Sigma AF 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM OS - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (APS-C)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published July 2010

Introduction

Over the recent years Sigma struggled to take off in the fast standard zoom arena for APS-C DSLRs. This segment has been dominated by the Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 (VC) with its highly attractive price/performance ratio and the all mighty but expensive Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM IS owning the quality crown. However, it may make sense to rethink this order of things now - Sigma just released their all new AF 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM OS. That alone may not be all THAT exciting - we've seen many fast standard zoom lenses by Sigma come and go - but this one is a bit more special. Recently Sigma announced a couple of lenses featuring their brand new FLD glass and the new 17-50mm f/2.8 OS is among them. FLD glass has an optical characteristic similar to fluorite glass. Such glass elements can be used to compensate optical aberrations (defects) more efficiently than conventional "special" elements such as Sigma's more commonly used SLD glass. We were already very impressed by the performance of the Sigma AF 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM which also benefits from FLD elements so there's some well founded hope that the AF 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM OS stands out from the ordinary as well.

The build quality of the Sigma lens is pretty good although it stays a little short of the high expectations that we associate with a Sigma EX ("Excellence") lens. It's made of tightly assembled combination of metal and high quality parts so there's nothing wrong here. Like its predecessor (AF 18-50mm f/2.8 HSM DC EX macro) it uses a mono-cam system (one inner lens tube) to extend the lens when zooming towards the tele setting. The front element does not rotate The zoom ring has a smooth, pleasant action whereas the focus ring has basically no friction in manual mode. The focus ring is coupled to the AF mechanism so it rotates during autofocus - this is somewhat disappointing for a high end product actually.

The 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM OS features the slightly simplified version of Sigma's HSM ("hypersonic AF motor"). It is still fast and nearly silent but full-time manual (FTM) override is not possible in one-shot AF mode. The AF speed via in contrast AF (Live-View) is on the slow side. Manual focusing is delicate due to the extremely short focus path - it just takes a turn of ~30 degrees to focus from infinity to the close focus limit. This approach improves the AF speed for sure but you need to have some haptic skills if you want to do it all manual. The focus accuracy of the tested sample was fine on our test DSLR.

A major new feature is, of course, the OS ("Optical Stabilizer"). As already reported in previous reviews it is impressively efficient and as good as the corresponding genuine manufacturer implementations. Sigma claims a gain of 4-stops which seems to fit here based on our field impressions.

Finally here's a comparison of the "gang of three" fast standard zoom lenses with image stabilization support:

Sigma AF 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC HSM OS Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 USM IS Tamron AF 17-50mm f/2.8 SP XR VC Di II [IF] ASPH
equivalent full format focal length and aperture (depth-of-field) "27-80mm f/4" "27-88mm f/4" "27-80mm f/4"
Elements/Groups 17/13 19/12 19/14
Special Elements 2x FLD + 2x aspherical 2x UD + 2x aspherical 2x XR + 2x LD + 2x aspherical
Image Stabilizer Efficiency (official) 4 f-stops 3 f-stops 4 f-stops
Aperture blades 7 (circular) 7 (circular) 7 (circular)
Min. focus (magnification) 0.28m (1:5) 0.35m (1:6) 0.29m (1:4.8)
AF motor HSM (ultrasonic) without FTM USM (ultrasonic) with FTM conventional micro-motor without FTM
Size 83x92mm 84x111mm 80x95mm
Weight 565g 645g 570g
Filter size 77mm 77mm 72mm
approx. Price (EUR) ~650€/US$ ~850€/US$ ~450€/US$




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