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DA35 v Sigma 17-70
Posted By: dlai, 03-10-2015, 05:46 PM

Hi, I was impressed by the article on the DA 35 2.4 as I have a copy and accept that it is great value for the price. I recently bought the Sigma 17-70 2.8-4 as a replacement for a Pentax DA 17-70 lens that was previously my walkabout zoom.
I wondered how the Sigma stacked up against the DA35 and as I had both lenses on walkabout recently, I photographed a scene at Wellington's (New Zealand) Midland Park, with the DA 35 then repeated it with the Sigma 17-70 set at 35mm focal length.

The first image is the full view taken at ISO 100, 1/500 f6.3. This setting was used for both lenses.
The second is a 100% crop of the DA 35 image.
The third is of the same scene taken with the Sigma 17-70 and also a 100% crop.

While the DA 35 crop is really very good for a lens of the price, I feel it was exceeded by the Sigma 17-70 set at its 35mm focal length. I repeated the shooting several times as it was a handheld session and then selected the image from each lens. It is of course a very limited investigation and I realise that others may get different results. For my purposes it confirmed my impression of how good the Sigma is, certainly better than the Pentax 17-70 I was using until recently.

The advantage of the DA35 is its small size and for street photography this is a real benefit as it does not attract attention. However as I am currently in the second year of a project documenting the city's buskers, I find the flexibility of a zoom useful as I can't always pick my distance fro ma busker due to foot traffic density -sometimes I need to cram myself in quite close and use a wider setting than 35mm. At others I want to do a head and shoulders shot and need the 70mm setting, so the 17-70 has always proved to be the most convenient lens to use.

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03-10-2015, 06:27 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing. It is always good to see comparisons between lenses, even if only one focal length can be compared. I believe I like the DA35 just a bit better, but the Sigma is no slouch. Just curious, is the actual scene cropped considered "center" or is it considered "border"? The terms are used and I can never tell where "center" ends and "border" begins. I have heard the Sigma is especially good at the mid to long lengths, but sometimes is not as good at the wide end, especially in the borders. I have the Pentax DA 17-70 and it seems very sharp, especially in the wider focal lengths, and a little less so in the long category. I am planning my own tests at 40 between my 17-70, 16-50, 40 limited, and 18-55 II, so any advice about how to do that well would be appreciated. Thanks. Glenn
03-10-2015, 06:58 PM   #3
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Thanks Glenn,
It is certainly off centre and to the left but I would not think it is a border. I selected it because the fountain was a focal point that I thought better for comparing the lenses.
03-10-2015, 07:49 PM   #4
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Whenever I see these kinds of threads, I always look at the photos before the descriptions, and make up my mind very clearly before reading which lens is which. I clearly prefer the DA35. The colors are much richer all around, but especially the purple. Also, look at the Cranfields and Astoria signs, the DA is sharper. Look at the skin tones of the guy in sunglasses in the center. The DA looks much more life-like. For the fountain, the DA has more contrast, and looks a bit sharper too.

Don't get me wrong, I love the photos I've seen from the 17-70. It's really an excellent zoom lens. Your photo proves that it's actually quite close to the 35 in IQ, but it does fall just a bit short IMO.

The bigger question is how do they compare at f2.4? That's why I'm a prime guy.

03-10-2015, 09:04 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by Kozlok Quote
The bigger question is how do they compare at f2.4?

I own the optically similar FA 35/2 (one of my favorite lenses), but will concede that my Sigma 17-70/2.8-4 is at least as good at 35mm and f/5.6. That being said, the Sigma weighs more than two FA 35s and the Sigmas performance at f/2 is dismal, to the point of being non-existent.


Last edited by stevebrot; 03-10-2015 at 09:32 PM.
03-11-2015, 04:25 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote

That being said, the Sigma weighs more than two FA 35s and the Sigmas performance at f/2 is dismal, to the point of being non-existent.

How is the FA's performance at 17mm and 70mm?!!!
03-11-2015, 09:09 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by Timd Quote
How is the FA's performance at 17mm and 70mm?!!!
And that's why I own more than one prime.
03-12-2015, 03:04 AM   #8
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Most modern zooms are decent stopped down to f6. If you don't need a fast lens, you can get by with a whole bunch of options.

The issue is that if you need decent photos at f2.8 you end up paying for it. Most of the f2.8 zooms I've used don't measure up to primes till they've been stopped down a little bit. And they are quite a bit bigger besides.

You just have to choose the instrument you need to do the job. On a bright sunny day, a 17-70 zoom will get the job done as well as anything else/.

03-12-2015, 12:47 PM   #9
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Yeah, I prefer the colour and contrast of the DA 35mm photo, but the sharpness is not much different. Two other things to consider are the focal length and the aperture. First, the 17-70mm is probably at its best around 35mm. It might not be quite as sharp at the wide or long end. Secondly, at f6.3 (and up to f8) pretty much all lenses will be fairly good. Even the DA 18-55mm has its sweet spot at 35mm and f8, it can be almost as good as the DA 35mm. But the DA 35mm will keep its high quality at all apertures, from wide open up until f12 or so (where diffraction softens the photo, makes it fuzzy)
And the DA 35mm is still more affordable than most zoom lenses. Then there are the other qualities, like flare resistance and AF. DA 35mm is really great with flare and chromatic aberration, fringing..

So I would agree, the Sigma zoom has really good resolution at 35mm and that aperture. And it is a good quality and nice zoom range. It definitely has its place. But I would also add that the DA 35mm has its own virtues, where it beats most zoom lenses. When one considers its price, its a great lens to have and a good introduction to prime lenses. My main complaint is that.. well, its not the FA 35mm f2.0 (which has a ridiculous price tag in my part of Europe, costs almost twice as much as the DA 35mm f2.8 macro)
03-12-2015, 01:48 PM - 1 Like   #10

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QuoteOriginally posted by Na Horuk Quote
My main complaint is that.. well, its not the FA 35mm f2.0
Thought this would be appropriate...
... very ;low light hand held shot - FA 35 at F/2, 1/30sec, ISO 3200

Last edited by wildman; 03-18-2015 at 08:21 PM.
03-13-2015, 03:31 PM   #11
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Comparisons from DXO tests

On reflection I probably erred in my opinion of the Sigma 17-70 as I had looked most closely at the central top point of the fountain and neglected the rest. Going to DXO I see the 35 2.4 has a score of 22 whereas the Sigma 17-70 is at 19. The Sigma scored best at 24mm and f3.5.

I then looked at some other Pentax primes to see how the Sigma compared:
HD 21mm 3.2 = 18
HD 40mm 2.8 = 19
That puts the Sigma in good company.
DXO have not tested the Pentax 17-70 so I went to the Pentax 16-50 as a zoom comparison = 15
Finally, a prime that lies outside of the Sigma's range, the DA*200 = 17
I made sure all of these comparisons were done with the K3 as camera.

I feel there is enough evidence here to show how good a performer the Sigma 17-70. It certainly works well for me and I'm accustomed to evaluating (home - Epson 2400) prints at A3+ size.

Finally here is a 100% crop of a recent busker shot at ISO 400 f 4.5 1/200 sec 70mm focal length. Natural light
No processing, no sharpening at all as for the earlier images in this post. The focus is (unfortunately) more on the eye away from the camera where you can see the eyelashes are well defined. Note how clear the teeth are. Camera is K3.
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Last edited by dlai; 03-13-2015 at 04:10 PM. Reason: adding further note

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