My Gear: The “Always-on” – Sigma C 17-70mm f/2.8-4

Sigma C 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4.0

After I had chosen my new camera, the next question obviously was which lenses to get for it. This time, I had deliberately bought the camera body without the kit lens that usually comes with it, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6. I wanted something with a bit more “punch”.

KIT LENS ALTERNATIVES

Canon themselves offer the Canon EF-S 17-55mm ƒ/2.8 as an upgrade to the kit lens. It lets in two thirds more light at the short end, and even four times as much light at the long end! The downside is, it costs around 750,- € (Nov. 2016). Fortunately, there are “off-brand” lenses available as well. This resulted in the following short-list:

  1. Sigma 17-50 mm ƒ/2.8
  2. Tamron 17-50mm ƒ/2.8
  3. Sigma 17-70 mm ƒ/2.8-4.0

The main similarities and differences can be quickly summarized:

  • No. 1 and 2 both have a 3x zoom, and a constant maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8. Both have a price tag of around 300,- € (Nov. 2016)
  • No. 3 has a 4x zoom, but a variable aperture with “only” ƒ/4.0 at the long end. It costs around 400,- € (Nov. 2016)

After studying numerous reviews, I dropped the Tamron from the list. The reviews consistently stressed that the Sigma lenses to have better image and build quality. So the remaining question was: what do I consider to be more important – longer focal distance or wider aperture? 17-70mm or constant ƒ/2.8?

In the end, I decided for the 17-70. I preferred the greater flexibility given by the extra 20mm.

SIGMA C 17-70mm ƒ/2,8-4,0 DC MACRO OS HSM

Sigma C 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4.0
Sigma C 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4.0

The Sigma plays a major role in the fact that photography has become so much fun for me with the new camera. Not only because it lets in much more light, making it easier to take good pictures indoors or at night – image sharpness and colour rendering have enthused me as well. As a result, it has truly become the “always-on”. Its external values are also convincing. I consider the used materials and the build quality to be very good. It comes complete with lens cap and lens hood – something Canon likes to charge extra for. Though it adds to the kit lens in terms of size and weight, it handles very well together with the camera.

Regarding taking pictures: The autofocus works very reliable on my 760D, as does the image stabiliser. This makes for good hand-held images even in difficult lighting conditions. It is not a true macro lens  – but an image scale of 1:2.8 still allows for some impressive close-ups. And thanks to the wide aperture, pictures with nice out-of-focus backgrounds (bokeh) are feasible as well.

ARE THERE ANY DOWNSIDES?

Yes, based on my experience from the past year, there are a few points to consider. What I notice the most: the zoom is very easy-going. When carrying the camera with the lens pointing down, on a belt clip or shoulder strap, the lens extends to 70mm by itself, due to its own weight (including the lens hood). This can be a bit awkward, because it becomes more likely to hit something. Plus you’ll have to adjust the zoom most of the times when picking up the camera again.

When recording video, as long as you do not use an external microphone well away from the camera, quiet clicking and chattering from the image stabilisation and autofocus will be audible. I rarely record videos, so that doesn’t bother me too much.

The images themselves offer hardly any reason for critique. The light vignetting (darkening of corners) when shooting wide open can easily be fixed in post-processing with just a few mouse clicks. In Adobe Lightroom, for instance, simply choosing the correct lens profile already does the trick. Chromatic aberrations – green and purple fringing on contrasting edges – are negligible.


CONCLUSION

Recommendation: If you are looking at an upgrade from the kit lens, I can highly recommend the Sigma C 17-70mm ƒ/2.8-4.0! It is very versatile, reliable, and renders compelling results. Even more so when taking into account that the “original” from Canon costs twice as much – but in my mind, it’s not worth the extra money.

The sister lens, Sigma 17-50mm ƒ/2.8, is worth having a look at as well – especially when you’re taking videos on a regular basis, where a constant aperture is more important. Two of my friends have it, on a Canon 350D and a Nikon D7100 respectively, and they are happy with that choice as well.

What I’ve learned: The thorough research before getting the new lens was absolutely worthwhile. In particular: when you are looking for a new lens, have a look at the third-party manufacturers as well: Samyang, Sigma, Tamrom, Tokina etc. In terms of quality as well as value for money they offer some very interesting alternatives.


LINKS:

Picture Credits: All pictures – own images.


EXAMPLE IMAGES:

Fall Colors
Fall Colors
Portrait of a Snail
Portrait of a Snail
Frankfurt - Night Skyline (HDR)
Frankfurt – Night Skyline (HDR)
December Sunrise
December Sunrise
The Forge (HDR)
The Forge (HDR)

On a personal note: All aboard! Your next connections…

Pictures Overview

While I’m happily sharing recommendations for the blogs, videos, and books that helped me getting started with photography – and still do – of course the question comes up: So? What came out of all this? Did it actually help?

Personally, I can say: The pictures I’m taking today – one and a half years ago, I wouldn’t have thought it is possible for me to take them myself. And I want to stretch this boundary even further over the next one and a half years. In the meantime, I have gathered quite a lot of images. I maintain a small selection – what I consider to be a “best of” – on the photography platform 500px.

Some of that, mixed with older images and mobile snapshots, can also be found on Instagram.

And last but not least, from time to time I produce moving pictures as well, which can be found on YouTube.

So if you want to keep track of what comes out of all the things I find, share, and learn – have a look there as well  😀 You will find the various links always handy by means of the respective icons in the top right hand corner of the menu bar.


LINKS: ALL ABOARD…

Blog Recommendation: 20 Tips for Composition in Photography

Composition - Rule of thirds and guiding lines

Purposeful composition of the image is the main differentiator between a snapshot and a photograph; between simply taking a picture, and making a picture. This should not be taken as ‘snapshots are forbidden’ – sometimes, capturing a short moment is way more important than everything around it. Usually, though, you will have the time to spend some thoughts on how to be best put the targeted motive into scene. We all know the typical vacation shots: horizon and/or person in the centre of the frame. I admit, I myself have produced quite a lot these in the past. And we all know how boring these pictures usually are.

Of course, there is more than enough literature on composition – you can literally hold entire lectures on that topic. And that is again exactly the problem: when searching on the internet, you will find pages after pages full of text, losing itself in details and historical context, and often without giving illustrative examples. Or you may find a good page, which then only talks about one isolated aspect, such as the rule of thirds for instance.

So I was extremely happy when I found  Barry O Carroll’s blog. Besides the picture galleries from his numerous travels, he has also written and published a number of guides. Foremost, the “Guide to Composition in Photography – 20 Tips“. In a well-structured overview, he presents the essential rules for composition – each with illustrative marked-up image examples and a short(!) text. Composition in a nutshell – in my mind, it can’t be done any better.

Keep in mind: these rules are not set-in-stone laws which you have to follow strictly at all times. Take them as inspiration how to arrange your pictures in more interesting ways. Once you have internalised them, and take a look at famous photographs, you will quickly recognise a number of these patterns.


CONCLUSION

Recommendation: Absolutely take a look!

What I’ve learned: All theory is grey, pictures say more than a 1,000 words – here is a fantastically prepared, concise and illustrative summary that provides lots of inspiration for the composition of your own images. The photo examples with the added lines and markings demonstrate very well how and why each respective rule works.


LINKS

Picture credits: Title image: own image

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