Lugging a heavy camera bag around just isn’t ideal when you’re out exploring on foot; my kit bag would typically contain my Nikon D7100 camera body, three lenses, a variety of filters, cleaning equipment, plus of course spare SD cards and batteries. Oh, and sometimes my Giottos tripod too… Having trudged home with a sore shoulder far too often, I decided I needed to take steps to lighten the load and finally invest in a new telephoto lens.
I’d borrowed, and completely fallen in love with, a Sigma 105mm macro lens whilst at art college. The optics were so smooth, so quick, and the images so crisp. Have decidedly fallen a little out of love with my Tamron 70-300mm lens and it’s clunky autofocus recently, I opted to invest in Sigma’s counterpart offering: a 18-300mm f3.5-6.3 (though of course Tamron and Nikon equivalents are available).
I get all of my larger camera equipment from my favourite store – SRS Microsystems – as I like to physically explore it beforehand. Photography is an expensive business, so it’s important to try before you buy where possible. The guys in store are so friendly, helpful and knowledgeable, it’s quite easy to loose track of time chatting (and by adding things to your basket!) Having tested out the lens on a similar Nikon body to my own, on every setting, indoors and outdoors, I decided this definitely was the lens for me. No more carrying three lenses around, now the one could cover all focal lengths.
I utilise my kit for both work and personal use, and within a week or two had not only explored Devon and the Lake District, but undertaken a photoshoot for Brora x Emma Bridgewater, and was packing for Switzerland! I was thrilled with the results; the lens was a comfortable weight, stable, well built, and had a gorgeous all-black design! (Really, if it’s all black, I want it!) Images were far crisper than with my older Nikon 18-55mm lens, autofocus was lightning compared to my Tamron 70-300mm, not to mention quiet – the optics didn’t struggle, weren’t madly zooming back and forth, and were, crucially, reliable. Definitely my favourite lens to date.
It didn’t take long however for me to notice what I can only refer to as ‘ghosting’ in some scenarios. I initially put this down to the lighting, the subject, and the settings. On darker images I saw faint white areas towards the top left and right of the frame. I’d only notice this at certain focal lengths – namely 38-44mm. I contacted the guys at the shop – no one else had reported the problem, so we all put it down to a faulty lens. I didn’t experience this with any other lens, even in the same conditions, so knew it wasn’t a camera fault. When I finally had time to stand still between photo shoots, I took it in for them to look at, and sure enough, they too could see it but not explain it (usually you’d expect this to appear black). I took an exchange, and got back to work. Unfortunately, I noticed the same again. In all, I exchanged the lens twice, and when the third lens performed the same way, asked Sigma to take a look at it themselves. With their offices also based locally to me, I booked it in for a repair and drove it over during my lunch break. Again, I had a very positive experience with Sigma staff and servicing – they knew I had upcoming shoots, so worked on it for me almost immediately, testing not only the lens but my camera body.
An example of ‘ghosting’ with the Sigma lens – note the white areas toward the edges, and dark vignetting.
f4.2 / ISO 1400 / 1/30s / 38mm
It seems the mystery of the ‘ghosting’ in my lens really got the better of everyone, for even Sigma’s very knowledgeable technicians couldn’t explain the issue, let alone replicate it. As it wasn’t performing to it’s utmost, reluctantly, I took it back. With no other issues reported, and my Nikon D7100 body having been given a full bill of health, I’m still frankly baffled. I’ve never had so much fun experimenting with a lens, nor have I found a lens whose design and style exactly matches me (really…all black!). I’m sad to be without it, but this won’t stop me looking to Sigma for other lenses in the future. As I mentioned, I’d rather fallen out of love with my Tamron, so though a similar price point, instead opted for a Nikon 18-300mm f3.5-6.3. This lens, I’m pleased to say, has had no problems at all, and has served me well on various photoshoots already!
For any Sigma users out there with any questions about their kit, or anyone looking to invest, the guys at their head office really are the best; give them a call, pop in and see them, or drop them a line, they are only too happy to help. If you’re Hertfordshire based, it’s definitely worth visiting SRS Microsystems to try out any larger pieces of kit you’re looking in to. Or to explore their collections of vintage and pre-owned kit.