Analyzing the Sigma User-control Tool

Started Sep 19, 2012 | Discussions thread
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yvind Strm
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Analyzing the Sigma User-control Tool
Sep 19, 2012

Sigma recently announced a new initiative, not heard of before. Some other brands have offered some of this functionality.

The text in the press release:

"New user-control tools and software, and new quality control measures

The new Sigma Optimization Pro software and USB Dock are designed exclusively for these new product lines and will enable Sigma users to connect their lenses to their computers to update lens firmware and fine-tune focus parameters via easy-to-use, on-screen controls."

First, I try to guess what this is, and then why it is pretty good, for us and for Sigma.

Firstly, the system is for the new lenses only. So, in addition to optical redesign, they have changed the electronics.

Secondly, it will be a dock, where you mount your lens. This dock will probably be delivered for various mounts. The dock has no other purpose than providing a connection between the lens´connectors and some new software.

The dock is connected to your computer via USB.

In the new software, you can then update the firmware of the lens, instead of having to send the lens in for an update. (I have no idea of how often Sigma do update the firmware of their lenses)

The other functionality is the ability to correct Front and Back focus issues of the lens. To do this, you will have to run your lens through the normal focus test ON YOUR CAMERA, not in the dock.

Then you either make a manual approximation, or use some software, to find how much correction your lens needs.

This correction you load to the lens (in the dock) through the new Sigma User Control SW.
It might be that the new software can assist in finding the correct values.

The REALLY interesting part comes when speculating on just how much control over the lens you will get. How about a possibility to have different adjustment for different focal lengths of a zoom, or to have different adjustments for different distance? Or control of each individual AF point?
Is any of these really needed?

You only need to glance at the D800 forum, to learn about a AF point asymmetry on some D800s (outer left AF point being bad on some cameras).

So, what would this give the user compared to todays situation?

Less need to send the camera/lenses in for calibration. This would be convenient for a Sigma user, but consider a Nikon/Canon user with a Sigma lens that has focus issues. They can´t just send in the lot to Sigma or Nikon. And their camera does not recognize the Sigma lens, so they are left with a general adjustment (for all non-brand lenses).

With the new tool/sw, they can calibrate individual Sigma lenses. Sigma can probably not use this in marketing, as it will expose bad QC, but it will quickly spread on all forums, where reality is known.
So, I have a feeling that this move is a BIG thing from Sigma. Very clever.

But, where does it leave us if no similar functionality is available for the camera?

Well, there are situations that this will not solve, and the camera(s) lenses have to travel to Sigma. But in many cases the situation is improved:

A user with a camera without Micro AF adjustment, can fine tune each lens.

A user with two cameras without Micro AF adjustment, can fine tune each lens, and hope that the cameras are equal. Else they would need calibration - but that no worse than today.

A user with a camera with Micro AF functionality, can use this for lenses recognized by the camera, and use Sigma user control for the new Sigma lenses. Old Sigma lenses will be covered by the "non-recognized lenses" adjustment of the camera.

A user with two Micro AF cameras will have to find the difference between the cameras, calibrate all lenses for one of the bodies, and use Micro AF adjustments/or the "non-recognized lens" setting on the other.

I think Sigma deserves kudos for this.

Nikon D800
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