Sigma 19mm on NEX - Initial impressions

Started Apr 5, 2012 | Discussions
ebrandon
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Sigma 19mm on NEX - Initial impressions
Apr 5, 2012

I seem to be one of the first people to get his hands on the Sigma 19mm f2.8 for NEX, so thought it would be good to share some initial impressions and images.

I've only used the lens for an hour, so these are preliminary observations and whatever images I could get with the NEX 5N in the hour between UPS delivery and sunset.

The lens is medium sized, about half the size of the 18-55mm kit lens or 50mm f1.8. It's high quality plastic, and comes with nice solid hood, a pinch cap which works well with the hood, and a nice pouch. The front element looks small.

It has large, smooth, manual focus ring which isn't moved by autofocusing, and can be rotated whether the camera is in AF or MF mode.

It autofocuses fairly quickly and very quietly.

Looking at the pictures when I got home, I had the following observations:

  • The lens is very sharp even wide open

  • It has richly saturated colors

  • It's a fairly low-contrast / high-detail lens

  • I didn't notice any vignetting

  • The bokeh is quite decent

  • The lens has strong barrel distortion in RAW

  • It has a little bit of purple fringing at highlight edges in RAW

  • My preliminary impression is that it has fairly pronounced field curvature

The NEX 5N jpg engine corrects both the barrel distortion and the PF. This lens is a no-brainer for JPG shooters, but RAW shooters should expect to correct at least the barrel distortion on almost every picture.

Here are few sample images:
Shot in RAW @ f7.1, quite heavily cropped and processed

Slightly cropped out-of-camera JPG @ f5.6

Out of camera JPG @ f4 showing both field curvature & jpg engine autocorrecting barrel distortion

Slightly processed uncropped RAW @ f8

Slightly processed RAW @ f4, vignetting added in post.

Processed RAW @ f3.2 showing bokeh

Cropped JPG @ f4

I'm comparing this lens to the Voigtlander 15mm f4.5, OM 18mm f3.5, Nikon AF-D 20mm f2.8, OM 21mm f2, Contax G 21mm f2.8, Canon EF-S 10-22mm, and Sony 16-80mm all of which I own(ed) and use(d) on NEX 5N.

I think this little lens holds it own, with a muted contrast/high detail rending all it's own, excellent ergonomics, and a ridiculously low price.

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RussellInCincinnati
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how the heck can a 5n correct Sigma lens problems?
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 5, 2012

This is a mystery to me, that a 5n can correct lens problems on a lens that it's doubtful that the 5n firmware ever knew about. Implies what exactly? That lenses have some ability to relay their needs to the Sony firmware?

Also impressive that Sigma's worked out and provided direct manual (i.e. electronic auto-magnifying) focusing on their $200 dollar Nex lenses. These new Sigma lenses make the big Alpha cameras, and the Fuji X-Pro 1, a bit less attractive.

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John Bean (UK)
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Re: how the heck can a 5n correct Sigma lens problems?
In reply to RussellInCincinnati, Apr 5, 2012

RussellInCincinnati wrote:

This is a mystery to me, that a 5n can correct lens problems on a lens that it's doubtful that the 5n firmware ever knew about. Implies what exactly? That lenses have some ability to relay their needs to the Sony firmware?

Well, that's exactly what micro 4/3 lenses do, so...

I have no idea whether or not E-mount specification allows something similar, but these empirical results seem to imply it does - but that only some cameras make use of the data. This is also true if micro 4/3, where for example CA data gets ignored by Olympus cameras but acted upon by Panasonic. Unlike micro 4/3 though the data - if it exists - doesn't seem to get written to the raw file for potential use by raw converters.

Also impressive that Sigma's worked out and provided direct manual (i.e. electronic auto-magnifying) focusing on their $200 dollar Nex lenses.

I can't see that any "working out" was involved, the Sigma NEX and m4/3 lenses are not reverse-engineered as they are for some brands (like Canon), they're made to match the official specification for each of the standards.

I am impressed though that the MF functions work so well, on the 30 at least (I assume the 19 is similar). It seems more positive (less turning) than I remember on Sony lenses and is completely free of overrun. If they improved the "feel" (which is disappointingly bad) I could almost believe I was using a real helicoid to focus.

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Bob Janes
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Re: Sigma 19mm on NEX - Initial impressions
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 5, 2012

Thanks for that - it does look to be a very attractive little lens...

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ianimal
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Re: Sigma 19mm on NEX - Initial impressions
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 5, 2012

Looks like a good lens, and very good value.

I also don't understand that NEX-5N can have in camera barrel distortion
for this lens. But if the parameters for barrel distortion is included in the
lens and the camera read it, well it should be possible.
I don't know if the E-mount work that way.

Could you take two images, one with barrel distortion turned off in camera
and one when it is turned on?
Just find a horizontal brick wall or something, and we will see if there is a
different in the images.

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Azimuth46
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Re: how the heck can a 5n correct Sigma lens problems?
In reply to RussellInCincinnati, Apr 5, 2012

it's not actually a mistery at all, it's of all evidence to me that Sigma works wery well with that sony sensors (16MP and 24MP) to let light arrive to the photodiodes in the best possible way . It's not a matter of firmware or eletronic, it's just a pure optic project.

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RussellInCincinnati
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"work out" wasn't referring to reverse engineering
In reply to John Bean (UK), Apr 5, 2012

RussellInCincinnati: Also impressive that Sigma's worked out and provided direct manual (i.e. electronic auto-magnifying) focusing on their $200 dollar Nex lenses.

John Bean: I can't see that any "working out" was involved, the Sigma NEX and m4/3 lenses are not reverse-engineered as they are for some brands (like Canon), they're made to match the official specification for each of the standards. I am impressed though that the MF functions work so well

Well the totality of the lens size, internal element-shifting motors, price/manufacturability and usability of focusing action is what was meant by Sigma "working out" the matter. Apparently my choice of words was ambiguous, wasn't referring to the treasure hunting of reverse engineering. My intent was to say "impressive that Sigma's worked out a nice implementation of focus-by-wire on a $200 dollar Nex lens, including direct manual (i.e. electronic auto-magnifying) focusing".

Yes of course Sony announced long ago that they were supplying specifications to 3rd party manufacturers to make e-mount compatible lenses. But as you yourself implied, there are plenty of ways to follow the Sony specs and make a manually-focused-by-wire lens "work", without necessarily working out exactly how to cost-effectively make and deliver something that functions so well .

For example, would wager that if there weren't still plenty of (relatively new) issues to "work out", in order to quantity manufacture a more electronically sophisticated mass market focus-by-wire lens at a good price, with reasonable feel and action, with an optical design lending itself to internal focusing motors, all in a package compact enough to complement the Nex, then some 3rd party besides Sigma would have shipped a great, inexpensive, small focus by wire lens by now.

Also impressive what Olympus has worked out for their 12mm micro four thirds lens, showing the creativity with focus-by-wire is just beginning. Quoting SLRgear:

The operation of the focus ring deserves a bit of explanation. In regular use, with the focusing ring covering the distance scale, the ring operates as PEN users are familiar with, moving the focusing element of the lens with a fly-by-wire system at a more or less constant speed, as well as activating the manual focusing mode of the camera and bringing up a magnified view on the LCD. When the focusing ring is pulled back, exposing the distance scale, the focusing speed is variable, dependent on how quickly the ring is turned. This emulates the feel of manual focusing, in that on a purely manual lens the lens will focus as fast as you turn the focusing ring. In addition, there's a little extra resistance when the ring is pulled back, offering a bit more fidelity to make small adjustments. Finally, in this mode the focusing limits are presented as hard stops - when you hit infinity focus or close-focus, the focusing ring will stop. This offers about ninety degrees of travel.

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RussellInCincinnati
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we're talking about lens-to-camera communications
In reply to Azimuth46, Apr 5, 2012

original poster: The NEX 5N jpg engine corrects both the barrel distortion and the PF

RussellInCincinnati: how the heck can a 5n correct Sigma lens problems?

Azimuth46:it's not actually a mystery at all, it's of all evidence to me that Sigma works very well with sony sensors (16MP and 24MP) to let light arrive to the photodiodes in the best possible way . It's not a matter of firmware or eletronic, it's just a pure optic project.

Azimuth, the issue under discussion isn't whether or not the Sigma lens works well, we're discussing the original poster's quite clear observation that the Nex 5n corrects barrel distortion, etc, on the in-camera JPEGs. None of us knows exactly how much information a third party lens supplies to a Nex 5n camera, that the '5n might use for auto-lens-correction. Nor do is it obvious which Nex cameras do exactly what, if anything, with that information that may or may not be coming from 3rd party lenses. And what if anything is done (by which Nex cameras?) to raw images.

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Glen K Wells
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Re: we're talking about lens-to-camera communications
In reply to RussellInCincinnati, Apr 5, 2012

Hi

Considering the Sigma 19mm but struggling to see the the advantage over 'a good copy' the kit lens.

Physically the 19mm is a bit smaller but at f2.8 it is only half a stop better than the kit lens at f3.5 wide open and the kit lens has ois. I appreciate ois it is only good for static subjects.

Has anyone got both lenses and can qualify the differences or preferences for the 19mm?

Kind regards
Glen

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headofdestiny
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Re: we're talking about lens-to-camera communications
In reply to Glen K Wells, Apr 5, 2012

Glen K Wells wrote:

Hi

Considering the Sigma 19mm but struggling to see the the advantage over 'a good copy' the kit lens.

Physically the 19mm is a bit smaller but at f2.8 it is only half a stop better than the kit lens at f3.5 wide open and the kit lens has ois. I appreciate ois it is only good for static subjects.

Has anyone got both lenses and can qualify the differences or preferences for the 19mm?

Kind regards
Glen

From everything I've seen, the Sigma 19 has less distortion and much better corner/edge sharpness. Plus, the AF should be a little better in lowlight, since it can open up to f2.8.

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John Bean (UK)
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Re: "work out" wasn't referring to reverse engineering
In reply to RussellInCincinnati, Apr 5, 2012

RussellInCincinnati wrote:

Apparently my choice of words was ambiguous, wasn't referring to the treasure hunting of reverse engineering. My intent was to say "impressive that Sigma's worked out a nice implementation of focus-by-wire on a $200 dollar Nex lens, including direct manual (i.e. electronic auto-magnifying) focusing".

In that case we are (for once) in full agreement

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RussellInCincinnati
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fringe-corrected Nex 5's 18-55 quite competitive at 18mm
In reply to headofdestiny, Apr 5, 2012

HeadOfDestiny: From everything I've seen, the Sigma 19 has less distortion

Sure.

HeadOfDestiny: and much better corner/edge sharpness.

Am sitting on the fence about this, in the era of LR4 Lightroom 4 and other programs' automatic lateral color correction. Has someone done a careful newer Nex kit at 19mm versus the Sigma 19 yet, on a Nex 5n, raw, with auto lateral color correction of both lenses?

Here's a test of an early-manufacture Nex 18-55 kit zoom, on an old Nex 5, extreme corners, F3.5, F4, F5.6, F8, F11, F16.

What about the latest run of Nex kit zooms, on the often-better-than-Nex-7-corners Nex 5n?

Now maybe my copy of the lens has the advantage of having been dropped and dented, thereby knocking some sense into it.

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ebrandon
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Demonstration of jpg correction
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 6, 2012

I made a couple of animated gifs showing the difference between a raw and jpg shot with the Sigma 19mm.

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tsammyc
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Re: Demonstration of jpg correction
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 6, 2012

That is so cool

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ebrandon
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Comparison with other lenses
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 6, 2012

People have been asking for comparisons with other lenses, especially the kit lens, so here you go.

These are all straight out-of-camera jpgs. You can see / download any image full-size by clicking on the word "(Original)" in the frame above the image.

Sigma 19mm @ f2.8

Sigma 19mm @ f5.6

18-55 kit lens (new version bundled with NEX 5N) @ f3.5

18-55 kit lens (new version bundled with NEX 5N) @ f5.6

Sony / Zeiss alpha mount 16-80mm with LA-EA2 adapter @ f3.5

Sony / Zeiss alpha mount 16-80mm with LA-EA2 adapter @ f5.6

My take-away is that the Sigma 19mm is a better close to medium distance lens than infinity/landscape lens, especially on the edges.

Also -- what's with the vignetting on the 16-80mm? I checked and the hood is not askew. Does anyone have any ideas?

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ebrandon
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Re: Sigma 19mm on NEX - Initial impressions
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 6, 2012

Finally, a few more samples from today.

A lightly processed jpg.

Two straight out of camera jpgs.

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scott_mcleod
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thanks - and a couple of questions
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 6, 2012

Thanks for posting your impressions and sample pics!

I have been thinking about the 19mm as a "standard" (albeit a bit slow) lens for my G2 (IMO the 30mm is a bit too long on a 2x body). I was wondering if you could add anything on how it performs at infinity, and what the sharpness is like toward the sides and corners of the frame?

Regards,
Scott

Edit: I just read your last 2 posts, which answered my questions! Thanks once again for the samples

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ebrandon
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Re: thanks - and a couple of questions
In reply to scott_mcleod, Apr 6, 2012

scott_mcleod wrote:

Thanks for posting your impressions and sample pics!

I have been thinking about the 19mm as a "standard" (albeit a bit slow) lens for my G2 (IMO the 30mm is a bit too long on a 2x body). I was wondering if you could add anything on how it performs at infinity, and what the sharpness is like toward the sides and corners of the frame?

Regards,
Scott

I don't like the edges at infinity on the NEX 5N -- they're smeared. There's no way to know how it would perform on a m43 sensor, though, given the different size sensors and different sensor technologies (NEX 5N has special microlenses).

In my opinion, it makes no sense to buy the Sigma 19mm for m43 when the smaller, faster and really great 20mm f1.7 is available.

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scott_mcleod
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Re: thanks - and a couple of questions
In reply to ebrandon, Apr 6, 2012

ebrandon wrote:

scott_mcleod wrote:

Thanks for posting your impressions and sample pics!

I have been thinking about the 19mm as a "standard" (albeit a bit slow) lens for my G2 (IMO the 30mm is a bit too long on a 2x body). I was wondering if you could add anything on how it performs at infinity, and what the sharpness is like toward the sides and corners of the frame?

Regards,
Scott

I don't like the edges at infinity on the NEX 5N -- they're smeared. There's no way to know how it would perform on a m43 sensor, though, given the different size sensors and different sensor technologies (NEX 5N has special microlenses).

In my opinion, it makes no sense to buy the Sigma 19mm for m43 when the smaller, faster and really great 20mm f1.7 is available.

True - I've been going back and forth between the 20/1.7 and the much more expensive (and larger) 25/1.4, but then the Sigma showed up and I decided I'd better wait and see (you never know, right?)

Well, it sure looks either of the Pannys would be a better choice for what I need it for - thanks

Regards,
Scott

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REShultz
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Re: thanks - and a couple of questions
In reply to scott_mcleod, Apr 6, 2012

And the Oly 17mm is even smaller and a very good lens. Some posters even like it over the 20mm and it can be had for around 200$.

I just ordered the 30mm Sigma for M43. These NEX pics look great, I can see why people love them.

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