I purchased a Nikon D600 early this year to replace my 5 year old Nikon D300. It was until this week that I sold off the D300. I am a veteran when it comes to second-hand trades, doing that since early 2000s, and I advocate trading pre-owned gadgets, so that they get a new lease of life from the new owners. Some things are not broken, they merely lost the useful value in the hands of the current owner. So instead of putting them in storage and lose their purpose, they should be handed over to another person who needs them, and at the same time, pocket some cash.

Ever since I bought the D600, I had wanted to get an ultra-wide angle (UWA) lens. My current APS-C (1.5x crop) UWA lens is the Tokina 12-24mm F4 which is a fabulously-built lens. It has worked very well for me, delivering an equivalent 18-36mm field of view. But the prices of the UWA lenses are rather steep and does not justify the purchase (I was short-listing Nikkor 16-35mm f4, Nikkor 14mm f2.8, Tokina 16-28mm f2.8). Besides the price issue, I thought there was no real urgency since I could still continue to use the Tokina lens on the D600 and shoot from 18mm. Anything below 18mm will of out of frame, but one could still crop away and get a wide angle in squarer format.

So one day, while browsing the ClubSNAP buy-and-sell forum thread for good buy, I chanced upon this post to sell a Sigma 15-30mm full-frame lens, and I thought, wow, Sigma has this configuration!!! But of course, I recalled the Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6 was also a popular full-frame UWA lens a decade ago, and I was even contemplating getting it back then to use on my DX camera, before I decided to settle on the Tokina 12-24mm. On hindsight, I should have bought that so that I do not have to upgrade my lens now, but if I did, I would be unsure of the lens condition, because the Tokina build quality definitely helps me to keep it in such a great shape despite going through dozens of weather-challenging assignments.

The moment I picked it up from the previous owner, my first impression was: this lens is light! Lighter than the Tokina 12-24mm, it felt hollow and empty. It might be an advantage for those who prefers a lightweight lens but I doubt it will survive major drops. The lens hood is permanent, it has a metal adapter which you can fit 82mm filter, but will cause the image to show a black ring as if it were a DX lens.

Reasons why I went for Sigma 15-30mm:

  • Cheap. I bought a second hand for less than S$400, while the other candidates are priced more than double.
  • Wide aperture. It’s F/3.5 maximum (F/4.5 at 30mm), although it exhibits vignetting. Increasing aperture reaps better results.

I did a shoot-out comparison between the Tokina and Sigma and here are the results:

With the Sigma, I can attain 15mm field of view (FOV), while I could only manage 18mm on the Tokina, and even with that, I still caught some vignetting on the right corners of the frame.

I also brought my Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 DX fisheye lens and shot for FOV comparison.

As you can see, even though the FOV is also 15mm, the 10.5mm DX lens captures a lot more view, albeit distorted. Here’s another look after I corrected the distortion using Lightroom.

I do get a wider view, but with severe blur and chromatic aberrations.

Sample Images with 15-30mm
I always have a fascination with UWA lenses, for the simple reason that it allows us to capture an extremely wide view of what’s in front of us, a view that more accurately represents the human visual field. Many photographic peers have found it a challenge to use UWA lenses due to the heavy distortion. I like to use the distortion effect to my advantage.

I am where I am – at the driver seat of my car. Check out the depth of field.

Standing next to my car, waiting for the Class 95 car decal giveaway at
Satay by the Bay, Singapore

Warning: Object is closer than it appears

The below image is a classic problem on the Sigma 15-30mm widely commented – flare.

By reframing the shot, the flare went away.

The above images might not look extraordinary, but fact is that majority of camera owners are unable to capture them because their lenses are not wide enough. Most consumer cameras are armed with lenses from 24mm. This Sigma shoots at 15mm!

What the Samsung Galaxy S3 sees compared to the above shot of the
same structure from the same position.

More photos on my Facebook page.

The View Is Ultra-Wide
Ultra-wide angle lenses are not just fun to shoot, they capture a lot more view. And because I have upgraded my APS-C Nikon D300 with a full-frame Nikon D600, I should replace my current Tokina 12-24mm DX lens with a full-frame UWA lens so that I can shoot at a wide angle. For existing DX camera users, the Sigma 15-30mm might not work for you because it is not wide enough and does not come with a proper filter thread.

If you like macro photography, check out my other blog post here.

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