The Tamron SP 70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD Canon has a DxOMark score of 25. This is the second highest score in DxOMark listings for any zoom lens mounted on a Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III camera and the highest for a lens of this zoom range. The sharpness score is 17 P-Mpix, Distortion is 0.2%, and Transmission at 3.1TStop is very close to the actual aperture of f2.8, which is impressive in a lens with so many elements. Chromatic aberration is 7µm and Vignetting is -1.4EV. These are very good scores indeed, individually there are measures that are beaten by other similar lenses but taken as a whole the Tamron 70-200 is a quality lens.
It’s no secret how I’ve always felt about third party lenses. They were just never the same to me as the “real” thing, such as a name brand Canon L series lens or a Nikon Gold band Nikkor lens. Third party lenses have always been softer at wide apertures, have had trouble with corner sharpness, and even with autofocus speed. I have actually owned a few Sigma lenses over the last few years and honestly to me they were nothing but placeholder lenses to make way for when I could afford the more expensive Nikon or Canon counterparts. The Sigma lenses that I’ve owned have always been slow, cheaply built, and not the sharpest knife in the murders tool kit. It’s also probably not a big secret that I love my Fast Primes. I’d never have considered getting a Sigma as a fast prime because I just didn’t feel as though their lenses were as good as Nikon or Canon’s. A few days ago I got an email from good friend Matt Dial, about Sigma’s new 35mm F1.4DG HSM. That being said when I saw that Sigma was changing the way they did things, I wasn’t sure what to think. When Jody at Roberts called and said that he had the NEW Sigma 35mm F1.4 HSM DG lens for me to do a review and video about, and I would have it for 24 hours I was excited (easily excitable remember?); yet at the same time wasn’t expecting the world. Also, before I forget; I wasn’t paid for this review, and I am most certainly not one of the very solid Pro’s that are sponsored in the Sigma Lounge which should be evident since I admittedly don’t like Sigma lenses because they have just never worked how I want. That however I think may all be about to change…..
(Canon 5D Mark II, 100ISO, Sigma 35mm F1.4, 1/200th@F1.4. Photogenic light shot through a 36?x36? softbox set to minimum power pointed mostly towards the background to help diffuse the light enough to use such a wide aperture)
HOLY SHIT. The first thing I said when I was handed the new Sigma 35mm F1.4 HSM lens in fact. I couldn’t believe holding it in my hand that it was a Sigma lens and actually had to ask to make sure I wasn’t being punked or something. The build quality was leaps and bounds better than any sigma lens I had held to date. I had to check the print on the side to make sure it was actually a Sigma. Sure enough, the side read 35mm F1.4DG 67 SIGMA. It looks almost like a Carl Zeiss lens in appearance with the black metal finish and the ribbed Focus ring. There is a relatively large AF/MF switch on the side that has a very satisfying click to let you know that you’ve flipped it. The what is now ubiquitous transparent window showing focus distance and the silver A on the side signifying “Art”. Not sure how I feel about Sigma’s new lens classifications, “Art”, “Contemporary” and “Sports” but in terms of build quality and what they have done to make their line better they can honestly call it whatever they want. If you want the quick synopsis video review of the lens watch it below, otherwise keep reading for sample photos and a much more in depth review.
(Video shot with a Rode Videomic Pro attached to a New Sony ActionCam Wifi. Yes, I know you can see the tip of the Rode Mic on the right side, but I wasn’t exactly given a lot of time to make all this happen.)
Some of my biggest gripes with the Sigma lenses that I have owned and used are Sharpness and AF speed. About 10 years ago I used to own 24-70mm F2.8 and at F2.8 I probably could have put Vaseline on the front element of the lens to make it sharper. It just wasn’t everything or anything that I wanted. Gone are those days. This 35mm F1.4 is easily as sharp as my Nikon 24mm F1.4 lens. Without question. The Autofocus speed easily matched it as well. The HSM was silent, much faster than I expected, and accurate. I had no trouble trusting that even my 5D Mark II had acquired focus in reasonably low light.
(Canon 5D Mark II, 200ISO, Sigma 35mm F1.4. 1/80th@F1.4)
Only having the lens for 24 hours kind of last minute really put a damper on giving it any real run for its money. Any assignments I had at the paper that would have been good for it are next week, so when I wasn’t on assignment I proceeded to run around the Indystar building taking photos of people that I know. Honestly it was a heck of a test as the previous Sigma’s I have owned would have failed at this. This one seemed unchallenged, and I really felt as though while I enjoy having good photos of some of the good people I know; it wasn’t what this lens deserved. When I got everything into the computer I wasn’t disappointed. Not once. Every time I saw a shot I wanted, I turned, autofocused and pressed the shutter thinking; this is the one that will show me what I know my old Sigma’s used to be like. Nope. Razor Sharp. Don’t believe me? How about a full res file to see for yourself? Shrub outside the Chase bank building here in Indy shot at F1.4. Before anyone asks, YES; they are all that sharp.
(click to get the actual 100%)
This lens was nothing like I expected. One of the really cool features of this lens though is one I was unable to try. Not due to lack of time, but due to lack of necessary accessories. Sigma is releasing a docking mount with this lens that will allow the user to connect the lens via USB to update the firmware as well as to actually adjust the autofocus parameters yourself to best suit your needs. The Autofocus parameters inside this device and software also include adjusting the SPEED along with the accuracy. So if you are shooting with a Canon Rebel XTi or a Nikon D3100 you aren’t going to get the maximum speed possible, you can slow it down a little bit to focus more on accuracy. (See what I did there? Focus? What?) Most cameras now a days allow the photographer to micro adjust the camera to adapt to the lenses slightly different sets of characteristics. Sigma has taken this one step further and introduced the USB Accessory to go straight to the element that’s doing the actual lifting if you will of the Autofocus operation. The camera meters and tells the lens to move, but HSM is built into the lens. Being able to tweak the AF directly is like opening the hood and working on the engine of your car, as opposed to just turning your radio up from the front seat to hide whatever engine noise you hear. Brilliant. (At least in theory as like I said; I haven’t tried it).
(Canon 5D Mark II, 200ISO, Sigma 35F1.4. 1/30th@F1.4.)
Close focus distance was very acceptable too, especially with the light falloff. One of the things I love about the F1.4 glass is the ability to use what seems like a low ISO just about anywhere. The shot above was under some dingy florescent lights in the Indystar building with the Canon tech reps before Sports Illustrated Photographer and Explorer of Light Damien Strohmeyer gave a presentation on shooting sports to the Star’s Staff Photographers and the NPPA. Great speech btw, don’t have many photos of it though thanks to being distracted by the epic photography he had to show us. Really nice guy. Anyway, I digress. With my D4 and my Nikon 24mm F1.4 lens I feel unstoppable and I feel like I can shoot anything handheld in almost any light if the need arose. I would have never expected a third party lens to give me the same feeling; but this one did.
(Canon 5D Mark II, 3200ISO, Sigma 35mm F1.4. 1/40th@F1.4).
Anybody who has read the blog knows Shannon. She passed a big test last night and after the Damien Strohmeyer presentation I went and found her where she was out celebrating. When we were getting ready to go home I stopped her to take this picture. In the past I wouldn’t have expected the Sigma lens to be able to grab focus in this kind of low light. Honestly I wouldn’t have expected my 5D Mark II to have done it either, but regardless the only images I had that were out of focus were of Shannon moving. After a few beers she was moving around like a model striking poses, looking around at things and I finally had to tell her to stop for a second. This was the last picture I made with the Sigma 35mm F1.4 and I miss it already.
Years ago if you would have told me you were going to hand me a SIGMA lens that I would love I’d have told you to take your medication. Truth is though the sky is falling. SIGMA is no longer competing with Tamron or Tokina. They are competing with Nikon and Canon themselves with this lens. This lens truly does draw a line in the sand for Canon and Nikon as now SIGMA has positioned itself to provide very high quality lenses to the masses in as such that they are much more affordable to everyone. I don’t own a lens that is not Canon or Nikon at the time of this writing, but I have a feeling that after this experience that is going to change very soon. I can’t wait to see what their 120-300F2.8 lens is like next year, or what the next in their series of Art lenses is.
Really I guess my best feelings were put in the beginning of the second paragraph with the words HOLY SHIT. I can’t believe how much I love this lens. They are hard to find, but if you’re looking for one check where I get all my gear; and with who found me this copy to play with; Roberts Camera. At the time of this writing I know they have at least 1 Canon mount, with two Nikon mounts on the way next week; but with the price and quality I wouldn’t expect them to last long if they aren’t gone already…. More Soon.
(Canon 5D Mark II, 50ISO, Sigma 35mm F1.4. 1/250th@F1.4)
I dont know about you, but ever since Fuji announced the X-Pro1 in January i have been anxiously waiting to put it through its paces. This is my extremely cursory upfront first impression review.
WOW! Wowsers! Yep…speechless. Almost.
I have seen some great shots from this camera out there on the internet. The tonal value of the black and white images have especially impressed me. Unfortunately, the internet can’t tell you everything you need to know about a camera. It can’t tell you how it feels in your hands, how well it balances or if the dials move smoothly and precisely. Fuji nailed it. This camera is more friendly to operate than the little brother and award winning X100. I was up and running at full speed within 10 minutes of first holding the camera. Its EASY. For the nostalgic, old school, rangefinder photo bugs, you will be right at home.
Nikon’s AF-S NIKKOR 16-35mm f/4G ED VR, the first ultra-wide zoom with imaging stabilization, is positioned as a bit of a step under the 14-24mm f2.8, cutting a few hundred off the price with a more cost-efficient focal range and a slower aperture offset by in-lens VR technology. And, if you’ve been tempted towards it, but just wanted to see some pretty charts showing sharpness and distortion, well, hoo boy! You’re in luck dere purdner, DPReview has posted it’s typically exhaustive and informative review of this lens.
The cheat sheet? It’s optically good, even more so on FX than DX, but you’ll encounter some wicked barrel distortion at 16mm (no problem for Photoshop or Lightroom, though). And DP’s take on that VR, arguably not needed on a wide-angle? Well, it doesn’t hurt it, does it? and it gives you more latitude with low-light or high aperture shooting. So that’s that.
Olympus’ M.Zuiko 14-150mm f4-5.6 zoom, the 28-300mm equivalent super-zoom for its Micro Four Thirds Pen system, is the subject of the newest lens review over at Imaging Resource. Those of you who’ve been in photography a bit will know that super zooms, that have to contains optics that switch from wide angle to super-tele, are always a bag of compromises. If you’re wondering just how Olympus managed those compromises in this budget lens, hit the external link.
So, Charlie Sorrel, Gadget Lab’s resident camera nut, has finished his casual hands-on review of Lensbaby’s two newest optics, the soft-focus and fisheye swappable optics for all of the current generation Lensbaby lenses. And, he tries them on a D700 and a Panasonic GF1, so you get both ends of the sensor-size spectrum.
Now, maybe it’s just my love of everything Dave McKean has ever done, but I do think the soft-focus lens is more useful and desirable than Charlie does, but I agree whole-heartedly with his assessment of the fisheye optic as a cheap route for those who want that and already have a Lensbaby.
Also, I never found the optics to be all so finicky to swap around, but your mileage may vary, of course.
Anyway, not much to say otherwise, if you want to know his thoughts you should really just hit the external link below.
So, Nikon’s new top-pro standard telephoto zoom, the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm 1:2.8G ED VR II, has been reviewed by the venerable review staff over at DPReview. The conclusions are so unsurprisingly positive as to be pedestrian, but they’ve got their really useful sliding charts for sharpness at all focal lengths and apertures, so that’s worth checking it out alone.
Having survived the slings and arrows of both DPReview and Imaging Resource, the new 20mm f1.7 pancake for Micro Four-Thirds from Panasonic comes out pretty well. There’s a bit of a discrepancy between the sharpness results from DPReview and IR, with Imaging Resource showing it far more favorably (might’ve been the body it was tested on, apparently that E-P1 has some chops as well).
Now, we just finish the wait for them to come in. Want one complete with the sexy new GF1 body? Best get on our wait lst, do that here.
DPReview’s pretty stellar lens review team hit up Canon’s not-so-long-ago revamped 24mm tilt-shift recently while I wasn’t looking. Backing up to glance over everything today, I have to say, it’s certainly worth that “L” in its name. Up there in the post header graphic you can see it’s sharpness stopped down about a half stop, two-thirds stop from wide open, and you can see that 2/3 of the frame are sharp-sharp-FRIGGIN’-SHARP, well exceeding the theoretical resolution limit of the rather demanding 5D Mark II,and the corners only dip down to about as soft as the kit lenses from Canon perform on a good day. For a full-frame lens, that’s stellar.
Fall-off (vigenetting) is soemwhat pronounced, but I think that’s what gives full frame that “oomph” in so many wide-open shots, so I have no complaints there, and either way it’s not so bad a moment in Lightroom couldn’t raise them back up admirably.
Read the whole thing, if you haven’t already, here, and then email us at info -at- robertsimaging.com to get on our backorder list, or hey! Just hit us up the comments, and we’ll get you added.
SLR Gear, the reviewing arm of Imaging-Resource for things other than bodies, has apparently begun reviewing IS systems. So far, they’ve hit Canon’s budget L classic, the 70-200 f4 IS, and Olympus’ rather successful E-520 with its in-body IS. Two different IS systems, both toting great and wonderous amazing things. Their conclusions? Neither live up to their full marketing hype, but both seem to do the job they set out to do admirably nonetheless, pulling up to 2.9 (let’s call it 3) stops of sharpness back.
Again, we’d like to remind those of you without much IS experience that it works by countering for how your hands naturally shake at long expsures, IS can’t restore sharpness lost to moving subjects at long shutter speeds. Its use in low light is primarily architectural, if you’re looking to shoot parties and bars you’ll still need higher ISO, faster lenses, or a good flash gun.