Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM review: A serious 100mm macro competitor?

Monday January 30 2012

Lens Review
Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM review: A serious 100mm macro competitor?

We have just tested both the Canon and Nikon versions of the Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM lens, announced on February 8, 2011.

First we’ll analyze the lens results when mounted on the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III and on the Nikon D3x. Then we’ll measure the progress in terms of image quality by comparing the 2011 results with the earlier non-stabilized version, the Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG Macro, announced in June 2004.

Finally, we’ll see how this lens stacks up against other macro lenses already tested, giving us an opportunity to revisit the overview of 100mm macros for full-frame cameras that we recently published on this site.

The Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM put through the DxOMark mill

The Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Nikon & Canon, mounted on a Nikon D3x and Canon 1Ds Mark III, respectively

With a DxOMark Score of 23 for the Nikon mount and 24 for the Canon, the two 105mm macros have, for all purposes, identical image quality. (Note : With a T-stop of 3.2 on the Nikon and 3 on the Canon, there is a difference of about 0.19EV at full aperture. The Canon version gains almost 1/3EV over the Nikon version, making the Canon slightly brighter at f/2.8.)

Strong points Weak points
Excellent sharpness Strong vignetting, with a loss of 1.5EV in the last 1/3 of the field at   f/2.8, and a loss of 0.7EV in the last 1/3 of the field at f/4.
No distortion
Reasonable weight High price
Well-corrected chromatic aberrations  

Sigma 105mm F2.8 OS vs Sigma 105mm F2.8: Stabilization - for $300 more

Globally, these lenses provide the same image quality - and in fact, the non-stabilized version controls vignetting better. So at first glance, it may seem that a jump in price of $300 is unjustified, but realistically, stabilization is a genuinely useful feature for a macro lens of this kind. Our advice, then, is to go for the stabilized version (if your budget permits).

Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Canon vs Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Canon mounted on a 1Ds Mark III

Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Nikon vs Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Nikon mounted on a D3x

Looking at the details, we see:

  • Very close DxOMark scores — only 1 point (Canon) and 2 points (Nikon) separate these two lenses
  • The stabilized version is ever-so-slightly brighter
  • Stronger vignetting (1.5 EV to f/2.8) for the stabilized version

Verdict: After all this time, we frankly hoped for greater advances in image quality. This said, we acknowledge that there’s been at least a little improvement in sharpness and transmittion.

One other good point is that stabilization hasn’t added any more weight to the lens.

Note that the prices for professional-quality Sigma lenses have risen significantly. By raising its prices, however, Sigma has lost some of its advantage over Nikon and Canon in terms of quality-to-price ratio.

The best 100mm macros

Below is a summary of our updated scorecard (available at 100mm macros for full-frame cameras):

For Canon:

With image quality results practically equal to Canon’s series L, the stabilized Sigma is certainly good enough to be considered by fully serious player in this lens catagory.

For Nikon: