Hello Sony !!!! Where the heck are your wide angle lenses for the a77 and a57 APS-C cameras ?????

I mostly shoot portraits so when I switched camera systems to the Sony a77 and then added the a57 I made sure all my portrait focal lengths were covered.  I bought the 16-50mm 2.8 zoom lens and I think it's marvellous; sharp and snappy at all focal lengths.  I also bought the 70-200mm 2.8 G lens and it's capable of making great images as well.  Then I went in and backfilled with some inexpensive but surprisingly good single focal length lenses such as the 30mm DT macro, the 35mm 1.8 DT, the 50mm 1.8 DT, the 50mm 1.4 and the 85mm 2.8.  All of them have proven to be good lenses for the system.  All are capable of professional results.  But there's a blind spot in the Sony APS-C lineup. The only lens wider than the 16-50mm (FF equivalent = 24mm to 75mm) is the 11-18mm.  The focal length range is right what I'm looking for but the lens is obviously a re-badged Tamron 11-18mm zoom lens and I've been down that road before.  I owned the Canon version and it was barely usable, at best. 

I didn't think much of it until a client asked me to shoot a new architectural project he'd just finished.  It's a grocery store for a well known, national chain.  We need to photograph multiple shots of the exterior and, a few weeks from now, multiple shots of the interior.  In the Canon shooting days I could rent a 24mm shift lens and do most of my work with that.  I'd round out the mix with the old 20mm lens.  But the Sony catalog doesn't include any tilt/shift lenses and since it's not a big part of my business I am loathe to buy them.  Especially when I can do most of my corrections in PhotoShop.  But I do need a clean, sharp lens to start with.  That, and a good ladder...

I shot all the exteriors with the 16-50mm lens.  The profiles in DXO and in PhotoShop CS6 both work very well. The image files come out with a high degree of sharpness and no discernable geometric distortion.  If I shoot from a ten foot high vantage point I don't need to do a lot of "keystone" correction either. When I'm shooting the exteriors and need a wider view than that offered by the 24mm equivalent focal length of the 16-50mm I can always move back to get in more.  But when I head inside it's another story.  I want to be able to go as wide as a standard 20mm or even an 18mm to do justice to the interior space.  

I've been reading up on various alternatives to the Sony 11-18 and I was optimistic about a lens made by Sigma.  It's a 10-20mm f4-5.6.  I headed over to Precision Camera to see if they had one in stock and not only did they have the lens but the Sony rep was there for a promotional event so I gave him and earful too.  He readily agreed that the current lens wasn't an earth-shaking game changer but suggested that Sony is hard at work making their own lens and that all indications are it will be good.  Nice to know but it won't be available for a while  and certainly not by next week when I need it.  I conferred with my personal sales associate, Ian, and ended up walking out the door with the Sigma 10-20mm.  Ian told me I could bring it back within 30 days for a refund, if not thoroughly satisfied (another reason I shop there....).

I had three hours before I was expected home for dinner so I put the lens on the front of the a77 I had in the car and started walking through downtown.  (I did stop at the big, Whole Foods headquarters to have magic almond bar and a good cup of coffee before I got down to lens testing business.  A man has to have priorities).

The handling and build quality of the Sigma is as good as anything out there, short of a Leica or Zeiss lens.  The lens yields sharp images when I focus in the right places and the color and contrast is good.  The only troubling characteristic is the distortion on the extreme edges and the extreme corners.  I'm going to use the Adobe lens profiler to try and make a corrected profile for the distortions.  Unless I can find a profile that someone else has already made.  I think there may also be a profile of the combination of the Sony camera and the Sigma lens in the latest DXO software.  If I can correct the corner and edge distortion I'll be pretty darn happy. The lens is already a much better performer than the Sony 11-18 I borrowed several weeks ago to test.

But this brings up the question:  If Sony is really interested in competing with Nikon and Canon, and now even Olympus, why haven't they filled this important gap with something decent?  Even if they had a really good lens that was just 12-20mm with a slow aperture but really good performance they'd be way ahead of the game.  I was told that Sony owns a big stake in Tamron and Tamron recently rolled out a 10-24mm that supposed to be much better than the 11-18 as well.  At the very least they should re-badge that lens...

I'd love to shoot nothing but portraits but I live in work in a second tier market and it pays off to be able to offer good clients a wider menu of services.  From the walking tests I've done today I'm confident I can pull off what I need to do with the Sigma lens.  But I shouldn't have to.  There are enough great solutions out there that Sony should have this covered.  My dream lens for wide angle would be a prime 12mm f4 that's designed and made by Zeiss.  It doesn't even need to autofocus as long as it has an accurate focus scale on it.  With a super sharp, 12mm lens stopped down to f8 and hanging in front of a 24 megapixel sensor it would be a zone focusing dream.  Add in effect focus peaking and you're absolutely there.

 This image is a 10mm image that was originally tilted back to include the building in the background and then quickly corrected in post.

This image was taken at 20mm.  And left uncorrected and without processing.

I'd read in one of the poorer reviews about the Sigma 10-20mm that flare was an issue.  There's a vicious glare on  the building, smack in the middle of the frame, but I think the lens does a great job handling it.  10mm.

While there is some linear distortion, at the widest setting I think it's pretty well controlled and at most focal lengths is pretty easy to correct.

Snappy and sharp at f5.6 if what I'm seeing.

 10mm corrected in Lightroom 4.2.

By the end of my walk I had pretty much talked myself into keeping the lens.  What I was really looking for is good performance at 14mm.  That's the equivalent of 21mm in full frame and that corresponds to the Zeiss 21 ZE lens I used on the Canon.  When I shot at 14mm I was very happy with sharpness and contrast.  If I can make the distortion corrections I'll be happy.  And at about 1/4th the price of the Zeiss lens.  More tests, under duress, tomorrow.

Don't settle for whatever the manufacturer wants to throw at you.....


hugo said...

Have you considered the Samyang 14mm ? It is said to be very good for sharpness. Only problem are distortions (barrel type on APS-C).

What about Tokina lenses ? I had the 11-16mm one when I was using a canon APS-C dslr and the IQ was pretty stunning (minus the bad flare habits of this lens).

kirk tuck said...

The 14mm is plagued with enormous geometric distortions. I've tested it. I've never had good luck with Tokina products. And, my experience so far is that this lens doesn't really have a flare problem. I can only try so many before I commit, otherwise the tyranny of too many choices causes paralysis.

Michael Ferron said...

I picked up a 11-18 Promaster for cheap$$ in a Nikon Mount. It is identical to the Tamron version. Actually for me it's not bad till you hit the extreme corners which go fuzzy quick and it covers full frame with my F100 from 14mm on. I just frame wide and crop the corners a bit for decent results. I also have a home made Nikon Mount shift adapter for Micro 4/3 that I'm looking forward to using this lens with.

John Driggers said...

Hi Kirk,

Instead of trying to make a lightroom profile (which is quite a chore), consider trying PTLens. It works fine as a plugin style external editor and is only $25.

In lieu of a lightroom profile, you could make a lightroom preset for a few different focus distances and zoom focal lengths, but it would still take the $25-cost-of-PTLens in your time to create them, be fussier to use and not be as flexible/effective.

It's a litte irritating how APS-C camera makers have a bazillion primes and zooms in the 18-200 range (35 mm equiv 27-300), but produce little in the way of anything wider for APS-C. When you look at the lens catalogues most of what you see is overlapping focal lengths with max f stop, constant max f stop and lens vr/is as the differentiators. They'd sell the heck out of a quality, fairly priced 19-20-21 f2.8 prime AF (in 35 mm equiv).

I shoot only real estate/architecture and I feel your resentment about the lack of attention to the WA end of APS-C lens lineups. It seems like it's full frame or compromise at the WA end.

Cheers JD in Australia

hugo said...

The irony I guess is that two very good zeiss wide lenses are available for the alpha mount, a prime and a zoom, but sony does not have a full-frame camera to go with these lenses anymore (-_-).

ginsbu said...

Have you thought about the Sigma 8-16mm? It really seems to be something special...

Ron Zack said...

I'll give you a very good rental price on my E-600 with the Olympus 9-18mm f/4-5.6 lens attached...you don't even need a lens profile for that little bit of wide-angle heaven. :-)

It's sad but true that the three best wide-angle zoom lenses for cropped-frame cameras are the Olympus 7-14, the Olympus 11-22, and the Olympus 9-18, in that order. They all outperform anything from any other brand.

Which reminds me, you still have micro 4/3 cameras, don't you? Get the micro 9-18, or even better, the Panny 7-14, and all your problems will be solved, and then some. The 4/3 and micro 4/3 cameras may not be the greatest camera bodies ever made, but those lenses...oh my. And that Olympus micro 4/3 12mmm, worth getting into micro 4/3 for that lens alone. The Panasonic 14mm is much cheaper, and only a tiny bit less outstanding of a lens.

By the way, there is another wide-angle zoom option for Sony that might even be better than the Sigma 10-20: the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8. I've heard nothing but rave reviews of that lens, from Nikon, Canon and Sony users. If I were going the APS route, that lens would be high on my list.

ChazL said...


I've used the Sigma 10-20 since I first bought into the Pentax DSLR line with the K10D. Like you, I use a superwide infrequently, but I do want to have a reasonably good lens available when the need arises.

I've been pleased with the Sigma, and generally agree with your conclusions. Very decent sharpness and contrast. Some notable linear distortion, but nothing I can't either correct or live with. I've found myself playing around with it a good bit at 10MM, just to get a new and fresh perspective (I've never had anything wider than an 18MM full-frame equivalent before).

All in all, a solid choice and a good value. I hope you enjoy yours.


Brian Rybolt said...

I've been photographing architecture for over 20 years, along with other subject matter. To provide wide angle coverage for my Sony APS-C I went for a Tokina 11-16mm lens. It's a fabulous lens - far exceeded my expectation.

Give it a try.

Jon M said...

I loved my Sigma 10-20 back when I had an APS-C size camera. Great lens.

almostinfamous said...

seconded - this is a lens i am saving up for when it's launched here.

tomt said...

Caution: ignorant question

Can the Sony A cameras take adapters for just about anything as can the NEX series?

In particular, can they take the Voigtlander lenses, specifically the 12mm?

kirk tuck said...

I'll check it out. I think they have one in stock at Precision Camera.

kirk tuck said...

Tom, no worries. The A cameras have a longer sensor to lens flange register because they still have a mirror, even if it doesn't move. So they are much more limited in what lenses you can use. Pretty much limited to Sony, Minolta and most Medium Format lenses. Not the 12 Voigtlander. Sorry.

JereK said...

Great post. I have been using the same Sigma lens albeit for Nikon for a while now and I like it very much. Size and pricewise it is very good. Mostly have used in cities like Jerusalem and Malaga and also indoors. Always have had good Sigma lenses.