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Sigma 180mm f3.5 EX APO Macro IF HSM

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27 104290 Sep 14, 2013
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89% of reviewers $629.89
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Sigma Corporation is pleased to introduce a new member of our EX series of lenses, the 180mm f3.5 EX APO Macro. This new high performance telemacro lens can focus from infinity to full 1:1 Life-size reproduction without accessories. At 1:1 reproduction the distance from subject to film plane is 18.1 inches, making this lens convenient for photographing subjects which are not easily approached, such as small animals or insects, etc. The apochromatic design and two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements, plus floating inner focus system effectively control Chromatic and Spherical Aberrations as well as Astigmatism, providing superb performance throughout the focusing range. The models for Sigma, Canon and Nikon AF cameras employ Sigma's HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) for quiet, responsive AF function plus "full time" manual focus. A Focus Limiter switch aids in faster AF for closer or more distant subject situations, by restiricting the movement of the focusing mechanism. The HSM model lenses can be used with Sigma's 1.4X EX teleconverter as a 252mm f/4.9 lens, with SIgma, Canon and Nikon AF cameras, providing AF function from infinity to about 47 inches. At closer distances, the lens automatically switches to manual focus. (The models for Minolta and Pentax cameras will be manual focus with the 1.4X EX teleconverter.) This lens can also be used with Sigma's 2X EX teleconverter as a 360mm f/7 lens, for manual focus in all cases.


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Registered: Sep 13, 2013
Location: United States
Posts: 0
Review Date: Sep 14, 2013 Recommend? no | Price paid: $599.00 | Rating: 5 

Pros: Longest macro available. ONLY long macro available for Pentax mount -- used or new -- of which I'm aware Tripod mount -- lens is BIG AND HEAVY! Price Built like a rock.
VERY shallow DOF! Manual Focus is too stiff to be of practical use. Very noisy, hunting AF Focus limiting so far proves of little value Pictures seem "darker" than they should be.

I just received this lens from KEH this past Tuesday, 9/10/13. It was listed in EX condition for $599 and appears to be such, with no scratches I can notice. It came with the hood, lens cover and green case. However, the first time I removed the hood from the lens (it was attached backwards, the way most of us would put one on the lens barrel when we're not using it), a fair number of little black flecks of what looked like dried rubber fell out and onto my shirt. I was sitting in my car doing this, as I saw the box for the lens on my front porch on the way to take my mom to get her hair cut, so I wasn't in a really good position to tak pics of the flecks, but I picked some up and looked at them, and that's what they looked like -- dried rubber -- like maybe the hood had been around the focusing ring a long time and some of the rubber from it had dry-rotted onto the hood and came off when I unscrewed it and removed it... At least that's all I could figure.)

I also looked down through the end of the lens, towards the mount, and it appeared there might be a few flecks of "something" on one of the inner elements, but I couldn't tell exactly what, or where, and I don't see anything, so far, when I shoot a picture -- although I've not yet downloaded anything and looked at it on my monitor. Since I recently upgraded to the Dell 30" 3011 monitor (running at 2560 x 1600, I imagine if there are flecks inside the lens I may be able to see them on this screen).

The lens seems to take pretty impressive macros, though. I've been using the Pentax 100mm macro lens (which sells new for more than I paid for this lens used), and unlike most of you, who seem to be shooting Canon or Nikon, there's NO new option to me for a 150 or 180mm lens, as Pentax doesn't make one and neither does Sigma or anyone else make one in a Pentax mount any more (although I just read on Sigma's site that they'll do a "remount" on some of their lenses for $250, or less, depending on the lens. I DON'T think the big macros are in that league, however, although the desirable 120-300 F2.8 is -- especially since they just came out with a new one and dropped the price on the older one.

The lens seems "very dark" compared with my Pentax macro, which is only a half stop faster. Of course it's about three times as long (and probably five times as heavy). But even when I have either stopped to, say, F4, I seem to get a "brighter" image with the Pentax lens than with the Sigma, I think (although I've not done a side-by-side yet, which I can do, since I have both on two different cameras now (K-5 and K-30 -- Pentax lens is on the K-30). Even when I use the K-5's pop-up flash, which was giving me a decently bright, frozen image in my ILLUMINATED from terrarium (60-watt bulb 12" above surface), I'm getting a somewhat DARK image. That could be, however, that this lens is so long that the popup flash isn't "clearing" the lens shadow -- especially since the minimum focus distance on the Pentax macro is about 12", but it's only about 18" on the Sigma -- which is a MUCH LONGER LENS. Perhaps if I had the lens further back the flash could clear it, but then I'd have more light fall-off, plus my image wouldn't be as big. Ack!

Of course, the other factor -- and I knew I'd be facing this -- is that depth-of-field -- already SHALLOW with the 100mm macro -- is practically NON-EXISTENT with the Sigma 180! I've been shooting little BABY crickets... I'm talking 1/8" long, or so. Even so, their head will be in focus and the rest of their body out of focus -- and forget even being able to tell what their tail IS -- and that's at, like, F11! On the rare occasion that I can catch one precisely parallel to the lens, well -- those occasions are far too rare.

I'm clicking "NO" on reccomendation NOT because I wouldn't reccomend this lens, but because I'm just not sure, yet. I didn't realize quite how old this lens was when I bought it. Looking back through this forum, I see it's at least 10 years old, based on the first post. That may, or may not be old for a motorized AF lens. It hunts as much (or more) than my Pentax lens. I've YET to find ANY USE for the focus limiting. Yesterday, when I went to get more adult crickets for my frogs, I parked by the bait shop (fishing pond) and shot some pics of plants and trees across the pond (100 yards, or so). I was shooting hand-held, braced against my car window. But the car was off, and I shot as fast as 1/750, and I never did get a shot where ANY of the trees, leaves, etc. looked fully in focus. I found that troublesome. However, after I came home I went in my back yard for a while and shot a butterfly on some butterfly bushes in full sunlight, and at least on the camera's monitor, THOSE PICS looked tack-sharp.

So... the jury's still out for me. I'm just glad KEH has a 30-day return policy. I HATE RETURNING STUFF. But I like the option... I'll amend this review one way or the other when I know more.

One more thing... I'm used to "quick-shift" focus on Pentax AF lenses, so it took me a while to figure out how to manually focus on this thing, lol. When I finally did figure out how to switch it to MF, it wasn't worth the trouble. The MF is so stiff it's pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to do fine-tune focusing that way -- at least for me -- unless there's some way to "oil" the focusing ring. I looked on Sigma's website to see if I could find documentation for this lens (some manufacturers KEEP documentation for any and all old stuff... NOT THEM!

Sep 14, 2013
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Registered: Nov 15, 2010
Location: South Africa
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 16, 2011 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $615.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: very good build quality, sharp, nice bokeh
a little heavy

Lucky to get this lens - picked it up from a seller in Germany.
I use it on both my D700 and D7000.
Well built.
I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality of images.
Sharp, nice colors and beautiful bokeh.
It's a gem of a lens!

Nov 16, 2011
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Registered: Jan 16, 2008
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 0
Review Date: Sep 12, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Stunning sharpness, large working distance, nice soft bokeh, great build quality. Large lens hood. Nothing extends outward (IF-design).
can't think of any.

I use this lens on a Nikon D700.
The Sigma is awesomely sharp, remains even so with stacked dedicated Sigma converters. (1,4x and/or 2x) This really challenges optical quality, but it delivers!!
With this setup I can go to 3:1, and still remain at some distance from the subject. The large working distance is the main reason for my purchase of this lens.

Nice bokeh, great build quality.
If using the focus limiter, AF (HSM) is quick and absolute silent too. Manual focus is very nice and exact, and it has a comfortable focus grip.

Sep 12, 2009
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Registered: Mar 29, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 125
Review Date: Aug 14, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Beautiful bokeh, sharp, quick focusing when you use the limit switch correctly.
As with all similar lenses this thing is big and heavy!

I can't speak to the longevity of this lens as I've only had it for a few days but it seems to have a very high build quality. The bokeh on the shots where I was trying for this effect is wonderful! Very sharp and quick enough to focus especially if you use the limit switch. Focus is right on with my D200. This lens is a keeper.

Aug 14, 2009
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Registered: Apr 8, 2009
Location: Portugal
Posts: 32
Review Date: May 2, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: Very sharp and contrasty even at f/3.5, high build quality, very good macro performance (as good as tele).
A bit heavy and big for my taste, not easy to focus correctly at f/3.5 which results in "nervous" performance wide open: either excellent or way off.

I bought this lens second hand at half the price from some guy that thought the lens was very difficult to use and produced inconsistent results. Well... I understand him: this lens is hard to focus correctly when wide open! Even a very small movement and you're way out of focus. Of course for macro work this is not so important because you tend to stop down a lot, but for tele it's a real problem.

The solution for tele is using autofocus or being patient while manual focusing. Also this lens is very sensitive to camera misadjustment: if your autofocus sensors or your focus screen position are not well calibrated and coplanar with the sensor you will get misfocused shots all the time.

When properly used it performs quite well even wide open as you can see in this two test shots (no sharpening applied):



In macro usage the performance is just as good, but of course the depth of field wide open is close to zero. Stopping down you will notice improvements in contrast up to f/8 or so, and then degradation as diffraction takes it's toll.

For tele usage the contrast does improve somewhat up to f/5.6, but not the sharpness, which is already excellent wide open. Performance degrades over f/8 due to diffraction (this is not a lens problem, of course).

There is some residual chromatic aberration visible, but it's easy to correct in photoshop, although I end up not correcting it most of the time since it's not noticeable in most shots anyway.

May 2, 2009
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Registered: May 12, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 4967
Review Date: Dec 16, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: SHARP! SHARP! SHARP! BOKEH! BOKEH! BOKEH! Color and contrast are great. I like the look of the Sigma bokeh(this lens only) over the Canon 180L.
A little slow the focus but I knew this going in to the purchase. It does have a focus limit switch which is handy.

I have shot with the Canon 180L and I really enjoyed the lens. I think the color saturation of the Sigma and the bokeh look better on the Sigma. Both were/are very sharp. The Sigma is WICKED sharp... I've even used it in studio settings and it is something else.

I shoot it with the Sigma 1.4TC as well. Images at f/16 are very sharp and the bokeh is insane. It really took my macro photography to another level.

Of course you can use it for all types of photography. The build is solid and the lens performs great IMO.

If you want to save some $ over the Canon 180L... this is the lens for you.

Just my $.02

Dec 16, 2008
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Registered: Nov 2, 2008
Location: Finland
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 2, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Good image quality, good colors, robust construction
Lack of image stabilization, auto focus hunts and often fails to lock correctly

I bought this lens for macro photography. It was my first non-Canon lens, but the price of Canon's 180mm was just way too much. I was positively surprised about its solid construction and image quality. Good bokeh, superb colors. Lack of image stabilization limit usage of this lens to tripod mount or bright conditions. The auto focus of the lens is considerably poorer than my Canon lenses. The lens hunts and locks to out-of-focus "often".

In general the lens has been a good buy. I have especially satisfied with colors and sharpness of the photos (when in focus).

Nov 2, 2008
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Registered: Jul 10, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 1380
Review Date: Oct 9, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $719.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharp - HSM=fast, accurate focusing - focus limiter switch - couples great with a 1.4x TC
bit heavy, but all 180 macros are,

This lens is one of my most versatile lenses. I've had it for over three years now without a single glitch. I have used it for portraits, snakes, bugs (of course), flowers and most impressively, hummingbirds in flight handheld with and without the Sigma 1.4TC. The HSM is that good. Here is the gallery if you're interested:


This lens is a bit heavy, as all 180's are, so it takes some getting used to. But it is a gem especially at the price.

Oct 9, 2007
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Registered: Jan 27, 2004
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 7
Review Date: Sep 19, 2007 Recommend? no | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 4 

Pros: Sharp, good colours, great price
Focus motor failed after 2 1/2 years

Loved it up to demise of autofocus, but will keep it and use as manual focusser.

Sep 19, 2007
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maks dezman
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Registered: Nov 29, 2006
Location: Slovenia
Posts: 0
Review Date: Nov 29, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $750.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Tripod collar, great optics, very sharp, low price, excellent build quality, inexpensive,...

The color rendition and the "bokeh'" are exceptional. I would rcommend this lens to anyone interested in macro work.
All around super Macro lens.
Cheapest professional lense for typical macro photography.
Great results.

I shot a flea (micro macro, with 50mm reverse) with this lens...


Nov 29, 2006
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Registered: Nov 14, 2006
Location: India
Posts: 77
Review Date: Nov 17, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: At the price that you pay for it, the build quality and mechanicals of this lens are truly state-of-the-art.
Occasional Hunting, but not a big problem for me, I can work around it. does not bother me at all.

I have not used any of the OEMs equivalents that everyone would otherwise compare this lens to, but when I got my hands on this baby, I was pleased!

The images are stunning, good color contrast and sharp images, when you use it, you get the feeling that it is a lens truly built for macro capabilities and nothing else, I love to work with this lens, so far I have done only macros with it and not any teles...
And the results I have got from it, were stunning, everyone I showed my pictures to were amazed at the sharpness this lens delivers, It does hunt occasionally at the full magnification end when you are working with distant objects, but when I am doing macros its SPOT ON! and can make very minute focus adjustments as per your tiny shifts in subject.

Now I have never used a Nikon equivalent, to compare the sharpness but all I can say is at the price you get it at, it is WELL WORTH the investment.

Coming down to the looks, it looks killer, feels solid and is built like a tank, you get that feeling instantly when you hold it in your hands. The HSM is superb, the smoothest I have come accross so far, better than nikons SWM on the 18-55 for sure!
The tripod collar is rock solid and works really well. The hood provided is nice and I always use it with the hood on, it keeps those accidental finger prints of the front glass, because the hood is pretty deep, so I always use the hood.

All in all I would HIGHLY recommend this lens to the aspiring hobbist who is looking to buy a macro lens of this focal length, I have even known some wildlife pros who have used this lens as part of their main lineup.

I dont think I will ever ever need to upgrade this piece of equipment, unless I get filthy rich and have a lot of money to blow! Smile

Nov 17, 2006
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Registered: Apr 21, 2006
Location: United States
Posts: 8767
Review Date: Oct 27, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $650.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Image quality, Reach, Build, Price, ease of manuel focus and is as good as my Canon 180L if not better for half the price.

It is Nikon mount for my D200, if I had to do it again I'll buy it for my Canon cameras also.

Oct 27, 2006
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Registered: Oct 28, 2005
Location: Poland
Posts: 0
Review Date: Aug 4, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,050.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Very good build quality.HSM drive i silent.Beauty bokeh - 9 aperture blades.Amazing images.Hight resolutions figures.Non-existing vignietting and distortions.
Very slow HSM.

Aug 4, 2006
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Kerry Pierce
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Registered: Jan 31, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 3860
Review Date: Nov 22, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $500.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: very sharp with great working distance
have no issues with this lens

can't add anything to what's already posted. I have a couple other macro lenses, including the tamron 90Di. The AF issues that others speak of, seem to be normal for 1:1 shots. It's easier to MF on all of my macro lenses. AF works fast and sure for me, on stuff that's not macro distances. Great lens, IMO.

Nov 22, 2005
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Registered: Jan 22, 2005
Location: India
Posts: 38
Review Date: Jul 17, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great price [cheper than Sigma 150mm]; Sharp, Tripod collar. Constant Barrel; Great working distance; Real time AF MF; Solid
AF Hunts despite if HSM. Weight

I actually jumpted from Tamron 90mm, espicially for the working distance..!

Sigma 180mm is really a solid lense, Great sharpness. Good to use ring light as the barrel doesn't rotate. In addition, it also gives a very good blurring effects on the background as the focul length is longer..! some of the samples are at


I would say, it is a cheapest professional lense for typical macro photography.

However there are some down-sides. Hunting AF. I guess, it is hard to beat Canon 180mm in terms of AF speed. As far as macro work is concerned, this is not a big problem. One will feel the weight espicially if he/she shoots for more than an hour continuousely..!

Otherwise it is a legend!

Jul 17, 2005
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Registered: Jan 25, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 461
Review Date: Jul 10, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $600.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Great price, sharp, tripod collar.
Black (yes, white lenses do have it cooler in the sun, this one sure gets HOT.)

It was either this, or spend twice as much. Honestly, never used the Canon, and after using this one, I don't think I really will need to. This one has always been sharp, focus is always on, and the weight isn't that bad. Everyone always complains about weight, but I personally have no problem with this lens in the least.

I've used it for both macro and telephoto and it does perform a little better at the macro end as it because a little off balanced with the tripod collar off.

Jul 10, 2005
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Sigma 180mm f3.5 EX APO Macro IF HSM

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
27 104290 Sep 14, 2013
Recommended By Average Price
89% of reviewers $629.89
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating

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