about | support
home
 


  Reviews by: hris Towerton  

View profile View recent posts View reviews Add hris Towerton to your Buddy List
Sigma 135-400 MM f/4.5-5.6 ASP AF APO

18499135-400
Review Date: Aug 14, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 5 

 
Pros: Tripod collar
Cons:
Poor QC

Pre-purchase reasons for buying this lens:

· It sat well priced with my healthy but balanced hobby budget.

· It cast a full frame image circle (making it more future proof and able to be shared with my film based camera).

· Its 135mm-400mm focal length complimented well my existing Sigma 24-135mm f/2.8-4.5.

· It shares a 77mm filter with other lenses in its relative price and quality range, including my Sigma 24-135mm f/2.8-4.5 and (still to purchase) SIGMA 10mm-20mm DC, suitably complementing a kit covering common focal lengths with no overlap. Filter size was for me one of the main considerations; I was keen to maintain one single size for all the lenses I intended to purchase, thus negating duplication of accessories and requiring only one spare UV filter should anything untoward happen whilst travelling in remote areas (I live in Australia).

· It has a manually selectable aperture ring (backwards compatible with my old SLR).

· It has internal focusing, making it more filter friendly.


Considered Alternatives

· The Sigma AF 70-200mm f2.8 EX DG - also a 77mm filter size, however my existing lens covered a great deal of its focal range and at 400mm the extra 2X optical reach made for a big difference when compared to digitally cropping on my now outdated 6 mega pixel sensor.

· The Sigma AF 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX DG APO – heavier, larger filter, wary of perceived optical issues from a lens that boasts a 10X optical zoom I also found it to be just too big.

· The Sigma AF 170-500mm f5-6.3 ASP DG RF APO – larger filter and would leave a focal gap in my lens line up.


Physically

Comes with a padded case, hood and tripod collar. Markings are clear and the lens itself is finished in the same rubberised matt of the “EX” series.

In Use

The zoom action is smooth but with no mechanism to lock it in place, creeps when carried. The focus ring is small and although it can be easily operated with one finger, the zoom rotates through such a large axis, it is difficult to keep your finger poised ready to focus under pressure. With the focus ring located at the back of the lens close to the body, it is awkward to keep a steady hand, particular when the barrel is extended out to 400mm. Auto focus appears adequate, though it seldom gets used as I tend to shoot amongst trees in relatively low light. At 400mm results are soft unless stopped down.

Although most lenses trombone whilst zooming, this copy seems particularly susceptible to the ingress of foreign materials. I have solved this in the greater part by storing it in a watertight bag, which is also good at preventing condensation when making rapid transitions from hot or cold areas. The tripod collar makes switching between landscape and portrait a breeze and is very quick to install/release. The lens cap can be easily dislodged in transit.

When using this lens with my Pentax AF-360FGZ flash, for some strange reason the LCD on it displays a focal length of 58mm, yet when used with my Sigma 24-135mm, remains synchronised right through to 85mm. I do not believe this affects the throw of light, as the reflector itself is physically retracted to its maximum position (85mm), it just persists in displaying 58mm… very frustrating!!!


Application

Most often I use this lens atop a monopod or hand held @ ISO800 with the assistance of a hot shoe flash (Pentax AF-360FGZ) on small birds. This seems to work OK, out to about 12 metres (light dependant).

I also use it tripod mounted, with a remote shutter release, @ ISO800 and no flash. I find this useful when set further back at weddings or other events where I can obtain good candids. Shutter speeds rarely exceed 1/30 second, so this method relies heavy on a lethargic subject.

Summary

Hit and miss, I have managed to take some very good photos with this lens. Perhaps my dissatisfaction lies in the fact that after more than 12 months of ownership I have not been sufficiently disciplined to acquaint myself with its idiosyncrasies.

Whilst I like the look of the rubberised finish, if you have anything on your hands (oils from food, clay from climbing etc), it is very hard to clean.

Dust on the inner elements is a constant frustration (the front section can be easily removed for cleaning with 6 screws), however this is more likely a lens specific QC issue.

The tripod collar really lifts the lens’ functionality, probably for me its best feature.



 
Tamron 90MM F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 SP AF

lens_1_
Review Date: Oct 27, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: 1:1 Macro, F2.8, Portrait suitability
Cons:
Lens extends when focusing, Auto focus disengage on the lens requires my Pentax *ist D body to be switched to manual as well.

These were the pre-purchase reasons I personally decided to buy this lens:

· I wanted a lens with good close focusing ability.

· It was well priced when compared with the Sigma AF 105mm F2.8 EX Macro, around 1/3 cheaper.

· With only basic kit, I had decided to upgrade to middle-of-the-road zoom lenses. Image quality was OK with these lenses, but I wanted to buy at least one good prime lens for portraits. This 90mm lens was a better match when cropped on my Pentax *istD, coming in at 135mm, where as the Sigma is closer to 160mm.

· It cast a full frame image circle (making it more future proof and able to be shared with my film based camera).

· It had a manually selectable aperture ring (backwards compatible with my old SLR).

· It has a non-rotating front element, making it more filter friendly.


My assessment after 12 months of use:

THIS LENS IS A PEACH! Mine is a “Di” version (Digitally Integrated, meaning that it has extra coatings to reduce internal reflections from the sensor). Pretty much every positive observation made by reviewers about this lens is true. It is terrific for portraits, with sharp images that still somehow retain a lovely “feel” and good bokeh. This is the best lens in my bag. Shooting on the same day under the same conditions, changing lenses on the same body, results from this lens are easily recognisable.

Its 1:1 macro ability delivers great outcomes. The best photo in my collection belongs to this lens, it is of a bee, hand held with a hot shoe flash. Finding the “sweet” spot when manual focusing can be a problem on some lenses, particularly where close focusing may impede natural light, but again this lens does an exceptional job; that said it can be a little frustrating when very close using a tripod, as the lens barrel extends out when focusing.

Build quality is fine, it is “plasticky” but on my budget, so is every other lens in my possession. Its external indicators are clear and the brushed gold markings look classy. The lens cap holds and releases well, much less likely to come off in my bag than some other designs. The manual focus ring is smooth but as a consequence of the large “sweet” spot discussed above, it takes an eternity to get from macro to infinity. A “Limiting” switch on the side of the lens remedies this when auto focusing. One frustration (at least on my Pentax *istD) is that the focus ring is designed to disengage from AF to allow quick manual override, but manual focus cannot be achieved unless my Pentax body itself is taken off AF. The front element is recessed around 50mm into the lens, protecting it and negating the need to use a lens hood for flare control.

CONCLUSSION

I am generally reluctant to emphatically endorse any one particular product, preferring people weigh up their own needs and suitability, but with this lens I take exception. If you are looking for a non-dedicated macro lens of this focal length, THIS IS THE LENS FOR YOU!


 
Sigma 24-135mm f/2.8-4.5 Aspherical IF

sigma24_135
Review Date: Oct 25, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 6 

 
Pros: Price, focal range, F2.8
Cons:
Soft wide open, zoom creep

Pre-purchase reasons for buying this lens:

· It sat well priced with my healthy but balanced hobby budget.

· It had, on paper at least, the ability to capture more images in low light, hand held.

· It cast a full frame image circle (making it more future proof and able to be shared with my film based camera).

· Its 24mm-135mm focal length would be good for 80% of the subjects I shoot, minimising lens changes and therefore dust on the sensor.

· It shared a 77mm filter with other lenses in its relative price and quality range, such as the SIGMA 135mm–400mm APO DG and SIGMA 10mm-20mm DC, suitably complementing a kit covering common focal lengths with no overlap.

· It has a manually selectable aperture ring (backwards compatible with my old SLR).

· It has internal focusing, making it more filter friendly.


Whilst researching this lens, I figured that the poor reports on sharpness and build quality etc. were a result of stepping up in the world of expectations, those above that of kit lenses. I reasoned that a lens of this price and specifications should not logically be compared (as some have) to the likes of “L” series lenses; and with this in mind, would likely see a big improvement on what I had experienced in my photographic infancy.

This position proved to be true of build quality, easily beating my kit lens when it came to the smoothness of zoom travel and general “feel”. Unfortunately I must agree with those that say this lens is not sharp; people will likely consider purchasing this lens for flash-less-indoor-“party” type use, thanks to its bright f2.8 aperture, but wide-open images are too soft to be anything but “ok” snapshots. If you are on a tight budget and you are specifically looking to shoot in low light, you may consider buying a fast pre-loved prime. That said, if you are able to stop down to around F8 results are more than acceptable.

After 5 months of use, my advice:

· If you can, don’t pay retail price for this lens; this should alleviate some expectations.

· If you have the money and image quality is your primary concern, this is probably not the lens for you.

· Compared with “kit” digital only lenses, this is a big and heavy lens.

· Build quality is generally good, zoom is smooth, manual focus ring is OK; but my copy creeps when shooting up, down or carried around.

· Best not to consider this lens for its wide-open abilities, at these apertures it is VERY SOFT.

· If you intend to shoot a lot of portraiture shots, you may be pleased with the soft-feathered affect to edges produced in images, especial from RAW conversions at wider apertures.

· Sharp images can be obtained at all focal lengths if you are able to stop down to around F8.

· Being bright or “fast”, does make for easier manual focus, which is handy because auto focus is poor in anything but the brightest of light on my Pentax *istD.

· It has fairly good “macro” (not strictly correct I know) abilities.

Conclusion

Value for money is not exclusively about absolute quality, nor does it have to be the cheapest price; it is the consideration of these things in balance. Do I like this lens? YES! Would I recommend it? Not specifically, make up your own mind based on your needs.

Reasonable quality, a lens which fits in well with my intended focal line-up, cheap enough to use without fear, wherever I intend to take photos……..