Jun 092010

Here’s part four of my ongoing review of the new Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens for Nikon. This is about foolish things 🙂

What can you say when there’s nothing really to say? This lens is wonderful. It feels solid, precise, there is a nice feeling to the zoom ring and a very long way of the focus ring. Not that I ever focus this lens manually.

Being here in the city, all the problems of using such a lens apply, and then some. Forget about isolating things, forget about simple subjects. You have to be creative, fool around, try things you’ve never done.

Here is one more reason why I have bought this lens, although I already have the superb Tokina 11-16/2.8: The Tokina focuses only to 30cm, but this one (like all the Sigma wide-angles and the Nikon 10-24) goes to 24cm. It’s only six centimeters, yes, but you must not forget, that the minimum focus distance is measured from the sensor plane. On the other hand, perspective is determined by the distance between the subject and the virtual focal point, and although these lenses are 10 cm long, their effective focal distance is between 8 and 10 mm, thus roughly 9 cm in front of the sensor plane. If you take that into account, this is not the difference between 24 cm and 30 cm, this suddenly becomes the difference between 15cm and 21 cm, thus the relative difference is bigger, the perspective difference is more pronounced.

What I am doing now is fooling around. I try to use lines on the ground, put the camera very low, see what happens. One of the problems with this lens is, that it is not so easy to predict what a particular scene will look like. This would really be a case for live view and an articulated screen, especially when I have the camera so low, that I can’t possibly look through the viewfinder.

Anyway. The lesson is, that with such a lens you need experience. Only experience can give you any predictability, only experience can help you judge a situation, only experience can bridge the gap between what your eyes see and how different the world looks through such a wide lens.

Apropos fooling, just an experiment. Mount your widest lens, put it to its widest setting, be on a sidewalk in a street, look through the viewfinder while holding the camera horizontally, and then just go at normal walking speed.

It’s frightening. Well, at least at 8 mm it is. Try to avoid this with people coming your way 🙂

The Song of the Day is “These Foolish Things” by Ella Fitzgerald. I have the 1960 version of “Ella In Rome – The Birthday Concert” in mind, but YouTube’s 1957 version live at the Opera House (which one?) will do fine as well.

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