Nikon 10-24 vs Sigma 10-20 shootout

Started Jun 20, 2009 | Discussions thread
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Nikon 10-24 vs Sigma 10-20 shootout
Jun 20, 2009

I have both in my hands for a limited time, this is not an attempt at a formal review, just a quick summary of my observations. All images on a tripod, I shot with one lens, then replaced it with the competition and shot the same image. Each pair of images is taken no more than 1 min apart so lighting should be very similar, and all differences in color and contrast should be representative of lens performance, not changing conditions. I allternated lenses so sometimes Nikon was shot first, at other times the Sigma. The Nikon images are always to the left of the Sigma images in those pics where I forgot to label them. All images are straight from the camera, with no manipulation.

First, the (in)famous brick wall, at 10mm f/11. In my subjective judgment distortion is very similar, with a slight nod to the Nikon for contrast and color. Both images represent the right 50% of the frame

Second, the obligatory corner crops, all at 10mm. All are 600x400px outtakes from the upper-left corner of the frame (I mislabeled them as UR on the images). The corner was chosen because it is neither the best nor the worst corner for each lens. Both lenses had relatively uniform performance. It is not very clearly visible in the image below, so you will have to take my word that at 100% on the screen the Nikon was marginally better, but barely so. Perhaps the impression of "better" was due to the better contrast and color saturation. The Nikon clearly had more detail in the mortar at the center. At any common everyday printing size you will probably need a magnifying glass to see the difference in sharpness, but the color and contrast should be easy to pick out. It is best to look at the mortar, it looks kind of mushy for the Sigma, you can see individual grains with the Nikon.

Random shot 1 @ 10mm f/11. Now you are starting to see the color situation better. The Nikon (left) has greener grass, bluer skies, and less washed-out clouds. Not sure if this will come through on the images I am posting, but it is there

Random shot 2 @ 10mm f/11. Same conclusions, perhaps expressed even more clearly

I also have images at 12, 15, and 20mm, the conclusions are more or less the same. Overall, the Nikon is clearly no worse in any one category, perhaps marginally better in terms of sharpness, and notably better in terms of color and contrast. Is it $300 better? That is an entirely personal decision.

If you are on a budget the answer is probably no. You can always PP to punch up the colors and the difference in sharpness is too small to count. Of course, this is true only if you get a good copy of the Sigma. Those of you who have read my posts know that this is my fourth Sigma copy in as many years that I got as an open box from TechForLess for $330 shipped. It is a good one, but two of the other three had clear issues with de-centering. The photozone review also notes notable copy variation in the two copies they have tested.

As I had predicted, given the pricing Nikon would be practically guaranteed to deliver a lens that matches the third parties in every category and wins enough times to allow people can rationalize the choice to spend 40% more. It does have better colors, a more useful range, and ever-s-slightly better sharpness both in the corners and edges. For someone who has the money it is clearly the better choice, both in terms of IQ and convenience.

Whether it is worth the premiums is a very personal decision so let's not try to generalize and allow everyone to make their own decisions. I am inclined to keep the Nikon primarily due to the very useful (for me) range. Still have two weeks to decide.

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My display of mediocrity

P.S. I know that I wrote earlier that according to my historical images the Nikon was not up to snuff. My best explanation for the different conclusions is that lmy archive images were under very different lighting conditions (bright sun). Perhaps the harsh shadows created the impression of a sharper image.

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