The Sigma 50-200mm f3.5-4.5 APO is a enthusiast or professional-grade 4x zoom lens from Sigma that features extraordinary dispersion glass and apochromatic design. It is light grey (or off-white) to reflect heat to ensure optical performance remains high in extreme conditions. An optional Apochromatic Macro Lens screwed in to the front filter thread of the lens, giving macro reproduction of 1:2 at the telephoto end of the zoom.
|List Price when new||$196|
|Angle of view||47-12°|
|Optical Construction (Groups / Elements)||15 / 11|
|Minimum Focus||69″ (1.8m)|
|Maximum Macro Magnification ratio||1:7.8|
The Sigma 50-200mm f3.5-4.5 APO featured a built-in hood but its long minimum focal distance of 1.8m neccesitated an additional Apochromatic Macro Lens that screwed into the front filter, sacrificing infinity focus to allow the lens to focus down to 1:2 at the long end. The matched nature of this optional extra was designed to maintain the high performance of the lens and its APO status.
The Sigma 50-200mm f3.5-4.5 APO was marketed as a lens for a ‘demanding professional or serious amateur photographer’. Sigma claimed that the ‘extraordinary dispersion glass’ combined with a ‘apochromatic design’ produced a ‘lens that gets rid of virtually all chromatic aberration’. Sigma claim it is the ‘perfect’ lens for ‘action and portrait photography’, whilst also marketing the optional Apochromatic Macro Lens that allowed ‘high quality close-ups’.
Background and availability
The Sigma 50-200mm f3.5-4.5 APO is very rarely seen for sale, whether this represents happy owners unwilling to part with the lens, or simply that the lens did not sell well in its day is unclear. I never knew it existed until I spotted on Ebay whilst searching for any old Sigma APO lenses. Luckily it started at £0.99 and I managed to get hold of it for just £33.60 including postage as a novelty item if nothing else. As you can see from the images, the lens rather shamelessly impersonates a Canon L series big telephoto lens, which is interesting because at the time only Canon’s really big prime lenses were white / cream with red stripes – the 300mm f2.8 and up. Smaller zooms such as the 50-300mm f4.5L, the 80-200mm f4L, 100-300mm f5.6L and even the 300mm f4L were all black with red stripes. So, in a strange way, Sigma started making whiteish / cream zoom lenses with red stripes before Canon, even if they did copy the style from Canon’s big guns.
Looking for more information on this lens also revealed that I now owned probably the least interesting (but most affordable) of Sigma’s white and red lenses from this period, the others being a 400mm f5.6 prime (which has been manufactured in a vast range of colours and for many years since) a 100-500mm f5.6-8 and a staggering 350-1200 f11. All of these lenses featured at least one special low-dispersion (SLD) glass element aimed at eliminating chromatic aberrations (hence they are apochromatic or APO lenses). It seems that Sigma 50-200mm f3.5-4.5 APO features just one SLD element, but I have seen people on forums state that it has two.
There is not much information online regarding the performance of this lens – a few quite promising sample images and a ‘subjective lens evaluation’ from David Ruether who has been adding his opinions on lenses since 1996 to his website (mostly Nikkors). On his scale – 0 meaning ‘unable to form an image’ (what lens actually fails to achieve that?) and 7 meaning ‘absolutely perfect lens in every respect’ – the Sigma is rated a respectable 4.2 – with the comment: ‘very uniform and good performance throughout’ (he rates anything at 4 as having ‘good to excellent image quality at most normally used stops, a professional-level lens, but with some limitations’). It is interesting that in his rating system the lens scores highly, alongside some very respectable glass (although, of course, the reviews are subjective).
Performance and handling
This is a nice little lens, offering strong APO performance even on a digital sensor – suppressing purple fringing well even wide open in tough conditions. The lens is sharp wide open at the focal lengths I used it at – including at 200mm. However, the minimum focal length makes it difficult to use at 50mm and constrains the versatility of the lens. Handling is good, focusing smooth and the lens is well built – built in hood does the job and is handy.
Overall, a good lens if you can find a copy at the right price – sadly I sold the lens on before I really got to use it as I had a lot of lenses come in at the same time.