Sigma lenses are based on purity and simplicity
Do I buy a better camera body or do I buy a better lens? This is the dilemma many photographers face.
I was told by the pros that the body was disposable but the lens is the important bit but choosing the right lens is not so straightforward.
So how does one choose a lens ?
This is an art all by itself as each lens has its own capabilities which needs to be understood before making the purchase or else you will be disappointed. If you want to use your camera mainly to shoot your kids on the soccer field, then buying a lens with manual focus and no zoom capabilities will be very frustrating.
I realised that I needed to understand these two terms when it comes to lens:
Focal Length – this is essentially the zoom. It is expressed in mm and can be displayed as a single number (ie 20mm) or a range (70-300mm). The single number means its a prime lens which is used to take much more of the scene into a shot with great detail and no cropping. If you want to zoom in, you have to get closer to the object. A Range means that you can zoom into the subject you want to shoot and can stop zooming and take the shot at any point along the range.
Note: The catch is that you also need to take into account your camera’s sensor too and if its a full frame camera. This is where you should get the sales person to explain what is optimum for your particular camera body.
Aperture – Shown as F1.8 or F1/8 this is the maximum amount of light which the lens can gather. The larger the aperture the more light it allows in. You want more light into the lens so you can take better picture in low light conditions without a flash. Just remember that the larger the aperture the smaller the numbers are so F1.2 is larger than F4.
Can cheaper be better ?
Price is obviously a factor as lenses can cost thousands of Dollars. This is where people get stuck. One could get a “brand” name lens which is the same as the camera manufacturer or a Sigma lens which fits the camera at a fraction of the price. After extensive research I opted for the Sigma lens which I have had for over 4 years now and it was the best decision I made.
Today, at the Photo & Film Expo in Johannesburg, I finally discovered exactly why Sigma is such a great company.
The Sigma Categories
When designing a lens one has to balance design with spec, performance, size, weight and price. Some photographers prefer a nice all rounder lens that is not expensive while others prefer a lens that is optimised to capture high action and are willing to pay more for a heavier lens that does that.
Therefore, in 2012 Sigma classified its products into these three categories in order to make it easier for the consumer to choose a lens for their purpose:
- Contemporary lenses are lens design in the traditional way where there is a balance between design, spec, performance, size, weight and price
- Art lenses are the best optical performances which prioritise image quality over everything else.
- Sports lenses– are ultra telephotos lenses, heavy duty spec for outdoor usage
Back to purity, Back to simplicity
Sigma is distributed in South Africa by Tudortech and I had the honour of speaking with Mr Kazuto Yamaki, Sigma’s CEO who was in South Africa from Japan.
Back to purity, back to simplicity is Mr. Yamaki’s vision for the company. Sigma’s secret is that they are a family and community company in the heart of Japan. They retain their identity by keeping to the following rules:
“Small Office, Big Factory” –Sigma has 14000 employees but only 10 people work in finance and administration.Sales and Marketing are done by 40 people. They employ the best engineers who only make lenses unlike other companies who make camera and accessories too. Therefore, the entire engineering team is focused on task – make the best lens.
“Vertically integrated” – the Sigma lens’s key components are made by Sigma themselves and not by an outsourced company. Therefore they are not only able to keep the cost down, but are able to push the boundaries of their lenses as they can absorb costs in house.They can also keep tight control over quality of materials.
“Local procurement & manufacturing” – Sigma has chosen to work with local suppliers which they have a long term relationship with. Even the physical location of these suppliers is close to their factory as this not only keeps the costs down and increases the delivery time, but suppliers are able to meet face to face. This is key when making changes or designing new lenses as all suppliers need to change their components to fit into new design. This is only possible due to the relationship and would not be possible if Sigma purchased components from the cheapest suppliers and assembled their lenses at the cheapest assembly plants.
Sigma has managed to create some world-first lenses such as the SIGMA 20mm F1.4 DG HSM which is an ultra-wide-angle lens, created with F1.4 brightness and delivers high speed and high-level artistic expression. This lens is ideal not only for such ultra-wide-angle subjects as landscapes and starry skies, but also for snapshots in low light, indoor photography, portraits with a natural bokeh effect. SIGMA 24-35mm F2 DG HSM lens, another world-first, large-aperture full-frame zoom lens offering a wide open aperture of F2 throughout the zoom range.
These are available at the Expo so if you are in the market for new lenses go and check them out !