Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens Review

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens Review

All of the high-volume lens makers (including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Tamron and Sigma) make one, and a big population of photographers has or wants one. I am of course referring to the ultra-useful 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. The 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM is Sigma's latest version of this lens and this one comes in a mount for all of the just-mentioned cameras (except Tamron as they do not currently make cameras).

Headlining the features of the Sigma 24-70 HSM lens is the price tag – this is the least expensive 24-70mm f/2.8 lens available as of review date. For a low price, you get good stopped-down image quality in a nicely-built full frame-compatible lens.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens on Camera on Tripod

Focal Length

Getting the focal length right is always my first step in selecting a lens for a particular use. And when a lens has a focal length range covering my recommended general purpose range, as 24-70mm does, that lens is going to find itself being used more than the rest.

Let's hit the university track and then the backyard for a couple of looks at this focal length range.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens Focal Length Range Example

The 24mm end is great for landscape photography, for shooting indoors and in other tight places and for a wide range of other uses. The 70mm end reaches to moderately tight portrait range. Add everything in between and your subject range becomes vast.

APS-C (1.6x FOVCF) format camera owners will see an angle of view equivalent to 38.4-112mm on a full frame DSLR. This range is somewhat lacking from a wide angle perspective, but a 112mm angle of view equivalence on the long end is quite welcomed and will allow better perspective with even tighter portraits.

Aperture

There are currently no full frame compatible zoom lenses available with apertures wider than f/2.8. If you want to blur the background or stop subject action with a zoom lens in this focal length range, f/2.8 is as good as it gets. Having f/2.8 available is especially welcomed when shooting indoors or after sunset. And having that max aperture available over the entire focal length range makes using f/2.8 a pleasure as wide open exposure settings do not change with zooming.

Optical Stabilization

Optical Stabilization is not a feature of this lens. If you want a stabilized 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, the Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens is your only option at this time. While an image stabilized f/4 lens can be handheld in much lower light levels than a non-stabilized f/2.8 lens, stabilization does not help stop subject motion. You want an f/2.8 (or wider) lens for that.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens on Canon 1Ds Mark III - Top view

Image Quality

Sometimes I can easily and accurately describe the image sharpness a lens delivers in a couple of sentences and this usually reflects excellent image sharpness being delivered – or at least consistency over the focal length range. But in other cases, I need several paragraphs to explain the complicated image quality a lens delivers. Unfortunately, the latter is the case with this lens.

At 24mm, this lens is very sharp in the center at f/2.8, with some softness showing in the mid and peripheral portions of the image circle. At f/4, the center shows slight improvement, but the mid and periphery show noticeable improvement. Slight improvement is seen in the periphery at f/5.6, but across the frame image quality is very good at f/4.

At 28mm, the f/2.8 center of the frame image quality remains sharp, but the mid frame and corners take a hit – showing noticeable blur. Image quality takes on a noticeable improvement at f/4 and again at f/5.6 where this lens is quite sharp across the frame.

At 35mm, the center of the frame again remains sharp at f/2.8, but the mid and peripheral areas of the image circle take an additional hit. Across-the-frame image quality is rather poor at this setting. Stopping down to f/4 shows a very noticeable improvement and performance at f/5.6 is, again, quite good.

Results at 50mm f/2.8 look similar to 35mm f/2.8 except that the center of the frame now becomes quite soft/blurry. Stopping down to f/4 generates a big quality improvement across the frame. Corners continue to clear up at f/5.6, where once again, this lens is sharp across the frame.

Wide open aperture image quality is even worse at 70mm than it is at 50mm. This setting should be avoided with this lens. Results are much better at f/4, but the corners are still quite soft until f/5.6 where this lens is, again, sharp across the frame.

To summarize the Sigma 24-70 HSM Lens' image sharpness in a single paragraph, I would say that this lens is soft at f/2.8, mostly sharp at f/4 and sharp across the frame at f/5.6. Stopping down to f/8 will yield only subtle improvements, primarily in the corners, across the entire focal length range.

Full frame DSLR users will see some CA (Chromatic Aberration) affecting frame corners, especially at the extents of the focal length range. The amount is not unusual. APS-C format cameras will show only slight CA in the corners.

APS-C format camera owners will also enjoy vignetting-free results from this lens. Full frame DSLR camera owners, as usual, will not. Expect wide open corner light fall-off amounts to range from about 1.2 stops at 35mm up to nearly 3 stops at both extents of the zoom range. Light fall-off is substantially reduced at f/4 and again at f/5.6 where the shading basically remains visible only at 24mm – nearly 2 stops worth. A small, but annoying/noticeable 24mm corner shading remains in full frame corners even at f/16.

In the site's standard flare test, the Sigma 24-70 HSM shows some noticeable flaring at the wide end and midrange focal lengths, but very little at the long end.

A 24-70mm lens is expected to have distortion – barrel at the wide end that transitions to pincushion at the long end. This lens fits that expectation, but actually performs better than I expected in this regard. Select 35mm to have an undiscernible amount of distortion.

The Sigma 24-70 HSM's 9-blade aperture delivers a pleasing blur in out of focus areas of an image. Below is an example. Click on the image for a complete bokeh comparison (opens in new window) that includes two other 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses.

24-70mm Lens Bokeh Comparison

Focusing

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens gets HSM (Hypersonic Motor) driven AF. This lens focuses with reasonable speed and very little sound. Some quiet shuffling can be heard inside the lens during focusing.

Focusing is internal – the lens does not extend and the filter threads do not rotate during focusing. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported. Simply grab the focus ring and take control – before or after auto focusing.

An f/2.8 zoom lens, to me at least, has "Sports Action" written all over it. Unfortunately, my experience shooting action using this lens has not been good. Autofocus performance with a moving subject has been – to be kind – poor. I attempted to shoot a track meet with this lens, but few in-action subjects were rendered in-focus.

One Shot focus accuracy is definitely better. Still, my lens is front-focusing slightly on my 5D Mark III at 24mm and showing some slight focus inconsistency at 70mm.

If not parfocal, this lens is close to it. Subjects remain in focus or very close to in focus while zooming from one extent to the other.

With a somewhat short 78° focus ring rotation, the focus ring quickly brings subjects into and out of focus quickly. But, the focus ring is very smooth and has a nice amount of resistance. Subjects change size in the frame by a significant amount during focus adjustment.

The Sigma 24-70 HSM shares a 15.0" (380mm) MFD (Minimum Focusing Distance) with several other 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses, but it trails its class with a 0.19x MM (Maximum Magnification). However, it is not behind the others far enough to matter to most.

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens13.8"(350mm)0.16x
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.21x
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM Lens7.9"(200mm)0.70x
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens17.7"(450mm)0.23x
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens14.4"(366mm)0.27x
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.19x
Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens17.7"(450mm)0.22x
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens15.0"(380mm)0.20x

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens on Camera

Build Quality & Features

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens is a somewhat compact lens compared to its peers. Like all other lenses in this class, this lens features an extending design. At full extension, the extended lens barrel has a slight amount of play in it, but this is, overall, a solid-feeling lens.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens Product Images

Select View:  MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare >

The matt black finish on this lens is nice – much better than the previous Sigma lens finish that readily showed fingerprints (and had a tendency to peel off), but it is not as classy-looking as the finish the newer Sigma Global Vision lenses are now sporting.

The nicely-sized zoom ring is ideally positioned for use. Being raised from the lens mount area makes the zoom ring easy to find. The focus ring is also ideally-positioned. This ring is slightly small, but adequately-sized. Both rings are solid with no play.

There is only one switch on this lens – the AF/MF switch. No zoom lock switch is provided, but it is not needed on my lens as it does not gravity zoom even when shaken.

The Sigma 24-70 HSM is currently the smallest 24-70 f/2.8 lens, but it weighs about the same as its peers.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens22.8 oz(645g)3.3 x 4.4"(83.5 x 110.6mm)77mm2006
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens28.4 oz(805g)3.5 x 4.4"(88.5 x 113mm)82mm2012
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM Lens21.2 oz(600g)3.3 x 3.7"(83.4 x 93mm)77mm2012
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens23.7 oz(670g)3.3 x 4.2"(83.5 x 107mm)77mm2005
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens31.8 oz(900g)3.3 x 5.2"(83.82 x 132.08mm)77mm2007
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens27.9 oz(790g)3.4 x 3.7"(86.6 x 94.7mm)82mm2011
Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens31.2 oz(885g)3.5 x 4.3"(88.6 x 109.4mm )82mm2013
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens29.1 oz(825g)3.5 x 4.3"(88.2 x 108.5mm)82mm2012

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

As you can see in the above chart, this lens utilizes the increasingly-popular 82mm filter size. I recommend using a slim circular polarizer filter model (such as the B+W XS-Pro) for this lens.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens on Canon 1Ds Mark III

I use lens hoods nearly 100% of the time. Hoods add physical protection for the front element and prevent flare-inducing/contrast-reducing light from hitting the front lens element. Great is that Sigma includes the hood in the box.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens Case

This lens ships with a zippered padded nylon case. The case is nice – it provides good protection to the lens inside.

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens is available in Canon (reviewed), Nikon, Pentax, Sony/Minolta and Sigma mounts. My standard disclaimer: There are potential issues with third party lenses. Since Sigma reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer AF routines, there is always the possibility that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. Sometimes a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer, sometimes not. There is also the risk of a problem that results in the lens and body manufacturers directing blame at each other. Sigma USA's 4-year warranty is far superior to Canon's standard 1 year warranty (Sigma's international warranty is also 1 year).

The review lens was purchased retail/online.

Price

Price is the primary reason to select this lens over one of the alternatives. This is the lowest-priced 24-70 f/2.8 lens available right now.

I'll share some comparison photos:

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens and Similar 24-70mm Lenses

Positioned above from left to right in height order are the following lenses in their fully retracted positions:

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens

The same lenses are shown rearranged below (retaining height order) in their fully extended states with their lens hoods in place.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens and Similar 24-70mm Lenses in Extended Position

Here is a similar comparison with the addition of a couple of f/4 lenses:

Canon, Tamron and Sigma 24-70mm Lenses

Positioned above from left to right in their fully retracted positions are the following lenses:

Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens

The same lenses are shown below in their fully extended states with their lens hoods in place.

Canon, Tamron and Sigma 24-70mm Lenses with Hoods

The Sigma remains the smallest or near-smallest even in this comparison.

If you consider the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens to be an f/4 max aperture lens, then I think you will be pleased with the image quality it delivers. But, you are probably not considering this lens if you only plan to use an f/4 max aperture because in that case, you are better off with the image stabilized Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens, Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS USM Lens or Sigma 24-105mm f/4.0 DG OS HSM Art Lens.

I created a 24-70mm lens image quality comparison page for some earlier lens reviews I created. I'll open that link in a new window for you to save your place here. In that comparison, you will find other f/2.8 lenses that perform noticeably better at f/2.8 than this one.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens Extended on Canon 1Ds Mark III

I would like to see Sigma apply their Global Vision process to this lens. The 24-70 HSM is not newly released as I write this review, and I have evaluated a number of the since-developed Sigma Global Vision lenses that have performed very well. I expect that bringing this lens up to the new Sigma quality standards would make a big difference in my recommendations.

Again, the price of this lens is good and a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens purchase can be justified for the positive attributes including nice build quality and very good stopped-down image quality.

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