Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM

Sigma's Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM manages to combine an impressive optical performance with a reasonable asking price

At around $1000 less than Canon and Nikon’s 70-200mm F2.8 alternatives, and still considerably cheaper than Sony’s version, the appeal of Sigma’s 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM is obvious. This latest version is the first 70-200mm lens from the company to offer an Optical Stabilizer function, as well as the first to feature ‘F’ Low Dispersion glass elements in its construction, which as we've already highlighted in this guide, is claimed by Sigma to equal the optical properties of fluorite for better control over chromatic aberration.

Crucially, its performance marks it out as a credible second choice for those with a smaller budget, with excellent sharpness at middle apertures and low levels of chromatic aberration throughout its focal range. Its quick and quiet HSM focussing system lives up to Sigma’s promises, while its effective image stabilization system and sturdy construction broaden the situations in which it can be realistically used.

As is often the case, rival manufacturer Tamron also has an answer to the mainstream offerings with its SP AF 70-200mm F2.8 Di LD (IF) Macro. While its focusing motor is noisy, and not as fast as the various silent systems found in its peers, and it lacks image stabilization system, its superb sharpness, pleasing bokeh and well-controlled chromatic aberrations nevertheless mean that it’s worthy of consideration, particularly with a price tag around half that of the Sigma lens.

Specifications

• Optical Stabilizer system
• Hyper Sonic Motor with full-time manual focus override
• Available in Canon EF, Nikon F (FX), Pentax KAF3, Sony Alpha, Sigma SA mounts
• Maximum format size: 35mm (full frame)
• Dimensions: 86 x 197mm (3.4 x 7.8 in)
• Weight: 1430 g (3.2 lb.)

Pros – More affordable than most similar 70-200mm alternatives, very sharp once stopped down
Cons – No weather sealing, no focus limit switch

Tamron SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 Di VC USD

Tamron's SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 Di VC USD is compatible with full-frame DSLRs and is equipped with a Vibration Compensation (image stabilization) system

Tamron cites its SP 70-300mm F4-5.6 Di VC USD as an ideal secondary lens to a standard kit zoom, and its useful focal range and sub $500 price alone make it a fine contender for that second investment. The lens has the honor of being the first to debut the company’s Ultrasonic Silent Drive autofocus motor; this, it is claimed, delivers quiet, fast and precise autofocus, thus suiting it for the capture of rapidly moving subjects. As a 'Di' lens it is compatible with both full-frame and cropped-sensor systems from Canon, Nikon and Sony (minus the 'VC' feature) mounts.

Aside from its focusing motor, the SP 70-300mm has a number of additional features to recommend it, such as an effective image-stabilizing Vibration Compensation system, and internal focussing which allows front-mounted accessories to be used conveniently.

Users of Pentax and Sigma (and indeed, Canon, Nikon and Sony) systems interested in this lens have a marginally cheaper alternative in the Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6 DG OS, which offers the same focal and aperture ranges, and is likewise suitable for both full-frame and cropped-sensor DSLR bodies. It also matches the Tamron lens in providing an image stabilization system - Sigma’s Optical Stabilizer - although by comparison it features a more conventional non-silent AF motor and cannot focus internally.

Specifications

• Tri-axial Vibration Compensation system
• Full-time manual focus override
• Available in Canon EF, Nikon F (FX) and Sony Alpha mounts
• Maximum format size: 35mm (full-frame)
• Dimensions: 82 x 143 mm (3.21 x 5.62 in)
• Weight: 765 g (1.69 lb.)

Pros – Vibration Compensation system, internal focusing system
Cons – Sigma's alternative is slightly cheaper