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04 March 2008

Photographic kit upgrade process pt.I

Just like anyone else wanting a little more from photography (other than shooting birthday parties, family dinners and other obvious events where cameras are compulsory) I decided to move on to a better lens.

I wanted a faster lens with better sharpness and lower optical distortion. Of course this means a heavier, bigger, less flexible and particularly more expensive lens than the one I have been using.

So I took the scientific approach (also described in this blog) to analyse my current picture database, and from what I learned, last January I bought the Sigma 24-70mm EX f/2.8.

Here is a technical review of this lens at (which is one of the best lens review resources that I know of. Very technical and with a quantitative approach whenever possible):
I mean, my Sigma 18-125mm DC f/3.5-5.6 is very flexible, compact and light - but that comes at a cost - it compromises everything else. It features notorious barrel distortion at the lower focal lengths and noticeable pincushion distortion at the higher focal lengths, along with clear vignetting at the highest apertures (very pronounced at 18mm f/3.5). Also, it is very soft, slow to focus and sometimes not very accurate (although the camera may share some of the guilt).

After this paragraph of bashing the 18-125mm, I must give it credit for what it has been good for. I have it for a little over two years and it was terrific for learning SLR techniques and to gain valuable experience. I would recommend it to anyone starting with a DSLR because of its flexibility and good price/features ratio.

Specs for both lenses can be seen in the Sigma pages below:
About the 24-70mm, I must say I was impressed by its size and weight at first - it felt and seemed massive!

Canon EOS 350D + Sigma EX 24-70mm f/2.8
Image used under permission of the authors @

When compared to the 18-125mm DC, it is 33% wider in diameter (82mm vs 62mm) and almost twice as heavy (751g vs 385g). But it's also much faster (f/2.8 available across the entire focusing range), miles sharper and produces much less distortion. Being a lens designed for full frame digital cameras, it looses a bit of flexibility when used in cropped sensors (roughly equivalent to a 38.4-112mm on a sensor with a crop factor of 1.6x). I don't care. It's great, I love it to bits.

The result... See my flickr page for archived photos taken on or after 15th January 2008 (you may start here: archive for 2008/01/15) or search by tag "Sigma EX 24-70mm f/2.8" (tag search: "Sigma EX 24-70mm f/2.8").

What's next on my photo kit upgrade process? It will take a while before I'll buy another lens, but having this superb 24-70, I'll probably go for a cheap 70-300mm (or similar) or an expensive fisheye or ultra-wide angle (like 10mm or so). Still don't know. Other than quality glass, I'll replace my camera as soon as I can afford it.

Cheers, PJ.


Rui Covelo said...

Wow! You do seem serious about photography ;)

At this moment, I am happy with my Sigma 18-200 lens. As I walk a lot, I carry all my photo gear with me. This lens fits my needs. It's flexibility allows me to carry only one lens. It's also relatively light. Of course, as you mentioned, this comes with a cost. The image quality is not that good and maybe the most noticeable defect is vignetting at the highest focal length. But I knew that when I bought at. Besides, I'm not such a good photographer anyway :P and, at this moment, my wallet is focused on my other hobby. Playing music.

Unknown said...

I guess... I wonder who helped you choose that lens :) Of course it's a light and small lens, and flexible as well even more than my 18-125 (to be sold soon).

About image quality... well, you can only see that when comparing directly with another lens and if that one suits your needs, then there's no reason to buy another one.
Vignetting is sometimes a nice effect but when unwanted, it's very easy to get rid of. Some software even does it automatically for you, among with pincushion/barrel distortions (Bibble Pro...).

And when will you blog something about your music?

Cheers, PJ.