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Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens Review (for Nikon)

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 DC HSM Lens  


 

March, 2011 (Updated 12/22/11)
(tested with Nikon D80 and D90)

The Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM was first announced in February, 2005. It's designed specifically for DSLRs with APS-C sensors (DX, etc). At the time it was the widest angle lens available for DX cameras (the Sigma 8-16mm has since been released). On a smaller cropped sensor it has the equivalent range of 15-30mm.

The build quality of the lens is excellent (see more below). It's an EX lens so it has a superior build and optical quality over Sigma's standard lenses. I wouldn't say it's pro quality, but better than a general consumer lens. It feels solid. The zoom and focus rings are rubber coated and turn smoothly. There's no AF/MF switch on the lens, but adjusting the focus ring provides full time manual focus even when in AF mode (for Nikon - Canon and Sigma mounts have an AF/M switch). The end of the lens extends slightly when zooming and does not rotate, allowing the use of filters. The lens also features a distance scale and a metal mount. Auto focus is fast thanks to the Hyper-Sonic motor. (For all of Sigma's letter designations see here).

Center sharpness throughout the zoom range is excellent, even wide open. At 10mm and f/4 the borders were good, with the corners being a little less sharp. Stopped down to f/5.6 and the corners were very good. Overall I found the corners to be somewhat soft wide open until 14mm, where they were very good. At 20mm the lens performed very well border to border. The sharpest images were in the 10-14mm range at f/8. Chromatic aberration was at it's worst at 10mm, more so in the corners, less at the borders and center. But it really wasn't bad at all. Vignetting was a bit of a problem throughout the zoom range when the lens was used wide open. Stopping down, even to f/8, it was slightly visible. Overall though I found it to be acceptable.

Barrel distortion at the wide end was a little high. It was also a little unusual as it was more pronounced towards the corners, making it very difficult to correct in post processing. There was some pincushion distortion at 14mm and very slight distortion at 20mm. Flare was very well controlled and only really a problem when the lens was pointed into the sun.

I've had the Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 for over four years now. It still works flawlessly and the exterior looks almost new. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a wide angle lens with one exception. Because of the unusual distortions anyone who primarily shoots architecture would probably be better served with a different lens. I've read a few other reviews questioning the build quality of the lens, but my copy has held up just fine. I bought mine for landscape use and extreme closeups. The perspective distortion created at 10mm of objects shot at close range creates an almost 3D appearance. The 10mm wide end was the selling point for me. I recently tried the much touted Tokina 12-24mm lens (see review here). I decided to stick with the Sigma because of the extra 2mm on the wide end (actually 3mm with the DX sensor crop). Update: I eventually switched from the 10-20mm to the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. I then compared the 11-16mm head to head with the Tokina 12-24mm f/4. I ended up going with the 12-24mm. I preferred the extra range. I know it contradicts what I said about liking the Sigma for the 10mm wide end, but the bottom line is all three of these are fine wide angle lenses.

I'm eager to try Sigma's 8-16mm lens. I'm curious to see how much of a difference there is between 8mm vs. 10mm. It's on my short list of lenses to try. In March of 2009 Sigma introduced another 10-20mm lens, this one having a fixed f/3.5 aperture. Other than the fixed aperture it doesn't really offer anything over the f/4-5.6 version. It costs more, is larger and heavier, and most of the reviews I've read indicate it has inferior optics compared to its predecessor.

 

Specifications:

Focal length 10-20mm
Maximum aperture f/4-5.6
Minimum aperture f/22-32
Lens Construction 14 elements in 10 groups
Angle of view  109o - 60o
Closest focusing distance 0.24m
Maximum reproduction ratio 0.15x
Number of diaphragm blades
Auto focus type HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor)
Filter diameter 77 mm
Macro No
Dimensions 83 mm (3.3 in) x 81 mm (3.2 in)(Diameter x Length)
Weight 470g (16.6 oz)



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