Sigma 12-24mm EX DG: Budget ultra-wide zoom

Started Dec 13, 2017 | User reviews thread
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Josh Leavitt
Josh Leavitt Regular Member • Posts: 276
Sigma 12-24mm EX DG: Budget ultra-wide zoom
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I’ve had this lens for a while now, and I can certainly say it met and exceeded my expectations for the price. Ultra-wide angle zoom lenses for full-frame cameras are not inexpensive by any means. Sigma’s new ultra-wide 12-24mm F/4 DG ART lens is quite a bargain at $1,600 compared to Canon’s eye-watering $2,700 11-24mm F/4L USM. Those prices tend to make budget-minded shoppers like myself look toward ultra-wide primes from the likes of Samyang, Irix, and so forth. I enjoy the challenge of primes; zooming with your feet has always been a source of creative inspiration. But at ultra-wide focal lengths it often becomes too much of a challenge. After all, just how effective can zooming with your feet be when half of the planet’s hemisphere is in your field of view? So, my attention swung back to ultra-wide zooms. Luckily Sigma has been making the 12-24mm zoom for a while now; they had two iterations of it before the current ART lens as far as I can tell. I settled on the first-generation model – the Sigma 12-24mm F/4.5-5.6 EX DG HSM.

I was able to purchase one of these lenses in near mint condition from eBay for $370, which was a much more appealing price than the latest offerings. So how does the lens perform?

Sharpness

It’s not the sharpest lens in the world, especially compared to the new Sigma 12-24mm ART and the Canon 11-24mm F4L. You have to stop down the aperture between F8 to F13 to get the best results. And you’re not likely to have any sharp images with this thing whatsoever if you’re shooting handheld – use a tripod with a 2-second shutter release delay.

Distortion

There’s hardly any distortion with this lens, and that’s the main reason I bought it. A 12mm rectilinear lens that doesn’t require distortion correction in post-processing is a huge, huge appeal at a sub-$500 price tag. This lens has given me distortion-free images at all focal lengths, so I can’t rate it highly enough in this regard.

Flare

Oh boy. It’s the curse of ultra-wides isn’t it? Yeah, this lens has flare – a lot of it. Due to the bulging aspherical element no doubt, it collects light from just about any angle imaginable (think fisheye), and with that comes flare streaking into your frame if the sun is anywhere close to the general direction your facing. But that’s not to say flare is always bad; it can turn into a pretty cool effect if used properly. I’ve included a black and white image with a starburst effect (aperture dialed down to F22) that shows how it can be managed in camera. Or you can correct it in post as well.

Chromatic Aberration

I haven’t really noticed a lot of CA with this lens, but then again, I’m not always looking for CA at ultra-wide focal lengths. I’m sure it has some if you pixel-peep at 100%, but you’ll need a very high-resolution camera to make out high-contrast distant background detail at 12mm (5DSR, A7R II, D850, etc.). I’m working with 26MP on the Canon 6D II, and CA hasn’t been a noticeable problem at 12mm.

Physical Design

It’s big and heavy. It unfortunately doesn’t have a tripod collar, and I thought that would have been an excellent feature to add considering the weight of the lens. The bulging aspherical front element means that you can’t use a threaded filter. There’s a slot in the back of the lens for cut-out filter sheets. It’s problematic for viewfinder focusing if you’re using ND filters, so it’s best to focus first and then add the filters, or to use liveview for focusing. I don’t think this lens officially has weather sealing, but I’ve never had any problems with it while using it in rain, snow, and dusty and windy conditions, so the build quality is quite good.

Last Thoughts

If you have an ultra-high resolution camera and want to make oversized prints, then I’d recommend skipping this lens and investing in the new Sigma 12-24mm ART. The moderately priced prime ultra-wide angle glass from Irix and Samyang is also worth considering if you know you want to shoot at that extreme focal length and still have excellent sharpness. I would say the first-generation Sigma 12-24mm EX DG HSM is a very good lens for an enthusiast photographer who’s just starting out in the landscape genre. 12-24mm is a considerable range of wide field-of-view, and it gives you the opportunity to find out which focal length you prefer without breaking the bank, and without the need to spend hours in post-production correcting frame distortion.

Flare control with starburst effect - aperture F22

12mm field of view (approx. 122 degrees)

 Josh Leavitt's gear list:Josh Leavitt's gear list
Canon EOS 5D Canon EOS 30D Fujifilm X-T1 Canon 6D Mark II Canon EF 35mm F2.0 +7 more
Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG Aspherical HSM
Wideangle zoom lens • Canon EF, Pentax KAF, Sony/Minolta Alpha, Sigma SA Bayonet, Nikon F (FX)
Josh Leavitt's score
4.0
Average community score
4.1
Canon 6D Mark II Nikon D850 Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG Aspherical HSM Sony a7R II
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