The Sigma 180mm f2.8 telephoto macro lens is one hefty piece of machinery. It is solid and robustly constructed. The lens was designed for full frame cameras, but can also be paired with cropped sensor APS-C cameras. The lens is available for Nikon, Canon, Sigma, and Sony/Minolta cameras. The lens features 19 elements in 14 groups. The 180mm f2.8 macro lens has a rounded 9 blade diaphragm for a smooth, defocused look. The lens also incorporates a floating Internal Focusing system which reduces aberration. Three FLD ("F" Low Dispersion) glass elements are also present to correct color aberration.
The lens uses a Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM) to give the user a quiet autofocusing experience. It also has an Optical Stabilizer (OS) that helps reduce camera shake--this is a feature that is really important to this photographer as I generally hand-hold most of my shots. Since this lens is pretty heavy, the OS feature can be a life saver when capturing images in lower lighting or after extended amounts of shooting.
One of my favorite features of this lens is the 1:1 magnification ratio in its macro mode. It focuses on a subject as close as 18.5 inches.
Holy cow! This is a solid lens. It was built to withstand repeated, heavy use. The lens measures 8-inches x 3.7-inches (length x diameter) and weighs just about 3.6 lbs (57.8 oz.). If you haven't worked your arm muscles in a while, you will after lugging this lens around. Although this is not necessarily a negative feature of the lens for me, those that are not used to professional DSLR lenses (and the weight associated with them) will most likely see it that way.
The lens comes equipped with a tripod collar. It also has several control switches located on the side of the lens. The top switch is a focus limiter. It allows you to choose the focal distance from which the autofocus will search: full range, 0.67 meters to infinity, or 0.47 meters to 0.67 meters. The middle switch allows the user to decide between autofocus or manual focus. The bottom switch allows for one of three Optical Stabilization choices: off, 1 (general shooting conditions), or 2 (panning left to right).
I tested this lens on both the Nikon D600 and the Nikon D7000 to see if using a full frame camera would produce different results than using a cropped sensor camera. With both camera/lens combinations I was extremely happy with the results. Using the lens on either camera produced sharp, crisp images. The image gallery below shows unretouched images taken with the Sigma 180mm f2.8 macro lens.
I was completely happy with the results of this lens. But is it worth the price? If you are a macro shooter that likes to keep some distance between you and your subject, then yes. If you want a lens that is well-built and will last the test of time, then yes. If you want a telephoto lens with a true 1:1 macro ratio, then yes. If you want crisp, sharp images, then yes. If you want a light-weight, inexpensive lens, then heck no! The Sigma 180mm f2.8 will set you back about $1550. It is not designed for the weekend warrior, rather the professional shooter looking for an exceptional piece of glass. Great job, Sigma! You have created another fantastic lens.
Here are some sample images taken with the Nikon D600 (full frame camera).
And here are some images taken with the Nikon D7000 (cropped sensor camera).