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Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM

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Review Date: Mar 22, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $450.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Besides those "bundled" with the lens (very wide, fast silent AF, useful range), i'd say sharp, very little chromatic aberration (even wide open), and excellent construction quality.
Cons:
Vignetting wide open at all focal lengths.

Well I have to say this is an amazing lens. I just got it used with an UV filter and a nice protective bag for US$450, in mint condition (I am in Argentina and you tend to pay more for this stuff than what B&H lists).

Frankly i was quite worried about ordering one from the US because of the QC issues Sigma seems to have. When I saw this one for sale used, I jumped over it, and I'm really happy I did.

First, this is a really sturdy, well built lens. It is a bit heavy (~500g) and my 350D does balance quite bad with it when hanging from my neck. One you grab it with both hands, though, you get back that nice feeling from the 35mm days that you won't get with a kit lens: the weight of the glass feels really nice and not heavy at all to use.

I would even say weight helps keep the lens steady when shooting at very low speeds. At 10mm, you can get very usable shots at 1/4-0"3, and 1/20 is enough for good sharpness in very low light.
I'm telling you this because you might be worried about the small aperture of this lens. Here's some advice - your other options are primes, mostly the Sigma 14mm and the Canon 15mm fisheye. These get you the wider part of the Sigma zoom, and at the wider setting f/4 really is enough all the time.
At 20mm f/5.6 it does get nastier but honestly i would have bought a 10mm prime if there was one, so I don't care much. Still, the range is nice, and 20mm on APS-C is a very interesting focal length for people photography in "close quarters" - much more fit than 50mm. It made me think about the Sigma 20mm prime :D

The only "issue" this lens has is vignetting. But hey, i quoted that. Here's why: at 10mm, lightning in your scene won't be smooth - you have a 100 FOV so indoors, you will have lots of different lightnings in a single frame. Outdoors, the effect is much less noticeable because of sky lightning being uneven and such things. Thus, vignetting, as bad as it could be (which it isn't) isn't obvious to the eye. I'd go as far as saying that it adds drama to the pictures, enhancing contrast and giving your shots more "punch". Hey, I'm as worried about this kind of "flaws" as the next photography hobbyist, but really, I feel vignetting here enhances my pics. I had not even noticed until i did some specific testing.

Anyway, all this goes away by f/8 at 10mm. Whereas the sharpness sweet-spot begins at f/5.6, you have to use f/8 if you want all the vignetting to go away.

Chromatic aberration is surprisingly low across the whole frame, and so is sharpness - comparing to the kit @18mm was a real laugh, trust me.
At 10mm, contrast in the corners sees quite an improvement at f/5.6. Still, at that FL, your corners will be pretty distorted by the perspective so there's nothing to worry about.

As far as distortion goes, there's not much to say here. I haven't done any chart testing, but there isn't anything wrong with this lens in this aspect - i have never said "hey, that was straight" upon looking at a picture.

So, my final advice on this is: "buy it". Make sure you can return it if you have some bad luck with your copy, but on good copies, this is a clear winner. This is of course, if, like me, you like to take great pictures and not great snapshots of test charts. Honestly I couldn't care less about what those say. My subjective opinion after having used this lens for a while, is that i'm very happy I got it, so if you do, there are some good chances that you won't be disappointed either.

Here is my "Sigma 10-20" tag in Flickr. Check it out yourself:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gomox/tags/sigma1020f456exdchsm/