Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG Macro

This is Sigma’s offering in the long, medium telephoto macro area of interchangeable lenses. Long because it is about as long as true Macro lenses go although it is still only a medium telephoto lens in the overall picture. We take a look here at how it performs.

Sigma 180mm f/3.5 macroSpecifications

  • Focal Length 180mm
  • Max aperture f/3.5
  • Min aperture f/32
  • Construction 13/10 elements/groups
  • Closest focus 0.46m (1:1)
  • Filter size 72mm
  • Hood ET-78 (supplied)
  • Size 80x182mm
  • Weight 0.965kg
  • Mounts available Sigma, Canon, Nikon (D)
  • Price (RRP) £549.99

Build and handling
The lens comes supplied in a zip-top semi-rigid pouch complete with lens hood, caps, tripod collar and, in the UK, Sigma UK’s extended warranty documentation and instruction leaflet. Being an EX lens, this gives a three year warranty.

The AF/MF switch is in the normal place, to the left of the barrel as the lens is mounted. Sigma’s quick release tripod collar is next up with it’s knob requiring a quarter turn to loosen the lens enough for changing orientation, follow by a pull to release the catch to extract the lens. This is handy for hand held shots that may present themselves while shooting on a tripod and saves having to use the release on the tripod (if fitted) where the collar and accompanying QR plate can be cumbersome and uncomfortable.

Next up on the lens is a distance window marked in metres and feet and with no pointless attempt at a depth-of-field scale. To the left of this is a control panel containing a three position switch big enough to use without being bulky. The first two positions restrict the focus to either side of the 0.61m mark while the third allows the full focus range to operate. Sensibly, this restrictor only becomes functional in AF mode while the MF can over-ride the system completely.

AF is achieved by Sigma’s HSM motor and is near silent and surprisingly quick for a Macro lens. Although still slower than normal lenses, it is the quickest of the four long macro lenses we have tested to date.

The lens has an internal focussing system and does not change length during the operation and the front element does not rotate either, making the use of filters on the 72mm thread a simple affair.

Optical quality
The application of the DG digital coating to Sigma’s range of lenses, done to control light bouncing of shiny sensors back into the lens and causing ghosting, has had a beneficial effect on the contrast of their lenses and this can now be considered good. Chromatic aberration has also been well controlled, as might be expected in a prime lens, and no visible instances were recorded.

Resolution, although not great with the aperture set wide open, improved with stopping down which is where Macro lenses, by there very nature, tend to be used. Edge results were surprisingly and consistently close to the results achieved from the centre of the optic, boding well for users of full frame cameras that the lens is capable of handling. Distortion, as we have come to expect on modern prime lenses, is insignificant and can only be determined by computer measurements, which gave a figure of 0.09% pincushion when measured with the Imatest module.

A 100% crop from the centre of the full frame gives some idea of the amount of detail this lens will capture. Canon 20D, f/8 at ISO400

The focal length of this lens means that even at f/11, the depth-of-field at 1:1 is not very deep.


Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions

180mm set at f/8

180mm set at f/3.5

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

With the price of this lens being half that of the Marque competition and the performance being better in some areas and almost as good in others, we can do little else but to recommend this optic as an excellent buy. If you are in the market for a long Macro lens, you would do well to give this one some serious consideration.

In summary, the positive points of the Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG Macro are:
Good build and finish with excellent tripod bush
Three year Manufacturers warranty (UK only)
Silent AF that is quick for a Macro
Excellent value for money

The negative points are:
A little soft wide open.

Check the latest price of the Sigma 180mm f/3.5 EX DG Macro here

Discuss this lens and other related lens subjects here

Test by Ian Andrews

By: Yannos 5271 days ago
Small problem: The church wall test picture here, and the one for the Canon 180mm f3.5, are exactly identical, apart from some contrast - pixel for pixel. That is simply not possible with two different lenses. I have posted the same in the Canon review.
By: Leif 5210 days ago
" The focal length of this lens means that even at f/11, the depth-of-field at 1:1 is not very deep."

As noted elsewhere, DOF has nothing to do with focal length. (It is a function of aperture and image magnification.)

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