Lens review

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS

8 April 2024
Maciej Latałło

3. Build quality and image stabilization

The following chart presents a comparison between basic parameters of the tested Sigma, its reflex camera predecessor, and other 70-200 mm f/2.8 models designed for full frame mirrorless cameras. It is clear that Sigma, Nikon, and Sony chose the classic approach with a closed construction that doesn't change its dimensions. Canon and Tamron instruments change their dimensions because their front element system extends on a homogeneous tube. Tamron made the task a bit easier for themselves by shortening the focal length to 180 mm.

When you compare optical constructions of all these instruments you can draw very interesting conclusions. In case of the new Sigma you get 20 elements positioned in 15 groups. There are as many as 6 FLD elements (with characteristics close to those of fluorite), 2 SLD (low dispersion) and 3 aspherical elements.

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

Still, it's worth noticing the fact that, when compared to the reflex camera version, with 24 elements positioned in 22 groups, it is actually a simplified version. Looking especially at the group number it is clear the predecessor had more room when it comes to correction of optical aberrations. As if it wasn't enough, the older model featured as many as 9 elements made of expensive FLD glass and one more made of SLD glass.

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The optical system of the new Sigma is significantly simpler than that of its predecessor – obviously the producers tried their best to limit the final weight of their instrument. The older lens could reach even 1.8 kg after all. I admit the task was very difficult indeed because at the same time they significantly decreased minimum focusing distance and such a move demands an even lager range of element system inside the closed tube. As if it wasn't enough, contemporary constructions try to optimize their video registering performance so they have to tackle also focus breathing, a problem that was virtually non-existent in reflex camera 70-200 mm lenses. Previously, even huge focus breathing was tolerated because why not?

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

What about the rivals? The Nikkor's optical construction is more complex than that of the new Sigma; inside the Tamron you find exactly the same number of elements but they can be used more effectively as this instrument is not limited by fixed physical dimensions and its focal range is narrower. Compared to that, the systems of the Canon and the Sony are surprisingly simple – just 17 elements.

When it comes to the aperture, the one of the Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS features just 11 blades and can be closed down to a value of f/22 at the maximum. In this area only the Sony can compete with the Sigma successfully; other lenses of this class feature apertures with just 9 blades.

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

The tested lens starts with a metal mount that surrounds contacts and an inner tube which is very well matted and blackened. Inside that tube you find an immobile rear element, positioned over 2 cm deep, with a diameter of about 2.5 cm. Its size is additionally limited by a frame positioned below. From this side everything looks very nice, with excellent blackening and a completely sealed construction.

The proper tube of the lens is made of metal; it starts with a smooth ring that quickly increases its diameter. It features a white dot, making an alignment with a camera easier, 023 marking the production year of the instrument, an inscription 'MADE IN JAPAN', and minimum focusing distance for both extremes of the focal length range: 0.65–1.0M/2.13–3.28FEET.

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

On the already enlargened part you get a very solid tripod holder with a possibility of horizontal and vertical transition. Unfortunately it is permanently attached to the lens’s body and it’s a drawback – sometimes you have to walk with that type of lens quite a lot without carrying a tripod or a monopod with you. If you could take that holder off you would reduce the weight of the lens significantly, making it handier.

Further on, you find a part of the tube with an inscription stating the name of the company and parameters of the lens along with a whole array of switches. The first of them, FOCUS, is used to control the focusing mechanism, with two possible positions: AF and MF. The next switch limits the autofocus range, with three possible ranges: FULL, from 3 meters to infinity and from the minimum focusing distance to 3 meters. Then you get an OS switch, controlling the optical stabilization unit (with 1, 2, and OFF modes) and as the last one, a switch labelled CUSTOM, which allows you to choose between three positions: OFF, C1 and C2. It is used to operate specific focusing mechanism modes, saved by the user after calibrating the lens by the Sigma USB Dock.

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

A bit further on, outside the frame with other switches, you see a CLICK ON/OFF toggle; it allows you to choose the aperture ring mode, with clicking stops every 1/3 EV step or declicked. On the opposite site of the lens you find a LOCK switch blocking the aperture ring.

The next part is an aperture ring we've mentioned earlier, 13 mm wide, half of its surface covered by ribs in order to make your grip more secure. It includes aperture markings from f/2.8 to f/22 and an A position as well. The ring can be de-clicked or it can move every 1/3 EV interval.

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

Then you see a manual focus ring, 22 mm wide, almost completely covered by rubber ribs. The ring is a focus-by-wire construction and its focus throw depends on the speed of your turning. If you move it quickly it might amount to about 180 degrees, with slower turning you can reach even 400 degrees. Both these values allow you very precise settings.

Further on you find an immobile part of the casing with an S mark, meaning the lens belongs to the 'Sport' series, and three round FOCUS LOCK buttons that are also programmable.

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

A zoom ring, as wide as 40 mm, most of its surface covered by rubbered ribbing, is the biggest part of the proper tube of the lens. Below that ring you also find focal length markings at 70, 100, 135, 170, and 200 mm. The ring moves smoothly and is properly damped.

The Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 ends with a rubber edge, inside which you find a non-rotating filter thread, 77 mm in diameter. The front element, 67 mm in diameter, doesn't move and is relatively flat.

Buyers get both caps, a hard case, and a hood in the box with the lens.

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

Optical stabilization

The official press release of the producer features a piece of information that optical stabilization of the lens can be as efficient as even 7.5 EV at the 70 mm focal length, and reaches 5.5 EV at 200 mm.

In order to check the real efficiency of the Sigma's stabilization unit at 200 mm we took several dozen of photos at every exposure time ranging from 1/250 to 1/2.5 of a second with the stabilization switched on and off. The graph below shows the percentage of blurred photos depending on the exposure time expressed in EV with 0 EV being an equivalent of 1/200 of a second.

Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS - Build quality and image stabilization

The maximum distance between both curves reaches 4.6-4.7 EV and such is, according to our measurements, the efficiency of stabilization unit of the Sigma S 70-200 mm f/2.8 DG DN OS. It's a bit short of the declared 5.5 EV. On the other hand, a result even approaching 5 EV is excellent nevertheless and we assess the performance of the stabilization mechanism very high indeed. The Sigma fares noticeably better in this category than the Tamron 70-180 mm G2 and even a bit better than the much more expensive Sony FE 70-200 mm f/2.8 GM OSS II.