Sigma AF 90mm f/2.8 Macroin Reviews: Lenses
By morningfrost/Silvio (22,661)
on January 14, 2003 1:40:18 PM CST
Like many beginners, I have started with the standard zoom sold with most cameras. In my case, it was the Nikkor AF 28-80mm, the D version, not as bad as the more common G version but still pretty dark. I have soon re-sold, buying one of the excellent fixed 50mm lenses Nikon manifactures.
Since I am interested in telephoto photography, but also in macro photography and candid portraits, my usual dealer recomended me a Sigma 90mm F2.8 he had in stock. As far as I know, this line from Sigma was made of high quality lenses. I also own a 24mm from this. Unfortunately, they are discontinued products:Sigma no more produces them, but it's still easy to find them in shops.
I will write some considerations about the one I have used more, the 90mm of course, hoping that my article would be useful for someone.
At a first sight, this lens looks pretty rugged. Construction quality is good: metal bayonet mount, well sized, and it has a confortable ring, made of soft gum, to handle it.
I find this ring is more useful than it seems: I have experienced some cheap zoom, like the Nikkor standard 28-80mm, that is pretty difficult to mount on the camera, since there is no firm point to hold it. With some practice, I can usually mount the Sigma AF 90mm with one hand, holding the camera (with shoulder strap) against my body, while removing the other lens I was using with the other hand.
As usual, Sigma manifactures lenses for most diffused cameras. Since I own Nikon equipment, I have a Nikon F-mount Sigma lens. It will fit on any Nikon camera, since this manifacturer has never changed its F-mount when introducing autofocus cameras. The focusing ring, like most AF lenses, is designed to be motor-driven, hence its softness. However, it is operable in manual focus mode with no particular difficulty. This is a common way to operate on macro shot, where the autofocus system sometimes shows its limit.This lens has an aperture ring. On most recent cameras, it is not used since the aperture is set by the camera body. This happens on the F80 and F100, for instance, and with this cameras the aperture ring must be set on the highest f/ number. This is also nedeed to operate in shutter priority (S) and program (P) modes on the F90 and the F70. THere is a switch lo lock the ring in this position. On older cameras, of course, aperture must be set manually on the lens.
In case you're in doubt, this lens will work perfectly on cameras that are designed to operate mainly with AF lenses. Exposure meter will work on the F80 and F65, unlike what happens with manual focus AI lenses. The package claims that this lens is of a D type, that means it provides focusing information to the light meter. This is what Nikon calls 3D Matrix Metering.
Sigma AF 90mm F2.8 is a moderate telephoto lens, and it's also a macro lens. It's useful for portraits, close candid snapshots, close-ups and even some landscape shot. As a macro lens, it can focus as close as 0.33 meters, or about one foot. This is useful shooting bugs, flowers, plants and small details.As you can see, there are a lot of situation when you'll be happy to have it.
After I had it for a while, I noticed that usually I leave it mounted on the camera when putting it in its bag, since it is the one I want to use when shooting again. Even in close situations, sometimes a few steps backwards are a quicker way to get the framing I need, rather then changing the lens.
This lens comes with a lens hood that can be mounted backwards on the top of the hood if you don't use it. It's quite robust, and is padded with a soft material on the internal surfarce. It's a pity that with the hood reversed, you miss a point to hold the lens, as it cover it almost completely.In fact, I prefer not to use it in this way and when I don't need it, I leave it in my bag.
Filter attachment is 52mm, a common size for several lenses. I own a 24mm, a 50mm and even an old, dark 80-200mm f/5.6 that have the same attachment size. I didn't look for this, but it's a curious situation that lets me save money for filters of different sizes.
Just to have an idea, you can see many on my pictures on Photosig. Many of them are done with this lens.
Image qualityThis is the most important quality for a lens, of course. In some lens review web site I have read this lens scores good. I can read and judge an MTF test, but I prefer to watch at pictures I make. Images taken with my Sigma 90 are fine to me. Sharpness is good enough, colors and tonal range are fully satisfactory.
About defects, what I have noticed is that it has flare. Images in strong light conditions, especially backlighted stuff, have some glare and show reflections of the iris blades on the internal optical elements. This is probably due to the anti-glare coating of non-excellent quality, a typical defects of low cost lenses. It's up to you to judge if you can live with it or not. As far as I can remember, I have only one photo spoiled from this, against many I really like.
I have used the new Sigma AF 105mm that has replaced the 90mm, and I think it has much more flare then the older model.
There is one thing in which the project of this lens shows its out-of-date conception: the noisy autofocus. As I have a Nikon mount lens, I will rely on it, maybe models with Canon EF mount (which has an internal motor) are better. Nikon usually has the AF motor in the camera body, and a force socket on the lens mount. Some long range telephoto (the AF-S series) has an internal motor, but this is not the case of this one. While autofocusing, this lens makes more noise the my Nikon lenses. The optical elements to move are heavy, and you can notice this in macro shots when the AF system starts to seek out for focus position back and forth.
AF perfomance is a weak point: it's reliable, but quite slow. It depends even on camera body: it is slower on my F80, faster (but not *that* fast) on my older F90X. This is not the kind of performance you'll want when tracking the ball in a football match. It gets better with still subjects. However, when taking macro shots, I usually switch to manual focus.This also allows me to have more control on focusing, together with the depth of field preview of my camera.
For easier operations, this lens has a focus limiter switch that toggle between full focus range and a limited range, either a 0.45m to infinite range, or a 0.33-0.45 range. It's useful to avoid unnecessary focus ring excursion.
Indeed, the Sigma AF 90mm f/2.8 was a good purchase. Almost half of my pictures are taken with it.
It is a not so expensive lens, so you can probably afford it, and it is still so priced that you haven't the impression to buy some bottle glass kept together by plastic. Actually, I think it has one of the best price/performance ratio.
As I have said, it's not good for everything. It's not the right lens for action photography. Better said, you can use it but there are other lenses on the market that are more suitable.
Maybe, it has not the optical excellence of higher priced lenses, but I think quality and prince come together. It's just a matter of balance, the quality that's right for you at the price you think is right for it.
All can I say is that I am happy to have one, and if have needs similar to mine you will find it the right companion for many pictures you will be proud of.
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