internal focusing, tiny animals won’t get scared away by the lens coming towards them. And since there’s no front element moving back and forth, the lens is also noticeably quiet. This is also a big benefit when you’re trying to avoid scaring away lizards or bugs. Since my Sony camera body has a silent shutter option as well, the whole setup can be truly silent!
This brings me to the next thing I noticed, which is the focusing speed and smoothness. Since the lens motor is not driving a front element back-and-forth, it is probably the fastest macro lens to focus that I have ever used! It also doesn’t jump or stutter at all when focusing. It’s like butter! This lens also has a focus limiter switch that I find completely crucial to macro photography. Being able to tell the lens itself how far it should focus makes close-up photography much easier.
One of the reasons I love SIGMA lenses the best is their attention to optics. Like every macro lens, because the focal length changes in tiny increments, as you get closer to your subjects the exposure can become darker. This does happen with this lens, but it’s barely noticeable, so you can just up your exposure compensation or ISO a bit. There’s even a handy chart in the owner’s manual for you!
The 105mm F2.8 DG DN MACRO | Art fits on a full-frame Sony mirrorless camera well, and I very much enjoy the feel of it in my hands. As far as size, I was also surprised that it’s so small! It made me laugh that it is nearly exactly the same size as the 70mm macro, and only slightly heavier, but barely noticeable.
From the Front Yard to the Farm
I decided to take this lens out for a test drive in my own front yard, as well as to the farm where my husband works. I go with him every once in a while when I have time, because it changes every day, and I can always find something new and interesting to see and photograph.
On the way out, I stopped for a few moments to get up close with some of the flowers in my front yard. I love how I don’t have to get as close with this lens, but I can still see all the tiny details I want to see.
But flowers aren’t all that I want to take pictures of. Seeing the beauty in the everyday (or even things that other people might find ugly or just walk right by) is an important part of slowing down. Bringing this lens to the farm offers so many unique opportunities. Vines growing into a paint-chipped wall, a broken clothesline with lichens growing on it, rotting wood posts, or an old rusted cement mixer all make for great subjects.
The farm cats and chickens make great subjects, too. Because they don’t hold still, they’re always a challenge to photograph, and macro shots aren’t really possible. But switching the camera’s Eye-AF to “animal” made shooting sharp, candid images a breeze. The 105mm F2.8 DG DN MACRO | Art has zero problem picking up the smallest details in the eyes of cats, chickens, and other animals. It’s also fast enough to snap into focus while they’re running around and get a clear, sharp result.
You can see in the photos of Frankie the cat that his eyes are sharp, despite his unfortunate habit of nosing through the dirt or hiding behind shrubs. The camera and lens combination had no trouble finding the cat’s face even with things in front of him. The same held true for the chickens on the farm. Both of the chicken photos below were actually taken through a fence. Even though the fence was closer to me, the AF system detected the chicken and the 105mm was very fast to focus on what I wanted.
I found a dew-covered bumblebee sleeping in some goldenrod next to the chicken coop. Because the bee had not yet warmed up that morning, I was able to get very close and focus on its eyes covered in the dewdrops. I wish I could have gotten more of the bee in focus by using a higher aperture, but it was a little too dark on that side of the chicken coop and I couldn’t hold quite still enough for that.
Dewdrops on spiderwebs are an easy-to-find but usually hard-to-focus-on subject. The 105mm F2.8 DG DN MACRO | Art had zero problems with that as well.
I also found a wolf spider in one of the greenhouses. She was very large, and the thing about wolf spiders is that they can see you coming. They are notoriously skittish and will run away if threatened. I think this lens helped me get the best photo of a wolf spider that I have ever shot, because the usual noise and sight of a lens coming towards her didn’t scare her away. That internal focusing really helped me here. She stayed right there on a leaf and watched me as I brought the camera closer and closer. But thanks to the longer focal length, I didn’t have to get so close that I frightened her.
I even tested this lens on the fresh eggs that we took home that day. Some eggs have a lot of texture, and some are very smooth. I wanted to see what the 105mm Macro made of both of them! The texture of the eggs is apparent, and the lens was even able to focus on the spots of a different egg through the top of the plastic container!
Overall, I very much love this lens! It’s light and easy to use. The durable construction, the speed and silence of the focusing system, and the sharpness all come together to make this a great lens. Not to mention that a 105mm focal length means this macro lens not only takes great close-up photos, but it can also be used for portraits. Simply put, the SIGMA 105mm F2.8 DG DN MACRO | Art worked beautifully for me at every opportunity, and it would make a great addition to any photographer’s lens collection.
Take a look at this video I made for SIGMA if you would like to learn more about macro photography, how I shoot and what I look for when exploring my surroundings.