For months, I’ve been thinking about getting myself a better quality wide angle lens, but I've had a hard time deciding which model to get. Weighing in the pros and cons, seems like several models end up in a tie for #1.
There are many styles of photography that I like to use a wide angle for, but I'm mostly interested in Landscape. That being said, I'm also looking for something I can use for other purposes, such as astrophotography, live concerts, or environmental portraits (photos of people in their environment).
The qualities I'm looking for are sharpness, low-light performance, durability and affordability. I own the Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 ART and have been very impressed with the high standards in which the lens was designed and built. So with that in mind, I know buying another Sigma Art lens will not disappoint. Now I just have to figure out which one to get!
Sigma has three wide angle lens that I've been considering for quite some time... Sigma Canada has sent me all three so that I could try them for a few weeks. The lenses are:
Sigma 14mm ƒ/1.8 DG HSM Art
Sigma 20mm ƒ/1.4 DG HSM Art
Sigma 14-24mm ƒ/2.8 DG HSM Art
I'm looking for the lens that will best suit my needs. And it's nearly a 3-way tie, which is why it was so great to have the opportunity to try them all at once!
Before trying these lenses, I had my mind set on getting a prime lens. I was initially considering the 20mm.... My thinking behind that was that the 14mm would have been overkill in my case, because I don't shoot astrophotography all that much (only once in a blue moon... pun intended), not to mention that the 14mm prime is a little more expensive than the other two. Also, while 14mm is probably my favourite focal length for landscape photography, experience has taught me that it is at times "too wide" of an angle, depending on the distance of your subject relative to the camera. The 20mm sounded like a good compromise, because it still offers a wide angle, but it isn't too wide, it is in fact more of a general purpose wide angle landscape lens. Plus, at ƒ/1.4, the bokeh looks real good, so how can you go wrong, right?
I had almost discarded the 14-24mm as an option, since it is a zoom and not a prime lens... and also, the ƒ/2.8 maximum aperture on this lens definitely has a few limitations compared to the wider aperture the other two lenses offer.
But since I had the 14-24mm with me, I still gave it a try… And I'm so glad I did! This lens is just as sharp as those two other prime lenses... it's like having 10 prime lenses in one!!! I had read great reviews on this lens, but I wasn't expecting it to be THIS good. Also, I thought I'd see more distortion on it when shooting zoomed all the way out at 14mm... but as it turns out, there’s practically no distortion at all! While I knew all 3 lenses were going to be amazing, the 14-24mm zoom was by far the most surprising one to me. I did not expect it to hold up to the quality of the two prime lenses, but it certainly did.
The Basement Concert
I bought some coloured LED lights and set them up in the basement and told my kids to play a rock concert for me. To the sounds of Alice Cooper, Jack White and KISS to name only a few, they rocked out and had a great time while I tested the lenses' ability to work low light (and yes, I rocked out too!)
As I expected, the two prime lenses performed extremely well. They're super fun to shoot with, and both focal lengths provided really satisfying results.
And again, the lens that surprised/impressed me the most was the 14-24mm zoom. Maybe it's just me, but I actually got the feeling that it was faster at focusing than the two other lenses. My tests weren’t scientific at all, so don’t take my word for it… but it definitely was more fun to shoot with that zoom lens than I imagined it would be.
One last shoot – Hopewell Rocks
On the last day before having to return the lenses, I did manage to go out and shoot a bit of star filled images. I got up a bit too late, however, so by the time I got to the Hopewell Rocks, the horizon was already starting to light up.
The low tide on the Bay of Fundy coincided with the sunrise that morning, so this gave me an opportunity to walk on the ocean floor to shoot the famous "flower pots" – the best way to photograph the rocks! If you haven't been here, you gotta check it out! This landmark is a big tourist attraction and part of the Fundy UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
I got there a bit too late to take advantage of the dark sky and to shoot astro photography... the sky was getting lit on the horizon. Still got some decent night shots even though I arrived a bit late (I say "late" but this is all relative... it was before 6 am!
All three lenses are great to shoot with. I will say this: They're a little heavy. But it's not a big compromise... the quality, the build, and price make up for it!
As mentioned above, my primary reason for wanting a better wide angle lens is to help me improve my landscape photography. When shooting landscapes, I almost never shoot with a wide open aperture... so there's really no point in getting the 14mm ƒ/1.8... it would be overkill. Sure, I do like to take photos of the Milky Way from time to time, but it's not like it can't be done with a ƒ/2.8 aperture.
And while the aperture opening on the zoom lens isn't as big as on the two other lenses, it's still a very respectable ƒ/2.8, which is equivalent to the maximum aperture on Canon's 14mm prime L-series lens (which is twice the cost, if not more).
Of course, none of these lenses would be a bad choice, but after having played with all three lenses over the past couple of weeks, it's safe to say that the 14-24mm zoom lens will suit my needs the best. I've made my choice!
Thank you Sigma!
Next on my shopping list: A filter system that this lens is compatible with...