Sigma 150mm/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro

 

 

The World of Macro

The Sigma 150mm/2.8 is a bulky, heavy, beautiful lens.  

I used an older-generation (screw-drive) Sigma 70mm/2.8 macro in my Pentax days.  As a basis for comparison, this 150mm/2.8 OS macro is completely different in a number of ways.  The finish is smooth, rather than textured.  The lens focuses internally and therefore doesn't change length as focal distance changes.  The lens hood mounts with a quarter turn, rather than with threads.  The lens includes a rotating tripod mount.  And of course, the 150mm/2.8 is optically stabilized, which has proven to be extremely helpful in both macro and normal circumstances.

During macro shooting, the major challenge I've faced is achieving sufficient depth of field.  This isn't a function of the lens itself, but rather an optical reality.  For any 150mm lens (other than a tilt/shift design) focused at 2 feet at f16, your depth of field is only 0.51 inches.  At f2.8, depth of field is a razor-thin 0.08 inches.  Both the tripod collar and the optical stabilization have helped tremendously when trying to achieve sharp focus at macro distances.

150mm is usually far too short for bird in flight photography, but I've found that the optical stabilization and 2.8 maximum aperture of the Sigma 150mm/2.8, coupled with the resolution and sensitivity of the D600's sensor, let's me crop distant subjects pretty successfully.  The following two images show a before-and-after crop of a red-footed booby at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on the island of Kauai:

 

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (2014)Sigma 150mm/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro, 150mm, f3.3, 1/1000 sec., ISO 100

 

Red-footed Booby, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (2014)Sigma 150mm/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro, 150mm, f3.3, 1/1000 sec., ISO 100

 

A few minor gripes:  The tripod collar is very smooth and well-designed, but the adjustment knob comes within 1 or 2 millimeters of the prism overhang on my Nikon D600.  If the knob had been designed any larger, it would bump against the overhand and prevent the collar from rotating 360 degrees around the axis of the lens.  Easily avoided by rotating the lens in the opposite direction, but it's something to be aware of.  Also, the lens occasionally fails to acquire autofocus properly, even when nothing at all in the frame is within focus.  Usually, a few more attempts coaxes it into action without having to restart the camera.  It's not cost me a once-in-a-lifetime shot yet, but it may be an issue for some people.  Again, it's a pretty rare event.

One other issue to keep in mind, if you're stepping up to this lens from a collection of more normal-sized lenses:  the Sigma 150mm/2.8 is a heavy and bulky lens, particularly with the tripod collar attached.  My shoulder bag is a Crumpler Seven Million Dollar Home, and the Sigma 150mm/2.8 takes up fully 1/3 of the bag (one full end) with the collar attached.  With the collar removed, I can typically squeeze something else in next to it, but it's tight.  When mounted on my D600 and placed vertically in a LowePro Inverse 200AW waist pack, I can only barely close the zipper lid.  In short, carrying this lens can be a bit of a hassle.  

Overall, however, this is an incredibly impressive lens.  It's perfect for floral closeups and butterfly shots, in particular:

 

Sagebrush Mariposa Lily (Calochortus macrocarpus)Sigma 150mm/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro, 150mm, f4.0, 1/1500 sec., ISO 200

 

Sagebrush Checkerspot (Chlosyne acastus)Sigma 150mm/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro, 150mm, f4.0, 1/250 sec., ISO 100

 

Ultimately, the weight and bulk of this lens meant that it was often left behind on short hikes or whenever weight was at a premium.  I replaced it with the Nikon 105mm/2.8G VR, a lens that doesn't impress me as much as the Sigma but only weighs 2/3 as much.  Sadly, money was too tight to justify owning both.  I hope one day to purchase this lens again!