A Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 on a Canon 60D (and a new post-processing program!)

I’ve been doing some test shoots recently for a long-term video project, and have finally hit the need for something wider than the 15mm (24mm equivalent) wide setting on my 15-85mm Canon lens. Not wishing to shell out too much as I seldom use this focal length for stills, I decided the Sigma 10-20mm lens (16-32mm equivalent) would be worth a try as it’s 2/3 the cost of the Canon APS-C equivalent, and according to the online reviews, not too bad at all. If you’re considering one – or just interested – read on!

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On the 60D – quite nicely balanced and pretty light.

The lens is constructed of good quality plastics with a zoom ring (back of the lens) and manual focus ring (front of the lens) along with a snazzy gold band near the filter. There’s a focus distance window which looks nice but isn’t very useful due to the deep depth of field on all wide-angle lenses (the marking after infinity is 3m!). The only other controls are the AF/MF switch and depth of field button. The filter thread is 77mm – filters will be expensive but that wide diameter is inevitable in a lens of this extreme focal length and format. Minimum focus is around 24cm but the wide-angle distortion at that distance is ferocious so not an ideal macro lens…

Everything seems to work smoothly with no unevenness in the zoom and focus controls. Minimum aperture is f22 at the 10mm end or f32 at the 20mm end, though at these small apertures dust spots on a sensor will show easily and diffraction will start to make things very soft. A neutral density filter would be a better solution if you want to use a slow shutter speed.

So no bells and whistles but everything that’s needed. There’s no image stabilisation but at these focal lengths slower shutter speeds are more useable so it’s not that useful anyway.

On to the coverage – all taken from the same spot.

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The view at 10mm and 16mm equivalent in 35mm camera terms. 102 degrees from left to right so pretty wide and what you would use this lens for for 90 percent of the time.

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At 14mm ish and around a 24mm in 35mm camera terms.

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At 20 mm – 32mm equivalent in 35mm camera terms.

    Stills results are, as you’d expect for a lens of these extreme focal lengths and price, best described as ‘variable’. At maximum apertures and all focal lengths the frame edges are noticeably soft but the centre is sharp enough. However stop it down to f8 to f11 and things improve dramatically to a point where they are very impressive. Past f11 the performance drops off quickly as diffraction starts to soften the image. Distortion and vignetting at the 10mm end are noticeable, again as expected but chromatic aberration is minimal.

  The HD video results are fine – the final images are only 2Mp after all. However, finding this lens to be pretty good at controlled apertures for stills, I inevitably wanted to see how the results could be improved in post processing and hit a snag….

  If you’re a RAW shooter who uses Canon’s supplied DPP software (as I am) you’ll now face a problem correcting distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. DPP only supports Canon lenses – they aren’t interested in supporting third-party lens sales! However, DXO provide a solution in the form of Optics Pro 8 which is a sort of DPP for many camera bodies and lens combinations, and seems pretty good at correcting not only this combination but hundreds of others.

  So for the test shot – processed in DXO Optics and taken at the 10mm end at f8 at 1/250th of a second, ISO 100.

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At 10mm and the distortion to the near right garages is obvious but inevitable. Keeping the lens perfectly horizontal would have helped.

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The uncorrected result (chromatic aberration correction turned off) from left centre of the frame. There is some red CA between the white window frame and dark window glass. For a budget lens at this extreme focal length this is superb – but still needs correcting!

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The corrected image – CA has gone and the whole image is nicely sharpened – magic!

So a very acceptable result at a budget price – even with the additional cost of the DXO software it’s still cheaper than the Canon EF-S lens (which I’m sure is very good). In addition Optics Pro corrects the results on shots taken with all my old cameras including the Canon G9 and Olympus EPL3 as well as the ‘in use’ RX100 and 60D with Canon lenses. MF lenses aren’t covered unfortunately (maybe an unrealistic expectation), but a version of DXO filmpack is included in the package so it manages to replace three post-processing programs. I’m impressed!

Hope you find this useful and thanks for looking.

p.s. I’m not connected with Canon, DXO or any other companies – just using their stuff….

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 200mm f4

This is the twelfth (and almost the last!) of a series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. The subject of this mini review is the Zuiko 200mm f4, a 320mm equivalent on an APS-C DSLR and just a bit faster than a 75-300mm AF Canon zoom lens at the same focal length. This ones another on loan from Pete and Jayne – Pete apparently has a weakness for telephoto lenses.

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The lens is easy to focus in bright light, and produces some excellent results using centre weighted metering mode.

The filter size is 55mm and the aperture range is f4 to f32 (not sure why f32 is needed but it’s nice to have). The focus rack goes from infinity to the minimum focus distance of 2.5 m in quite a bit more than 180 degrees.

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Colours are on the cold side, but very acceptable. The contrast across the aperture range is good too, better than the 135 f2.8. The depth of field is obviously very narrow at 200mm at f4, and the bokeh is pretty good.

The built-in lens hood protects the front element from flare effectively, and makes me wonder why they aren’t built into all lenses.

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In bright light there’s not much chromatic aberration (purple on the left top of the sign), and telephoto compression is starting to get very pronounced.

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More very soft bokeh and sharpness of in focus areas – this is excellent.

Physically the lens is made to an exceptionally high standard – light weight and all metal with a real quality feel to it. It ‘fits’ the 60D really well, the generous focus ring is smooth – all pretty much perfect.

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The lens mount adaptor is the very well made made Fotodiox EF to OM.

A great MF lens then, and highly recommended? Like the 135mm f2.8, a qualified yes. F4 is only 2/3 of a stop faster than a normal tele zoom lens so there’s no real aperture speed advantage. Focussing in dull light is at best ‘hit and miss’ on the standard 60D focussing screen even for stationary subjects – let alone moving ones. As sports and nature photography are this lenses’ home territory this is unfortunate.

The negatives aren’t about the lens itself, which is truly excellent, rather about using medium telephoto MF lenses on DSLR. I’m a bit sceptical about the need for AF up to around 85mm where the speed of equivalent MF lenses make focussing easy. As the max apertures drop to f2.8 at 135mm, and f4 at 200mm, the focussing screens get darker, and the focussing becomes progressively more critical – two unavoidable principles of optical design. As a consequence, AF comes into its own at longer focal lengths, as well as IS.

For me the ‘break point’ is 135mm. I took loads of shots for this test, but those taken on overcast days weren’t that good – though that might be just me!

In conclusion then, if you’re determined to use one or have one lying around give it a try but be aware that focussing on anything other than a sunny day may be a problem. If you’re not that determined, I’d suggest instead a modern AF lens – the Canon EF 70-300mm is a good all-rounder, even if the build quality doesn’t come close to these superbly built old Zuikos. A final alternative, even if it is a very heavy one, is the Vivitar 70-210 f3.5 macro, which is a bit easier to focus, and has a very nice macro mode too.

These lenses are relatively rare on the second-hand market varying between £90 and £150 (there’s a cheaper f5 version too).

Thanks for looking – hope you find this useful!

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!

Manual Focus Lenses on a Canon 60D – A Zuiko 24mm f2.8

This is the ninth of a detailed series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This time it’s the tiny Zuiko 24mm f2.8, on loan from fellow photographers Pete and Jayne, who’ve also leant me a few quite exotic lenses to play around with. I’ve never used this lens before so this is a complete unknown for me.

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At close to minimal focus distance and quite a stunning start. Sharp, contrasty, nice bokeh with a great colour rendition.

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Closer to infinity and this is superb again. This was shot at f5.6 and it’s pin sharp with no chromatic aberration in the trees to the top right.

On full frame this is nudging into ultra wide territory, but on an APS-C DSLR it’s the equivalent of a 38mm, making it close to the widely (no pun intended) favoured focal length of 35mm. At f2.8 it’s around one stop faster than a kit lens so a useful advantage. The filter size is 49mm (no surprise there), the minimum focus is around 25 cm which is very close, and the aperture range is f2.8 to f16.

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Same again – excellent….

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Another cracking result – sharp, good colour and definition.

Olympus priced their lenses by maximum aperture, maintaining that they all were built to a high minimum standard. There’s a 24mm f2 from the old Zuiko range which is usually very pricey, but the build quality of this 2.8 equivalent lens is top-notch.

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Physically the lens is tiny and very light – so small that the aperture ring is easy to nudge accidentally when focussing. The focus rack is very fast – infinity to 25cm in 1/4 of a turn making focussing easy.

So then – a test and here’s the frame. This was shot on the ‘standard’ colour profile and the colours are just zinging out. There has been no tweaking with the saturation.

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f2.8 – These huge (300 pixel) enlargements from the centre and far left show a slight softness at no CA at the edges so not bad at all – definitely useable. I’m not convinced that the focus point was correct on this one but it looked correct on the LCD.

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f5.6 – As sharp as it’s going to get I’d say.

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f11 – just the same.

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Well – wow! It even makes my favourite Zuiko 28mm f2 look a bit second-rate… As a general purpose 35mm equivalent focal length lens it’s a real gem and a good choice as a ‘walk around’ lens or a supplement to a kit lens – which it should easily outperform at f4 or lower. The close focus distance, though not marketed as a macro mode, is very useful, and the images are saturated (possibly overly so for some), sharp and contrasty with no CA. A bit of a star all round.

At under £100 it’s a great bargain and unreservedly recommended.

Now – I wonder how much Pete and Jayne want for it?

If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.

To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!