105VR or Sigma 150, which would you get?

Started May 16, 2008 | Discussions thread
dizzle Regular Member • Posts: 321
Re: 105VR or Sigma 150, which would you get?

I have been wanting a macro lens for over a year now. I have had my eyes set on the Sigma 150mm based on samples I have seen here and elsewhere; and price/performance. Unfortunately, a macro lens is lower in my queue than other lens priorities, so it has been on the backburner. Recently, my wife determined that due to her work, she could no longer wait for a macro lens and purchase would need to be soon. Of course I support this

The other day we went out to test options to find what would work best for her needs. I was still thinking the Sigma 150 would be the best bet and so we set our budget at around $500.

The store we visited had the Sigma 150mm, Sigma 105mm, Sigma 50mm, Nikon 105mm, and Nikon 60mm. They did not stock the Tamron 90mm or 180mm and unfortunately Tokina is unavailable in my area, eliminating the 100mm or their new macro zoom. The 50-60mm range is too short for our application, so this focal length was left out of comparison.

Because of the inherent sharpness and minimized distortion of macro lenses, our decision making process was also primarily informed by the way the lens was intended to be used.

My wife will be hand-holding the lens in the field 90% of the time, often in lighting conditions that are less than optimal, and she prefers AF. I however would be on a tripod in controlled light 90% of the time, and I prefer MF.

We tried the three available lenses in the following order, under inadquate store lighting andno tripod support (a good indication of the worst case scenario for use). We brought a sample of bleached coral, which has been a difficult subject for us to photograph using non-macro lenses. Our impressions were as follows.

Sigma 150mm Macro "Bugma":

Excellent build quality. Internal focus. Quiet-'ish' AF with a moderate amount of focus hunting. At f/2.8 it produced an odd, illuminated, blurred halo around the subject approximately 30 pixels in width - perhaps a bad sample? At f/4 IQ was good, but not extraordinary. It left my wife wondering "what this lens would do that our existing non-macro lenses wouldn't". Given the available light and no tripod, f/8 required impossible shutter speeds (aka, 1/4 second).

Sigma 105mm Macro:

Decent build quality, though less impressive than the 150mm. The lack of internal focus resulted in logistical concerns regarding field use. Loud and slow AF with significant focus hunting. Although I expected the shorter focal length to result in a faster shutter speed with smaller apertures, the 45mm reduction provided little to no noticable increase in hand-held performance. In fact, the ratio of hand-held "keepers" from the 105 was far worse than that of the 150mm.

Nikon 105mm Micro VR:

Superb build quailty, perceptably better than the Sigmas, though not enough to be a deal breaker. Internal focus. Quiet, quiet, quiet AF. More focus hunting than what I'm used to with AF zooms, but less than the Sigmas. There were a much higher ratio of hand-held keepers than the other two lenses. IQ was very nice, and the sharpness was unbelievable. To seal the deal, my wife shot a close-up of my shirt from the hip. At 100% zoom, the image showed crisp, individual threads and distinctly revealed their weave pattern. As to be expected, the VR provided a significant performance advantage for hand-held use; particularly in low light.

We left the store discussing the reality that if we were already going to spend $500 on a new lens, why not spend the extra $250 to make sure it did all that we needed it to. So yesterday we bought the Nikon 105mm Micro.

As mentioned previously, I was set on the Sigma 150mm. I have no doubt it is a fantastic lens, particularly based on the samples I have seen. Even with the experience we had, I would still be inclined to purchase the 150 if it were solely for my own use. But in consideration of my wife's need to hand-hold in lighting conditions that are not always optimal, the VR on the Nikon 105mm made it the obvious choice in our situation. And I cannot deny the convenience of that capability in my own use. Ultimately I never considered the Nikon 105mm because I thought the price difference wasn't worth VR. Ironically enough, after our comparisons, the case turned out to the contrary.

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