The only three lenses you’ll ever need. That’s how SIGMA describes the “Big Three” set consisting of the SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM | Art, SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art and SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports lenses. So, when I was given the opportunity to put that claim to the test during a recent visit to America’s Arizona desert, I gladly accepted the challenge, and they were the only lenses I took with me for my photography on the trip.
As well as the Big Three, I took my trusty Nikon D800, along with a Nikon D750 as a backup. The D800 is getting a little long in the tooth now, but it still serves the job perfectly for my needs – which is mostly photographing people out in the middle of nowhere.
So let’s begin with that. While I was in Arizona, I had the opportunity to meet up with one of my photography heroes, Phoenix-based commercial photographer and business mentor Don Giannatti, whose work and general outlook on photography I’ve admired for a number of years. And while we were hanging out together, he let me shoot his portrait.
Normally, I shoot my portraits with a longish lens. Usually, at least 85mm. This time, though, I wanted to go just a little bit wider and capture more of the environment. After all, we were in the Arizona desert – Don’s home turf – and I wanted to capture some of that in the shot. So, I went with the SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art on my D800.
After driving around for a while, we spotted a… field, I suppose, littered with all kinds of cactuses from short stubby ones that sprawled across the ground to the great big tall saguaro cactus – the typical type of cactus that springs to mind when you think of the “Wild West” deserts of America.
The shot above was made with the Nikon D800 and the SIGMA 24-70mm | Art lens at a focal length of 38mm, much wider than I’d normally go for a portrait. It was fairly bright out, so I shot 1/800th of a second at f/8 with an ISO of 200 brought the sky down to a level where it wasn’t going to blow out while still keeping a good amount of light on the environment.
Naturally, though, Don was very underexposed. I’d taken a Godox AD200 strobe with me, too, along with a 24″ square softbox, and this was used to provide a key light from camera left with the ambient light providing some fill.
The SIGMA 24-70mm | Art was shockingly quick to autofocus and super silent – the point where I wasn’t even sure it was focusing it was that quiet. I had to focus on something in the distance and then focus back on Don to see that something was changing. The image stabilisation was also very good, with a near-instantaneous reaction when I half-pressed my shutter.
But portraits were playing second fiddle on this trip. I’d got the one I wanted of Don, and it was time to go and explore the desert. Normally, I don’t typically shoot this wide -it’s more a personal taste thing than anything else – but I really wanted to give the SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM | Art lens a good go. After all, ultra-wide lenses can be very useful when you want to get a close-up look at something while still having a wide view of the environment.
In the end, though, I found that I tended to use the SIGMA 14-24mm | Art at the 24mm end most often. It, too, was very fast to focus, although with lenses this wide, your depth of field is so deep anyway, that it doesn’t need to move a whole lot to go from one subject to another.
It was a very fun lens to use, although shooting at the kind of super-wide field of view that such a lens offers definitely takes some practice. And, as I mentioned, I typically lived at the 24mm end with this lens. It just felt more comfortable to me.
So, I switched back to the SIGMA 24-70mm | Art for most of the rest of my time in the desert. Using this lens was an interesting experience for me, as I typically tend to shoot primes in that sort of range. Usually, it’s two bodies, one with a 35mm and the other with a 50mm.
But having the versatility of a zoom lens is handy when you’re just walking around and exploring, especially with one as quick as the Sigma 24-70mm | Art.
People say that zoom lenses make you lazy. That instead of moving to recompose for a better shot, you just stay planted where you are and zoom in or out to get a different crop. I’ve never really believed that myself, and still would move to where I felt I got the perspective I wanted and then zoomed to give me the field of view I wanted to capture the scene.
For me, it offered a lot more freedom to move over using primes, because I wasn’t limited to just one field of view. If I wanted to move close and go wide, I could. If I wanted to go further away and zoom in to get a different perspective, then I could do that, too. The choice is mine, and it certainly didn’t make me “lazy” or move around the scene less than I normally would with primes.
The SIGMA 24-70mm | Art lens also performed particularly well at night. One evening, I went out with timelapse photographer, Jesse Watson to visit the Lost Dutchman State Park for a bit of late-night photography and timelapse.
Ultimately, there was a little too much light pollution to see the Milky Way, but the cactus silhouetted against the light of a distant city made for a nice relaxing view while we waited for Jesse’s cameras to finish shooting timelapse.
And while it’s not a macro lens, the SIGMA 24-70mm | Art still does quite well with fairly small subjects when shot close up.
One lens I haven’t spoken about much so far, or at all really, is the SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports lens. Now, while I usually tend to prefer prime lenses at shorter focal lengths, the 70-200mm range is one where I’ve mostly preferred to go with a zoom throughout my photographic life.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this lens after having tried SIGMA’S earlier iterations of the 70-200mm focal length f/2.8 lens. It was a brand new lens, hardly anybody had even seen one in person at the time, let alone shot with it. But from the minute I mounted it to my DSLR, it impressed me. It felt like a solid piece of kit, and like the SIGMA 24-70mm | Art, the autofocus was very quick and quiet. The stabilisation, too, was lightning fast at finding its level and locking on.
One thing I often do with longer lenses when I’m shooting out on location is stitched panoramas. There’s just something about shooting a bunch of images with a long lens and stitching them together in post to produce a really high-resolution image that just appeals to me.
Perhaps it’s the unique view it provides vs just shooting with a wider focal length. Maybe it’s the amount of detail you can capture, letting you go close into the scene spot things you hadn’t seen before, even though you might’ve looked at it a hundred times. Maybe it’s just that you can print them huge and still see everything.
Whatever it is, it’s something I try to do whenever I visit a new location – although I often tend to go a bit overboard and shoot far too many images for my poor computer to handle. The image above, for example, was made from 12 images stitched together, and that took a while. Sometimes, though, it’s only a couple.
One thing I really did like about the SIGMA 70-200mm | Sports is how well it handled high contrast shots with rich colour. I’m a big fan of backlit scenes with longer lenses, and this lens had no problem handling that with no flaring or ghosting even when the sun was right on the edge of the shot.
The contrast and colour resulted in a very cinematic style of shot. Of course, much of that was to do with the time of day, as the sun was starting to get quite low, but the lens coped with the lighting much better than I had expected it to. Colour me impressed!
Even just as a quick grab and go lens, the SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports just felt right. One morning, while preparing my gear for a day out in the desert, I had a brief visit from this little chap. I picked up the camera, which already had the SIGMA 70-200mm | Sports attached, grabbed a quick shot, and two seconds later he was gone.
Overall, using all three lenses was a very pleasant experience. They were quick to focus, the image stabilisation on the two lenses that had it was extremely impressive and pretty much instant, resulting in fewer missed shots and more keepers – which is never a bad thing!
And as to Sigma’s claim… Are they the only three lenses you’ll ever need
Of course, the answer to that question will depend on what you like to photograph. I think it’s quite possible that you could spend your whole photographic life just shooting only with these three lenses and be very happy.
Although, I might suggest picking up a good macro as well.
You can see more images created by John Aldred on one of the following links:
You can also follow John’s articles on: https://www.diyphotography.net/author/john-aldred/
Special mention and thanks goes to Don Giannatti for posing for the portrait used above.
Featured product: SIGMA F2.8 Pro Trio: SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM | Art, SIGMA 24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art and SIGMA 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports lenses.