The Sigma 180mm f/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM is Sigma’s flagship macro lens. It is the first lens (and only, as of early 2014) to combine the following features: a long focal length of 180mm, a bright aperture of f/2.8, 1:1 (life-size) magnification and optical stabilization, making it a very attractive package. So is it the dream macro lens? Read on to find out.
The Sigma 180mm f/2.8 Macro OS is from Sigma’s EX (Excellence) line of lenses, which features their top-notch optics. Its image circle covers the full-frame area, and offers an equivalent field of view of 270mm (288mm on Canon APS-C bodies). It is compatible with the 1.4× and 2.0× teleconverters that correspond to its mount.
This is the last lens to have hit the shelves before the arrival of Sigma’s Global Vision line, which was launched only a few weeks afterwards. Having this lens as neat and feature-rich as the GV lenses would have been nice, but Sigma was probably willing to start the new line with a more mainstream lens (namely the 35mm f/1.4).
To be fair, if I did not have the latest great Sigma lenses to compare it with, this 180mm would leave nothing to be desired. Nothing except perhaps weather-sealing, but even the Global Vision lenses do not offer any.
Differences vs. the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro OS
The Sigma 180mm f/2.8 Macro OS is the longest macro lens in Sigma’s lineup. Versus the old 180mm f/3.5 non-OS, it is a completely revamped design, from the optics to the lens barrel.
Most users lusting after a long macro lens will probably hesitate between the new 180mm and its less expensive 150mm OS sibling, rather than with the older 180mm f/3.5 version.
For perspective, below are a few significant physical differences between the three long macro lenses.
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro OS | Sigma 180mm f/2.8 Macro OS | Sigma 180mm f/3.5 Macro
Weight: 1,050g | 1,640g | 945g
Size (DxL): 79.6mm x 150mm | 95.6mm x 203.9mm | 80 x 179mm
Filter size: 72mm | 86mm | 72mm
Special glass: 3 Super Low Dispersion elements | 3 Fluorite-like Low Dispersion elements | 2 Super Low Dispersion elements
Price (early 2014): $1,099 | $1,699 | Discontinued
A mere increase of 30mm in focal length alone does not justify the ~60% extra weight (and price!), and the much larger front elements. Besides, the 180mm f/2.8 OS includes FLD elements (Sigma’s most exotic type of glass) whereas the 150mm has SLD elements only. It appears no compromise was done when when choosing the glass (type, width) to incorporate in the 180mm lens.
Thus, the 180mm f/2.8 OS is supposedly optimized for homogeneous performance across the frame, and for better sharpness at wide apertures.