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01-08-2013, 11:13 AM   #1
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Sigma Calibration Service - Questions

I purchased the Sigma 30 1.4 from B&H this past December during their holiday deal period. The Sigma needed a -4 AF adjustment, but now it's mostly fine, and can match my other fast prime in terms of IQ. However, there are times where I feel like it's still a little off, as in I feel the adjustment is best set somewhere between -4 and -5. Maybe I've just been peeping too hard, but this constant adjusting and peeping has really knocked the wind out of my sails in regards to my enthusiasm for the Sigma 30 1.4.

Last night I picked up a used K7, so now I have the option of sending in my K30 + the Sigma over to Sigma headquarters for some calibration since I now have a body to use while my K30 is away.

Almost everything I've read about Sigma's calibration service has been really good (and it better be good, with so many bloody Sigma lenses having problems), so I had a few questions regarding this service.

- The Sigma service I know of is in New York State. I am in Vancouver, BC, Canada, literally right on the West coast of North America. Going across the continent + crossing the border seems like it will take a long time and cost a lot of money. Have any Canadians sent in their lenses for calibration? What was the experience like? Is there a closer service to home? Note, I am still under warranty.

- When Sigma calibrates the lens, they just fiddle with the lens and leave the camera alone, right? I mean, that would be the obvious thing, because if they adjust the camera then all my other lenses will need adjustment. Just want to make sure.

- If I decide to cut my losses with the stupid Sigma and sell it, how will the calibration affect the resale value of it? Would I be better off selling as-is and telling the buyer that the lens needed a -4 AF adjustment on my camera but they should probably calibrate it, or should I calibrate it and then sell it?

Thanks all. This is my first Sigma purchase, and my first online lens purchase. It's been a really good learning experience, but a frustrating one. First impressions count for a lot, and my experience echoes what many other members have posted here about Sigma's garbage QC in their slave factories. I don't think I'll be buying Sigma lenses in the future unless it's a good deal on a used lens that has been proven to have no issues. Things might be different if I lived in an area that allowed me to easily get things returned/fixed, but alas that is not the case.

01-08-2013, 02:09 PM   #2
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A calibration of -4 doesn't sound bad to me, that should be within the variation between camera bodies. I doubt that the decision between -4 or -5 in your case is one of the primary things affecting focus, considering what the Pentax service center here says about focus calibration. This is my point of view at least.
01-08-2013, 06:18 PM   #3
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I feel like the AF adjustments on the K-30 are inadequate in some situations. They don't allow for a lot of correction if you get a lens that is far off from the body, and I think that the adjustments need to be finer. It seems like it would be a simple matter for Pentax to adjust the firmware on the camera to allow much more adjustment.

I also have the Sigma 30mm, and like you I wasn't completely satisfied with my ability to adjust it myself. I sent the lens and body to Sigma, and it has been perfect. When I get home I might post a recent photo so you can compare sharpness. I will say though that working at large apertures with a very thin DOF can certainly be tricky at times.
01-08-2013, 07:49 PM   #4
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I went +5 on mine. First lens I've seen the need to adjust. My first day out was mostly shooting 10 or more feet away at f5.6 or 8, so the back-focus did not really show up. After another day indoors at large apertures (f2 or 2.8) is when I thought I was missing focus. I then took some shots to test it out and determined it was in fact back-focusing. I guessed at the original adjustment (went the wrong direction) then dialed it in. Very nice. I'll give it another go around test, then forgive and forget :-)

01-09-2013, 06:21 PM   #5
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Thanks for the replies so far.

Here's something funny: I'm taking the K7 I got for a spin, just to see how it handles (spoiler - not as good as K30). I slapped on the Sigma to it. I imagined that it would need a -4 AF adjustment, just like the K30. Nope, too fuzzy. So I do the whole process of taking a picture, zooming, taking another picture . . . all to find the right AF adjustment for the Sigma on the K7.

It needed an adjustment of +9. What the flippparlwgkjar;elhje;

I don't think anything is wrong with the K7 since I tried a lens on both that and the K30 and pictures came out fine with no adjustments needed. I'm pointing my finger at the Sigma.

So I guess this means that if I were to sell the Sigma to someone, the -4AF I needed for my camera might not be the same they need for their camera. HELLO GARBAGE RESALE VALUE

I did contact Gentec, the Sigma Canada suppliers, to get a quote and estimated time for service. Still awaiting a response. Google search shows they've done good work in the past, but now they're charging some sort of $50 handling fee to do warranty work. This is on top of any shipping and insurance you pay, which you are responsible for. GARBAGE GARBAGE GARBAGE.

This whole episode has just passed the frustrating mark. It's now just laughable. I'm ready to throw my Sigma into the nearest body of water and just be done with it. Of course, I'm never buying Sigma again, as I don't feel like throwing hundreds of dollars at them just for the privilege of "rolling the dice" to see if I get a good copy of their lens.

One thing I am glad for, is that this thread (and my other Sigma complaint thread) now pops up as one of the first results in Google when you search for a combination of Pentax Sigma Repair Vancouver. A good warning to others.

Last edited by EarlVonTapia; 01-09-2013 at 06:28 PM.
01-09-2013, 06:35 PM   #6
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Well, shooting close range at F1.4 makes every little focus issue show itself. You won't find any consumer/prosumer camera with exactly perfect mount distance. Earlier with film and low res DSLRs you couldn't pixel peep on the same level we do now and to compensate for all the bad things we now can see they added the AF calibration. Read this: LensRentals.com - "This lens is soft" and other myths
I'm sure that the -4 in your case doesn't affect resale value, for all we know that could be perfect on my camera.
01-09-2013, 06:57 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by VisualDarkness Quote
Well, shooting close range at F1.4 makes every little focus issue show itself. You won't find any consumer/prosumer camera with exactly perfect mount distance. Earlier with film and low res DSLRs you couldn't pixel peep on the same level we do now and to compensate for all the bad things we now can see they added the AF calibration. Read this: LensRentals.com - "This lens is soft" and other myths
I'm sure that the -4 in your case doesn't affect resale value, for all we know that could be perfect on my camera.
I've read that article, and I've come to understand that this whole optics stuff can be imprecise. I guess we should be so lucky we even have the AF adjustment abilities.

One thing I will add (in the Sigma's favor!) that I forgot to mention in my previous post is that with the +9 adjustment on the K7, the Sigma is the SHARPEST I've ever seen it. It is the lens I was looking for to go on my K30. If only that adjustment ability could be translated across cameras.

Like I said, it's just funny now.
01-09-2013, 07:53 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by EarlVonTapia Quote
I've read that article, and I've come to understand that this whole optics stuff can be imprecise. I guess we should be so lucky we even have the AF adjustment abilities.

One thing I will add (in the Sigma's favor!) that I forgot to mention in my previous post is that with the +9 adjustment on the K7, the Sigma is the SHARPEST I've ever seen it. It is the lens I was looking for to go on my K30. If only that adjustment ability could be translated across cameras.

Like I said, it's just funny now.
A little over-reaction, I think. If you can calibrate the lens to your camera, what's the issue? That is the point of the calibration feature. As mentioned, what works for you may not work for someone else and vice versa. I doubt it will have any effect on resale value. Sigma is not the only manufacturer that has benefitted from calibration.

01-10-2013, 01:02 AM   #9
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Everything that you've been experiencing is exactly the reason that pros calibrate their lenses to their cameras. Each camera has tolerance ranges during manufacturing, and the same is true for lenses. If you get a lens and camera that just happen to be perfect for each other, then you basically just got lucky. As VisDark pointed out, any little focus imperfection is magnified when using a fast lens and when pixel peeping.

The fact that your lens requires different calibration for two different Pentax bodies should have you pointing your finger at Pentax, if it should be pointed at anybody. But when you're talking about consumer-grade electronics, what you're experiencing is normal. I had my stable of lenses calibrated to my K-x, but when I upgraded to my K-30 I had to have them re-calibrated because my K-30 was not built the same as my K-x. But I didn't shake my fist at the heavens and curse Sigma. I just realized that this is the nature of things.

I don't know how things work in Canada, but in the US Sigma performs calibration to the camera body for free as long as the lens is still in warranty. In fact, when I sent my K-30 in with my 10-20mm, 30mm f1.4, 50-150mm f2.8, and 100-300mm f4, they calibrated the 10-20mm for free even though that lens was out of warranty. And both times that I sent a body and lenses to them, they performed the calibration service the same day and had it back in the mail to me, and they paid for the return shipping via FedEx.

They also updated any lens firmware if necessary, and for one of my lenses they even replaced the system board, even though I had not known there was any problem. Every lens they've calibrated has come back working perfectly. From what I've heard about Pentax's service, on the other hand, you had better prepare to do without your camera or lens for quite a while when you send something in.
01-10-2013, 02:31 AM   #10
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I posted a couple pictures in another thread, but I wanted to also post them here to show why you may want to stick it out and keep the Sigma. These two photos were taken at my daughter's preschool recently using natural light, and they are typical of the type of photography I like to do. Photos like this are not difficult to get with this lens, which is why it has become one of my most-used lenses. It is a nice focal length for APS-C, the lens is fairly small and unobtrusive, and the large aperture is great for shooting indoors or for subject isolation.

And since it's not too expensive, I don't have to fret about taking it with me everywhere, and the plastic construction is very durable. I don't know if I would be quite as comfortable with the Pentax 31mm mounted since it's so much more expensive, and since I would probably be worried about scratching the finish of the metal (I'm almost fanatical about keeping my equipment pristine).



01-10-2013, 12:48 PM   #11
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Thanks again for all the responses, especially Edgar_in_Indy.

Your experience of exceptional customer service from Sigma is in line with what I have read elsewhere, and I noted such a thing in my first post. Also, the photos you posted here and in the other recent Sigma 30 1.4 thread are FANTASTIC! It is those types of pictures that really drew me to this lens. I agree with you on all the points about the Sigma's advantages - the great focal length, the good price, and its optical qualities. I will politely disagree with you about how "small and unobtrusive" it is though.

My main issue I guess is that I wasn't expecting to have to go through all of this calibration business when I got this Sigma. Now I know. If I ever have to buy new Sigma lenses (still not likely), I'll make sure to factor in the added time/cost of calibration.

Anyways, I had a very good chat with Sigma Canada's warranty repair service, Gentech. I spoke directly to a service technician! That is always reassuring. His name was Brian.

I told Brian my story about the Sigma. He found it odd that there was such a discrepancy in the AF adjustment needed between my K30 and K7 for the Sigma 30. He said that normally, Pentax bodies are very good as far as QC goes, and that I probably won't need to send in my K30 body with the lens because they could probably fix it up with the test bodies they have (he said Canon was the worst for that because there was so much variation in bodies, and if I was a Canon shooter I should probably send my body in with the lens). If I did send in my body though, it would provide an even more accurate result. He did say that the AF adjustments built into the bodies weren't exactly the best.

I asked him if this adjustment process for the Sigma was normal, and he said yes. The Sigma 30 1.4 and the Sigma 50 1.4 are both popular lenses, and they receive 0.05% of these lenses back for adjustments of some sort (so basically, 1 out of every 200). It wasn't an exact number, just a loose estimate based on some info he had. With the shallow depth of field, focusing errors just show up easier (just like VisDark mentioned) which is why it seems more common with these Sigma lenses, but overall he said that Sigma QC is pretty good.

As far as estimated time goes, he broke it down into this:

- I send it to them, and depending what shipping option I choose, it can take 2 - 5 days.
- After they receive it, it takes 1 business day to process
- After processing, it takes 48 hours to calibrate
- After calibration, they ship it out, and it takes roughly 5 days to cross this massive continent of ours.

He recommended Purolator.

They have a silly $50 charge for international warranty work, but they do cover the shipping costs to send it back to me.

If there is something wrong with the lens that is more than just a calibration issue, such as a mechanical failure, I would have to go to the seller (B&H) and they would probably have to send it to the Sigma mega base or get parts . . . basically it could be weeks or months. [I don't think anything is wrong with it though other than the calibration]

I'll add another 3-5 days for random messups in-transit, so it looks like if I sent it out tomorrow it would take between 2 and 3 weeks to get this done. That's not that bad, but not super either, but given how far apart we are (they are located in Ontario), it's about right.

So overall I'm feeling not as angry. That chat helped, and Brian seemed to genuinely want to help me. I'm still on the fence though about doing this, mostly because I don't want to wait, but I'll probably sleep on it and see if I want to send it out tomorrow.

Thanks again all. Still learning . . .
01-10-2013, 02:16 PM   #12
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I'm glad it looks like everything will solve itself nicely, it's easy to panic over new equipment (I did recently with a Pentax lens). You can get a calibration issues regardless of if you get Pentax, Sigma, Tamron, Nikon, Canon or alike, it's a matter of luck. Even Leica sometimes run into calibration issues with their rangefinder focus!
01-10-2013, 02:21 PM   #13
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Wow, it sounds like the warranty service process is more complicated (and expensive) for you guys in Canada. But on the other hand, your warranty period is much longer, so I guess it's kind of a two way street. But what kind of a warranty charges $50 for service? You said it is "international warranty work"...is that because you bought the lens outside of Canada (B&H), or do they consider any non-US lenses to be international?

When I spoke to a technician at Sigma in New York, they said that when somebody sends their camera body with the lenses, they give it priority and make every effort to get it back out as quickly as possible to minimize the time their customer is without their camera. That was certainly my experience since they calibrated it the same day and got it right back in the mail.

I'm kind of surprised that so few lenses are sent in for calibration, but I guess that a lot of people are able to adjust them on the camera. Or maybe they play the return & exchange game to get a lens that is a better match to their body.
01-10-2013, 02:33 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by EarlVonTapia Quote
I will politely disagree with you about how "small and unobtrusive" it is though.
It's certainly no pancake lens, but what I was thinking is that the lens is no bigger than most kit lenses, and is much less of a bazooka than Sigma's other two f1.4 lenses, the 50mm and 85mm. I doubt that most people even realize that the lens is anything special when they see it on my camera. In terms of size, I find it to be an ideal fit for Pentax's cameras, which tend to be a bit smaller than the competition.

My perspective may also be a bit skewed, since the 30mm is by far the smallest and lightest lens in my kit (not counting the Pentax 18-55mm, which I don't carry or use).
01-11-2013, 08:37 AM   #15
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My experience with Sigma has been good. I recently sent my 70-200 2.8 for cleaning and calibration. They just asked what camera I'm using...K5. After one or two weeks the lens came back and it's nice and clean, and sharp. No correction on the body needed. It wasn't cheap, $220, but it's my working lens so it's worth it for me.
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