Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Sigma 19mm F2.8 Lens Review That Almost Happened

I bought a new lens last week. It was in the used market, and the deal was just too hard to resist. It was the not so new, Sigma 19mm F2.8 EX DN lens, not the new Art version, but the original first generation released about four years ago. 

Why would I want a new lens, at an odd focal length of 19mm? I have always had the 35mm perspective in mind, and I wanted a lens just for that. I did not quite click with the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 version, and I was not happy with the slow autofocus speed of the older pancake version of Olympus 17mm F2.8 lens. No, that Panasonic 20mm F1.7 is even slower, though I do like the image output from that lens. I was left with not many choices left, and that Sigma 19mm F2.8, after going through some online reviews, looks promising. Focusing was reported to be fast and the lens performs considerably well optically. Yes, it is very close to Olympus 25mm F1.8, and even larger, but at a super low selling price, I thought why not give it a try?

Imagine, having a newly acquired lens in hand, with a mission to do a long, extensive shoot to compose a blog review for that Sigma 19mm F2.8 lens, I was fired up and fully enthusiastic on last Saturday morning. The enthusiasm lasted as long as the lens was still alive, which was about 30 minutes into my street shooting session. Unfortunately, the Sigma 19mm lens decided to die on me. IT DIED ON ME while I was shooting halfway, and the camera just refused to recognize the lens mounted on it. I brought two of my own Olympus cameras out: E-M10 Mark II and E-P5, both failed to recognize the lens. I then tried the Sigma 19mm on my friend's E-M1, and it did not work either. After half an hour of rubbing the electronic contacts and praying to the Photography God, I must have not done anything right at all as the lens still remained dead. 

I figured, I could just give up and move on to the fully air conditioned nearest cinema to catch The Jungle Book, or put the Sigma lens away and substituted it with my faithful Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 which I did bring along, continued with the shutter therapy and then ended the day with The Jungle Book. I went with the latter option. Never let a dead lens stop you from shooting. And The Jungle Book was super freaking awesome, so awesome I think I am going to watch it again soon. 

Here are a handful of images I shot with the Sigma 19mm F2.8 lens on my E-M10 Mark II before it died on me. And yes I have used these images in my previous blog entry. 

I have two options: to confront the seller of the lens and ask for a refund (not a very wise move, I don't think it was the seller's fault, the lens could have just decide to commit suicide at any time), or I can look for the service/repair center and get the lens fixed. At this point, I am weighing if it was worth the trouble and I am in no urgent need to use this lens. 

The 30 minutes affair with the Sigma 19mm F2.8 lens was not sufficient for me to write a complete assessment of the lens. I was even thinking about the newly released Sigma 30mm F1.4 for Micro Four Thirds, which looks really intriguing.

I am sure some of you have owned the Sigma 19mm lens. What do you think of the lens? Do share your opinion.


  1. I have the newer 19mm ART for my EM10 2. It's a good lens for the price (AUD$166 on special). It rattles until you switch on the camera, which is irritating and it has a noisy iris when on auto exposure but focusing is silent.
    Colours are good and sharpness is almost as good as the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8. I can focus quite close. At f2.8 it's pretty good in low light. The camera takes a little longer to be ready when this lens is fitted. Construction is very good and it comes with a solid hood.

  2. I suppose it depends on how much you have in the lens. High tech electronic items general cost about half of a new one to repair... an electronc/optical item is really out there as far as repairs are concerned. I wonder if its even worth repairing becasue of the cost and the possibility it still may not be 100% right ( optical calibration needs to be done perhaps?)

  3. A slow lens for me still means: small aperture. A fast lens: large aperture. I see so many discussions nowadays about the importance of the speed of their equipment. One lens might react a bit faster than an other, but to be honest: they are all faster than me. My favorite MFT moderate wide angle by far is the Olympus 17mm 1.8. Gorgeous images. I also have the Panasonic 20mm for those occasions when I want to carry my camera in my coat pocket. This one has more contrast. That is not always better, but there is nothing to complain. The first version was a bit nicer. I gave that one to a friend when I bought the 17mm. Later I did regret it and bought the second version. Maybe you should get that old secondhand Panasonic 20mm first version and slow down. In the end it's all for therapy, isn't it? I wouldn't have enough patience for that Sigma though. Perhaps it makes a nice paperweight.

    1. I have missed too many shots with my limited experience with the 20mm f1.7. While I admit it is an optical marvel, I do prioritize practical functions, and missing shots is not something that I can tolerate.

  4. Robin, again you demonstrate a photographic eye that can capture a great image with a pop bottle for a lens. I'm truly impressed with your ability to get great images with natural light. A demonstration that fill-flash and artificial reflectors are not necessary most of the time.

  5. Nice to meet you Robin. I have this lens and EM-5. I think that it is very wonderful lens..Photos have sharp and artificial beauty. I want see your more photos with this lens:-)

  6. Actually, I own the old version of this lens, which seems to be optically exactly the same as the new one, only a slightly different look and feel... I do really like the -roughly- 40mm (38mm) perspective the lens gives me... a little more "focussed" then the 17mm equivalent, but not too much, not too wide. Therefore it is working really well for street photography... It is very very very sharp and focuses really fast too... Even the contrast and colors are very good with this lens.... I only have one complaint:
    For a fixed focal length it should be a little faster (in other words: larger aperture), something like f2.0 at least. But other than that: a stunningly good lens, especially at such a low price point...

    The nice thing about this lens especially is that is is made for a DX-sensor, and if you read the Sony reviews about this lens they do mention the slightly softer corners, but because of the MFT-format the crop factor is 2 instead of 1,5. So you loose the softer corners, therefore this lens is almost as sharp in the corners as it is in the center on an MFT-camera... which is one of the things that makes this lens such a joy to use... I'm sorry to hear that your lens decided to die on you, and I would recommend getting a replacement. They are worth it...!

    Oh and here is an album of shoots I took with both the 25mm 1.8 and some with the Sigma 19mm 2.8... might be interesting for you:

    Thanks for your nice blog!

    1. The Panasonic 20mm is f1.7, so that is even faster than the f2.0 that you would like to see. At it's largest aperture I think it is slightly sharper than the Olympus 17mm f1.8. But the Olympus has a better microcontrast and bokeh (sorry, I hate that word, but you surely know what it means).
      I like the 17mm so much, it hardly ever is not on my camera. I shoot environments with now and then some people in it. Passers by. Robin, you mainly take portraits of people in their environment. Their natural habitat. The 17mm is a bit too wide for portraits, but it is great when want to separate your main subject at the front from a softer background. In fact what I see that it produces layers of sharpness. Very sharp, soft, softer very soft! It gives the images a real nice depth.

  7. Hi Robin,

    Ah it's a shame. That's the problem when buying stuff used: you never know in what true state it is or what the previous owner did with it...
    Sorry to hear :-/
    Nice shots btw :-)

  8. Robin

    Was interested to see how the Sigma performed; in its moment of glory it looks good, but failing does not give it a good outcome.
    As others have said, second hand comes with an element of risk, normally works out fine, but as in this case not always.

    Love the recycling mens picture, clearly refuse and recycle men are the same the world over.
    Made me smile, its the business sector I work in at present.

  9. I had one of these. However as a prime it failed for me as it was neither fast, compact or had some "wow" optical quality.
    And it was notorious for causing slow start up on cameras. I sold it.
    With f2.8 zooms available from Panasonic and Olympus the main selling point for the Sigma lenses is merely price.


  10. I bought a used lens from one of the biggest lens rental companies, for about half the price.

    I was still concerned, but it works very well. I don't think I could ever buy from eBay.

  11. Hi Robin

    I am also an owner of the M10 Mark ll. Could you tell me please the aperture settings, the exif dates of this 6400 shot. I cannot hardly see much noise and wonder how you did this. Which lens fid you use etc. Thank you very much. Regards Marcel