Build and handling
With its large number of elements, the Sigma 180mm f/2.8 macro lens is heavy, weighing a substantial 1,640g. As a comparison, the new Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens weighs 1,490g, which is itself a fair weight to be carrying around for long periods of time. Handheld shooting for longer than around a minute is therefore an issue. I pride myself on being able to hold a camera and lens very still, but camera shake did become more noticeable as I started to tire.
Thankfully, switching on the Optical Stabiliser, via the switch on the side of the lens, helps to reduce camera shake. Being an optical system, one of its benefits is that the stabilisation effect can be seen through the viewfinder, which instantly shows how well it is working. In general use, the stabilisation offers around 3EV improvement compared to when it is switched off, although I would still recommend shooting at no less than 1/125sec for the best handheld image quality.
The stabilisation has much less effect when shooting 1:1 macro images, due to the magnification exaggerating any camera shake. I found that it really only made the difference of about 1EV in terms of the shutter speeds at which I was able to shoot handheld. Of course, for best results a tripod should be used, especially as the shallow depth of field means front and back focus shift is an obvious issue.
A collar for supporting the lens on a tripod is included. This locks tightly onto the lens in just half a turn of the locking screw, and it is removed completely by pulling the spring-mounted screw away from the lens. It is extremely quick and simple, and well designed.
The ability to focus manually is critical when shooting macro images. I prefer a slightly firmer focusing ring on a macro lens so there is a definite certainty that the point of focus can be found and will remain in position. Thankfully, the focusing ring on this lens is extremely large and comfortable to grip, and I had no trouble with accuracy when manually focusing, having as it does a very smooth and precise action.
With a street price of almost £1,500, I would expect the Sigma 180mm f/2.8 macro lens to be of high quality and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.