Lens Guides

A New Concert Photography Staple: SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports Lens

The generally-agreed-upon “holy trinity” of lenses for all working photographers are the 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm. For music photographers like myself, the magic number to put right next to that has always been F2.8. We need our lenses fast. Even for a relatively well-lit concert, sometimes I have to push my ISO up to 2500.

I had been waiting for SIGMA to release the 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports for Sony cameras for a long time. So when I saw it was finally announced in late 2023, I pre-ordered it immediately. I already owned the SIGMA 14-24mm Art and 24-70mm Art lenses, which not only produced beautiful images, but were tough enough to deal with everything that a concert photographer puts their gear through.

After taking the new 70-200mm on tour for two weeks and to various gigs around Boston, I was overjoyed to find the new addition fit right in with the rest of my gear. It’s perfect to finish off my kit and for what I need for each and every show.

The speed, autofocus and stabilization are everything I need to get sharp, focused photos in a genre of photography that is generally dark, fast-moving and unpredictable.

– Brent Goldman, professional concert photographer

Putting the 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports to work on tour

All images below photographed with the SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports lens on a Sony A7 IV camera body.

I got my copy just before the new year, perfectly timed for my tour up the east coast with my pals Magic City Hippies. The first thing I noticed was that for a lens of its size, it’s not as heavy as some others I have tried in the past. At just 47 ounces, it saves my neck, back and shoulders when I’m carrying two bodies with lenses, plus a film camera, for nearly two hours every night.

Venues on this tour were bigger than my last, so the focal range was great to work around venues and still get intimate shots of the band. Even better, a few venues didn’t have photo pits, so I was able to get what I needed from the crowd.

I did a lot of experimenting on tour with it. I would do one show using the manual aperture ring, and others where I set it to “A” (auto) and adjusted in-camera. There’s something really nice about a physical aperture ring that’s more tactile and natural to me. I generally still use it with the click on (you can de-click the ring action with a switch on the barrel) so I can feel my changes and keep my eyes on the performer on stage instead looking at my camera screen.

Back in Boston, I was shooting a show with darker, moodier lighting and started holding the built-in tripod foot in my palm when shooting over the crowd. I found it perfect to add a little more stability to my shots.

I always have the 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art on one of my bodies, but after just a few weeks with the 70-200mm, it became a staple on my second body. The feel of the lens is exactly what you would expect from SIGMA, easy and natural to operate, but tough enough to deal with bumping into fans, barricades or other photographers.

The customizable AFL button is an especially useful feature. I programmed mine to change the camera to APS-C mode, which gives me an equivalent focal range of 350mm at the touch of a button. Even on a 24-megapixel camera body like the Sony A7 IV, I still have more than enough data in my shots to get great images without losing detail.

Speaking of which, the details are where this lens truly shines. In addition to capturing the emotion and unforgettable moments of the performers themselves, I always try to focus on how to capture the light, color and atmosphere of a show. The way the 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports pairs with my A7 IV to render light is as good as any F2.8 lens I’ve used. It allows me to get up close and personal with artists from the photo pit for what I call a “live portrait”, or go further back and capture the entire stage and crowd.

The one thing I can’t rave enough about is the autofocus. Whether I was using tracking (a concert photographers best friend) or spot focusing, I can’t recall missing any shots. In music, moments are so fleeting, so it’s important to know I can rely on the AF. If you miss an artist jumping off the drums or crowd surfing, you may never be able to replicate that shot. With the 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports, I don’t need to ask “did I get that?” I know I did.

I also love that I can lock my focal length to get framing in quieter moments just right, or zoom super fast to make sure I don’t miss a big moment. The optical stabilization is perfect, whether my hands are a little shaky for a still, or for capturing some short video content for an artist. I know that when festival and outdoor shows ramp up this spring and summer, like all SIGMA Sports line lenses, it’s built to withstand dust and any nasty weather.

Overall thoughts about the SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports lens

All together, the 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS | Sports lens lived up to my expectations from SIGMA and even surpassed them in some ways. It’s truly become indispensable for my kit and is easy to travel with on tour or on the train to shows. The speed, autofocus and stabilization are everything I need to get sharp, focused photos in a genre of photography that is generally dark, fast-moving and unpredictable.

The 24-70mm may be the concert photographer’s first lens for versatility, but the 70-200mm is a very close second for every venue situation and type of show. I can’t wait to see the shots I get with it the rest of the year and beyond.

Get your SIGMA 70-200mm here!

for Sony E-mount and L-Mount

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