Sigma 150mm f2.8 macro review

Or, Sigma 150mm 1:2.8 APO Macro DG HSM EX, to be exact.

It’s fair to say that I have really put the Sigma 150mm macro lens through its paces this summer. It has been my main tool since the flower season started and it has constantly produced outstanding results (well, technically speaking anyway – the artistic issues are created behind the camera). I’ve mentioned my reasoning behind getting this lens, but just to re-iterate: I needed a 1:1 macro like my old 100mm lens, and I needed the background/foreground control of the 300mm tele that I’ve used as a close-up lens (with an extension tube). I was tired of always having to choose which lens to take with me, and the weight and super-thin DOF of the 300mm made it a bit awkward tool at times, while the background/foreground control was a breeze with the big gun but no joy with the 100mm lens. Having decided that a long macro would fit the bill, I only needed to decide between 150mm and 180mm. In the end, I opted to give up those 30mm in favour for a larger aperture (f2.8 vs f3.5) and a bit lighter construction, and it was the correct decision – I haven’t missed the extra mm’s at any point.

Foreground/background control
Foreground/background control

This lens is nicknamed ”Bugzilla” on the web. It’s because many photographers favour it for insect photography, I’m however mainly interested in flowers so the review might be slanted towards that subject matter. Also keep in mind that I have been using the lens on a Canon 40D body with an APS-C size sensor.


The Sigma 150mm macro is incredibly sharp, right on par with the Canon 100mm macro I used to have. Almost all macro work is done with manual focus, and thanks to the large aperture of f2.8 this lens produces a bright image in the viewfinder, making it easy to focus in all but the worst of conditions. Used together with an angle-finder, correct focus is almost unmissable thanks to the magnification of the angle-finder. And let’s face it, the angle-finder is an essential tool in macro photography, I don’t know how I ever managed without it (oh now I remember – I used to have headaches from all the awkward positions I had to twist my head).

100% crop from original image
100% crop from original image

The sample image is a crop from a full-size image, straight out of the 40D except for WB adjustment and RAW conversion. Please note that I do not use any sharpening in camera, so there is a whole lot to be gained in post-processing. ISO 200, f3.2.

The sharpness starts at maximum aperture of 2.8 so I don’t hesitate to open up if the situation calls for it. Normally I step down to f4 though, but it’s only for adding just a touch of DOF rather than any sharpness considerations. I haven’t done any testing to find the sweet spot, because as far as I’m concerned, it’s all sweet!

Ease of use

The lens is almost too heavy to be hand-held, and I’ve only used it without support when I’ve used it as a tele and the shutter speed has been fast enough. I was aware of this before I got the lens so I do not count it against it, I’m just stating a fact. In a way it’s also a good thing, because it forces me to always use the tripod for close-ups and that will slow down the process of taking a picture, which I need – I have a bad habit of rushing things, even if I’ve told myself time after time to slow down.

I’ve also found it to be a good lens for stitched panoramas, I used it with good results last winter when I was photographing the full moon in the mountains. I also use it to pick landscape details, even if 150mm on a crop factor camera is a bit on the long side. But then again, I got it for close-up work so anything else is a bonus.


The lens is equipped with a focus limiter with three settings – minimum to 52cm focus distance, 52cm to infinity and entire range. Initially when started using this lens for close-ups, I found the ranges a bit awkwardly set but since manual focus is the best way of focusing, the limiter is hardly ever needed. I have set it on 52cm to infinity for those odd landscape pictures I take with AF. I don’t have complaints about the AF, it’s possible that I might call it a bit slow but it really isn’t an issue with what all the manual focusing I do.


In conclusion, I would have to say that there is no such thing as a perfect lens, but this is as close to perfect for me as it gets. Sigma really out-did themselves and I will have to take back all the bad words I said about them a couple of years ago. The lens is also very good value for money, with the glare guard and lens collar included in the box. If you’re in the market for a long macro, you can’t go wrong with the Sigma 150mm f2.8 EX!

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