PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Best Lens @ Photokina?

Which is my favorite announcement in lenses at Photokina 2010?

We have very few good contenders this year, I wish we had more.  The pair of 1.4/35mm Distagon T* ZF and Nikkor AF-S 35mm f/1.4G are the most obvious candidates.  I think most people will select the Nikkor as the star of the show.

Zeiss' new Distagon in hand (links to Dpreview's site).  Still decent size.

I'm somewhat blasé about these two however, because I have been enjoying a fantastic 35mm lens for many years already.  I don't see myself spending on either upgrade.  The 2/35mm Distagon remains a very, very good lens.

No, by far my favorite launch announcement is from Sigma.  I'm serious!

Sigma's new 150mm f/2.8 OS.

Here is a relatively compact and versatile telephoto prime lens.  Particularly on APS-C I would think, e.g. on a D7000.

I love the new finish too.  We saw this finish (inconsistently) appear on production versions of the 70-200 OS, just recently shipping in EOS mount.  Unfortunately for that lens, Dpreview tells us that it's really good only for APS-C and away from 200mm.

This will not be the fate of the 150mm prime lens however, which is already known to be a stellar optic.  I was able to find the MTF chart of the new version and it is quite fantastic:

Compares well to the 2/100mm ZF.

Yep, this is my vote for the best lens shown at Photokina 2010.


Comments (8) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I’m still going with that 35mm Nikkor. 😉

    I wonder will the new Sigma 150mm lose the swirly bokeh the old one had?

    • I had never heard of this lens having “swirly” Bokeh before so I looked around for some samples of that. I looked at a few hundred images, mostly on various flickr pools. Honestly what I saw was pretty thoroughly excellent.

      So far as I can tell, the only issue with the lens’ Bokeh is that it makes specular highlights produce a strong “cat eye” shape wide-open and at medium range. From this you expect that when the background is very busy with specular highlights you will get greater blurring in one direction than another, and hence the swirl.

      I saw only one image with a clear swirling effect, it was shot against foliage where the foliage (and its gaps through to the sky) were in defocus, and the sum of all the cat eyes made for a pretty bad swirl. The fact is that you could get the exact same effect from a Zeiss 100mm, which also produces cat eyes wide-open. Maybe I’ll try to produce such an image to show that it is possible…



  2. Amazing how your reactions match mine. The Sigma 150mm is the only thing at Photokina so far that stimulated my acquisition urge. I had been considering the previous version and for once did not act too soon and miss this improvement. I still want to see some tests and sample shots, however.

  3. A positive comment on the Sigma lens? It seems to be having a very good optical quality. But with Sigma’s QC you never know. And my personal experience with Sigma lenses is that they are mechanically crap. All the Sigma lenses I have (had), except for one the 105/2.8 macro, are mechanically worn out or broken. To compare: I have many Olympus OM lenses that are much older then the Sigma lenses and have seen much more use and who still work fine.

    So, NO Sigma for me anymore!

    • I don’t have much data of my own on this subject. Sigma lenses passed through my hands pretty quickly in the past.

      I do know someone who has a 10 year old 70-200 f/2.8 HSM and it’s more than fine. I think internal-focusing, internal-zooming lenses such as this on eare likely to fare better. Externally-moving pieces are really likely to fail (even for Nikon and Canon).

  4. Another comment:

    Please note the Sigma MTF is a calculated MTF (not a measured one like CZ). So production process and QC together will determine how close YOUR sample lens is to this MTF.

    • Yes, sure.

      However, did you know Leica’s MTFs are calculated? That doesn’t discredit Leica lenses. I’m VERY close to starting reviews of Leica lenses BTW.

      Anyway, I don’t think there’s any need to beat on Sigma. Most of their lenses aren’t any good, the vast majority, we know this. However some of their lenses are pretty universally known to be as good as the best (150/2.8, 100-300/4, 120-300/2.8, 300/2.8). We should ignore the crappy ones and focus on the good ones.

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