The Best All-Around Lens – Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 ART

Finding the best “all around lens” can be a challenge. If you own multiple lenses, you know that they all have their purpose. 600mm for wildlife, 50mm f/1.4 for portraits, 100mm Macro for macro, 14mm for landscapes, and so on.

If you need to pack light, or just get the most functionality out of a single lens, you will eventually be on the search for the best all-around lens.  An all-around lens is one that will undoubtedly make you sacrifice some features. This lens won’t be wide enough, won’t zoom in enough, and won’t be fast enough.

Sigma 24-70 Review 1

But! It’s not all disappointment. The simplicity of a single lens setup is a peaceful and freeing place to be. There are also many all-around lenses on the market with incredible performance. Now the only challenge is picking the best one for you. For me, this was the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 ART Lens, and here is why.

Sale
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon
  • OS functionality and newly designed HSM for success on any shoot
  • Lens barrel designed for high rigidity
  • This all-new 24-70mm F2.8 lens from SIGMA delivers the performance and functionality that help pros succeed in news, nature, and many other fields of photography.

WHY 24-70MM

The most common all around focal lengths for full frame cameras are 24-70 and 24-105. Mostly because these focal lengths usually offer a special feature. Constant maximum aperture across all focal lengths. They also come with professional grade optics. For the 24-70mm this aperture is f/2.8, and for the 24-105mm, f/4.0.

To select what focal length/aperture combo is more important to you, consider these questions:

  • Will you be taking images of wildlife or sports and need that reach? Or perhaps telephoto landscapes? (Lean towards 24-105 f/4.0)
  • Do you need the best subject isolation? (Lean towards 24-70 f/2.8)
  • Do you need strong performance in low light situations? (Lean towards 24-70 f/2.8)

I would love to check all these boxes with one lens, but of course, a decision has to be made. If you are wondering what 70mm and 105mm focal lengths look like, check out Sigma’s focal length simulator. I decided on the 24-70mm f/2.8 mainly due to my love of low light astrophotography and portraits.

The extra 35mm of zoom would be very welcome because I love wildlife photography too. However, I often crop images which takes me to the 105mm focal length relatively pain free.

Astro photography images are already very noisy with long exposures at high ISO, so it was difficult to limit myself to an f/4.0 aperture. Astrophotography is still possible at f/4.0. I personally wanted to limit the noise with cleaner exposures when longer shutters are not an option.

There is a significant cost difference between the two types of lenses of the same brand. The 24-105mm f/4L II from Canon costs around $1,100 USD when purchased alone. The 24-70 f/2.8L on the other hand is much more expensive. We’ll get into the cost comparison next.

THE COMPARISON

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Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Standard Zoom Lens
  • 24 70 millimetre focal length, 38.4 112 millimetre equivalent focal length on Canon APS C cameras
  • F2.8 constant maximum aperture; F22 minimum, ring type ultrasonic type AF motor with full time manual focusing
  • 82 millimetre filters, closest focusing distance: 0.38 meter/1.25 feet
  • Image Stabilization : No. Focus adjustment: Inner focusing with USM. Diagonal angle of view: 84° - 34°. Weight 1.7 pound

As a Canon user, the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II will be the main comparison this lens will go against. If you shoot on a different camera body, the Sigma benefits should still be consistent here.

The Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II has long been a professional’s favorite lens. It has Canon’s undeniable L glass optics, and a consistent f/2.8 aperture throughout the focal range with terrific sharpness. Weather sealing also comes standard with this lens. The only real missing feature is image stabilization.

COST

With the Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II being a professional lens, it does come with the professional lens price of almost $1,900 USD. The brand new Canon RF 24-70 f/2.8L comes with image stabilization and a price of $2,300!

Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, Black
  • High image quality and bright f/2.8 aperture zoom RF L lens
  • Optical image stabilization of up to 5 Stops of shake correction
  • High speed, smooth and quiet autofocus with Nano USM
  • Min. Focusing distance of 0.69 ft by 0.21M (wide), 1.25 ft. by 0.38M (tele)

This is by far the largest drawback when considering what type of all-around lens you want. If you are unable to afford the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L, Canon does not make a non-L version of this lens.

Does this mean our goal of having an all-around lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture is delusional!? Are we unable to have image stabilization on a DSLR body with this type of lens? Do I need the latest mirrorless camera to have a weather sealed, image stabilized constant aperture lens which will destroy my bank account even more? Do I have to sacrifice all optical quality? Nope.

This is where most of us discover the value rich world of third party lenses.

Sigma in particular has been releasing some heavy hitting lenses that compete with the best in the optics business. And yes, this means Canon. They also makes strides in technology sooner than other third party companies like Tamron and Tokina.

Sigma 24-70 Review 6

Here is where I found the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens.

Sale
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon
OS functionality and newly designed HSM for success on any shoot; Lens barrel designed for high rigidity

First things first. Let’s break down that very long product name. We all understand “24-70mm f/2.8”, what about the rest? (I’ll be referencing this lens as the 24-70 f/2.8 ART for my own sanity.)

Abbreviations

  • DG: This describes Sigma lenses compatible with full-frame sensors. Unlike Sigma DC, which is APS-C compatible only. Similar to Canon EF vs EF-S lenses.
  • OS: Optical Stabilization, similar to Canon IS (image stabilization).
  • HSM: Hyper Sonic Motor (focusing system).
    • Sigma states that this system offers virtually silent and highly responsive autofocus performance. This is similar to Canon’s ‘USM’; ultrasonic motors.
  • Art: Sigma has three lens product lines. Contemporary, Sport, and Art.
    • Art is described as Sigma’s high level lenses. Sigma states they are “Designed with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and tremendous expressive power”. You can checkout Sigma’s other class designations here: Sigma Global – Lens Lines.

You can learn more about other Sigma Lens Abbreviations here: Photography Life – Sigma Lens Abbreviations and here: Sigma Photo – Lens Technology.

Sigma 24-70 Review 3

Now before we dive into the rest of the review, let’s compare cost again. This lens retails for $1,300 USD. This is $1,000 cheaper than the Canon RF lens with the same features! Not only is the retail price cheaper, but Sigma has discounts on their lenses far more often than Canon. I was able to pick mine up for $1,059 with free items included. At the time of writing, it is on sale for $1,150.

There is a lot you can do with that amount of savings. Now let’s get into the review and see if this lens is worth the money itself. $1,300 MSRP is still no small amount of cash.

IMAGE QUALITY

First, let’s start with image quality. The Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 ART is terrifically sharp for its price. See the images below. As with most lenses, the center of the lens will be sharpest. This mostly matters when you’re using a wide open aperture. Sharpness quickly comes to the edges when closing up the aperture.

The bokeh is extremely smooth and buttery. All subject isolation shots come out very clean. This made portraits very rewarding. Shooting at f/3.2 will get you most of the subject isolation with better sharpness.

Color reproduction is also done very well on this Art series lens. The puppy images are completely unedited JPEGs from my 6D Mark II.

I did notice a bit of vignetting and light distortion at 24mm. This was easily corrected using the lens profile adjustment in Adobe. Check out the before and after Adobe preset lens corrections.

Uncorrected
Sigma 24-70 2.8 ART (12A)
Corrected

BUILD QUALITY

The Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 is a hefty lens. Everything about it looks and feels like a high quality lens. Apart from the electronic controls and the zoom/focus rings, it is an all metal construction. There is even a shiny “A” emblem to signify the ART line of lenses. All of their lenses have their respective product line emblem.

The zoom and focus ring are smooth and distinguishable from one another without looking. Due to the zoom ring being about double the width of the focus ring. The zoom does not suffer from any creep when point the lens is pointed downwards.

The f/2.8 makes this lens fairly large in diameter. I actually love the way this looks on my 6D Mark II. A pretty insignificant detail you probably didn’t care to know. It’s also a bit shorter than I expected which is completely welcome.

One minor annoyance is that my 6D Mark II does not sit flat when the lens is attached due to the diameter. Another minor observation. The build quality overall is certainly high end.

Sigma 24-70 Review 5

Weight

Weight might be one of the bigger drawbacks of this lens. This is a pattern with Sigma Art lenses in general. The Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8L II USM comes in at 1.77 lbs., while the Sigma comes in at 2.24 lbs. That about 25% heavier! Half a pound more glass! As a backpacker who uses the Capture Clip and a hand strap, this was one of the harder compromises for an all-around lens against the Canon.

With that being said, everything about photography gear is relative. New gear is getting lighter, and flagship lenses from a few years ago are much heavier. It doesn’t mean much when it comes to lens capability. For example, a high end NIKKOR 24-70 f/2.8E ED VR lens comes in even heavier at 2.35 lbs.

In short, unless you are switching from very light lenses to this lens often, the half-pound added weight won’t be a game changer. After carrying it around for a while, I just got used to the weight as the new norm.

Sigma 24-70 Review2

Weather Sealing

This lens is also weather sealed. Sigma describes this as “dust and splash proof”. I try not to test the weather sealing limits on my precious glass, so I’ll be taking Sigma’s word for it!  Another very welcome feature that puts it in the same arena as Canon L glass.

Filter Thread

The filter diameter is 82mm, same as the Canon version. Most people hate the large filter diameter due to the increased filter cost, but there is a silver lining here. All of the quality filters that you purchase for this lens can be compatible with smaller lenses through filter step down adapters. This is only possible when you start with a large filter, not the other way around. 82mm filters will be the largest lens filter most photographers will come across.

FEATURES

Auto Focus Modes

There are three autofocus modes on this lens. AF, MO, and MF. I was confused by this at first, but apparently the MO is there as a dedicated manual focus override autofocus mode. Canon lenses usually have this as a feature in the standard autofocus mode. Sigma chose to make this a different mode entirely. I think I prefer only having the two focus modes, but there may be advantages to this dedicated override mode.

Sigma 24-70 Review 4

Image Stabilization

The image stabilization performs very well. I found this removed most of my stand still hand movements in video mode at 70mm! This IS system paired with a f/2.8 aperture makes the lens an absolute low light beast! My full frame 6D Mark II with this lens is smooth sailing when the sun goes down.

What’s in the Box

The lens comes with a lens hood, and a high quality lens case. I place my lenses in my camera bag slots. I don’t use the lens case, however the quality is refreshing judging from Canon L included cases. The ribbed hood is also good quality and installs very easily and snugly.

VIDEO

I’ve already used this lens for some video due to the fantastic optical quality. With most integrated camera microphones, you will hear the lens autofocus noises. The Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 ART is no different. If you will be in a loud environment, you probably won’t notice the AF noises. I wanted to eliminate the sound in the quietest environment.

To eliminate the sound, I did three things:

The final rig looked like this. This removed almost every trace of autofocus noise. You can certainly get away with a simpler setup if you don’t need to hear a pin drop. One extender worked very well too, and also looked a bit cleaner.

Sigma 24-70 2.8 ART (6) - Microphone

That’s a Wrap

Sale
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Art Lens for Canon
  • OS functionality and newly designed HSM for success on any shoot
  • Lens barrel designed for high rigidity
  • This all-new 24-70mm F2.8 lens from SIGMA delivers the performance and functionality that help pros succeed in news, nature, and many other fields of photography.

Well I hope you enjoyed this review of the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 ART lens. It is now my default lens on my camera, and I can’t recommend it enough. No question, you get the most features and optical quality for your money. Weather sealing, fast aperture, image stabilization, fraction of the cost, the list goes on.

If you are shopping for the best all-around lens for a full frame camera, the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 ART cannot be overlooked.