I recently got myself a nice and cheap Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN E for use with my Sony NEX-5. The main reason for this was to use it as a replacement for the 16mm f/2.8 pancake prime, which, apart from not being particularly fast, is also so soft that I dread putting it on my camera. In any case, the Sigma 19mm, which was just released recently, is such a cheap lens at $209 AUD that I didn’t really experience the whole “new lens” excitement.
In fact, the Sigma announcement and release of the 19mm and 30mm lenses were greeted with pretty much a “meh” by most Sony enthusiasts, and barely registered as a blip in the camera news world, and for me the 19mm is less a toy and more a necessary evil or tool. In any case, I used it during the weekend for a very challenging shoot (and the caveats with the lens did not help) which I may or may not post about since we got some results but perhaps not many enough to warrant a post. Today, I decided to do a scout of Location #111 on my list, while bringing along only my Sony NEX-5 and the Sigma 19mm as a way to test the real-world capabilities of this lens.
The photos in this post are post-processed to bring out the feel of the location, and are not meant to be a true illustration of the capabilities of the Sigma 19mm. However, I will talk about my experiences with this particular lens, while showing what Location #111 offers.
The Sigma 19mm has an entirely plastic body with a small front glass element. It’s light, and the focus ring is wide, but not rubberised, and rather too easy to nudge in my opinion (especially given it has full-time manual focus override). It takes 46mm filters.
There is some clunking sound when the lens is shaken or agitated. This is not unusual for a lens but it does seem to be a bit more easy to elicit noise out of it than most lenses – you simply have to tilt it.
7 aperture blades are visible within the lens.
The first thing I realised when I started using the Sigma 19mm is that it is slow to focus on the NEX-5. I’m not sure if that is because the NEX-5 is two generations back, but it takes a bit of time to get the lens working, so it introduces lag into startup times, switching from image playback to shooting screen, etc. Focus can also be rather slow – the contrast AF that the NEX-5 uses does not help matters but the camera does seem to hunt a bit more than normal. Overall, the performance is rather slow. This is not a problem when shooting landscapes and places normally, but for faster action it is a problem.
Additionally, shooting wide open at f/2.8, this lens is soft. It’s not like you can’t pull back the sharpness in post (and I have done so in the pictures here), but the raw performance isn’t really there. It’s not as bad as the 16mm but for someone who has used higher grade equipment the lack of detail in the raw images is noticeable. At around f/4 the sharpness becomes acceptable.
While Sigma has quite a reputation for their bokeh, of course at 19mm and with 7 aperture blades and f/2.8, the bokeh isn’t much to write home about. If you focus on a close-enough subject at f/2.8 the bokeh is fairly smooth but still pretty distracting.
This is a recuperated industrial site which has been transformed into a park. Much of it is still inaccessible, though there are ways of sneaking around the various defence mechanisms. Good for industrial/ruins, with the key feature being the long tunnel, which is lit by sodium lamps. Of the four possible tunnels, only one is accessible: the other three have not been properly worked on and are sealed with fences.