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Conclusion - Pros

  • Equal widest angle in its class
  • Very low chromatic aberration
  • Fast and silent HSM autofocus
  • Good build quality

Conclusion - Cons

  • Rather inconsistent sharpness (partially due to curvature of field)
  • Pronounced, complex distortion at 10mm

Overall conclusion

The Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM is, on paper at least, a very attractive option for APS-C users looking for an ultra-wideangle zoom. The standout selling points are undoubtedly that 10mm wideangle view and the HSM focusing motor, which when coupled with Sigma's traditionally keen pricing, makes for a compelling overall package. In the flesh that promise is to a great extent realized; optically the lens is a solid if not outstanding performer, build quality is up to Sigma's usual standards, and the focusing is indeed fast, silent and accurate. So far, so good.

Delve a little deeper, though, and problems start to appear. Distortion at wideangle, with its hefty barrel effect localized towards the corners of the frame, can be highly detrimental for architectural shots, and to compound the issue it's difficult to correct in software. But the bigger question mark hangs over the lens's sharpness, and in particular its inconsistency through the zoom range and across the frame. It's fine at 10mm and between 17 and 20mm, where stopped down to F8 or F11 results are firmly within the 'green zone' on our widget (corresponding to a critically sharp print of at least 12" x 8" / 30 x 20 cm). But in the intermediate range it's simply soft across much of the frame, even at F11. This is compounded by curvature of field effects which can lead to some odd real-world results, as objects which would be expected to fall within the depth of field can sometimes be rendered unexpectedly soft. As a result, extra care in focusing is advisable, especially when shooting at relatively close distances - in such instances it's best to use off-centre focus points (or even better, manual focus in live view) to make sure the subject is properly sharp.

Comparison to other wideangle zooms we've tested recently suggests the Sigma's class-leading days may be numbered. On APS-C, it simply can't match the biting central sharpness of the Tamron 10-24mm F3.5-4.5 Di-II in the 10-18mm range (for which, we suspect, users will mainly be buying this type of lens), and has more problematic distortion characteristics. However in a typical case of swings and roundabouts, the Sigma shows superior sharpness when shot wide open, and is better in the corners of the frame at all settings; it also has lower chromatic aberration, is better built and uses a superior focusing system. On Four Thirds, the new Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4-5.6 offers a wider angle of view and markedly superior optics in a lighter and more compact package; so while it's more highly priced, on balance it's a better buy for most users.

So overall the Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 EX DC HSM is a solid, well-built lens with good operational characteristics, which justifies its popularity with generally decent imaging results. While its long-running unique selling point of being the only third-party 10mm zoom has now disappeared, and it faces strong competition from Tamron's 10-24mm, the different characteristics of the two lenses means it's still a good option for APS-C users looking for the widest of ultra-wideangle zooms. It may no longer necessarily be the leader of the pack, but it's still well worth considering.

Detail

Rating (out of 10)
Nikon F Mount

Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 8.0
Image quality 7.5
Value 8.0

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Samples Gallery

There are 30 images in the samples gallery. All pictures are shot in RAW and processed using Adobe Camera RAW to bypass the Nikon D300 test camera's automatic chromatic aberration correction in JPEG. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. A reduced size image (within 1024 x 1024 bounds) is provided to be more easily viewed in your browser. As always the original untouched image is available by clicking on this reduced image.

Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 Review Samples

30 images • Posted 12th March 2009 • View album
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Comments

Total comments: 3
Ady Jo

I had this Sigma 10-20mm variable aperture lens for more than 3 years now and I love it. I do not get much time to shooting landscapes these days but whenever I do, I bring this beauty along. It performs very well and 10mm is really wide for nice landscape/cityscape shots. The wide angle makes a difference. I invariably put a circular polarizer on it.
The built quality is decent and although it has some distortion at its wide end, it is perfectly acceptable considering its wide angle and plus it can be corrected in post-processing.

Optical quality is good in the entire zoom range. Sharp in the middle throughout its zoom range. A bit soft near the edges though, but its not a deal breaker for me. Overall a very good lens for this price point.

0 upvotes
Tripodman

Had mine for a while Imo while not great is good value and with modern digital advantage of Pshop etc any short failings are far from difficult to correct in post pro.
if used between 15-18mm the results are actually very good although obviously having a large filter requirement means decent filterers coast a fare bit

0 upvotes
guywithyashica

Took one out during our family vacation to Vegas and the Grand Canyon (actually, part of the reason I bought it along with a need for an extra wide for my Real Estate business). Apart from flare, a decent lens showing good contrast in daylight and "normal" conditions. A bit difficult to correct lines in DXO and a bit of sharpening needed but a good overall performer.

1 upvote
Total comments: 3