My review of the Sigma 19mm lens used on a Nex 7 (the world's most demanding sensor....).

I have a confession to make. It won't seem like much because I've made it here before but...here it is: I don't like wide angle lenses. They are unruly and they take in too much useless scenery. But I've found one that I like enough. It's the Sigma 19mm lens for the Sony Nex cameras. Someone at Sigma did their homework and made a lens that is sharp, cheap and works well on what is a notoriously difficult sensor for a lens to please. As I understand it light rays need to be collimated as close to a straight perpendicular as possible to image the light wells on the sensor correctly. The sensor doesn't handle tangential light rays well. Apparently someone at Sigma incorporated this into the design of their recent 19mm and 30mm lenses.

The 19mm yields the same angle of view as a 28.5mm lens would on a full frame, 35mm camera. Wide enough for me but probably too long for real wide angle afficionados. The 19mm is one of three lenses I took with me on a recent trip to Boston. I used it whenever I wanted a wide view. After a while I noticed that I was using the 50mm OSS Sony lens and the 19mm for nearly 100% of my shooting and I'd been ignoring the 30mm Sigma lens that I presumed would be my "go to" lens because of it's equivalency to my normal favorite focal length, the "normal" 50mm on a full frame camera. Funny how lenses and formats can change your preferences. 

From what I've seen the 19mm is very sharp, even at its widest f-stop of 2.8.  Many photographers immediately state that they must have all their wide angle lenses be as fast as possible and I get it. That's why I recently picked up the Rokinon 35mm 1.5. But if we are being rational we'll probably come to admit that a lot of the use of a lens in this focal length class is for snapshots and documentation and a lot of that is done in fair to good light. The trade off for faster glass is size, weight and price. You get all three when you go faster. It's not a case of "choosing one..."

If our goal is a lightweight, high performance travel package then the 2.8 aperture makes a heck of a lot of sense. I happily bought the lens at it's full price of $199 but in the ensuing months there have been temporary price drops to as low as $100. The price seems to have stabilized at around $150. If you are shooting raw you'll find a profile in Lightroom 4.4 for this lens that corrects for its geometric distortion.  What you end up with is a sharp image from a relatively tiny package.

After using the 19mm for the last few months the only drawback I've found (with the Sony Nex cameras) is the lack of image stabilization. If you use the m4:3rds versions you'll find that the OMD does a wonderful job stabilizing the image and giving you the feedback you want in the EVF.

My hope, in terms of future development from Sigma, is that they make available whatever lens formulation they are using for the  Sigma DP3 camera. It's a dedicated 50mm 2.8 and from the samples I've seen all over the web (including sites I trust like www.luminous-landscape.com) it's as sharp as the Leica M series 50mm with which I used to photograph. If they can make this available in both Nex and m4:3 mounts they'll have a new cult super hero lens on their hands. I'd line up to get one. Especially if they keep their pricing in line with the 19mm and 30mms.

Boston is a fun city to shoot in but perplexing. Even though there are tons of great things to photograph (both people and buildings) I've never seen a city with fewer photographers rattling around on the streets or in the museums and public spaces. Is Boston just totally over photography?


Marshall said...

Perhaps us stressed out and uppity New Englanders are less welcoming of some photography? At least once in the last couple years, there was even a tv story about street photographers, questioning their behavior. (http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/04/15/downtown-crossing-street-photographers-crossing-the-line/) And a few of the museums are dead set against photography - notably, the MFA is not except for certain shows.

That said, sometimes the place is crawling with photographers. The last time I went down to Chinese New Year, at least three different clubs or meetups had decided that it was an event they all wanted to go to, and it sometimes felt like there were more photographers there than 'regular' people! Seems much more noticeable at events (Chinese New Year's, Run of the Charles, etc.) than on normal days. And we have a lot of photo organizations, including the Griffin Museum, Photo Resource Center, and others. (Not being defensive; just observing.)

Kirk Tuck said...

...stressed out and uppity New Englanders..."???? Everyone I dealt with, without exception, in Boston was welcoming, polite and patient with this poor little, introverted Texan. I've never heard more service industry people say, "thank you!" in a very sincere way when I was out and around (this of course was after some kind person explained to me that it's customary to tip 50% in all fast food restuarants, museums and shops... kidding. Just kidding).

I found the people in day to day positions to be much more polite than their counterparts in Austin... Sorry to have to say that.

Marshall said...

I haven't been back to Texas in a while (long enough that I don't think I'm allowed to say "back *home* to Texas" anymore), but I am pleased to hear that we're more polite than our rep, for sure.

Michael Ferron said...

I live in Austin but am from Boston. Polite? Boston? I've always considered it one of the ruder places this side of NYC. Now Austin is a polite place. :)

Kirk Tuck said...

Sorry. Everyone I dealt with in Boston was as nice as you could imagine.

Anonymous said...

I reluctantly ordered the Sigma 19mm a few hours ago because the Sony 20mm will not be available until after I have left for a long trip. Reluctantly because my Sigma 30 was (mechanically) a much too tight fit for my 5N and because manual focusing with it was practically impossible. (It had to go and was replaced by an excellent Sony 1.8 35mm.) Having read your article, I am now much less reluctant with regard to my Sigma 19mm order. The Sony 20mm is still on my list because of its much smaller size. Unfortunately its price is much higher than the US$ 112 equivalent that I paid at Amazon Germany for the Sigma

Tom Barry said...

Kirk, our experience of people in Boston on our 2011 trip was identical to yours. I remember as only one example an obviously hurried businessman who noticed we - and another tourist couple - were looking disoriented and took the time to give us precise directions. Our trip was in the fall and the weather was fine, so there were a lot of people with cameras, and no one ever complained as I snapped madly away, outside, inside, in restaurants. In fact, people would frequently stop to keep from blocking my view.

Richard Alan Fox said...

I use the 19mm on m/43 where it is a very nice 38mm.

John said...

I just returned from India, where I used the Sigma 19 almost exclusively for a few days of Nex 7 street shooting. With the flip screen and waist-level shooting, I found it wonderful. My only complaint is I think it really seems to slow the camera down from waking in sleep mode. I missed several shots because of that. I'm eager to see how responsive the new Sony 20 is. My India gallery is here: http://bit.ly/YOiLW9

Kirk Tuck said...

Thanks John. Great Work!!!! Hey, everyone. Go see this photography, it's great. http://bit.ly/YOiLW9

Geek Photography said...

Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
thank you :)

Post a Comment

Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!