Hello, my name is Yasuhiro Ohsone. I have been involved in product development for SIGMA for more than 30 years now, and in this column I try to talk about the creation and the peculiarities of past products, provide information on how the market has developed, and share a few anecdotes about mistakes and failures – but only the ones which I’m not too embarrassed about. In this second entry in my column, I would like to talk about the new 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports lens which we have announced at Photokina 2018 earlier this year.
The birth of the F2.8 large aperture telephoto zoom
At the Photokina 2018 trade fair held in Cologne in September this year, SIGMA unveiled one of its latest lenses, the 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports.
It was at the Photokina in 1978 that Nikon announced the very first large-aperture telezoom lens to the world, the Ai Zoom Nikkor ED 80-200mm F2.8S. This year, it has been exactly 40 years since the F2.8 200mm class zoom was born.
In the 1970s, a 200mm zoom lens with a fast F-stop of 2.8 was one of the most highly desired lenses of sports photographers and photojournalists. Nikon’s lens was the first taste of the pleasures offered by telephoto zooms, allowing easy captures of just the right picture thanks to its moderate angle of view and the large zoom range. The inner workings of the Ai Zoom Nikkor ED 80-200mm F2.8S offered the right answer to photographers’ needs at the time. However, the lens was somewhat bulky and heavy even for its time, and at a price tag of 420,000 Yen (roughly $3,700), a rather high-cost investment. Rather than revolutionize the interchangeable lens market, the lens remained a business equipment of professional photographers.
But photography enthusiasts’ interest in the 200mm F2.8 zoom lens did not fade. The first company which truly managed to answer their calls was Tokina, who in 1983 released the AT-X 80-200mm F2.8. With a weight of about 1kg, a price-tag of 120,000 Yen (about $1,000) and great optical performance (thanks to the use of special low dispersion glass), its impact on the lens market was enormous. The lens marked the moment that F2.8 became the quasi-standard for premium zooms, and for a while after its release many medium-tele zooms, especially those of the 135-200mm class, suffered heavy losses in their market share. It caused an outright “Tokina shock.”
Many camera and lens manufacturers followed Tokina’s AT-X 80-200mm F2.8 with lenses of their own. And when the era of autofocus SLR cameras began (launched by MINOLTA in 1985 with the α7000), lenses in the 200mm F2.8 zoom category became representative flagship products of the camera brands. There was fierce competition to create the zoom lens with the very best optical performance or autofocus capabilities.
Obstacles towards SIGMA’s first large-aperture zoom lens
Unfortunately, it was rather difficult for SIGMA to create zoom lenses with an F2.8 aperture at the time. These were the two main reasons:
- SIGMA’s products were using the interchangeable mount system called YX-mount (interchangeable at service centers) at the time, which proved too large and complicated. It was difficult to create the necessary space around the lens mount.
- SIGMA’s manufacturing system at the time worked by first manufacturing lens tubes and then inserting glass lenses into the finished tubes. This method made it very difficult to manufacture lenses with an aperture larger than the inner diameter of the lens mount.
These two points became the main obstacles we had to overcome before we could create large-aperture zooms.
SIGMA’s first telezoom lens with an F2.8 aperture was released in 1992: the APO 70-210mm F2.8. Its creation necessitated a lot of time and sweat for revision of our lens mount and a restructuring of our manufacturing system.
The “EX Series”: adopting HSM technology
SIGMA’s full-scale entry into the F2.8 200mm telezoom market began with the APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX HSM in 1998. It was SIGMA’s first lens from the “EX Series,” which was the new brand aimed at professionals and highly-dedicated amateurs. One of the biggest talking points of the lens was its use of mass-manufactured HSM (hyper-sonic motor), a technology developed a year earlier. Thanks to the HSM technology, we were able to create a telezoom lens, whose focusing always tended to be on the slower side, with a remarkably fast – and quiet – autofocus feature.
Having created a lens with exceptional performance and optical features, including four special low dispersion glass lenses, internal focusing and the ability to use 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters, we had evolved to compete on equal footing with flagship lenses of other manufacturers. Especially, it was a big advantage against Nikon, who had not yet featured hyper-sonic motors at the time.
In the years since its first release, the APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX HSM has undergone model changes and minor adjustments. It remains one of the most popular, most highly-rated items in SIGMA’s product catalogue.
Our latest masterpiece, 40 years after the birth of the F2.8 zoom
The 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports, which we announced at Photokina 2018, features exceptional optical performance as well as functions and specifications that are typical for our high-end Sports lineup.
We created the lens with a total of ten special low-dispersion glass lenses (9 FLD lenses & 1 SLD lens) in order to achieve its high optical performance. The competition in this zoom lens category can be compared to Olympic photo-finish races, where all efforts are spent to gain another 0.01 seconds. Even with a total of ten special low dispersion glass lenses, the difference in performance compared to other manufacturers’ lenses is only slim. Where SIGMA truly makes a difference is with the lens’ durable housing and other high-end features of our Sports lineup.
- Robust metal lens barrel made primarily using aluminum and magnesium
- 90° rotational tripod ring with high-definition clickable stops
- Lens foot also compatible with the larger TS-81 tripod socket with 4 hex screws, originally created for use with SIGMA’s 500mm F4 & 60-600mm lenses
- Compatible with Arca Swiss-type clamps
- Removing the tripod socket reveals a screw hole for use with monopods
- Eleven rounded aperture blades
- Highly splash- and dust-proof construction
- Water- and oil-repellent lens coating
- Intelligent OS with acceleration sensor
- Petal-type lens hood with lock button
- Focus Hold button
* alternative function as a focus-on switch
- Lens front features shock-resistant rubber
- Focus limiter
- Function switch
- Compatible with 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters
Thanks to its high optical performance, the light magnesium barrel and the advanced additional features of our Sports lineup, SIGMA’s new 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports lens is ready to take on any competition by the three big camera manufacturers.
The brilliant details of the lens also deserve a mention. The lens housing – covered in a strongly textured laser tone paint – is highly robust and could easily house super-tele lenses as well. All buttons and switches on the lens were placed with careful consideration for professional use. And the tripod mount – sturdier than any mount made by other companies – will prove to be a strong asset for anyone photographing with tripods or monopods.
Announced on the 40th anniversary of the first ever F2.8 200mm telezoom, I am certain our new 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports lens will prove a reliable companion for both professional and high-amateur photographers.
Entered SIGMA in 1987. Has worked in the development of optics and mechanisms as well as collaborating with many companies. Became head of product planning in 2013.