LENS REVIEW – Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG ASP IF

sigma15-30Here comes my latest lens review, as you may gather and if you have been following my blog and reviews, you should know that I only comment and write about something that I’ve used and owned. I don’t do write-ups for something that I only use for a few hours or even days, all my reviews are based on equipment that I’ve used professionally. I don’t do lab tests either and I only say things when it matters to real world scenario only!

I always have a soft spot for Sigma lenses. It may be a third party lens manufacturer but some of their products are truly outstanding. This particular ultra wide zoom is also one of the best around.The Gaze (© www.blue-print.me.uk)

This lens was launch some 12 years ago and it was a breakthrough for ultra wide zoom, just like most of Sigma lenses. Sigma never tried to compete head on with the big boys so they always design something rather unique, just like my much loved Bigma. I first acquired this lens for my film camera. There wasn’t ultra wide zoom around at the time and 15mm was something that a lot of interior photographers love using in confined spaces. It may not seem much today because Sigma has since launched even wider zoom the Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM to replace this magnificent lens.But 12-24 is crazy wide! I haven’t tried it but I won’t need it either. My Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM (see my review here) is perfect for my use already.

So there’s no more 15-30mm new but you can easily find one on the used market and they seem to hold the value quite well. I bought my for around £300 and the average used price is around the same mark still. It just shows how good this lens was and ‘is’ still. It’s great for full frame and also APS-C DSLRs today. I never owned a cropped sensor DSLR so I can only speak from my full frame experience. I’ve used this lens on my Canon EOS 5D Mark I and with perfect result. It’s sharp sharp sharp! Colour was good may be a little low in contrast. Distortion is kept to minimum but like any ultra wide or even normal wide angle lens, you have to shoot straight on to avoid everything is stretched.Katie&Steven_Wed_Aug09  571

So why this lens?

Family trip to Iceland 2009Well, being a third party manufacturer means that they only way they can compete is by introducing good products at a very good price. Sigma, Tamaron, Tokina and the likes. Sigma has been in the game for long enough now and they certainly have raised their game in recent years. But this 15-30mm zoom is something that they launched 12 years ago, is it any good?

Yes in short. I’ve ditched this lens in favor of the Canon EF 16-35 f/2.8L II USM simply because of its more sturdier build and slightly better edge performance but at almost 3.5 times the price. Since I use it professionally, the price is justified. Other than that, for majority of photographer out there, including professionals, this lens will not disappoint. This lens is very good at tight spaces and as a wedding photographer, sometimes I have to shoot in very confine spaces, like the bride’s room or registry.

It’s also a specialist lens when you want to make something look larger than it is. You can make someone look taller, a room bigger and a landscape more dramatic! I am not joking and all you need to do is to practice and play around with the angle of view. Being a ultra wide also means that the depth of view is much much deeper than usual. At maximum of f/3.5, you can almost get everything in focus. So this is a very versatile lens and a very fun lens indeed. If you are into creativity photography, this lens is for you!

Construction

As with any other EX range, this lens is very solidly built. Despite is light weight, which is good sometimes, it’s very well put together, looks like it will resist a few light bangs. The peddle lens shade is permanently attached and a metal lens hood is provided. The front element is a semi-sphere and there’s no thread for you to mount any filter on it. You have to use the special filter attachment that slots into the space provided in front of the rear element. I’ve never used the filter with this lens and I haven’t seen one myself either so I guess you can forget about using any as you may not be able to get any too.Wedding

The rubberised lens barrel is very good to touch, not that will make you horny like a metal one but it’s good. The zoom and focus rings are all very well damp and doesn’t feel cheap either. So all in all, it’s a very well built lens.

Using it in practice, good and bad

I bought this lens way back when I was still using film cameras and as recent as my Canon EOS 5D Mark I in 2009. It’s perfectly compatible with either and I haven’t seen any problem with either format. In film, it’s as good as a lens can get. In my 12mp 5D, it’s still very respectable and I’ve used it in weddings and still produced very good prints and files. I haven’t tried it on my 21mp 5D Mark II so I can’t comment on resolution but I should think it should be quite ok if not equal to Canon’s L lens.

Katie&Steven_Wed_Aug09  346One thing that the Sigma is good at is distortion. I couldn’t see any when compare to Canon’s 16-35. At 35mm, the Canon has some noticeable distortion which I don’t really like but it’s non-existance in Sigma. Even though the Sigma is a stop slower than Canon, at this wide angle field of view, you can get away with slower shutter anyway.

One thing that I always forgot is the lens cap. It’s a strange thing with two parts, one is like a normal lens cap that goes in front of the ‘metal ring’. The whole thing forma a lens cap for the lens. If you only take out the ‘cap’ in front and leave the ‘ring’ on the lens, you will get four black corners in your image. I don’t know why Sigma bother having a two parts cap.Family trip to Iceland 2009

When mounted, this lens doesn’t feel too light but definitely makes the set up a little unbalanced. But don’t worry, it also means that you can carry it all day without breaking your neck!

Conclusion

Apart from the strange cap and rear filter slot, it’s pretty straight forward ultra wide zoom with great image quality. Sure this sort of ultra wide may not suit everyone but if you are into specialist lens for creativity purposes, this is a pretty damn good lens and value for money! Unless you need the fast f/2.8, weather seals and better corner sharpness, you can forget about the Canon and just get this nice Sigma used. You won’t regret it. It’s a shame that Sigma doesn’t make it anymore though.Sigma Wedding

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Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens


Canon Digital SLR Camera EOS 5D Mark II


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