The Sigma Difference

on August 21, 2016

I have been trying to bring the normal Uncle Dick cynicism to bear on the products of the Sigma Corporation of Japan. You understand it is not just native meanness on my part - though there is a great deal of that - but a cocked eyebrow and sidewise squint often helps me to see further into a design than wide-eyed acceptance.

I think this would have been more successful with their lenses ten years ago. The earlier devices from Sigma were aimed at a different market, and you could tell by looking. Oh, the optical performance of the glass was good, and the value for money was there, but the appearance and design of the barrels and the firmaments was a bit problematical.

The external finish in those days was a sort of a plastic crackle coating - I'm not sure if it was a paint or a texture pressed into the components. It did have a certain charm, but if you started to use the lenses extensively and were not careful how you packed them you could find it wearing smooth at noticeable points. Don't stop the lenses from working but did bother some people.

Of course, this did not affect the optical design departments and they came up with ever more useful combinations of focal length and resolution. I myself whacked out real cash for an 8-16mm DC lens for the Nikon mount and found it was the best thing since sliced bread for interior shots. It also paid its way with large group shots at weddings, but as with all extreme wide angles, you had to make careful disposition of the people on the edges of the group - otherwise they got pumpkin faces.

So, where are we now. Not cynical at all, actually. Sigma must have decided to make a clean sweep of their external designs when they brought out their new A, S, and C lenses. The one you see on the heading is he 50mm f:1.4 DG HSM A lens - in this case in the Nikon mounting. of course you can get, Sigma, Canon and Sony mounts as well, so don't change the dial. It is intended for pro DSLR use.

That's evident from the MTF figures - the DP Review testing of it is quite remarkable. The sharpness of the resolution wide open is the thing that will rivet many of the potential buyers - couples with a full-frame camera this would be the perfect portrait lens in low available light conditions.

You pay for it, however, in the weight of the lens, and you bear that weight because Sigma have used top level components in the barrel. The old crackle finish has been left behind and then new sleeker surfaces should stay pristine even when going in and out of a camera case frequently. The level of finish on the mount is also remarkable - no poorly polished nickel plating back there. Quite frankly it is the kind of finish you would expect on the best lockwork of bespoke shotguns or Swiss watches.
It is the sort of attention to detail that allows the manufacture to back up a two-year warranty without fail.

You'll also notice the engraved "Made In Japan" on each Sigma lens. They do, and they use their own components too. Make what you will of the national pride in the cameras and lenses, it does mean that you are getting good value for your money.

See the Sigma range in store at 230 Stirling St, Perth or at