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Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 EX DG Aspherical HSM

l3a_copy
Review Date: Jan 19, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $500.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Excellent focal length range, great build, HSM, reasonable price
Cons:
Huge front element, fairly bad wide open

I didn't notice until recently that this lens, at f/5.6, is very soft wide open at close focal length ranges. I didn't notice, because I almost exclusively use it at f/11. Sometimes at f/8, sometimes at f/16, but 90% at f/11.

Great clarity, sharp enough for a 12mm for my tastes, and fairly resistant to flare (but when you need to, it's easy to shade).

Build quality is top notch, and HSM is great, although of questionable use in such a wide lens. Still, I much prefer HSM to Sigma's "double clutch" focus system.


 
Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

20_f1_8_1_
Review Date: Jul 8, 2004 Recommend? no | Price paid: $350.00 | Rating: 4 

 
Pros: Optically good, decent build quality
Cons:
Dual focus mechanism sucks big time

I bought this lens for low-light interiors. Problem is that in low light, AF fails necessitating manual focus. All of my other lenses are Canon USM or Sigma HSM, and therefore offer full-time manual focus. This lens is not user friendly at all. Changing from AF to MF requires sliding the lens barrel AND flipping a switch. Even worse, the switch that you need to flip is precisely centered over the lens release button... do it too quickly, and you might accidentally pop the lens off the mount (although I've never heard of this happening to anyone).

Not only is the AF motor difficult to operate, it's as loud as a freight train. Well, not *that* loud, but it's loud enough to be annoying to people on the other side of the room if it hunts. Sounds sort of like a blender with ground glass in it.

The awkwardness of this lens earned it a trip back to the dealer.

If this lens had HSM, I'd probably have bothered to test the optics more. Heck, I might even have kept it!


 
Sigma 180mm f3.5 EX APO Macro IF HSM

180_3_5EX_mdl_1_
Review Date: Jun 10, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $510.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Excellent build quality, very sharp, inexpensive
Cons:
Focus limiter is generally useless, large AF range can cause hunting and slow AF

This is a fantastic lens and a wonderful bargain compared to the Canon version. I'm still on the left of the learning curve, so I won't comment too much on image quality because I'm still learning macro technique. Build quality is excellent; the lens is metal and the extremely wide and long focus ring is rubberized and turns smoothly. This lens is a dream to manually focus. AF hunts a bit, largely because of the extremely large focus range. There is a range limiter, but the cutoff distance is way too short to make it useful. The lens works well with a Sigma 1.4x converter.

I have some examples at www.dhvp.net/jcdoss/index.htm, the best being in the Garvan Gardens gallery. My technique isn't exactly ideal yet... keep that in mind while viewing.


 
Sigma 100-300mm f4 EX IF HSM APO

100-300if_1_
Review Date: Jun 10, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $800.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Range, f/4, optically very good, excellent build quality, inexpensive
Cons:
Somewhat heavy, zoom ring sticks a little, large filter thread size

This is a fantastic lens at all focal lengths. Sharpness is good wide open, but very good to excellent at f/5.6. I use this lens with the Sigma 1.4x converter with no discernable loss in quality. The f/4 aperture is the perfect mix of speed at this focal length and size/weight. The lens is big, has a big front element, and doesn't fit in my Nova 5 bag unless it's lying horizontal. It's 8.8in long and will have trouble fitting into most shoulder bags.

When I first got this lens, the zoom ring was somewhat difficult to turn. Thankfully, it loosened up with time and use, and is now quite smooth. The focus ring is very large, and extremely smooth. Overall build quality is excellent: the lens is metal, the rings are rubberised and easily grippable, and the tripod collar is removable.

The only thing that would make this lens better is IS, although I've been able to successfully handhold this lens at least a stop below the 1/focal length rule.

Several examples can be seen here: www.dhvp.net/jcdoss/index.htm, particularly in the zoo gallery.

[EDIT: 12/8/2004]
This lens is fantastic with the 1.4x TC, but the 2x TC makes some funky bokeh and brings with it a significant degradation in image quality. That said, I've printed some images with STACKED converters that were fairly nice! http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/157903

I had trouble finding a bag (shoulder bag, not backpack) that will accommodate this lens. Finally, I chose the Lowepro S/F system. The lens with camera mounted (w/ or w/o grip) fits great into a Toploader 75, and Lens Case 4 is perfect for this behemoth.

I'm also happy to report that the zoom ring stiffness that was present in the new lens did go away after a few months of use. It's fairly smooth now and very comfortable. The manual focus ring is extremely smooth and easy to use. Grade 10/10 for ergonomics!


 
Canon EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

ef_28-135_35_1_
Review Date: Jun 10, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Price, range, IS
Cons:
Build quality, variable aperture, slow

This lens is my "starter lens," as it is for about a bajillion other people. I am extremely satisfied with this lens, and I will probably continue to use it until Canon introduces an L-quality lens with a similar wide range. I find the focal length range ideal for my D30, albeit the apertures vary (blah!) and are a bit slow for indoor use. The IS is quite amazing, and if you have no experience with it, rest assured that it works very well. My only complaints are minor: First, the lens will underexpose by about half a stop. I'm convinced this is a by-product of the variable aperture mechanism and not related to the camera since my other lenses do not underexpose. Second, the build quality is a bit lax. There is a bit of "play" in the lens when extended, and there is significant zoom creep. Overall, it is an excellent lens and I have no regrets.

 
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

ef50mmf_14usm_1_
Review Date: Jun 10, 2003 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Cheap and fast. Sharp at f/2.8 (maybe) and higher.
Cons:
Build quality is so-so, slow to AF, and very soft at f/2.8 and lower

I bought this lens with my original kit to complement my 28-135IS in low light or indoor conditions. At the apertures I intended to use it (f/2.8 and below), I find it to be softer than I like. This lens has USM, but it's a "micro-USM" and as such moves a fair bit slower and is somewhat noisier. Probably most disturbing is that you can feel components of the motor clunking around inside the lens when handling it. Overall, I find that I hardly use this lens at all, not so much because if it's performance, but because 50mm on a DSLR with a 1.6x multiplier is just not a focal length I tend to use a lot.

[Edit: 2/17/2004] My tune is starting to change... a little. I forced myself to leave the zooms in my bag yesterday, and I got quite a number of good shots that I wouldn't have otherwise. You cannot ignore what a fast lens can do for you, even in daylight. Yesterday was supposed to be a litmus test for this lens, and it passed easily.