Review: Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN Sports Lens

Courtesy Sigma

I like Sigma lenses for their resolving power with minimal flare, lack of chromatic aberrations, and very low geometric distortions. Sigma lenses also embody the company’s dedication to excellent build quality, handling characteristics, and overall feel. Every lens I’ve used in the Art, Sports, and Contemporary lines feels solidly made, with controls that are easy to operate. The new Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS Sports lens, made for L Alliance (Leica, Sigma, and Panasonic) and Sony E mirrorless camera mounts, continues in that tradition, though with mirrorless cameras, the camera now makes some of the geometric corrections. I tested the L-mount version with a 24-megapixel Panasonic Lumix S5II for this review. 

©Ellis Vener
The 70-200mm focal range and large aperture make this Sports lens ideal for covering moving subjects that you have little to no control over, like this rider on horseback with the Unión de Asociaciones de Charros in a 2024 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The optical formula for the Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS Sports lens is surprisingly complex, with 20 elements in 15 groups. For better image quality, the designers used six elements made from Sigma’s FLD glass (a high-performance low dispersion glass with performance equal to fluorite glass), two Super-Low Dispersion glass elements, and two with molded aspherically curved surfaces. Coatings are used extensively throughout the lens to improve transmission characteristics and ensure red, green, and blue wavelengths focus on the same imaging plane. The stationary group of front elements is wider than the other groups to gather more light. The front of the lens takes 77mm filters. The reversible and removable lens hood fits on the outside of the barrel, and there is enough room inside the hood to accommodate a polarizer filter, but you can’t rotate it once the hood is attached. 

The minimum focus distance changes as you change focal length, varying from 25.6 inches at 70mm to 39.4 inches at 200mm. Although not designed for true close-up work, it is excellent for near-distance head-and-shoulders portrait work. Photographers can set the f-stop directly via a ring on the lens or from the front control wheel on the camera. The ring has three modes: locked to A mode for body-only control, no-click, or one-third stop click operation. The rounded edges of the 11 aperture blades ensure the aperture stays close to circular at all f-stops, making for smooth tonality and pleasing highlight shapes in out-of-focus areas (bokeh).

The two High-Response Linear Actuator motors make autofocus snappy and accurate, and the manual focus-by-wire system is quite smooth. 

When not using a tripod or monopod, the optical stabilization group makes it easier, with good technique, to achieve sharp images at shutter speeds below the typical threshold for the focal length.

For this lens, the threshold is 1/200 second at 200mm (the reciprocal of the maximum focal length of the lens). The lens features Normal and Sport optical stabilization (OS) modes. Use Sport when panning or tilting the lens to track a fast-moving subject. You could possibly get away with handheld photography at 1/8 second with this lens, but I take the outer limit of all OS, OSS, VR, IS, and IBIS claims with a couple of grains of salt. Usable sharpness depends on subject movement and the photographer’s technique and standards. It’s also crucial that you give the lens about a second between activation (half-press of the shutter release) and making the exposure for the stabilizing algorithm and mechanism to do its magic.  

©Ellis Vener
In the optical design of the lens, the stationary group of front elements is wider than the other groups to gather more light. This image of parade spectators in the shade of a building was exposed for 1/6,400 second at f/2.8, ISO 3200.

The overall dimensions of the E- and L-mount models are 3.6x8.1 inches, not including the removable lens hood. Like most 70-200mm f/2.8 zooms, it’s not a light lens. The E-mount model weighs 47.1 ounces (2.94 pounds), while the L-mount is slightly heavier at 47.4 ounces (2.96 pounds). The lens feels well balanced, even on a small body like the Lumix S5II. Along with the locking knobs for the lens hood and tripod mount, it’s easy to feel and use all controls, even while wearing gloves.

The lens uses the usual two-ring layout for focal length selection and focusing. By locating the zoom control close to the front end of the lens, Sigma ensures maximum stability when handholding. The zoom ring flares outward toward the front of the lens to accommodate the larger diameter of the first group of optical elements. It’s also broader and stiffer than the focus ring. Locating the focus ring closer to the camera benefits filmmakers by making it easier to set up the camera when using external follow-focus drives. There are three AF-Lock buttons between the zoom and focus rings at the 12, 3, and 6 o’clock positions. If AF-L doesn’t float your boat, reprogram them to your preference using either your camera’s custom control menu or the Sigma dock and Sigma Pro Optimization software. 

A vertical cluster of switches on the left side of the barrel controls auto or manual focus; focus range selection for the autofocus and manual focus by wire system (full, 3m to infinity, and closest focus to 3m); OS mode (Standard, 2, and off); Custom (C2, C1, and off); and aperture click (on or off). To program custom modes, connect the lens to a computer via Sigma’s USB dock and Sigma Optimization Pro software.

The rotating collar for the tripod mount does not come off, but the tripod mount itself—sized for Arca-Swiss quick-release clamps and tapped for 1/4”-20 screws—is removable. Removing and reattaching the foot requires a hex key wrench and a few minutes. It is easier to leave it on. 

©Ellis Vener
The Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS Sports lens has beautiful, smooth bokeh, helping separate subject from background.

Videographers will be pleased to learn that there is very little focus drift when zooming. Along with the ability to set the aperture control to clickless operation for smooth irising over the f/2.8 to f/22 range, placing the focus ring closer to the rear of the lens makes it easier, when building a camera rig, to attach a manual or motorized follow focus mechanism to the lens. Being able to remove the tripod foot helps for that purpose as well. 

The Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 DG DN OS Sports lens is priced at $1,499 and serves as a versatile, high-end telephoto zoom for Sony and L-alliance cameras at a reasonable price.

Ellis Vener is a commercial and portrait photographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Tags: lenses  sigma