Sigma 17-35mm f/2.8-4 EX DG

Sigma 17-35mm f/2.8-4 EX DG

This lens is one that I was looking forward to testing as I have owned its predecessor for some 18 month now The exercise proves beyond doubt that Sigma are taking their programme of change to digitally enhanced models seriously and not just changing the coating and packaging! They have taken the opportunity for a major overhaul and grasped it with both hands. Here we look not just at the new lens, but also at the changes that make it a different lens!


  • Focal length 17-35mm
  • Angle of view 103.7-63.4º
  • Max Aperture f/2.8Filter size 77mm
  • Construction 16 elements in 13 groups
  • Focus type Internal HSM (Sigma, Canon & Nikon)
  • Closest focus 27cm/1ft 1in
  • Size 83.5x88.7mm
  • Weight 0.56kg
  • Mount Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Minolta D, Pentax.
  • Tripod Bush No
  • Price £430

Build and handling
This lens was awarded the TIPA 2004 ‘best consumer lens in Europe’ prize on it’s announcement and on opening the box you immediately start to realise why Packed in Sigma’s sturdy soft case with a zipped top and Velcro fastened safety flap, the lens is a total re-work of the old model. Gone is the huge 82mm front, down to a much more manageable 77mm and mid way along the barrel, between the zoom ring and the focus ring, is a neat distance window replacing the etchings of the old lens. The window is marked with a useful depth-of-field scale that eliminates the guesswork.

The lens is also more barrel shaped than its cone shaped predecessor, enhancing the solid look and making both the zoom and focus rings the same diameter. The ribbed grip on both rings is a practical pattern that is varied by coarseness, the zoom being the larger pattern than the focus, which is the front of the two. I always feel that this is a useful tactile difference. The zoom ring is marked at 17, 20, 24, 28 and 35mm.

The only control on the lens, other than these rings, is the auto/manual switch for the focussing, and even this is omitted on the Nikon mount version.

The finish is Sigma’s smooth matt surface, which I have found to be hard wearing as well as smart. The supplied, shallow, petal-shaped hood has the same finish and the bayonet fitting has been improved by the inclusion of a click stop to keep it in position. Though shallow, this hood still proved to be practical and worthwhile.

The inclusion of an HSM (HyperSonic Motor) focussing engine, which was included in the old model but seems quicker and quieter in the new, and the short distance it needs to travel in this type of lens, makes focussing virtually instant. The wide aperture helps here, allowing plenty of light in to get a very fast focus ‘fix’!
All in all, a well put together lens that felt right and was nice to use.

Optical Quality
The older lens was a nice lens, although it did gain a reputation for being a little soft at times. The new one has improved considerably. Let us not forget that this lens is classified as a DG lens and can still be used on full frame 35mm cameras despite having been optimised for digital. Like all lenses, the performance wide open is not as good as when the lens is stopped down an aperture or two and this one is no different. Once you are through the f/5.6 mark though, the sharpness cannot be faulted.
As this is a wide-angle zoom, it is good to see that the optimum performance is attained at the 17mm short end whereas most zooms are optimised for the middle of their range.

Colours are well reproduced and chromatic aberrations well controlled once the lens is closed down a stop. I found no evidence of ghosting or flare.

17mm at f/11

23mm at f/16

17mm at f/8

Click on the comparison photos below to see full size versions.

17-35mm - 17mm at f/8

17-35mm - 35mm at f/8

17-35mm - 17mm at f/2.8

17-35mm - 35mm at f/4

Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses

Tests were carried out on a Sigma SD10, which has a crop factor of 1.7x.
The edge figures are taken at 75% of the distance from the centre of the frame towards the corner. As this lens is designed for 35mm, it is not surprising that the edge figures out-perform the centre at times, and should be regarded as a good point.

Sigma have taken their upgrade program to digitally enhanced lenses seriously and used the opportunity well. This lens is a shining example in which they have addressed the criticisms of the older model and put them all right without putting the price through the ceiling. With crop factors on digital SLR’s averaging at 1.6x, this lens come out at a 27-56mm equivalent and makes a useful wide to standard walk-around zoom that retains the ability to do some good quality landscape work.

In summary the main positive points of the Sigma 17-35mm f/2.8-4 EX DG are:
Quick, quiet autofocus.
Good build quality
Useable filter size
Value for money
Best at wide end

Negative points are:
Performance with wide open aperture could be better

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