Sharp, Small & Smooth Macro. The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro – First Look

There is a new Sigma Art lens that has been added to the line-up and we got a chance to do a first look! This time it’s a true 1:1 macro 70mm f/2.8. Even before picking it up and shooting with it, I was intrigued by the potential versatility of this lens. It’s built to be a multitasking piece of glass and at 70mm it’s a perfect blend of not too wide, not too telephoto for most uses. The long-normal focal length offers some potential in portraits – especially for smaller subjects like children, newborns, and pets. Because it’s a true macro the out-of-focus or bokeh should look pretty good too.

How does the Sigma hold its own against the competition?

There are already macro options in the 60-100mm range. But, there’s always room for more – especially if the newbie is capable of the sharpness that its other Sigma Art counterparts yield. I wanted to see how this little Sigma stacks up against a couple of the other options out there. Since it’s an Art lens, I was looking for it to stand out in terms of sharpness, even against great lenses like the Canon 100mm 2.8 L or the Tamron 90mm 2.8 VC.

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The Gear:

Canon 5D Mark IV
Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art Lens
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Lens
Tamron SP 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 VC USD
2 Godox VING TTL Li-ion camera flash V860II 
LumoPro 16″X24″ Softbox
LumoPro 36″ Octabox

Versus Canon

Right off the bat, the bar is set pretty darn high with the very popular Canon 100mm f/2.8L. This Canon lens is known for its sharpness, detail, and snappy autofocus. Since the Canon is 100mm, it was easier to stay out of the way of my lights and still get the composition that I wanted. The marketing and hype around that little red ring on certain Canon lenses is right. When it comes to sharpness, I think the Canon is just a hair ahead of its competition. This opinion is based on zooming in and the eye test, but it does seem to be just a bit sharper. However, I did prefer the Sigma’s autofocus for this specific studio use scenario. Canon’s autofocus was snappy, but it never seemed to lock on. It was a bit jittery and would jump around for focus. Because of this, I think the Sigma would be better for continuous autofocus video. The smooth autofocus would make for some really nice focus transitions. The Sigma 70mm autofocus glides to the spot and stays.

Versus Tamron

I came into this being a little biased towards the Tamron. For me, the Tamron 90mm has just been one of my favorite portrait lenses which also happens to bring a lot more to the table. Again, with the Tamron is 90mm, it does allow you to back up and leave your lights unobscured as did the Canon 100mm. I think Sigma’s new 70mm is ahead of the curve slightly for sharpness over the Tamron. Like any Sigma Art lens, you can be confident that it’s going to be tack sharp even wide open. Similar to the results versus the Canon 100mm, I think that the Sigma wins in terms of macro autofocus accuracy and speed – it just seemed to get there and stay put. The Tamron was hunting for autofocus a bit in low light conditions. Having better autofocus abilities just makes it easier to work with for macro work.

This seems like the perfect lens for child/newborn photographers. And, since I don’t have a child to photograph, I went ahead and had some good friends of mine (Mo and Izzie) sign a model release for a photo shoot with this lens. They are close enough to the size of a toddler and Izzie has the high energy of a small child, so it worked out perfectly! At f/2.8, the depth of field and out of focus blur is beautiful for intimate portraits. It handles terrible mixed lighting well when accompanied with the Canon 5D Mark IV. For this type of small subject photography 70mm wasn’t a bad focal length, but I don’t think I’d want to go any wider. When I did shoot up-close and personal, that depth of field and out of focus just sings beautifully.


I had fun shooting the Sigma 70mm through this testing and I thought that the lens packed quite the punch! This is a macro that fits into almost any photographers kit. The physical size of this lens is small which is always useful for either crop and full frame sensor bodies. Though I used a Canon 5D Mark IV for all of these shots, a crop sensor would bring it to right around a 105mm focal length which would give the photographer even more space to work with in those tight scenarios. This lens would be tremendous for ring and detail shots for weddings, the auto focus makes it great for video as well as true macro work, and the focal length plus the large maximum aperture make it great for most portrait work. The icing on the cake is that the sharpness is exactly what we would expect to see from a Sigma Art lens and who doesn’t like cake?

Bonus Feature

After nice bit of time with the lens, I had to bring it back to the shop to be returned. But, before sending it off we had some fun with it and the new Canon 470EX-Ai. Here are some portraits of some of the MPEX crew with that combo. If you haven’t been to the new shop yet (first off why not?) you know that our new space has enormously high ceilings and bouncing off of them can be quite the challenge. But, somehow this lens managed to handle.


Tom Wright is a sales associate at Midwest Photo and moonlights as a wedding, portrait, and fine art photographer. Check out his site,

Midwest Photo

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