Thursday, January 08, 2009

Asking the Photogs

It appears a few of our assemblage enjoy the photography. So, in my never-ending quest to personally stimulate the economy, I seek your advice. Although chances are I'll have pretty much reached a decision by then end anyway.

I'm thinking of a wide angle lens. I'm no big rush, but the more I think about it, the more I want it before heading on vacation in February.

But for the Canon, there are 4 options, all of which have merits.

Canon 10-22mm f/3.5-5.6
Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6
Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8
Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-5.6

I have a Canon Rebel XTi (400D), which has a small sensor. I also have a Sigma 18-200mm as my "walking around" lens, which does come into play in the decision.

First off, apparently the Sigma and Tamron have had quality control issues. When reviews specify if they have a good or bad run of a lens, I begin to worry.

Edge and corner sharpness on these two seem to rank fairly low in comparison to the Canon and Tokina.

The Tamron has the biggest focusing range ov the bunch with 14mm, which makes it more versatile, and the same aperture range as the Canon. The Sigma loses half an f-stop, which should neither be here nor there in the grand scheme of things, but might have a small effect if I'm doing any indoor or low-light shots, where and extra 1/2 of a second can make a difference.

Overall though, the Sigma and Tamron have their fans, and if you get a good copy of the lens, the results are generally favourable.

Their biggest win is price. The Tamron is under $500 CAD, and the Sigma is $700. Compare this to the Canon at $830.

Now, the Canon is pretty much universally lauded. It's a great lens by all accounts. I know Alan loves his, and has taken some great shots with it. But it's also the most expensive by $130. There's something to be said about sticking with the 1st-party manufacturer as well. A Canon lens with a Canon body is generally guaranteed to work seamlessly. Image quality is top notch, and vignetting and distortion is minimized because it's the only one built for EF-S mounts and their smaller sensors. The 10-22 range is also the second longest length next to the Tamron, with the same speed. The focusing speed with the USM also seems to be the quickest of the bunch, but for wide-angle shots, a millisecond won't matter. The 9" minimum focusing distance is pretty desireable though.

But then comes the ideal value play, which speaks to me in oh so many ways - the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8. The thing that grabbed me first and foremost was the speed. A constant 2.8 f-stop on a wide angle? Wow. I can see this coming in handy for indoor shots, night shots, overcast days, etc.. Granted, on a sunny day or well-lit locale, this point becomes moot. There are those who would gladly trade the speed for the extra focal length though. I'm not sure if I'm one of them.

To compensate for the aperture, the focal length is smaller than the others. A mere 5mm. Now, with an 18-200mm lens, I'm only losing 2mm here, which isn't that big a deal. With 10 MP, I can always crop the 16mm to the 16-18 range if need be. But on the wide end, I lose 1mm, which doesn't hurt too much, but is a loss if 5.4 degrees in horizontal FoV (or the difference between 16mm and 17.6 mm in 34mm measures). Comparison shots between 10mm and 11mm I've seen seem to have minimal difference, but it might affect some more interesting compositions where you want to exaggerate the distance between near and far subjects.

The Tokina is also the heaviest of the group at 560g vs 385g for the Canon. Another drawback is that the minimum focusing distance of the Tokina is 12" vs the 9" for the Canon, but I question how often I'll be doing close-ups with an wide-angle. In every other way that matters, it's on par with the Canon. In fact, on the pictures I've seen, vignetting doesn't seem to a problem, which surprises me. The only area that concerns me is that it doesn't handle lens flare as well as the Canon, but that could be minimized with a hood or well-placed hand.

The price of the Tokina? $690, so $140 less than the Canon, $10 less than the Sigma, but a whopping $230 more than the Tamron.

In short:

- Least expensive of the bunch
- Longest focal length
- 2nd fastest aperture range (tied with Canon)
- Questionable image quality and sharpness, often dependendent on which "batch" you get
- Brand new lens, so objective reviews and test harder to come by

- Loses 2mm on the long end to the Canon, but still covered by my 18-200mm
- Slowest aperture range
- Shortest lens
- Generally liked, decent image quality, but noted for soft edges. Again, has some "bad" batches out there.
- Cheap compared to the Canon, better quality control than the Tamron it seems

- Shortest focal range of the bunch. Loses 1mm on the wide end and only goes to 16mm on the long end
- Fastest lens by far. A full f-stop faster than the next.
- Heaviest of the lenses
- Comparable IQ to Canon, and beats it in many regards
- Paying for speed over range

- Pretty much universally loved
- Focal length has some overlap with my 18-200mm, so lens-switching may be reduced
- Deals well with lens flare
- Good IQ
- Most expensive of the options by far

If price was the only factor, I'd get the Tamron. But the uncertainty and inconsistent reviews of it and the Sigma really make them less appealing. It's a shame really, because the Tamron 90mm and Sigma 18-200mm are excellent lenses. So that makes the decision honestly betweem the Canon and the Tokina.

I REALLY like the Tokina for its speed. I can see it coming in handy in a variety of situations. I do wonder if the f/2.8 will cause problems with broad detail though due to its DoF.

But I've only seen the Tokina that cheap at one place, and if they've changed the price or are out of stock, the price jumps $85 for the next cheapest. This becomes just a $55 difference from the Canon, at which time the speed vs range debate becomes more relevant.

Luckily, there's Pixel Peeper to help me decide too.

But as it stands, the Tokina looks like the winner unless I'm convinced otherwise.

Or I don't buy anything and figure 18mm (28mm equiv) is fine. How much in Key West does one need to take wide-angle shots of anyway? Oh yah... lots. Could be a lot of lens switching going on though.

1 comment:

OhCaptain said...

Switching lenses on a beach can be dangerous. Sand sucks. That being said. I usually prefer the Canon lenses for my Canon body. My walk around lens is the 17-85 EFS-IS lens. Also happens to be the only EFS lens I own. It came with the camera.

I find for most uses, my 17mm end of that lens is really quite adequate.

When I travel, I very much consider what I want to carry and what I think I will use. I almost never travel with a 50mm Prime. It's tiny but why bring it?

But then again, it's a beautiful beach and what part of the shot do I want to lose. You could always try to do some Photoshop stitching and take multiple exposures to accomplish that. If you own the software to do it, it only costs a few frames on a memory card.

A bit of advice on stitching. Find your exposure first then move to complete manual mode to do the shots. The subtle variation that the camera will do in "P" mode can make for unhappy stitching.