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Sigma 20mm f/1.8 EX DG Aspherical RF

Review Date: Mar 20, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

Pros: Cheap, fast (F1.8), large focus ring, petal hood and case included, looks great
Not the sharpest lens in the world, pretty noisy, slow autofocus

I bought this lens primarily for gig photography. Previously i had been using the Canon 50mm F1.8, but this wasn't really suitable when used with a DSLR (specifically my Canon EOS 10d) as it effectively became an 80mm lens.

Obviously i was in the market for a fast and wide lens, and i didn't want to spend too much money. This lens can be found in the UK for around 220-270, though it's difficult to find somewhere with it in stock. I initially tried to purchase one from a well known photography store in Jersey, but they told me not to expect to receive it for six weeks. I ended up buying a virtually unused one on ebay for 150. Perfect condition, still in the original packaging, and i love it.

I can be mostly found in Edinburgh taking high street candids, and this is always the lens i'm using. It spends more time on my camera than any other. I'm very happy with it, so i'll address some of the negative points others made..

Noisy/slow AF
As i understand it, this is a fairly old lens which uses a DC motor instead of the new HSM models. Sigma have not released a new and updated version of this lens, probably because they'd probably prefer the people who care about the noise and speed to go out and buy a better (and more expensive) Sigma lens.
The lens IS very noisy, like an electric toothbrush or screwdriver. Expect to turn heads. It's also not the quickest of AF motors. However, i won't really fault the lens because of these factors, and this is why. If you focus on something say... less than a foot in front of you, then look up and try to focus on a mountain in the distance, sure it's going to be slow. It's going from two extremes, and the noise will come with it. However, if you're sitting at a gig taking photographs, your AF is only going to be moving tiny amounts, you wont notice the speed or the noise. If the noise is really ruining things for you, put it on manual focus, we rely on AF too much these days Wink.
As for the speed.. It's fast enough for me to hipshoot candids as i walk past people on the street, so i really can't fault it.

Large size
Perhaps it's because i'm 6'4 with large hands, but i like big lenses. The wide focus ring is an absolute dream for me. No fiddling around, i can just grab the entire ring and twist. Great for gigs.
I use an EOS 10d with battery grip, this lens is pretty much the perfect size, the camera balances well and totally looks the part. I feel much more professional holding this lens, than the Canon 50mm F1.8 i was using for the same jobs.
The bad thing is, 82mm filters are expensive.

Double clutch
This is a strange one.. When i first saw this lens i thought the double clutch was actually an AF override. I thought you could set the lens to AF, but still be able to pull back and engage manual focusing. I thought this was a great feature. However, it's not that at all, it's just like a two stage AF/MF switch. But you get used to it.

Build quality
The focus ring wobbles slightly when pulled/pushed between MF and AF, but we're talking a very small amount, and it doesn't bother me in the slightest. Apart from that the lens is rock solid. I have no problems with it at all.

AF hunting
I haven't encountered this problem at all. In fact i've taken a lot of great quality night time shots.

This is a great lens, well worth the money. But if you don't have the specific need for an "ultra wide angle" F1.8 lens, don't buy it, otherwise the flaws that it does have will annoy you far more. If you do have a good use for it, go for it, it's not expensive and you'll get used to it's eccentricities. Personally i love it!