Sigma 10-20mm Review: Going Wide

The somewhat dated but still incredibly useful Sigma 10-20mm F/4-5.6 wide angle zoom is an affordable addition to any landscape photographers ASP-C gear. Please note this is an ASP-C mounted lens; as such it will be unsuitable for any full frame camera bodies such as the Canon 6D or Canon 5D Mark III. If sporting a full frame sensor you may want to take a look at an alternative like the Canon 17-40mm F/4L wide angle zoom. We will examine the strengths, weaknesses and various suggested uses for this lens throughout the rest of this Sigma 10-20mm Review.

The Sigma 10-20mm is especially well suited for Landscape Photography and is no doubted where it gets the majority of its use. The super wide 10mm even on a crop factor DSLR allows photographers to capture the breadth and vastness of even the most dramatic landscapes. One of the primary weaknesses of this lens is its relatively slow F/4 aperture which isn’t a significant factor in landscape photography where there is often limited motion, lots of light and plenty of time to setup and leverage the stability of a tripod. The use of a tripod will allow you to stop down to F/8 for additional sharpness which is a huge plus with an entry level lens such as this. Pictured above is Cook’s Meadow in Yosemite Valley shot with the Sigma 10-20mm.

Astrophotohraphy is another place where the Sigma 10-20mm shines. While it won’t allow you to capture razor sharp shots of the galactic core like a F/1.4L or F/1.2L would on a full frame camera, to be fair, this lens is aimed at a completely different demographic. It’s super wide zoom allows you to capture huge areas of the night sky without the distortion of a fisheye lens. The photo shown is a 15 minute single exposure at F/4 800 ISO at 10mm from Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania (which is an amazing place to visit if you ever get the chance. If you check out the 3 Must See Nature Photography Sites In Pennsylvania post there is another shot from the same night with this lens showing the galactic core. Shots of the galactic core tend to be a bit soft however, due the the slow aperture in my experience it seems the shutter needs to be opened for at least 90 seconds which just from the rotation of the earth will cause your shots to be a bit blurry. If you take a look at the full resolution though you can see its still acceptable and you can even make out Andromeda.

Lastly Architecture is another genre in which the Sigma 10-20mm excels. Similar to landscape photography there is often little motion involved when shooting architecture which minimized the drawbacks of the Sigmas F/4 maximum aperture. Unlike nature and landscape photography however there is often little light when shooting architecture indoors. Because of this in certain situations it becomes absolutely essential to carry a tripod or at very least a steady hand and blow off multiple frames of each shot choosing the sharpest during post processing. Another weakness of the Sigma 10-20mm is that it carries with it a fair amount of geometric distortion. This is often especially noticeable when shooting architecture since there will most likely be a fair amount of linear lines in the photo which will make any distortion more apparent. This is another reason post processing is critical, tools such as Photoshop or Lightroom have pre-built profiles for this lens and will allow for the correction of any geometric distortion which may have occurred. Lightroom will also allow you to automatically level and straighten your shot in the lens correction menu.

All in all the Sigma 10-20mm wide angle zoom is a great lens for the price. While its slow aperture does present challenges in some situations, with a little practice you can easily identify when the lenses limitations will be an issue and either change your approach or lens.

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