I ended up ordering a Sigma 18-50mm f2.8 lens but just for the most obvious uses... Let's dive in.

 Image from Panasonic G9 and 15mm lens. Iceland.

If I read the blog (as someone other than myself), and read that this crazy writer had just ordered the new(ish) 18-50mm Sigma lens for the APS-C format cameras, I would immediately jump to the conclusion that he was planning to use it as a convenient zoom lens for his less recently acquired Leica CL. It would both make sense and not make sense but since when has this writer ever been truly rational about equipment purchases? 

While all of the TTArtisan single focal length lenses I've bought for the CL lately have been fun and surprisingly good, optically, it's pretty darn convenient to be able to go out in a low profile way, shoot from wide to demi-telephoto and never have to change lenses. Even better if the new zoom isn't a heck of a lot bigger than the typical prime for this system and weighs less than most. Don't get me wrong, sometimes a single focal length can be a refreshing and fun way to dive into found photography but there are times when a zoom is just what the photographer ordered. 

I looked at Leica's zoom offering in this range but I was put off by the price for a lens that starts life at f3.5 and extends it (while zooming) to f5.6. I'm sure it's lovely but I have big systems with frightfully expensive lenses to turn to when I need powerhouse sharpness and contrast. I wanted a lens that would align with the less structured nature of shooting with a more casual camera. And, from what I'm seeing, the Sigma zoom isn't necessarily worse than the performance from the Leica... 

If I couldn't find a real, business use for the Sigma zoom I think I might have been able to resist the siren call of it and be happy just banging around with the TTArtisan lenses and the CL as my playtime, prime oriented system. But last evening, while photographing the Samsung announcement it dawned on me that an APS-C format zoom that was still fast and sharp but also lightweight and small, could be a perfect adjunct for the Leica SL2. Not logical? Well....maybe yes. Maybe no.

When I shot yesterday's announcement of Texas's latest triumph in the contest to lure the most money and business to the state I was using the big Leica zoom lens which weighs something like, eighty-five pounds and change. You have to train for weeks or months to be strong enough to use it for extended periods of time. (Take my very expensive online training course to find out more. But first...the NDA...). 

I was using the camera in a reduced resolution mode which downsamples the full frame from nearly 48 megapixels to nearly 24 megapixels. This made phone and online delivery quicker without reducing the needed quality but I began wondering if I could end up with mostly the same effect by using a lens like the 18-50mm f2.8 on the camera instead. The camera would switch to the APS-C crop and, in the finder it would look like business as usual. The full frame equivalent focal range would be something like 27-75mm and with the fixed aperture it would be faster than the full frame lens when used wide open at longer focal lengths. 

I'd still get about 24 megapixels of resolution while gaining about a stop's worth of depth of field. Always useful in fast paced reportage. It would mean being able to drop to f4.0 instead of staying at f5.6 to keep a deep enough plane of sharp focus. 

But an even bigger dividend would be the acute reduction of size and mass. After all, the use case would be social or journalistic photography and not ne plus ultra still life/product work. So the entire system would lose well over a pound or a pound and a half but give essentially the same results; if you don't care about dropping the backgrounds out of focus...

But here's the bonus: If you shoot with a Leica SL2 and you occasionally do video production you might find that your 4K files are sharper and more detailed if you use the APS-C for your video. That's big. So if you go out to shoot and want a compact package that's optically much sharper than the ability of 4K to resolve the fast and sharp (and relatively tiny) Sigma 18-50mm f2.8 fits perfectly. And I'm presuming the lens's native color profile does a decent job matching the family color of other lenses in the Contemporary lens family so if you needed a tighter shot you could switch to the 65mm or 90mm i-Series Contemporary lenses and not worry much in the color grading process. 

And wouldn't you know it? One of the law firms we've worked with through the years just emailed to see if I could help them film a television commercial that they hope to run by the end of the year. It sounds like a reasonable project in which to test the lens and my idea of the working methodology. I actually think it would be visually interesting to use the SL2 as an "A" video camera with two SL's as "B" cameras for multi-camera shots. Or it could be a wild mess. 

But you know I'll thoroughly test everything before I commit. That's the nature of hyper-vigilance, right?

I should get the lens sometime next week and we'll start testing it as soon as it comes through the door. I'm interested in how well it balances on a heavy camera like the SL2 and I can hardly wait to see the looks of disgust on my other Leica shooting friends when they see my latest Frankenstein construction. Should be worth a laugh or two... But really, a pound and a half! That's a lot.

Yesterday's shoot was stressful in the moment but enjoyable to look back upon. But isn't that they way of most projects that you can't go back later and fix?

Hope you guys have a wonderful Thanksgiving and maybe start with an early morning run. The pool will be closed for the next two days. Might have to take up mixed martial arts or something to keep the blood flowing... (but not literally). 

coming up in a future post: Kirk's Five Rules for Buying Cameras You Know You Don't Need. 


adam said...

I ended up borrowing an x100v from fuji a while back and took it round a local fairground, the looks of disdain I got from the serious photographers, looked at me, looked down at the camera, wasn't impressed ;)

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Sounds like a bunch of old school photographers still worshipping the relics of a vanishing religion = DSLRs

Ross Nolly said...

adam; you should have seen the looks I got from the press photographers when I used to turn up with the little Nikon V1's!

Steve B said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Kirk!

It'll be a cool 25 degrees here in MN on Thanksgiving Day, but warm and smelling of turkey and all the fixins in our apartment.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Same to you Steve B. It's in the 50's and windy here in Austin. We're making mashed potatoes and pecan bars and heading over to share Thanksgiving with family. It should be a nice, mellow day. No camera purchases planned for the next 24 hours...

Roger Jones said...

Greetings Kirk
I look forward to hearing your review of the Sigma's 18-50, and the images you post.

Be Safe

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Thanks Roger, thinking about testing it on the SL2 in APS-C mode first. You know I'll be writing about it...

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend. KT

David said...

Happy belated Thanksgiving. I am just catching up on the blogs.

I hope you also test it out in 135 format mode. I have a Sigma 8-16mm APS-C lens and it fully covers my DF sensor at 13mm to 16mm. You can almost use it at 11mm, if you don't mind the little vignetteing.
So you might be surprised and have a wide angle at your disposal too.

roddygoesclick said...

If you're into fun with zoom lenses, Kirk, you should ask Santa to bring you a Panasonic 45-175 for your GX8's stocking. They're not made anymore but you can find them on Fleabay (and the like) for under $130 sometimes. Stick that on your GX8 (or any other m4/3 body you may care to use) and go out in the street on a sunny day. You'll be amazed at what you can capture at a FF equivalent of 350mm. It's an internal zooming lens with OIS and a blast to use - probably the best of the Panasonic consumer zooms for IQ and flare resistance.