70mm F2.8 DG MACRO | Art Impression
SIGMA has announced the new 70mm F2.8 DG MACRO, the first macro lens in the Art line. On their website, they say “razor-sharp” with quotation marks. They also use an adjective “legendary.” They are talking about a lens released in 2006, the MACRO 70mm F2.8 EX DG that was nicknamed “razor-sharp macro” in honor of the exceptionally sharp rendition. This new version is the return of the legend.
SIGMA is a passionate manufacturer of macro lenses. Including the discontinued ones, they have made as many as 16 macro lenses including this one. 16 for a common but special category? Is not it passion or what?
A macro lens is designed primarily for photographing small subjects with large magnification. Because it does not always have to be versatile or innovative, the criteria for evaluation of image quality becomes stricter. Let’s look closely at things around us. We see details and textures. We also smell. Wait. Can a lens render smell? I remember now that I had seen some images that did express smell as well. In addition, a lens shows the world that can not be seen with the naked eye by paper-thin focal plane, creamy bokeh, and mysterious shadow. Because an image rendered by a lens is not a copy of our vision, a good photograph is more than a record: it becomes an art. Anyway, let’s see how the “razor-sharp” lens renders.
Flowers and plants are the most popular subjects for a macro lens. We want it to fully capture the great details and textures of the nature including their complex shapes, softness/hardness, and smoothness/roughness. It takes no effort for this lens to go beyond that. The bokeh, of the foreground in particular, is notably beautiful. Plus, it meets another important requirement in plant photography: to be able to express the environment to which they are rooted or the “feeling of solidity” in photographic term, around them. All in all, this lens is perfect.
On the table
Another important field for a macro lens is on the table. While in the past a variety of adjectives were used to describe how things on the table look, they now seem to be summarized in one word, “instagenic.” That is all right. I do not care about words. This lens expresses colors, shapes, temperature, smell, and even how they feel on the tongue. Though most tabletop photographs are shot from around 45 degrees using smaller apertures, the depth of field is still shallow at this close distance. Image quality is determined directly by controlling the depth of sharpness and ambiguity. This beautiful foreground and background bokeh is seductive. And, I am impressed by the resolution and clarity. This lens is ready to teach what it means to be truly photogenic.
Made of steel
There are all sorts of metals. They can be shiny, polished, cold, or hot. This image evokes the tactual sensation I had when I touched it, let alone how it looks as a metal. Employing extending focus mechanism instead of inner focus is the result of their pursuit of the best image quality. The coreless DC motor further enhances image quality, while an optimized algorithm helps offer extremely smooth autofocus performance for a weightier, high-performance lens. In the meantime, we often focus manually with a macro lens for pinpoint focusing. I guess, in case of photographing metals, we want to manual focus even more often. Of course, SIGMA acknowledges the importance of manual focusing. This lens has a wide focus ring. Besides, the focal peak is very easy to find. Manual focusing with this lens is a joyful experience.
Let’s do something different: taking snapshots. Of course, I had no problem with it. Actually, the focal length of 70mm gives comfortable shooting experience on the street as it is easy to compose, much easier than with a wide-angle lens. While “something extra” is welcome (often by subjects) for a short-telephoto portrait lens, maximum naturalness in rendition is essential for a macro lens. The expression “maximum naturalness” may sound strange, but it encourages me to shoot all kinds of subjects. If you view the image of the mountains at the original size, you will see that every single tree on the most distant mountain looks sharp. This lens is all I need.
Nothing is permanent. Everything decays and disappears. Macro photography shows the history of objects. This metal object was first painted in white color before it was recoated in blue color and then red color. I wonder how many years have passed for each layer. The white color may be the surface of the undercoating. The weathered sign, of which paint is peeling off exhibits the brushwork of the painter who may have been gone and I can even feel his/her breathing. I am not saying that I cannot feel this way with other macro lenses. Yet, without the high resolution, accurate color reproduction, and sharp focal peak, this image should have looked very differently.
There's a reason for a razor to be sharp.
The measured length of this lens with the hood on is about 165mm. With the 49mm filter thread, it sounds long. But, it is mainly because of the length of the hood and the lens itself is 105.8mm long. It is a good hood made with sincerity. The light weight, which is only 515g, makes it easy to handle. When the subject is focused at the minimum focusing distance (25.8cm), it is about 6cm away from the end of the hood.
To learn about the state-of-the-art technology employed in this lens, go to the “Features” page. On a final note, let me emphasize one thing that is mentioned quite modestly at the bottom of the page.
All SGV line lenses including this one are shipped only after being inspected with the 46-megapixel Foveon direct image sensor called “A1.” This inspection is obviously too severe for cameras with other mounts, though I do not know about the SA mount using the Foveon sensor as well. However, SIGMA still takes the time and trouble to do it. The reason is self-explanatory: the value of delivering high-quality lenses performing as designed to users. “God is in the detail.” If the job of a macro lens is to find him (or “Gods” in polytheism) in the universe of fine detail, there are some Gods we cannot find without going so far as using it.