8-16 vs 10-20 EX f/3.5

Started Apr 29, 2012 | Discussions thread
dlj Regular Member • Posts: 182
Re: 8-16 vs 10-20 EX f/3.5 Mini Review

I also have the 10-20mm F3.5, and it is a beautiful lens, with serious limitations.

It is quite soft in the corners, and even the edges unless stopped down a fair bit (defeating the wide aperture somewhat). Even stopped down a lot, the corners are still soft, especially at the focal length extremes.

Flare isn't too bad for a lens this wide. CA is pretty well corrected except at corners under massive-contrast edges with wider apertures. Any distortion is pretty minor, and completely 'linear' (to abuse a metaphor), meaning it isn't wavey or off-centre, and can readily be 100% repaired. Vignetting wasn't so bad either, even wider open. It's a bit large to carry around, and filters would be huge (I didn't buy any for that thread size, and being so wide, I doubt you could use a step-ring, and in fact, would probably have to buy very low-profile filters to avoid vignetting). I think it was internal focusing (camera's too far away to check). I haven't experienced any focus or zoom creep with it, and its fantastic for blind/covert candids when walking through markets or city streets.

It is mostly very sharp in the centre and 60% area, at a surprisingly broad range of apertures (even fully open). I have seen some SD1 pics with it, and it was actually tolerable for the centre areas (I'm using SD14 with it). The corners are really soft on the SD1 however.

In certain aesthetic conditions, the corners are so soft, that you have to crop, and that defeats some of the point of the huge perspective. The older 10-20 is sharper in general across the frame, but nearly needs to be stopped down to be usable at all, and has vignetting and distortion and CA that is very hard to fix, and since I was looking at purchasing the older 10-20 right when this revision came out, I jumped.

I'm waiting for the price to come down a bit further before pulling the trigger on the SD1m, especially since the post-processing is currently so restricted, and most of my lenses will still work well on it, but the one borderline case is the 10-20 3.5. I do still love the SD14, even though everyone enjoys bashing it. The SD14 is massively failure prone, requires lots of post-processing, but IMHO, still takes some of the nicest images on the planet.

I will still keep this lens when I get the SD1m, but may eventually add the 20mm 1.8 prime to my already overwhelmed travel kit.

My overall take is that rewinding the clock, I now would have gone with the 8-16 and the 20mm 1.8 prime IF you think you might upgrade to the SD1(s), and can accommodate two lenses in place of one. Otherwise, if your style of photos tolerate some artistic softness in the corners, this is a seriously reliable and convenient lens. I have many absolutely beautiful images taken with it, and its been exposed to some nasty conditions.

Do check out several of the sample photos online to evaluate the softness for your style of photography. I just checked, and I already had two Gallery photos uploaded here using this lens, basically default RAW-> JPG dumps (just exposure changes), which I posted when someone claimed Foveons couldn't do sunsets. They don't really illustrate the corner softness, but it does show that it's a capable lens - with further tweaks, these images could be quite nice. Sorry for the long post - hope it helps your decision.

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