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02-25-2009, 09:19 PM   #1
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Sigma 50-150 2.8 HSM II first impressions

.


Got this lens today along with the D90 (ducking tomatoes,) and thought I'd give
some thoughts on it here since it's available in K-mount also.

I was only able to try a half-dozen handheld shots in fading light, then a couple
hundred shots in kinda dim tungsten, so take that into account.

1st Impressions:


1) AF speed - (HSM II ring motor) on the D90 is the fastest-focusing zoom/body
combo I've ever used. It's AF-lock speed is comparable to my DA 40ltd on the
K20D in good light - very fast. It blows me away that I can even make that
comparison.

2) 50mm wide-open: Superb. Comparable to the DA* 50-135.

3) 135mm wide open: Pretty good - comparable to the 50-135, maybe a little
softer.

4) 150mm wide open:
Distance: 10 feet+ : Adequate
5 - 10 feet: so-so
under 5 feet: kinda bad


At close-focus distances, I saw noticeable FF. It was to the degree that it was
apparent and consistent, and I was considering my options - send in to Sigma
for adjustment, or return to B&H for replacement copy.

I did a bit more research, and it appears that this may not actually be a fixable
issue - it may be a design limitation of this lens. Photozone had a copy
adjusted by Sigma, and here's what Klaus noted, even with this tweaked copy:

QuoteQuote:
The Sigma was able to produce very impressive resolution figures in the MTF lab.
This is especially true for the 50mm and 100mm setting where the center to
border characteristic is generally excellent from f/2.8 down to f/8 (apart from a
few very good+ border and extreme corner portions). At 150mm there's a drop
in quality specifically at f/2.8 - the center and border is still very good but the
extreme border quality drops down to only fair quality here. However, the
corners do pretty much catch up by f/4. The peak performance is reached between
f/5.6-f/8 with an excellent center and very good borders/corners.

It is worth to mention that this doesn't seem to be the complete story.
At 150mm I wasn't really able to get any good field images from this lens at
very close focus distances (<1.5m). The contrast level is very poor here (SAMPLE).
To be fair this is normal up to some degree for all non-macro lenses but in my
opinion Sigma should have chosen a more conservative minimum focus distance.

So, I have a feeling that I'm not going to have much luck trying to get it adjusted,
or hoping for something different with a replacement copy. There's even a
chance that an adjustment by Sigma may improve the close-focus performance
at 150mm f/2.8 at the expense of some other FL.

As a reality check, I shot some of the same targets with my K20D + 50-135,
and the 50-135 smoked the Sigma in close-focus targets wide-open. At 50,
85, 110, 135mm, at 10 feet or greater, they were pretty close, and I was
quite impressed with the Sigma.

So.... Super-fast focus, sharp up to about 135mm, not a great performer from
135mm --> 150mm and quite sub-par in close-focus at 135mm+.

What to do? Send it back and get the Tokina 50-135 2.8 for Nikon mount?
Live with the Sigma's limitations and enjoy the super-fast AF and forget
about close-focus with this combo?

Guess there's no free lunch.



.


Last edited by jsherman999; 02-25-2009 at 10:23 PM.
02-25-2009, 09:52 PM   #2
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Can you post some sample shots with some good bokeh comparisons. I am curious to see how it renders, as well as color and contrast in comparison.
02-25-2009, 10:21 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Buddha Jones Quote
Can you post some sample shots with some good bokeh comparisons. I am curious to see how it renders, as well as color and contrast in comparison.
Will do - but for now, I have only the most basic shots, and have not tweaked the
D90 jpegs to my preference or tried any RAW processing yet, so the shots
are going to show D90-ish flavor as much as the lens rendering right now.

Here's a quick look at IQ/bokeh:


150mm f/3.2, ISO 320:


Crop:




This was from about 10-12 feet or so - as you can see, 150mm f/3.2 at that
distance isn't bad, but doesn't quite match what I can get from the DA* 50-135
at 135mm.


K100DS + 50-135 @ 135mm f/2.8



This is very different lighting on a different day, and the K100DS is cropped and
maybe taken from a closer distance, so don't take these images as gospel yet
until I can shoot some more.


.
02-26-2009, 01:30 AM   #4
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Oooh I had that lens too back when I was using Nikon!

If you think that AF is fast, you should try the Nikkor 70-200. Makes that 50-150 feel slow

02-26-2009, 07:47 AM   #5
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Oh! I'm getting this lens for my k20d soon. Ordered it today. Was about 200euros cheaper (in Finland) than DA50-135 and comes with 3 year extended warranty. Let's see how the HSM plays with pentax. This will also complete my lens kit for APS-C system. Sigma 10-20mm, Da35 ltd, M50 1.7, Sigma 50-150 and Sigma 70mm for macro stuff.
02-26-2009, 08:47 AM   #6
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It seems like this close focusing "issue" with Sigma lenses is caused by the design of the lens. Check out the review of the Sigma 70-200 on dpreview, they have a more technical explanation of why at close distances the Sigma FFs.

I picked up one of the new Sigma 70-200s in Pentax mount last week and I also see a misfocus at close focusing distances.


John
02-26-2009, 11:33 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Maffer Quote
Oh! I'm getting this lens for my k20d soon. Ordered it today. Was about 200euros cheaper (in Finland) than DA50-135 and comes with 3 year extended warranty. Let's see how the HSM plays with pentax. This will also complete my lens kit for APS-C system. Sigma 10-20mm, Da35 ltd, M50 1.7, Sigma 50-150 and Sigma 70mm for macro stuff.
Is there HSM for Pentax?
02-26-2009, 12:09 PM   #8
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Yes indeed! Sigma - Lenses

"*If the camera body does not support HSM motor, AF will not work." It's the poor man's 50-135.

02-26-2009, 09:51 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by soccerjoe5 Quote
Oooh I had that lens too back when I was using Nikon!

If you think that AF is fast, you should try the Nikkor 70-200. Makes that 50-150 feel slow
Diego, wow, you had a 70-200 2.8 VR? Sounds like you had a lot invested in
Nikon there, why the switch?

I'd love to give one of those a try. The Tamron 70-200 2.8 + K20D with
in-body SR is just a killer combo, though, and I cant see how even pro glass
can give much better IQ. Now, focus speed, that might be another issue


QuoteOriginally posted by Maffer Quote
Oh! I'm getting this lens for my k20d soon. Ordered it today. Was about 200euros cheaper (in Finland) than DA50-135 and comes with 3 year extended warranty. Let's see how the HSM plays with pentax. This will also complete my lens kit for APS-C system. Sigma 10-20mm, Da35 ltd, M50 1.7, Sigma 50-150 and Sigma 70mm for macro stuff.

That's an exceptional kit, nice job there.


QuoteOriginally posted by palmor Quote
It seems like this close focusing "issue" with Sigma lenses is caused by the design of the lens. Check out the review of the Sigma 70-200 on dpreview, they have a more technical explanation of why at close distances the Sigma FFs.

I picked up one of the new Sigma 70-200s in Pentax mount last week and I also see a misfocus at close focusing distances.


John
Yup, I did even more research last night, and it's a known limitation.

It's too bad - without that flaw, the Sigma might be close to the perfect zoom.
The DA* 50-135 still holds that crown, IMO.

Took the Siggy to the MOA today, and here's a conclusion I'm coming to:
The DA* 50-135 is about 1/2 stop sharper than the Sigma - meaning, for
example, that to get about the same level of sharpness in the image,
I need to shoot at f/4 (Sigma) vs. f/3.5 (DA*).

Now, that's not too bad - considering that the DA* 50-135 is the sharpest
zoom I've ever used.

The Sigma has a little more reach, and faster focusing (although the D90
AF system contributes to that.) I guess you can consider it a trade-off, and
I'm not disappointed, because that means both lenses have their strengths
and uses and I can justify keeping both now. (see how that works, rookie
LBA-ers?) Not that I'd ever consider getting rid of the DA*, but it's
nice to have that justification.

As for the D90, well, that's maybe a subject for another part of the forum,
but I'll summarize by saying that one of the things the D90 is giving me
is a renewed appreciation for the K20D's strengths and image quality. That's
not in any way a knock on this excellent D90, it's just that the K20D is a special
camera in a number of ways.

Anyway, here are a couple shots from the Siggy from today.

Note - major snowstorm covered the usually bright plexiglass ceiling with snow,
so had to use ISO 1000-1250 with most of these shots - noise will reduce
IQ a bit:

90mm, f/4, 1/400s, ISO 1250


Crop:


50mm, f/3.5, 1/320s, ISO 1250


150mm, f/4, 1/160s, ISO 1250


80mm, f/4, 1/160s, ISO 1250


122mm, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 1250


135mm f/4, 1/320, ISO 1250


Crop:


150mm, f/3.5, 1/250s, ISO 1250


150mm, f/4, 1/200s ISO 800


80mm, f/4, 1/100s, ISO 1250


150mm, f/3.5, 1/125s, ISO 640, cropped grey wall, focus was on green guy

Last edited by jsherman999; 02-26-2009 at 10:08 PM.
02-26-2009, 10:41 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by jsherman999 Quote
Diego, wow, you had a 70-200 2.8 VR? Sounds like you had a lot invested in
Nikon there, why the switch?

I'd love to give one of those a try. The Tamron 70-200 2.8 + K20D with
in-body SR is just a killer combo, though, and I cant see how even pro glass
can give much better IQ. Now, focus speed, that might be another issue
I didn't, but most of my Nikonian shooting buddies did.

Reason I switched mainly was for weathersealing, as I was travelling a lot especially last year to mountains, rivers, waterfalls, beaches, islands. My system was all Sigma (10-20, 18-50, 50-150), but my friends would lend me their gear. So reality hit me and I decided to move to Pentax for a fully sealed system, but I fell in love with the primes and IQ of the K20D, and this friendly international Pentax community in the process. The thing I miss the most about Nikon is its lighting system. The Nikon flashes are amazing and not that expensive too.

I love being different too, everyone here's Canon or Nikon and 90% of them are just showing off how big and expensive their gear is. I love it when I show them how tiny and light my kit is.

Tried the Tammy, wasn't impressed like the Sigma. The Nikkor 70-200 is one of the best zooms I've ever tried, sharper than the Canon and has blistering fast AF, and doesn't need stopping down to get sharpness. But that lens along would cost me all my DA Ltds

Great shots as usual, Jay!
02-26-2009, 11:14 PM   #11
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When I saw your first two bambo shots, my initial reaction was OK... then I saw the thrid and I was like WOW... then I read that it was the DA* that shot that....
03-02-2009, 11:19 PM   #12
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Few more shots from today:


150mm f/4 ISO 500, left cropped off


150mm f/3.5 ISO 640


150mm f/3.5 ISO 640


150mm f/3.5 ISO 640 about 50% crop:


150mm f/4 ISO 500 and crop following

Crop:


150mm f/2.8 ISO 200, followed by f/16



112mm f/4 ISO 500 (warning, Canon shooter!


68mm f/3.5 ISO 500
03-02-2009, 11:50 PM   #13
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Jay, thanks for this excellent comprehensive review of this zoom. Sigma is really a great lens producing company these days.

Typically, sigma zoom usually under-performs close the long end in any zooms.

50-500mm gets weak approaching 450mm and beyond wide open

70-200mm f2.8 gets weak approaching 180mm or so wide open

This one seems to follow the same pattern here too.

Great street photography and a great performer in deed
03-08-2009, 11:31 AM   #14
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Okay, so I got this lens on friday. Didn't have time much time to go shooting during the weekend but took a shot of my favorite bison family during my travels:

150mm wide open in very harsh light condition


Sun had already set when I arrived at my apartment so I decided to do little AF testing with tripod and various targets. At relatively close distances (2.5m) the lens seems to give very mixed up results:

-50mm @ 2.8 needs -6 AF adjustement
-70mm @ 2.8 needs -9 AF adjustement
-100mm @ 2.8 needs -6 AF adjustement
-150mm @ 2.8 needs -3 AF adjustement

Shooting out there at longer distances the adjustements above seem to screw up the focusing. AF if very fast with K20D. The lens is very quit during the time it takes to lock focus. When the focus is just right the lens is very sharp even wide open.
03-08-2009, 12:19 PM   #15
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Gorgeous shot. Wouldn't have guessed the lighting situation was tha tbad.
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