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(Ultra) Wide angle APS-C options


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Time to add another lens to my camera bag.

I already have a zoom covering the "normal" range (the kit lens and the 16-70 Zeiss) and a telephoto zoom.

My next logical move is to add a lens covering the ultra wide range. It won't be used that much but as a landscape photographer, sometimes I feel the need to have a ultra wide, something equivalent to a 20 mm on full frame, that allows me to take pictures in wide areas or in crowded urban places. I have seen the 10-20mm /4 or the 11mm /1.8 Sony, with the prime being about 30% cheaper. I  don't know about third party ones. Maximum aperture is not an issue as long as performance is reasonable at /f 4, for the occasional shot at dusk. For night shots I use the tripod.

No plan to enlarge to full frame in the future, I still have my Nikon.

Suggestions are welcome.

 

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I bought a manual Samyang 12mm f/2 about a decade ago, very decent lens. They released an autofocus version of that lens some years back, which is a very good performer at ⅔ the price of the Sony 11mm f/1.8. If you want a zoom, the Tamron 11-20 f/2.8 is also pretty good and slightly cheaper than the Sony 10-20 f/4, though it has quite a large overlap with your 16-70.

Edited by Pieter
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Thanks Pieter.

Actually, I am torn between the two options (zoom and prime). It is not the kind of lens that I make wide use of, most of my shooting is in the classic "28-105" range, because this is what I have been born with, in the old days of film cameras and prime lenses (28, 35, 50 and 105-135 mm). I don't like extreme perspectives, however, like sometimes I need a telephoto to isolate a far subject (you cannot always walk closer, i.e. zoom with your feet), on the other side I need something wider for the occasional situation in which 16 mm is not enough and I cannot just walk back. Given the small number of shots, a prime could do the job without adding too much weight to my camera bag, but on the other side the zoom will provide much more versatility in a range where 1 mm plus or less makes a lot of difference in perspective. Fastness is not an issue, I shoot mainly landscapes, during the day I have plenty of light and at dusk or night I use a tripod, Furthermore, for reasons of depth of field, I shoot mainly at 5.6 and 8, because they are the best compromises between depth of field and diffraction.

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I have added another option to my list, i.e. the old 10-18 /f 4.

It is out of production but can be found used in good condition at 300-400 Euro and NOS around 500-600.

Compared to the 10-20 it has the same maximum aperture and OSS, which the 10-20 hasn't. It also has a traditional mechanical zoom ring, which I prefer to the PZ of the 10-20, as I do stills and not video. Size is perfectly acceptable, I need to check optical quality, for sure the new one is better, but if it is good enough for stills, it could be a sensible choice for me.

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The 10-18 has long been considered pretty decent. Back in the days when I had to make your choice, it was this lens, the Samyang 12mm f/2 or the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8. The Zeiss was absurdly expensive and had pretty much identical optical quality to the Samyang. At wide focal lengths, OSS is pretty irrelevant except for video, so that didn't interest me (nor should it interest you unless you want to take photo's at dusk with long shutter times, but then you'll likely use a tripod anyway). Since the 10-18 only contributed to my kit in the 10-15mm range (had 16-50 kit lens back then, 16-55 f/2.8 now) I opted for the cheaper Samyang 12mm over the Sony 10-18. The much wider aperture of the Samyang came in use for the occasional astro shot, but even more so for background separation in funky distorted close-up shots.

Do take the new Sigma 10-18 f/2.8 into consideration as well. Bit more expensive than the Sony 10-18 but better optical quality, very compact, wider aperture and very good close-up capability for those funky wide angle macro shots.

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Thanks.

I admit being biased over Sigma.

Back in my Nikon days I bought three Sigma lenses, of which one of them had back focus issues that it was impossible to fix with the camera (I could enter a lens correction, but that was fixed, while the back focus issue was changing with focal length). When I contacted the distributor, they told me to send the lens with all my camera bodies... which I refused to do. The second one was sharp in the center but out of focus in the corners (or viceversa, if manually focused). I asked for replacement (the shop was kind and replaced it as DoA) and the new copy was a little better, even if not perfect. The third one was decentered and it was replaced directly as DoA in the shop when I tested it with a better performing one. Three out of three has been enough to keep me away from Sigma since then. Maybe they have improved in between, but the name touchs me a nerve, as this has been a big economical loss at that time, as in the end I got rid of all the three lenses and replaced them with Nikon equivalents.

I will give a look to the 10-18 mm. If I can find a good used one at a reasonable price, I can try the performance under my shooting habits and I am not satisfied, I can always sell it with little or no loss.

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So. Time for update.

I ended buying the Sony 10-18 mm /f 4. The lens seems to be officially discontinued, but I found a NOS at a dealer, willing to sell it at a little bit less 500 Euro, which is not that much more of a good used copy. I had the chance to test it in the shop against the new 10-20 mm (about 250 Euro more expensive). OK, given sample variability, a non-instrumental comparison between two copies of a lens is indicative, but this is what I learnt by taking a few shots with a 6400 just outside of the shop on a sunny day.

The new 10-20 mm wins hands on on the old 10-18 mm when both are used wide open. The latter is more soft, especially in the corners. The difference almost disappears when moving to /f 5.6 and 8, which are the gold spots of the 10-18 mm. From /f 11 onwards, diffraction starts to kick in. The 10-20 mm instead seems to reach the performance peak at /f 5.6. These are the aperture widths I would use those lenses: 4 and 5.6 for the 10-20 mm and 5.6 and 8 for the 10-18 mm. As far as focal lenght is considered, the new 10-20 shows a more uniform performance over the range, the 10-18 seems to be best around 10-15 mm and tends towards softness at 18 mm. Could not evaluate distortion, for this a squared target is needed. 

All in all, the performance of the 10-18 mm is enough for my needs and I can always upgrade at a later stage (the opposite is not true, as stocks of the 10-18 mm end) and the price tag was far more attractive. Since I don't use it for video, I prefer to have a mechanical manual zoom ring that I can preset and then fine tune rather than a power zoom, I also like the idea of having the OSS since my camera body has no IBIS. For video shooters and better image quality wide open, I recommend the new 10-20 mm. 

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Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, for your usecase for landscape photography, the 10-18 should be totally fine as you tend to stick to ~f/8 for depth of field anyway. OSS might indeed help a little there if you're shooting handheld, as shutterspeeds might become a little slow if you want to keep your ISO low.

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Thanks. Yes, I will use it in its gold spot /f 5.6 and 8, for landscape pictures, and the OSS is an extra benefit. Now I think I am covered for all my travel needs in a reasonably light package: 10-18, 16-70 or 18-135 and 55-210. Although I use the middle lenses for most of my shots, as I don't like extreme views, it is good to have an option for the occasional shot.

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Yeah, as long as the quality of the lens is good, when a lens is discontinued it often possible to get good prices on NOS copies still sitting at dealers, while in the initial phase the price of the new one is close to the manufacturer's listing, so the price delta becomes significant. With modern lenses there is also a sound reason to buy a lens that has been on the market for a few years. Bugs in electronics and manufacturing issues have been straightened out. My rule of thumb is not to buy a camera body or a lens that has been on the market for less than one year. 

Yesterday I gave a try and I discovered that my outfit fits nicely in the Lowepro GearUp Creator Box Large, which I prefer over a conventional camera bag because I can fit in my backpack or in the hand luggage when travelling by plane. 

Now I need a flash, mainly to use as fill in, I hate flash light, it is the same worldwide. I will look around here for suggestions.

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