Category Archives: Sigma 70/2.8 Macro

1329 – X-tra Wide

I think it’s quite funny what Ted Byrne commented on “1327 โ€“ Como La Lluvia En El Cristal“:

Hmmm… Okay, I know that the song of lenses from the store windows is so sensuous that we will have to lash you to the mast Ulysses-like lest you run your wallet into the rocks each time you pass.

Of course Ted knows me well, but sometimes I think he has a secret telepathic interface right into my brain.

I received the comment on Friday, it only came too late, I had already bought the new Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Ultra-Wide Zoom Lens for Nikon on Wednesday ๐Ÿ˜€

Obviously this is the beginning of a new review series. If you don’t know my reviews, well, I don’t concentrate on charts. In fact, I’m as interested in charts as every other gear head, but when I want to see charts, then I don’t make them myself, I trust the professionals.

For instance already has a very technical review up. It’s about the version for Canon, and although there is a theoretical difference due to the different focal length multipliers (1.6 for canon, 1.5 for Nikon, thus the Nikon sensor covers a slightly larger area), the difference can’t turn a good lens into a bad lens. Please go there for numbers.

What I can give you, is an impression of what it is like to use such a lens. I can tell you how it behaves in normal use, how snappy or precise the autofocus is, how it behaves regarding flares and ghosts, and so on and so forth.

Doing so takes time though, and, you’ll see me struggle, with this lens it may take some more ๐Ÿ™‚

More about general usage in the next posts. What I can already tell you, is that this lens is small, at least compared to the Sigma 10-20, the Tokina 11-16/2.8 or the Nikon 10-24, and of course it is dwarved by the Nikon 14-24 full-frame lens. It shares one property with the big Nikon though: you can’t use filters. At least you can’t screw them on, because of the bulbuous front element and because you can’t take off the petal-shaped lens hood.

I have Lee graduated ND filters, and when I hold them directly in front of the lens and if I am very careful, they just cover it fully in a vertical image. In a horizontal, I have no chance. Lee filters are equvalent to Cokin Z Pro, thus a Cokin X-Pro filter might be big enough. What you really want though, is one of these.

Another thing that bothers me more, is the fact that the supplied lens cap consists of an aluminium ring and a standard lens cap (notice it in my image though: Sigma finally has lens caps that you can remove with a hood on!). The problem with this arrangement is, that I can’t stow them away as easily as a normal cap. Thus I tend to hold the cap in my left hand while taking photos.

That’s it for the first post in this series. All images taken of this lens were made with the Sigma 70/2.8 Macro.

The Song of the Day is “X-tra Wide” from the 2000 Giant Sand album “Chore Of Enchantment”. Hear it on YouTube.

1310 – Muddy Water

Muddy? Not in this image, no. We had rain in Carinthia this Saturday, but it was completely harmless. Not so in Vienna though. Just look at this video from Thursday afternoon.

At the time I’ve been at home, only about 10 minutes from there. Of course I live at about the highest part of the district and this is the lowest, where the waters from 7th and 8th district flow together.

On Thursday afternoon the rain was as intense as I’ve ever seen, and normally this does not last longer than ten, maybe fifteen minutes, but this time it went on for almost an hour. I had no idea of the extent though until I saw this video. Here’s another one.

The Song of the Day is “Muddy Water” from Madeleine Peyroux’s 1996 album “Dreamland”. Wonderful rendition, unfortunately it is not available on YouTube. I can give you Bessie Smith instead. Different but not bad ๐Ÿ™‚

1279 – Have You Ever Seen The Rain?

I had evening dates for two consecutive days, returned late and got nothing done.

This is the Wednesday image, part of a fountain in front of Austria’s Parliament. I used the Sigma 70/2.8 at that day. It’s not stabilized and I don’t use it below 1/100s, thus I had to look for well-lit things. Oh how I miss my Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC! It’s not only stabilization, it’s the useful range as well.

The Song of the Day is the old CCR hit “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?“, this time from the soundtrack to “Philadelphia”, interpreted by The Spin Doctors. YouTube has it.

1223 – A Better Future

Nothing ages faster than science fiction, and when I saw this image, when I tried variants and ended up with this toned B&W, it immediately reminded me of 1950s science fiction movies.

Speaking of sci-fi, I’m still reading Orson Scott Card, and while “Ender’s Game” did not overly impress me, “Speaker For The Dead” brought up some real clever questions, and now I am in the middle of “Xenocide”. Seems like I will read the next one as well.

The Song of the Day is “A Better Future” from David Bowie’s 2002 album “Heathen”. Hear it on YouTube.

1120 – Toys

I guess you knew it after you read the last post. Some questions can’t be decided theoretically, you simply have to act. I did, and now I have a Tamron SP AF 17-50mm 2.8 XR Di II VC LD Asp IF.

Impressive name, huh? Well, I’m just as impressed with the actual lens. I have titled this post “Toys”, but in reality this is no toy at all. I had always thought of Tamron as a cheap, low quality brand of lightweight, plasticky lenses, but this beast is big, heavy, and it feels entirely solid.

The Image of the Day was of course not made with the Tamron. I took it in the morning with the Sigma 70/2.8, but the other two were made with the Tamron. Today was a gloomy, dark day. I took the playground image at noon, just after I had left the shop. It’s the original JPEG as it came from the camera. The image was taken at 50mm, f6.3, ISO 200 and 1/8s. Yes, that’s right, 1/8s! Just look at the pink lady between the bush and the tree. She was not running ๐Ÿ™‚

One thing is for sure, I can’t hold 1/8s at that focal length all of the time. I suppose the rate will be at or even below 50%, but that is no slouch either. At 17mm I would never have a problem at that speed. I think that’s quite impressive and just what I need in winter nights.

Why the decision for this lens and not for the Nikon 16-85 VR? Well, as I said yesterday, I really would have needed such a mid-range zoom in Udine, or in general, I need it when I am on a trip. On such occasions I invariably see things that I don’t have the chance to return to the next day. I have to take the image on the spot, or else I won’t take it at all. That means either compromising (like I did in Udine) or constantly changing lenses.

That alone does not explain my decision, but analyzing Udine, I realized that it had been not by chance that I had settled with the Sigma 28/1.8 and not with the equally available Nikon 50/1.8 or 70-300 VR. Both would have been perfectly possible, but on such trips, especially in cities, I tend to go rather wide than long. 28 was a compromise and I never wanted it to be longer, in doubt I would have liked it to be wider.

I wouldn’t have minded the bigger focal range of the Nikon, but the range of the Tamron seems to be what I need by far the most. On the other hand, while both lenses are stabilized, the Tamron is a whole lot faster. Not so much at 17mm, but at 50mm it’s two full stops.

So much for rationalizing my decision. The second image with the Tammy was made on the moving escalator. It’s been taken at 1/15s, the shutter speed that I have settled with as a lower limit before I let Auto ISO kick in. It was taken at f2.8, ISO 800, and I have used PTLens to correct the distortions, used Topaz Detail to add some local contrast to the in-focus areas, Noise Ninja to control the noise that Topaz Detail had left, added a silver toning, a levels adjustment, cropped the image slightly from both sides, and finally I added some noise ๐Ÿ™‚

The Song of the Day is “Toys” from the 1983 XTC album “Mummer”. Hear it on YouTube.

1119 – Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire

OK, that’s better now. Yesterday I did two things: I took my time and I changed lenses.

Taking one’s time is pretty much a precondition for any kind of photography. I mean, sure, on some busy days I have made some images that were jolly good, and what may have looked like hard work had been no more than a minute of luck or two. But that’s just that, luck, and you can’t rely on luck. Detaching oneself and spending some substantial time in disconnectedness with one’s work and troubles is still the best recipe for creativity.

The other thing is the lens. I have changed to the Sigma 70/2.8 Macro, this fantastically versatile lens of highest quality, for sure one of Sigma’s best designs. I set it to f2.8 and for the rest of the day kept it at that. If this lens does not give me fresh views and ideas, then I’m probably dead. Thankfully I wasn’t ๐Ÿ™‚

Speaking of lenses, there is a purchase that I’ve been contemplating for a long time now, I suppose at least half a year. I’m speaking of a mid-range zoom. I felt the strong urge for something like that when we were in Udine last Saturday. I carried the Tokina 11-16/2.8, the Nikon 10.5/2.8 fish, the Sigma 28/1.8, the Nikon 50/1.8 and the Nikon 70-300 VR, and after much changing around, I finally ended up using only the 28/1.8. It worked pretty well, but in many cases I had wished for something in the range of below 20 to at least 50, maybe more.

Of course I have the Nikon 18-200 VR, and normally I carry it with me when I’m on trips, I just don’t use it. Recently, while I was sick and at home, I had a look at old images made with the 18-200, and I found that it was never really sharp. I mean sharp like the Sigma 70/2.8 or sharp like the Sigma 28/1.8. I guess I’m just spoiled, but I don’t really like the 18-200 any more.

Basically I see two candidates, the Tamron 17-50/2.8 VC, a stabilized low-light champion, nice for winter nights, and the highly regarded Nikon AF-S VR DX 16-85mm 3.5-5.6G ED. Both are stabilized, the Tamron is faster, the Nikon has a better range. Both cost about the same. See my problem? I can’t really decide what I need. In Udine, in that wonderful, bright light, the Nikon would have been the clearly superior choice, in winter nights in Vienna the Tamron might allow me to stay in low ISOs. So what’s that? A winter lens and a travel lens? Do I need both? None?

The Tamron may be better for the coming season, but don’t my primes suffice on Vienna’s streets? Is a stabilized 50/2.8 any better than a non-stabilized 50/1.4 or even a 50/1.2? Hardly, huh? And is a zoom really what I use in Vienna?

You may find me mulling about that much longer, or I may make a quick decision, I have no idea. Let’s wait and see.

The Song of the Day is “Cold Blue Steel And Sweet Fire” from Joni Mitchell’s 1972 album “For the Roses”. Hear it on YouTube.

1040 – Sad Song

I read an article about jazz today, about the festival in Saalfelden, Austria, and about how jazz is completely accepted as art. You can’t provoke a scandal with jazz anymore. This made me think. Do we need scandals?

The history of the visual arts is a continuous progress towards ever more perfection, and it reached its high point during Renaissance. There was no way to get more realistic, no way to get more detailed, and from then on, it went the other way: towards abstraction. You see it begin in Titian’s colors, how he mixed red and green, you see it much stronger in Tintoretto, Rubens used a rougher brush with longer strokes, El Greco and the late Goya pointed up to our times, impressionism re-invented color, expressionism warped it, and with Kandinsky and Mondrian that second progression finally came to an end.

There was always a tendency to mix art and scandal, because scandal sells almost as good as sex, but the art of the 20th century was especially characterized by the tendency to shock the viewer and that is very much due to the fact that art had to search for a new orientation. The gesamtkunstwerk was born.

I understand all that and I understand how necessary this was in many cases, but there is also the question of what becomes of a piece of art, when the performance is over, the shock has worn off. Is it still art? Does it keep its value? Can it persist in spite of being isolated from the original context?

This weekend I have got my copy of “The $12 Million Stuffed Shark” by Don Thompson. I have not read it yet and won’t do so during the next weeks, but I guess this book will answer some of my questions, at least from the point of view of economics.

For me the most important point is, that we live in a post-modern world. Of course this is old news, but it is essential to realize, that this gives us enormous freedom. The river has come to an end, there is no more need to swim with or against the current, there is no current any more, we are floating in an endless sea of possibilities. This is scary but liberating.

It is possible to take up pieces from older times, it is possible to combine, it is possible to simply do what you feel you need to do, regardless of trends and fashions. There is nothing to win by trying to swim with a current when there is no current at all. You can as well be you and be happy with it. In an age of ubiquitous and instantaneous communication you may not get rich, but you will find your audience.

The Image of the Day is one more bicycle for the book, and the frogs were hanging outside of a shop. A sad and a happy image, that’s it for today.

The Song of the Day is “Sad Song” from Lou Reed’s 1973 album “Berlin”. What a wonderful song. Hear it on YouTube.

1010 – Sunday

It’s late, much too late to say many words. I’m in Vienna again and tired now, and by the way, did I mention it’s late?

I took this image in the maybe two minutes that I had for photography today. It’s a combination of two exposures, one at f5.6 for some depth, and one at f2.8 for the soft background.

The Song of the Day is “Sunday” from the 1992 Cranberries album “Everybody Else is Doing It So Why Can’t We?”. See a live video on YouTube.

1009 – In A Country Churchyard

Saturday began with rain. Much rain.

Again there were floods in parts of Austria, and the air cooled down by about 15 degrees Celsius. High mountain roads above 1500 meters were impassable without snow chains, in other words, it was a rather unusual high summer weekend.

In the afternoon the eastern part of Carinthia seemed to be sunny, so we took the car, drove down to Saualpe, a north-south mountain chain in eastern Carinthia, and explored the country roads.

Carinthia is not densely populated, but certainly denser than all that gorgeous nature would demand. In this certain part though, there are only some small villages far and between.

It’s really a wonderful landscape up there on the mountain, but of course it has a reason that not many people live there. You are far away from every supermarket, not to speak of a real city, and what looks so wonderful in summer, is quite a problem in winter. Winters up there are long, and to live there probably means to be snowed in a couple of times a year.

There are plenty of churches up on the mountain, one in every village, sometimes for not more than maybe ten houses, some solitary, and one of the churches, Sankt Leonhard, is even off the road in the middle of a forest. That’s the one with the walls in the Image of the Day.

The images were taken with three prime lenses, 24, 35, 70, and two zooms, 11-16 and 70-300. This was lens changing day ๐Ÿ™‚

All images were treated with a combination of Topaz Adjust and Alien Skin Snap Art. For the high-contrast images with lots of sky, I have normally taken two differently developed versions from the same RAW, combined with a mask. I love these effects on landscapes.

It’s probably Kitsch, but it triggers something in me. Those images look like a certain kind of illustrations that I liked in my books when I was a child, a kind of illustrations that completely came out of fashion in the 1970s.

The Song of the Day is “In A Country Churchyard” from the 1977 Chris De Burgh album “At the End of a Perfect Day”. Hear it on YouTube.

1008 – Morning Glory

It’s already Sunday and I’m so much behind. Sorry for that, I ran pretty out of time. That’s for quiet weekends ๐Ÿ™‚

This image was taken Friday morning on my way to work. I actually thought all the time I would take another image, one of the current mirror series, but when it turned out worse than expected, I instead found that I really like this one for a certain quietude in it and for its composition in general.

The Song of the Day is “Morning Glory” from the 1967 Blood, Sweat & Tears debut album “Child Is Father to the Man”. Hear it on Deezer.