Are you interested in macro photography and looking for a good lens to buy? Have you heard of the Sigma 150mm macro f/2.8 but looking for information and reviews on it before buying it? You are in the right place.
Find in this article my complete test of this lens, carried out over more than 6 months of use and find out if this lens is for you or not.
Design and Construction of the 150mm Sigma Macro
Year of Construction and History
Released in 2011, the Sigma 150mm macro f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM is the successor to the Sigma 150mm macro F/2.8 EX DG HSM, without optical stabilization and released in October 2004.
It is almost the exact copy of the non-stabilized version, apart from a slightly larger size and heavier weight, due to the optical stabilization system which has been added.
The price is also different from its big brother, since you will have to put a few hundred dollars more to acquire this stabilized version.
Design and Materials
The lens is heavy (around 1.15 kg), with metal construction for the barrel and plastic for the lens hood.
The design is very elegant and discreet, with a black color present on the entire lens, as well as a lot of writing and a gold-colored edging.
A look that we find quite regularly on the optics of this brand. The focusing ring is made of rubber.
The Focus Ring
Very important element to take into account in macro photography: the quality of the focusing ring.
Indeed, in macro it is very important to have a precise and especially fluid focusing ring, because the depth of field is often tiny, so it is very common to have to fine-tune the focus to the nearest millimeter.
On this side, I must admit that it is flawless, since the ring of this Sigma 150mm macro is very pleasant to handle, perfectly fluid and very precise.
The rubber material allows a very good grip in dry or wet weather, does not stick and I have not observed any traces on it in several months, a guarantee of quality.
The travel distance is very satisfactory and it takes me a little over a turn and a half of my fingers to cover the entire focus range, which is therefore more than enough to be very precise.
The stopper at both ends produces a fairly pronounced CLAC, which lets you immediately know where you are in the focus range, which is also nice when you want to switch to 1:1 instantly.
In several months of use, I have not felt any problem in its use, which suggests a very good evolution of the ring over time, especially since the lens I bought was used, therefore already used before.
In short, it’s an excellent ring, very pleasant to use.
The Settings Panel
A classic panel is present on the lens barrel and allows you to quickly modify several settings and thus change the use of the lens:
- The focus limiter
- The manual focus/autofocus button
- Optical stabilization
The Focus Limiter
As with what is done on lenses dedicated to animal photography, a focus limiter is present on the Sigma 150mm macro and makes it possible to restrict the focusing range of the autofocus and therefore to increase or not its timeliness:
- 0.38m to 0.53m
- 0.53m – ∞ (infinity)
Depending on your practice and the style of photography you like to take, it may therefore be interesting to set the limiter on 0.38 – 0.53m, to take very close-ups (and tend towards real macro photographs) or on 0.53 – ∞, if you rather prefer the photographs of atmospheres (proxiphotographies).
The FULL option allows you to use the focus over the entire range, from 0.38m to infinity.
A last button allows you to quickly choose three different modes for optical stabilization:
- OFF: turns off stabilization
- Mode 1: allows stabilization on the vertical and horizontal axis
- Mode 2: allows stabilization only on the vertical axis and therefore yarns
In theory, Sigma advertises a gain of 4 stops by activating optical stabilization, which makes it possible to work freehand at relatively slow shutter speeds and to obtain crisp photographs.
Is this technology effective and is it worth spending 300 dollars more than the non-stabilized version?
This is what we will see in an entire paragraph dedicated to stabilization and its use in the field in next paragraph.
The Sun Visor
A classic plastic lens hood is also available and will limit stray lights and therefore avoid flares on the images.
Note that if you plan to use the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 on an APS-C, a second lens hood supplied with the lens must be added to maximize its effect on this type of sensor.
Unfortunately, I was not able to test the effectiveness of this second lens hood, as the person I bought this lens from lost it, but it should be noted that the large size of this double lens hood may possibly be a problem if you shoot fearful species very closely.
In practice, I think that having it or not shouldn’t change much in terms of rendering.
Then, anyway, I’ve always liked flares and it happens to me regularly not to use a sun visor at all.
The Tripod Collar and Handle
A collar, located in front of the settings panel, provides support for the lens when mounted on a tripod, reducing pressure on the camera mount.
The clamping wheel is quite large and therefore takes up a bit of space in a camera bag, but the tripod collar can be easily and quickly removed by fully unscrewing the dial and pulling on it to remove the safety catch, which is a excellent point to emphasize.
Using this collar also allows you to instantly switch from landscape mode to portrait mode, which is often done in macro photography, which is therefore very practical.
Once the knob is tight, nothing moves, which is a very good point for the stability and safety of the object.
However, I find the grip to be really inconvenient at all for freehand use, as it is too small and too stuck to the lens, so it is very difficult to hold the lens by hand via this grip (and yet I have small hands).
So admittedly, this is not the n °1 function of a tripod clamp, but it is, I find, a bad habit regularly present on Sigma lenses, which I also find to a lesser extent on the 150-600mm.
Features of The Sigma 150mm Macro F/2.8
- Focal length: 150mm
- 9-blade diaphragm
- Maximum aperture: f/2.8
- Minimum aperture: f/22
- Minimum focusing distance: 38 cm
- Filter diameter: 72mm
- Weight: 1150 gm
- Lens length (without lens hood): 150mm
Before telling you about my feelings on this lens, it seemed important to me to underline a few points to explain to you a little my way of working in macro photography.
First of all, I have been using this Sigma 150mm macro for a little over 6 months as of this writing, on a Nikon D500, which is an APS-C and therefore affects the shooting distance. view compared to a full frame.
I have also used the Canon 100mm L macro for several years on a Canon 7D, which is also an APS-C, so my opinion will probably be influenced by the comparison with this focal length.
Regarding the use of 150mm on a full frame camera, unfortunately I cannot give you my opinion, since I do not have one, but be aware that full frame has many advantages in macro photography, so if a macro lens is good at APS-C, it is also, if not better, at full frame.
Finally, my style is, as you will see, very much directed towards ambient photography, therefore more towards proxiphotography than towards real macro photography.
If you are therefore thinking of buying this lens to take very close-up images, I am probably not the most qualified to tell you about the Sigma 150mm in this use and I advise you instead to look for other tests on the internet specialized in this. style of photos, if that’s what interests you first.
That being said, here is my take on this lens on the ground.
General Impression and First Handling
I will not go there by 4 ways: the first grip is excellent and the lens fits really well in the hand.
The lens may seem a little heavy at first, but this weight instead gives it excellent stability and balance when mounted on the camera.
The adjustment knobs on the barrel are easily and quickly accessible with the left thumb if you turn the handle a little, so for freehand use it’s really a very good point.
This Sigma 150mm macro is therefore very pleasant to use when it comes to handling.
Shooting Distances to The Subject
The big positive point of using a long 150mm focal length, especially in full frame, is being able to stay at a greater distance from the subjects than with a more classic 100mm focal length, which has three important advantages for me:
- Avoid scaring off fearful subjects
- Photographing in inaccessible environments
- Bring more elements to the foreground
Avoid Scaring Away Fearful Subjects
Do you like photographing dragonflies and butterflies, but are tired of seeing them fly away as soon as you try to get a little close?
Then the Sigma 150mm macro is for you.
Thanks to this long focal length, it has now become very rare for me to scare away a subject, which allows me to be more efficient in the field and to shoot much more than before.
Shoot in Inaccessible Environments
I don’t know about you, but I have always found it terribly frustrating to see a magnificent dragonfly resting on a reed leaf, a few meters from the bank and not being able to photograph it without having a framing much too wide.
Where shooting was complicated with a 100mm, I can now, thanks to the 150mm, stay more easily on the bank and obtain an interesting composition, without having to wet my feet.
So I don’t really have any data to compare this to, but I find that since switching to the Sigma 150mm macro, I shoot a lot more than with the 100mm in complicated situations.
Bring More Elements to the Foreground
Who says longer focal length, says greater shooting distance and therefore more space between the photographer and the subject, necessarily.
This great distance allows me to include more elements between myself and the subject and therefore to play more easily with textures, colors and to add perspective to my photographs.
And that, in terms of creativity, is therefore a very big advantage.
Sigma Macro 150mm Ground Test
When photographing with the Canon 100mm, I swore by the raised hand in macro photography and never used the tripod, preferring to keep my mobility.
However, I must admit that with this Sigma 150mm things get a bit more complicated.
Indeed, with such a focal length and especially at full aperture, the depth of field becomes really tiny, which makes the use of freehand quite difficult, because my tremors and my breathing made that my subject quickly left the depth of field.
The adaptation therefore took a little time and the number of blurry photos I got at the start was much more than with a 100mm.
So be careful at this point if you already have trouble focusing with your current equipment, because it will be amplified with this Sigma 150mm.
For this reason, I would tend not to recommend this lens to a beginner, as the beginnings will be really too painful, unless you use the lens on a tripod.
Use On A Tripod
While I was doing 99% handheld macro photography before, I started using this Sigma 150mm macro on a tripod for the reasons mentioned just before and I have to say I really enjoy this setup.
Certainly mobility is reduced, but what a pleasure to be able to fine-tune your focus to the millimeter, without worrying about the depth of field and especially without getting tired.
And where the tripod collar was a flaw in freehand use, it becomes a big plus, as it allows you to immediately switch from landscape to portrait mode.
I will talk about it in a future article, but this configuration really allows to be much more precise, but especially to be able to be much more creative, because the bokeh created by this Sigma 150mm macro is simply sublime.
In short, the use of the Sigma 150mm is causing a real change in my way of doing macro photography.
Aperture and Depth of Field
If I had to name the biggest advantage of this lens, it would definitely be the quality of the background blur.
Indeed, at 150mm and at full aperture, the depth of field becomes tiny, which results in very blurred and therefore united backgrounds.
And that, when you like soft atmospheres, it’s a hell of a weighty argument.
The other advantage of this shallow depth of field is also that it is much easier to photograph in busy environments, which is often the case in macro photography.
Indeed, thanks to this focal length, the elements located near the subject will tend to be much more blurred than on a smaller focal length, thus offering more possibilities of obtaining a photo pleasing to the eye, with a subject that is stands out well from the bottom.
But be careful, I repeat, who says small depth of field also means difficulty in focusing, because the slightest shift will make your subject completely blurry.
But once you have mastered that depth of field, the Sigma 150mm macro is simply the best lens for me to achieve creative, perfectly smooth, and harmonious bokehs.
Here is another element that I never used in macro photography and which, however, I use more and more often on this Sigma 150mm.
Indeed, for the reasons mentioned above, the management of the depth of field is, as I said, quite difficult to master with this lens.
So more and more often I use handheld continuous autofocus, in order to increase my chances of getting a perfectly sharp subject, especially when it is very small.
On this side, nothing to complain about, since the autofocus is really very powerful, fast and very precise.
Indeed, it manages to hang the subject well, even when the environment is loaded, as in this photo of a yellow flower where the foreground was very busy.
The focus limiter (including the 0.53m – ∞ option ) is also very practical, because it avoids skating on possible elements in the foreground and therefore to gain even more precision.
Optical Stabilization: Is It Worth the Price?
A little reminder for the most beginners: optical stabilization is a mechanism internal to the lens that allows you to use fairly slow shutter speeds and still obtain clear freehand photographs.
In reality and with several years of experience, where in animal photography stabilization will have a real utility, I must admit that this mechanism leaves me more and more perplexed in macro photography.
Indeed, all the lenses specialized in macro photography have a very large aperture of the diaphragm, so it is extremely rare in my opinion to lack light and I do not have the memory of putting recently found in a situation where my shutter speed was really slow.
So, is the stabilization of this Sigma 150mm macro worth it to put $300 more compared to its non-stabilized version?
Difficult to say, because it will mainly depend on your way of photographing and your budget.
Moreover, having never had the non-stabilized version in hand, I cannot say that the optical quality is as good, especially since it dates from 2004 (against 2011 for the stabilized version).
So my advice is to analyze the information from your macro shots and see whether or not you are regularly at a slow shutter speed.
But if you have the budget to indulge yourself, then go for it, because optical stabilization works well anyway.
The Optical Quality of 150mm Sigma Macro
Chromatic Aberration and Vignetting
This section will be very short, since this lens has little chromatic aberration and vignetting.
Anyway, these optical defects are very easily removable in post-processing and this is especially what I teach you to do in my lightroom training.
Image Quality and Sharpness
Like all fixed focal lengths in general, this Sigma 150mm macro has excellent sharpness and delivers renderings teeming with detail, which macro photography enthusiasts love.
Rather than still bragging about the merits of this lens, here is to end this test a selection of photographs taken with, in several different situations, so that you can form your own opinion.
My Final Opinion on The Sigma 150mm Macro
A Lens for Photography and Creativity
You will probably have understood it, I am a huge fan of the Sigma 150mm macro and find it just perfect for the style of images I like to make.
If you also like art photography rather than real macro photography at a 1: 1 ratio, putting the spotlight on creative atmospheres, then go for it, because this Sigma 150mm macro is, for me, the best lens on the market for obtaining these kinds of photographs.
I have really felt a difference in the quality of my images since using this lens and it would be difficult for me today to go back to a smaller focal length like the Canon 100mm (which is still excellent!).
Be careful though, I prefer to repeat it again, but this objective is demanding and can at first be difficult to master in terms of managing the depth of field, which is often tiny.
So, if you are new to photography, or find that you really have a hard time getting sharp photographs, it might be safer to use a more conventional focal length.
You also have the possibility to easily correct these sharpness problems in post-processing.
You may also like to read: Sigma 45mm F/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens Expert Review
The Shortcomings of The Sigma 150mm Macro F/2.8
Because yes, as good as it is, every lens has its flaws and I have listed two for this Sigma 150mm:
- The Freehand Tripod Collar
- The fragility of optical stabilization
The Freehand Tripod Collar
My god, how horrible…
This is clearly, for me, the biggest downside of this lens as this collar is not at all practical to use freehand.
Indeed, it is simply impossible to hold the lens by the handle given the space between it and the barrel which is tiny.
In addition, the tightening wheel is much too large and therefore makes access to the adjustment buttons quite difficult in the normal position.
Finally, the handle and the clamping wheel also take up a lot of space in the bag and make storage with other lenses quite complicated.
I am therefore obliged to regularly remove this collar and put it back on each trip, which in the long run wastes a lot of time.
The Fragility of Optical Stabilization
After using optical stabilization for several rides, I have an internal lens that started to move inside the lens, until it came off completely, causing frames to jump when I looked into the lens. eyecup of the device.
After several searches on the internet, it seems that this problem is frequent on this lens and that it is due to the use of optical stabilization at the same time as the autofocus, which would cause the stabilization system to drop.
If you consult the lens manual, it is also indicated that stabilization should not be used at the same time as the autofocus and Sigma’s after-sales service will not fail to notify you if you attempt to do so to fix.
Fortunately for me, the lens has since miraculously been replaced on my lens and everything is back to normal, saving me from paying (from memory) around $300 for repairs.
But suddenly, when in doubt, I prefer not to use optical stabilization at all.
Where to Buy the Sigma 150mm Macro F/2.8 EX DG HSM?
Unfortunately, due to its starting year of construction, the Sigma 150mm Macro f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM is becoming very difficult to find new and will often depend on spontaneous replenishments from various dealers and shops.
It will therefore often be necessary to go through the box of the occasion to obtain this objective and watch out for the various sites of advertisements between individuals, such as Amazon or eBay.
I hope you liked this article and that it helped you decide whether or not to buy this Sigma 150mm macro. Personally, I find that this is really the ideal lens for the style of photography that I love to do and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Be careful with the management of the depth of field, however, if you are just starting out and still have trouble getting sharp photographs.
You may also like to read: Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art Review: The Best Lens for Portrait Photography
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