Exploring the many uses of the SIGMA 70mm F2.8 DG MACRO | Art + SIGMA sd Quattro by SCA Paul Monaghan

Exploring the many uses of the SIGMA 70mm F2.8 DG MACRO | Art + SIGMA sd Quattro by SCA Paul Monaghan

Every now and then something comes along that changes the way you think and the new SIGMA 70mm F2.8 DG MACRO | Art has just done that to me!

What I thought would be an ideal lens for capturing close-up detailed images has turned out to be a fantastic lens for shooting just about everything! It pulls out the finest details in landscape images as it does in macro images with a wonderful bokeh and provides super clean rendering of its subjects with no chromatic aberration.

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I’m not going to review the technical aspects of the lens as they are readily available on the SIGMA UK website. Instead I want to share my experience with this lens and how I ended up creating a variety of images.  My first image began with me thinking that my main use for this lens would be to produce product stills such as this image of the this little Novoo USB power bank.

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Using the SIGMA 70mm Macro | Art lens for this type of shot was a joy, the focus ring rotates smoothly and allows for very fine adjustments when using the live view with focus peaking on SIGMA sd Quattro H. It clearly showed what was in focus. To illuminate this shot I used four LED lights from the Spekular core kit and some Rosco gels. I wanted to complement the orange logo on the product and the little black aquarium stones help give the product a rugged feel.

Here’s a little behind the scene image to see how it was made.

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Even with one of the LED lights pointing at the lens (without the hood) there was no loss of contrast which was superb. I then wanted to do something fun so I used a similar setup to create this shot of my son’s toy, a T-Rex Funkopop and dressed up the background with some flowers, a little water and smoke.

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The clarity of this lens along with the smooth bokeh transitions creates an image with nice 3D depth in both images. Here is another behind the scenes image which I hope will inspires someone to duplicate to create their own version.

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Playing around with a Macro lens wouldn’t be complete without shooting some flowers so I tried to create a low key portrait using just one of the LED lights. I placed the LED light above to the left of the frame with the grey wall as a background which shades to black as the light falls off.

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I was so impressed with using this lens in artificial studio lighting that I decided to give it a try in natural lighting but the winter months in Scotland don’t make it easy to find insects to use as your photographic subject. Therefore I decided to head over to the children’s farm at Tollcross Park in Glasgow and see what I could discover there.

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This awesome looking Alpaca was my first subject and I love this shot. Mostly due to the depth and texture on the Alpaca, that along with the little blade of grass it’s chewing gives me the feeling that it’s just watching the world go by without a care.

The lens delivers sharp results when wide open and the bokeh is very pleasing, not as creamy as you would get from a true “bokeh master” such as the SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art, but super clean with no hint of colour fringing at the edges, even with the bright highlights.

A few steps away from the Alpaca I found this lovely cockatiel. It was behind a grated fence which might affect the image slightly, often in the bokeh, but I feel the image still looks great. When looking at this image full size you can clearly see the entire fine little feather details. Plus thanks to the Foveon chip in the SIGMA sd Quattro H there is no false colour moiré which can be an issue with fine repeating patterns on other sensor types.

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I then found this chicken sitting at the edge of the cage and it was tame enough to get closer than an arm’s length away. The macro capability of the lens truly performed; being able to capture a small section in fine detail. You can actually see my silhouette in its eye.

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Being a macro lens it is not the quickest at autofocusing although I found it worked fine for what I used it for. It does offer a focus limiter on the side to switch between 0.256-0.5m and 0.5m to infinity which will stop the lens going through its full focus range. This helps when not doing macro work like when taking this portrait of my son.

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Or capturing this image of a deer while up at Glencoe, shot wide open, and the lens nailed the focus perfectly. This shot is actually a combination of two images shot side by side then merged in post processing to give a wider field of view.  I wanted to take advantage of such a gorgeous background  so you can’t blame me for trying.

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Honestly at this point I was in love with the results from this lens and its consistency across the focus range. It proved to deliver sharp detailed images with nice depth of field transitions. But I wanted to make sure I tested everything the lens has to offer so I decided to shoot something closer to the infinity end of the scale. Then I found this lovely frosty scene one morning.

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It’s almost monochromatic which is rather impressive considering the sun is just above the top of the frame yet there’s no colour fringing on the finely details branches or even the slightly over exposed water at the right of the frame. Often you might find a little bit of purple along the end of high contrast sections even with an amazing lens but this little macro Art lens handled it very well indeed.

Next I put the lens down to its minimum focus to photograph some very small frosty leaves which were backlit by the sun.

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This lens is amazing with its ability to capture a nice landscape then switch to picking out the smallest of leaves. It had me looking at the world in a different way, looking for small sections of detail that I would otherwise pass over. The only restriction is how close the subject is to the lens as demonstrated in this image:

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As you can see, that’s pretty close! So your photographic subject must be willing to have this lens so close to it and you need to be conscientious of the lens extension so as not to invade their environment. This is when a longer focal length macro lens would be more useful.

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This cropped image is straight from the camera and shows the dust inside the glass of the watch intact. The amount of detail that this lens can reproduce when used in combination with the SIGMA sd Quattro H is tremendous!

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This lens would also prove useful for weddings to capture those detailed images of a special piece of jewelry, the brides ring or details on a wedding dress. These images are popular and useful for building the love story.

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Images of fruit or food with lots of fine details are fun to create and also add an element of photographic exploration. Who knew a strawberry was so hairy?

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Look at this cropped version of the above strawberry image, the detail is just crazy. It’s like having a photographic microscope and I find myself now wanting to photograph objects close up all the time. I’m having fun looking at the everyday things that I’ve taken for granted and viewing them in a new way.

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Such as this small sunflower and the intricate way its petals are arranged.

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How about this crazy abstract image of my African Grey parrot holding her beak with her talon, yes that’s her tongue!

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While exploring the details of objects I got the inspiration to incorporate the details of the strawberry into one of my splash images.

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I decided to set up the shot in a safe place for water so used my bathtub with a black velvet cloth draped across the back. The cloth sucks in a lot of light giving a very black background effect. I then used a little metal arm from a soldering kit to hold the strawberry in place. Next I set the Sigma EF-630 into manual mode and pointed it to the white bathroom door which I left open. Once I was happy with my exposure, I put a little water into a cup and tossed it at the strawberry, pressing the shutter at the same time. If all goes well (it might take a few attempts) you get a lovely splash image.

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The optical quality and images from it are outstanding. Its ability to capture the smallest details in macro, portraits and landscapes makes it an extremely versatile and fun lens for anyone to have in their bag. The only down side is that you give up on focus speed in favour of extended focus range and fine focus control but that’s normal for this type of lens. I really love using this lens and was pleasantly surprised by its various uses. It really did change my approach and I love the way SIGMA 70mm Macro | Art lens had me thinking & exploring in new ways of being creative.

You can see more images created by SCA Paul Monaghan on one of the following links:

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