9 out of 10 points and recommendedCheap, sharp, fast, well built, zoom lock at 24mm, fast accurate focus.Slightly noisy focus, hood not very good.
Introduction:reviewed May 11th, 2009
This lens came as a surprise to me, I only heard about it a couple of weeks ago and when I read the reviews here and elsewhere the overall opinion of it was that it is a little know gem.
Lets face it even S(t)igma have their lens legends. The original 70-200 f2.8 APO, the 100-300 f4, the 150mm f2.8 macro just to name a few and I think this one could be a candidate for that hallowed hall of fame.
Concerns over quality control:
I worried that I would get a 'bad copy', not sure why, I have owned many Sigma lenses and never had any focus or QC issues, and while I was a little disappointed with the IQ of my later model 70-200 f2.8 'macro' and my 120-400 OS, there was nothing actually wrong with those lenses. So when I got this I did the usual tests to make sure it behaved properly and guess what? It did and does. Of course it does but I am glad to report that the research paid off.
The IQ is superb. I own a Nikon 70-200 f2.8 G VR and this 'little' (I'll come back to that point) Sigma doesn't quite match the sharpness, contrast or colour of that lens but I can tell you that the difference isn't worlds apart. Is it soft at f2.8? Relative to f5.6 yes it is but show me a constant aperture f2.8 zoom lens nudging telephoto focal lengths and upward that isn't. Even my legendary Nikon 70-200 f2.8 is soft wide open or at least it is relative to how sharp it is at f5.6. f2.8 offers a wafer thin DoF and the longer focal lengths compound this, if you don't get your focus absolutely spot on it is always going to look soft. Its not soft, it's just slightly out of focus. Maybe. For the record though I'd say it is a tad soft a f2.8 (or it might be user error on my part) but certainly not unusable. Pretty much anywhere beyond f2.8 it is rally sharp. tack sharp by f4 and is, as expected, at it's very best at f5.6. Contrast is good though I might nudge it up a bit on my D300 but it still looks fine on my D50. I see no major colour caste issues and the out of focus elements of the frame (bokeh) rival my big Nikon zoom.
Build and handling:
You're supposed to either love the Sigma EX finish or loath it, me, I really don't care that much so long as it feels right overall. I did scratch one once and thought it wasn't such a good idea but generally I think it is okay. It is solid and nicely screwed together but I wish Sigma would add some degree of dust and moisture sealing to its EX range of lenses. It is compact but not small. It balances nicely on a D300 with a grip, the big front element and relatively wide barrel give it presence. The barrel extends when you zoom, the zoom ring operates in the opposite direction to Nikon lenses, it is rubberised and nicely damped. I think the focus ring is a tad small and offers no manual over-ride but operates smoothly and accurately. I like the zoom lock at the 24mm end, I think the petal hood is a bit poxy but better than a kick in the knackers.
Overall I have owned a Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 EX DG and I though it was very good but I feel the 24-60mm is the better lens. So far I don't miss the 60-70mm range and I need the exercise I get by moving my fat bum to cover it anyway.
In summary I think this lens is a belter, especially for the price, not perfect but everything in the photographic world is a compromise. I'd like to see an HSM version with environmental sealing, a better hood and perhaps a bigger focus ring but then they'd ask three times the going price. Overall it is spot on. Well done Sigma.