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By 7 February 2013 | Categories: gizmos

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Like many photographers constantly seeking different kit to spice up one’s photography, the ultra wide angle Sigma’s 12 - 24 mm f4.5 -5.6 II DG certainly fits the bill, and thus we jumped at the opportunity to spend some time with it.
 
Below are the top five features that most impressed us about the lens.
 
1. New perspective
 
The Canon-mounted version of the lens, which was tested on the full-frame EOS 5D Mark III (top 3 reasons to buy, and our review), and thus produced a true  12 - 24 mm range. Worth noting though is that if you instead mount on a Canon APS-C camera with a 1.6 crop factor, this effectively becomes a 19 - 38 mm wide angle.
 
On a full frame camera, the change in perspective is noticeable and dramatic. Objects that are relatively close up are suddenly thrust into the distance, and this adds a great deal of depth to an image. It therefore makes this lens ideal for landscapes and environmental shots.
 
At 14 mm, the lens certainly enables one to add the appearance of considerable
depth to images.  
 
We were also quite happy with the results of the lens at 24 mm.
 
2. Great build
 
Sigma’s build quality has been impressing us quite a bit of late, and on the 12 - 24 mm lens, we found its build to be reassuringly strong. Both the zoom ring and the focusing ring are stiff enough to maintain their position, but not so stiff as to require too much effort to turn.
 
Given the fact that the Sigma  12 - 24 mm  has a convex surface, which is well protected by the integrated lens hood, we also appreciated the 82 mm lens cap. This is larger and deeper than most lenscaps, and certainly does not fit in a pocket. What it does do, is protect the precious lens element, which is much more important. We were further glad to see the presence of a metal (rather than plastic) mount.
 
3. Good image quality
 
The most important part of any lens is the image quality it is capable of producing and on that front, we were quite happy. While we did find the most noticeable distortion at 12 mm (which we expected), the lens appeared to improve as we moved up the range, with 16mm up to 24 mm particularly producing sharp images, especially when we stepped up to f16.
 
Quite frankly, the 16mm and above was more than adequate to give our images a fresh view that we were looking for. Additionally, chances are that when using this lens a greater depth of field is going to be a priority over that afforded on the f4.5 end, so we weren’t too bothered by the fact that a lower aperture seemed to bring out the best of the lens.
 
At 21 mm there is evidence of pincushion distortion, although the lens seemed to handle flare quite well.
 
4. Lightweight
 
The axim – the best camera is the one you have with you – also applies to lenses. The lower weight of other lenses in one’s camera bag is especially appreciated as soon as you start toting around the weighty beasts that are the fast 70 – 200 f2.8 lenses and their ilk.
 
Therefore, along with its solid build, the Sigma 12 - 24 mm’s  size and weight (670 g), and its relative portability, is a particular plus in our minds. For example, Sigma’s offering is about the same size as the EFS 17 - 85 mm Canon lens, and just fractionally heavier. As the former by no means weighs us down, the two lenses made up a very nice kit that provides an ultra-wide to medium range reach.
 
In general use, we had no problem carrying the ultra wide lens as well some of our other favourite lenses, such as the EOS 5D Mark III’s (review) kit lens, the 24 - 105 mm L f4, without feeling overly burdened.   
 
5. General use
 
Focusing on the lens was both quick and responsive, and we had no problems in this regard. Nor was this unique to the 5D Mark III’s superb focusing system; on our older EOS 20D, focusing was just as fast. While Canon’s lenses were a little bit quieter, the Sigma  12 - 24 mm’s focusing aptitude proved to be nothing to sniff at either.
 
Final analysis
 
In short, our time spent with the Sigma 12 - 24 mm f4.5 -5.6 II DG lens was overtly positive. It had us longing to go find some windswept beach or endless sand dunes; and it was certainly a lens we wouldn’t hesitate to slip into our camera bag when heading out on any shoot.
 
Even though the 12 mm end of the lens was the least used by us, it quickly became clear that for those looking to expand or change their perspective, the Sigma 12 - 24 mm f4.5 -5.6 II DG lens is up to the task. Full frame shooters would certainly get more out of it than those using an APS-C camera, as the crop factor does cut out a chunk of the extreme wide angle range offered by the lens.
 
That being said, it works very well on either format. It has a pricey RRP of R11 700.

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