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Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM First Impressions

After a bit of an ordering fiasco last week, Donna and I headed up to Manhattan on Sunday to pick up my new Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6D EX DC HSM from B&H. We had a great time wandering around the city taking in the sights and taking plenty of pictures. It was a great time.

It was also the first time I spent a day using the new Tenba Large Messenger bag and not being able to drop it off in the car if it got too heavy. While I traveled “lite”, I still carried a camera body and three lenses, as well as extra batteries, filters and memory cards. After being on the ground for about five hours solid, I’m happy to report that with the exception of my feet, I was comfortable the whole time.

Getting back to the new lens … I had originally planned to buy the Tamron SP AF10-24mm F/3.5-4.5 Di II, but after some additional research, I found that the Sigma was a significantly sharper lens in lab tests. Now, I know that lab tests don’t always equate to real-world results, but the differences in the tests were significant enough to get my attention. With the prices being similar, I decided to go ahead and get the Sigma.

I was certainly not disappointed in my choice. Build quality is excellent. The lens feels solid and decidedly non-plasticy. It is amazingly sharp throughout its zoom range, especially when stopped down to f/8 or f/11. I’d say it’s almost on par with good quality primes of similar focal length, and also with lenses costing much, much more. Color and contrast are excellent, and chromatic aberration is nearly non-existent. Of course, at the widest zoom settings, there’s a fair amount of barrel distortion, but that’s to be expected with a lens this wide. That distortion wrought havoc with the Sony SLT-A35′s auto-panorama mode.

This in-camera panorama was taken with the Sigma 10-20mm lens. Because of the distortion caused by using such a wide lens, the camera couldn’t cope with stitching the panorama together. The result is that some of the buildings in the image got “fractured.”

Below is a sampling of pictures I took while we were doing the “tourist thing.” I used the new Sigma lens exclusively, and the images are straight from the camera, with the exception of resizing and watermarking. Some of the images are in-camera HDRs.

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What do you think?