Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 vs. Tokina 12-24mm f/4

Since I'm upgrading to a new full-frame D700 next week I decided to buy a Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6. This is the widest lens that has ever been made for a full-frame camera. Sigma's current batch of lenses have a great build quality, along with the HSM, and great pricing you so you usually can't beat 'em.

I already had the Tokina 12-14mm f/4 for use with my DX cameras so I decided to do some quick test shots with both lenses on the D300 for comparison.
Both lenses are built quite well, but the Sigma looks and feels more like a pro lens. Since I generally shoot these ultra-wides at the widest setting of 12mm I decided to only test the lenses at this setting (also to save a little time).

At the center of the frame at the widest aperture, f/4 for the Tokina and f/4.5 for the Sigma, the Tokina was sharp, surprisingly sharp. The Sigma was soft, much too soft.

The Sigma didn't show any improvements in sharpness until f/11 at which point it was almost as sharp as the Tokina at f/4. At f/16 and f/22 the Sigma was softening again due to diffraction. This was a disappointing performance to say the least.

The Tokina was sharp at f/4 and continued to get sharp up to f/11, at f/16 it started to soften from diffraction, but was still sharper than the Sigma at f/11. At f/22 the Tokina was pretty soft. The Tokina is amazingly sharp for an ultra-wide zoom at this focal length. Very impressive.


In the corners of the frame the Sigma performed even more poorly than I had expected after looking at the center sharpness. I was very surprised by this since the Sigma is a full-frame lens the corners should be much sharper due to the 1.5X crop factor.

At f/4 the corner of the Sigma image is completely devoid of any fine detail. It also shows quite a bit of CA. At f/5.6 it's a tiny bit better, but not by much. When set to f/8 the sharpness is a lot better. At f/11 it's still pretty good, but at f/16 and f/22 you see signs of softness from diffraction. The CA was pretty much under control by f/8. Again, a pretty poor performance, especially from a full-frame lens. If the corners are this soft on a DX camera, I can't even imagine how bad they will be on an FX camera. That being said, you do have to consider that this is the widest lens available for the FX format and you have to make some concessions for optical quality when trying to build an ultra-wide lens.

The Tokina was pretty soft at f/4 with some serious CA, by f/5.6 the sharpness was great and the CA was under control. From f/8 to f/16 the sharpness was acceptable and the CA was OK. At f/22 the corners were softened from diffraction. The Tokina was a pretty good performer in the corner sharpness, but not awesome.



The Tokina came out the clear winner in my book, something that came as a complete surprise to me. I really expected the full-frame Sigma to be much sharper especially in the corners. Of course both lenses suffered from some CA, but that is to be expected in lenses of this focal length. The Tokina is also about $200 cheaper than the Sigma so you definitely get more bang for your buck.

Although the Tokina is sharper, I'll probably keep the Sigma due to the fact that it will work on my D700. I wouldn't use this lens for critical work or for big enlargements, but the fact remains that this lens will give you a 122ยบ angle of view on a FX camera, which is really wide. You just have to decide which is more important for your work, image quality or the ability to go super wide.

Hopefully, I'll get my hands on a Nikkor 14-24 f/2.8 soon and I'll add to the comparison.


Euge said...

Thanks for the comparison. I just did the same walk process, I'm moving in Canon from a 30D to a FF (new 5D, not yet available). I sold my Tokina 12-24 that I love, and bought already the Sigma 12-24 (as a good price, second hand).

PhilS said...

Can you please offer any further comments on the Sigma 12-24mm on the D700? I read your review of it on a DX body- I have one that I bought for my D200 a few years ago. When I went to the D300 I added the Sigma 10-20mm for Real Estate/Architecture work and for truth, since I bought the 10-20mm I have not used the Sigma 12-24 much. I am wondering what your impressions of it are on the D700?
I imagine I can limp by with the Sigma 10-20mm in DX mode on the D700 until I can ante up for a Nikon 14-24mm F/2.8, but I'd love to hear that the 12-24 Sigma is at least workable on the D700.
THANKS- and BTW I have really taken a lot from your CLS book both pre- and post- meeting David Hobby and discovering Pocket Wizards.


J. Dennis Thomas said...

Hey Phil,

The Sigma 12-24 is definitely a bit soft, but I do a bit of sharpening in post and it works great. It can't even begin to compete with the Nikkor 14-24, but it's about $1000 cheaper. You get what you pay for, but for the money the Sigma is great. And it's wider than any other lens on the market. Here's some links to some stuff I shot with the D700/12-24 combo.

I will be updating the CLS book to include the SB-900 and SB-400, and I'm going to add a lot more details. Keep an eye out for it.