Friday, October 3, 2014

Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super Wide II Review: Bang for the Buck Alert!

24mm is a focal length that is not very useful for DX (cropped sensors), as it barely qualifies as wide angle (the FOV is equivalent to a 36mm lens, which is more in the 'normal' range rather than wide angle). And so, a large number of older lenses that qualified as wide-angle back in the days, were forgotten in the first years of the digital era. However, as we now have a healthy number of full-frame options, many of those lenses have made a comeback. This Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super Wide II is one such lens. I got one thinking to review it and then probably sell it. Well, I changed my mind - I'm keeping it! Yep, you guessed that right: Bang for the Buck alert!

Wide-open it's very good. Only a tiny bit better closed-down.
Notice how the bokeh maintains its smoothness even at f/5.6

+ superb optically! Very good resolution wide-open, excellent stopped down to f/5.6 - corner to corner! No big flaws otherwise, either (more details below).
+ small and light, as you'd expect.
+ very good close-focusing characteristics - I think the reproduction ratio is 1:4

- autofocus is a tad noisy - with a rather annoying grinding sound
- manual focus ring too thin, not comfortable to use.
- the Sigma hood is hideous, hard to apply and remove; better use the HN-3 instead

Comparable in size to the Nikkor AF-D 50mm f/1.8, with which it shares the same filter diameter.
As a result, I strongly recommend that you use the HN-3 hood instead of Sigma's own (except if you're particularly concerned about vignetting)

Intended Users
Great for:
  • FX users on a budget, looking for a wide-angle lens. It's this one, look no more.
  • landscapes - stopped down to f/5.6 this lens is pretty much flawless.
  • live music photography - but you need to get close to the action, you know that.

Not for:
  • DX users. 24mm is rather pointless with a cropped sensor...
  • ...particularly with entry-level cameras, as you'll be with MF, and the focus ring isn't great.
  • Rich people. It's true, in absolute terms, a lens like the Zeiss 25mm f/2 Distagon will of course be far better. It's also 20 times more expensive...

Final Verdict
This is a really, really good lens. Personally, I found the image quality visibly better than the Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 & 24mm f/2.8 lenses - especially wide-open in the corners. Stopped down, there is no real difference, they're all great. But remember, the Nikons are more expensive. The compromise is in the ergonomics, mostly the focusing system. The autofocus of the Sigma is on the noisy side (although it's accurate and reliable), and the manual focus ring is too thin for comfort. But that's about it. Performance-wise, the Sigma is a very capable lens. Its resolution characteristics are superb, and its bokeh is very decent. All in all, you really can't go wrong with it. Highly Recommended!

Get it used here.

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