Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Review | A Professional Lens For Every Photographer!
Many new lenses announced in recent years have been truly exotic and impressive, with faster apertures and unprecedented focal ranges. Unfortunately, this also means they are large, heavy, and very expensive!
What about normal, even modest lenses, though? Is it possible to improve on the simple “kit” lens, to make it faster, sharper, and better quality? Also, is it possible to take a high-end flagship lens, and make it smaller and more affordable? Judging based on this Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary review, the answer is yes, to both questions at once!
This seemingly modest, affordable lens might be exactly what many entry-level photographers have always needed, and what many experienced, even professional photographers have thought “would be nice to have”.
That is, a mid-range f/2.8 zoom that is relatively “tiny” and portable, yet still performs to a very high professional standard. Not to spoil this whole review, but, (okay I’m spoiling the whole review) yes, this lens is exactly that–it’s compact, lightweight, affordable, and yet delivers professional results at a professional aperture. This is the kit lens that a pro would reach for if they didn’t want to lug around their traditionally enormous, heavy f/2.8 zoom, such as a 24-70mm f/2.8.
The Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 “C” delivers sharp, beautiful images, and is well-built with fast, reliable autofocus. Could you ask for more? No, because if you want “better”, it already exists with this lens’ older sibling, the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art. (Which only costs $270 more, by the way!)
Now that I have set the stage, let me tell you what types of photography this lens might be perfect for, which photographers might choose something different instead, and of course, we’ll closely inspect just how well it actually performs. Let’s begin!
Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Specifications
- FOCAL LENGHT & ANGLE OF VIEW: 28-70mm (75.4° to 34.3°) 2.5x zoom ratio
- LENS MOUNT(S): Sony E, (full-frame) Leica L / Sigma / Panasonic (full-frame)
- APERTURE & RANGE: Constant f/2.8, 9-blade rounded aperture
- STABILIZATION: No
- AUTOFOCUS: Stepper motor, near-silent
- MANUAL FOCUS: Electronically controlled, focus distance displayed on camera
- OPTICAL CONSTRUCTION: 16 elements in 12 groups, 3 aspherical, 2 FLD, 2 SLD
- MECHANICAL CONSTRUCTION: Metal & plastic, (brass mount) weather-sealed (extends when zooming)
- MAGNIFICATION & FOCUS DISTANCE: 1:3.3 magnification, 7.5″ focus distance (at 28mm)
- FILTER THREADS & HOOD: 67mm, rubber-grip bayonet hoood
- SIZE: 2.8 x 4″ / 72.2 x 101.5 mm
- WEIGHT: 470 g (1.04 lb)
- PRICE: $799 (or $899 when not on sale)
(B&H | Adorama | Amazon)
Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN C Review | Who Should Buy It?
Almost every type of photography could use a lens like this! The question is, what is your creative style, and what are your practical preferences? For most photographers, the idea of a full-frame mirrorless f/2.8 zoom being this compact and affordable is very attractive.
The biggest question you’ll have to ask yourself will be, simply, is the zoom range and aperture right for you? Because, quite honestly, f/2.8 is unprecedented for a kit-sized lens like this, but of course the zoom range is relatively modest.
Wedding photographers usually fall into one of two categories: You either like primes, or you like zooms. If you’re a wedding photographer who likes zooms for their versatile range with a decently fast f/2.8 aperture, you may still dislike them for how big and heavy they are. This could be your dream lens!
Personally, for my wedding photography work, I could not be happier to kiss goodbye the big heavy 24-70mm f/2.8, and trade it for a lightweight option such as this. After a long (12-14 hour) workday, my wrists are really thanking me.
Alternately, what if you’re a wedding photographer who likes prime lenses? You may still want to add a lens like this to your camera bag for emergencies; it makes an excellent professional backup, one that you might not have considered because of the size, weight, and expense of most 24-70mm f/2.8’s.
I am in the latter category: I do enjoy a good 35mm or 85mm prime, but when I need a zoom, it’s nice to have one available that doesn’t take up too much extra space in my camera bag.
For many types of portraits, the focal range of 28-70mm is quite ideal. Pair this lens with a telephoto zoom or prime, and you’ve got all your bases covered!
Alternately, just like with wedding photography, maybe you prefer to capture most of your portraits with a 35mm, 50mm, or 85mm prime. Even then, especially as a paid professional, you ought to have a backup, and you ought to be able to cover the bases, and a compact yet high-performance lens such as this is an excellent choice.
Candid & Street Photography
In many candid environments, having a compact, unobtrusive lens is valuable in allowing your subjects to relax, or even forget you are taking their picture. Whether you are casual or serious, the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 is not just an excellent choice, it is basically the ultimate lens for the genres of candid portraits, everyday life, and having maximum image quality in a go-anywhere package!
A landscape photographer may not need f/2.8, however, they do often pixel-peep the corners of their images at f/8, and if they do a lot of hiking or traveling to far-off destinations, having a lightweight lens that delivers maximum image quality is invaluable.
Needless to say, this diminutive Sigma lens is truly impressive when stopped down to f/5.6-8, and its portability is unmatched. The only thing a landscape photographer might want to add to their bag is, of course, a dedicated wide-angle lens, in which case the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art is one of the best compliments to this Contemporary lens, and the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 is a lightweight, portable choice.
Nightscape & Astrophotography
Again, you may prioritize a wide-angle zoom for this type of work, and in that regard, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art is the current champion. If you don’t mind switching to that ultra-wide zoom whenever you need 24mm, you can pair the two lenses together for one of the most flawless optical performances that an astro-landscape photographer could ask for!
Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN C Review | Pros & Cons
I know I have already spoiled most of this review with my praise of this lens, but it really is that simple: here is a near-perfect miniature of a popular flagship optic.
Sigma created an excellent balance of compactness with durable build quality and impressive images, at a fast aperture within a modest zoom range. That’s it!
Since the zoom range isn’t that broad, (a mere 2.5x) it should be no surprise that this $800-900 lens is optically impressive, despite its small size. If you would like to skip over the technical details, here is the basic analysis: The lens is impressively sharp, without any soft spots at a particular focal length, even when the aperture is wide open at f/2.8.
Other aspects of image quality are impressive and beautiful, from the overall look of images and bokeh, to the technical stuff like aberration and astigmatism. Distortion and vignetting are a bit of a can of worms, however, if you leave the in-camera corrections turned on, you probably won’t be bothered.
Sharpness is essentially perfect, from 28mm to 70mm, even at f/2.8. Only when you look in the extreme corners do you see a faint loss of sharpness, and even then it is barely noticeable. Below, see a comparison between the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 and the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 G2; both are impressive, though not flawless:
Stopping the aperture down, and even the extreme corners get nice and sharp, as expected. I tested this lens’ sharpness on a “mere” 24-megapixel camera body, however, based on the overall level of detail, I can say with much certainty that those with 40-60-megapixel camera bodies will also be impressed, even if the extreme corners look a tiny bit softer.
Soft background blur is delivered quite easily, especially when focusing up-close and at f/2.8. Even the most “busy” backgrounds are rendered smoothly. In other words, don’t be fooled by the “Contemporary” label on this lens, the images sure look like they came from an “Art” optic!
Colors & Contrast
As with pretty much all modern lenses, the clarity of color and contrast coming through the glass in this lens is just beautiful. If there is any faint warm or cool color cast to this lens compared to a name-brand optic, I can’t detect it in real-world shooting conditions.
Vignetting & Distortion
As I mentioned in my Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 G2 review last week, pretty much all modern mirrorless lenses are hiding some unfortunate levels of distortion and vignetting “under the hood” when you look at a raw file that has in-camera corrections turned on.
In reality, there is quite a bit of vignetting and distortion in this lens. However, you will likely only notice if you ever decide to turn off the in-camera corrections, which I don’t recommend except for certain specific circumstances.
The vignetting correction profile doesn’t seem to be totally perfect, however, which means that if you are really over-editing your images of a clear blue sky, with lots and lots of Dehaze, you may notice a faint residual vignetting pattern. Just don’t over-cook your raw images, though, and you should be okay.
Sunstars & Flare
Flare dots are minimal, and the warm wash of aesthetically pleasing flare is nice. Unfortunately, sunstars are a bit soft and dull, even when stopping down to small apertures like f/11. You can still get a decent starburst effect, however, as with most all Sigma lenses, the “spikes” of your starburst will be open-ended and fuzzy compared to older lenses (without rounded aperture blades) or the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 G2, which has impressive spike-type sunstars.
Color Fringing, Aberration, Coma & Astigmatism
Partly due to excellent optical coatings and partly due to the fact that there are both in-camera and Adobe corrections for things like chromatic aberration and color fringing, the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 has virtually zero artifacts and only minimal color fringing. If you look in the extreme corners of high-contrast scenes, you’ll see some blue color fringing, however, it is easily removed in post-production. Even for the highly demanding subject of astro-landscape photography, image quality is quite impressive in terms of pesky aberrations.
Macro & Close-Up Photography
This is one of those zoom lenses that has a different minimum focus distance when you zoom in or out, and interestingly, you’ll get slightly better macro capability when working at 28mm. Regardless of your focal length, though, focusing up-close will yield impressive image quality, though I do recommend stopping down to f/4 or f/5.6 for both sharpness and depth of field.
Design & Durability
Moving on from image quality to the physical, mechanical merits of the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary,
These days, exotic, expensive lenses are starting to require two motors to focus swiftly, and that only makes the lens even bigger and heavier! In this case, Sigma only needs one stepper motor, and it is smooth, fast, precise, and virtually silent. The days of third-party lenses having loud, slow, inaccurate autofocus are definitely well behind us, thankfully!
Manual Focus Performance
Another complaint that now seems to be a thing of the past is manual focus precision for electronically controlled focus rings. Just a few years ago, only the most expensive, high-end name-brand mirrorless lenses could boast smooth and precise manual focusing, and even then it wasn’t as good as a mechanically coupled focus ring of an older DSLR/SLR lens, in my experience.
Now, the electronics inside the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 make it really easy for you to perfectly nail focus manually for things like video or nightscape photography.
Other Features & Customizations
The Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 does have an AF/MF switch, which I found to be a very welcome feature after using so many Sony and Tamron E-mount lenses that lacked this basic feature. Honestly, switching from autofocus to manual focus is just so much easier when it is on a physical switch on the lens instead of a button-plus-dial configuration on so many Sony and other mirrorless kits.
Other than that, however, the lens is minimalistic. There is no customizable function button, and there is no customizable aperture or Fn ring. These are features that are becoming common on Sony, Canon, and Nikon mirrorless lenses, but I personally don’t miss them too much.
NOTE: At present, Sigma’s mirrorless lenses don’t have USB dock compatibility for at-home firmware updates. This may change in the future, and we’ll be sure to update you!
At just $799, (a common and current discount) or its MSRP of $899, either way, this lens is an absolute bargain. As I said, it’s a miniature version of a pro lens!
Sony’s own ultra-compact kit zoom, the Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6, is nearly $500, and yet offers a 1-2 stop slower/darker aperture, worse image quality, and less zoom range. With that in mind, the $800-900 price tag of the Sigma becomes highly attractive, even as an entry-level choice.
Yes, it does cost quite a bit more than a cheap plastic 28-80mm or 18-55mm (APSC) kit lens that you might have considered or owned in the past, however, the Sigma is absolutely worth the investment. It’s a kit lens that you won’t outgrow even if your passion for photography is just about to skyrocket.
Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN C Review | Compared To The Competition
There are two categories of competition with this lens. Just ask yourself this simple question: Are you happy with 28mm, or would you prefer 24mm?
Let’s say, for example, you’re looking at 28mm lenses because you want something compact and portable, and are willing to forfeit 24mm to save a little money and a few ounces/grams… This Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 is the smallest option I would recommend because it is an excellent optic that doesn’t compromise.
Oppositely, the Sony 28-60mm f/4-5.6 is even smaller but has a slower, variable aperture and overall worse image quality. Even if you get one of these lenses “for free” with your Sony A7C, I’d still recommend trading it for this Sigma!
Going back even further in Sony E-mount history to where some truly sub-par lenses reside, the Sony 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 (which seems like a bargain at under $400) is a poor performer overall, period. Save up the extra money for the Sigma!
Indeed, the only excellent alternatives I would consider are the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 G2, if you want a constant f/2.8 zoom, or the Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6 if you’d rather have a “superzoom” with more range on the long end.
The “G2” Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 really is quite impressive, in fact, it is optically near-perfect just like the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8. However, I do prefer the Sigma because it is even smaller, and has the AF/MF switch that I like, instead of the Fn button on the Tamron.
What if you’re quite sure that 28mm isn’t wide enough, though? Unfortunately, you’re not going to escape carrying around a slightly larger lens. The good news is, compared to the DSLR-oriented Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 HSM Art, the new mirrorless (DG DN) version is actually decently portable, and the price tag isn’t much higher either.
[Related: Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Review | A Flagship Pro Lens For Half The Price!]
Alternately, if you want even more zoom range, Sony’s 24-105mm f/4 G is a good choice, especially if you’re more likely to be photographing landscapes or cityscapes at f/8 than you are likely to be photographing candids and portraits indoors at f/2.8, of course.
NOTE: I should mention that if you are not a Sony camera owner yet, and are still shopping for a full-frame mirrorless body, you can consider the brand-new Nikon Z-mount 28-75mm f/2.8 which was just announced for Nikon’s impressive Z-mount lineup. Canon, on the other hand, does not have a compact, lightweight f/2.8 RF-mount lens; they have the incredibly slow (aperture) 24-105mm f/4-7.1 RF.
All in all, the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 is really quite unique because of its compact size. It looks like a miniature version of a flagship lens, almost as if you’d mounted an APS-C lens by accident. So, if portability is important to you, this is simply the best mid-range zoom I’ve ever gotten my hands on.
Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Review | Conclusion
At a glance, you might think this was the $199 kit lens you got at a garage sale, or paired with an old Canon Rebel camera. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth! The Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary is the epitome of everything that is good about full-frame mirrorless: You get a bright, constant f/2.8 aperture, impressive image quality, in a compact, affordable package. This is exactly the type of lens that I had wished existed many years ago when full-frame mirrorless first came into existence!
The 2.5x zoom range is modest, sure, but then again, this lens is about as portable as many compact primes today!
For those DSLR photographers who always wanted your switch to mirrorless to involve lightweight, compact “miracle” lenses, here you go. For those of you who are buying your first mirrorless and/or first full-frame camera, this should be your first lens, too!
If you’re looking for a high-quality mid-range zoom, this is my current top choice. for anyone who values portability.
Check Pricing & Availability
The Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 DG DN C is available for either $799 or $899 depending on the active discount:
- Excellent image quality
- Maximum portability
- Durable build quality
- Fast, smooth, silent, precise autofocus
- Incredible value compared to name-brand f/2.8 alternative
- Wide end only 28mm, not 24mm
- In-camera distortion & vignetting correction absolutely necessary
Whether you are just starting out with your first full-frame mirrorless camera, or you are an experienced professional, the Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 could be the perfect mid-range zoom for you!
Follow his wilderness nightscape adventures on Instagram: instagram.com/astrolandscapes
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