Q and A: What’s the difference between the new Sigma 10-20 mm f/3.5 lens and the original?

Question

Is there really a difference in performance and innovation between the new Sigma 10-20 mm f/3.5 and the original 10-20mm f/4 lens. The latter is much more affordable. Is the difference of several hundred dollars justified? R. P.

Answer

Yes, the newer model is more expensive (though only by $170), but do note that the maximum aperture is a constant f/3.5 at all focal lengths. The other Sigma 10-20mm zoom does not have a constant maximum aperture; it’s an f/4-5.6 lens. In other words, the widest aperture is quite similar at very short focal lengths, but with the older lens, it diminishes to a smaller f/5.6 as you zoom toward the 20mm end.

That is the primary benefit of the 10-20mm f/3.5 lens and it would be important for photographers who often shoot in low light, without flash or a tripod. Granted, even f/3.5 is not an extremely wide aperture and we often shoot at f/11 to f/16 with an ultra wide angle lens (for extensive depth of field). On the other hand, the wider aperture at longer zoom settings can make the difference between the need to use ISO 800 (at f/3.5) versus ISO 1600 (at f/5.6) in a very dark location. And as you know, every camera produces superior image quality at a lower sensitivity setting.

If you don’t often shoot in very low light, the good news is that the original Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM lens is excellent; you should be perfectly happy with that model. It’s also smaller and 8 ounces lighter (because of the smaller maximum apertures) and accepts smaller/more affordable 77mm vs. 82mm filters.

Granted the more expensive f/3.5 lens has some other benefits. In addition to the wider maximum aperture, it produces images with improved corner brightness as well as better sharpness at short focal lengths. However, this f/3.5 lens is slightly less impressive at 17-20mm in terms of image quality. Overall, I can definitely recommend the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 lens for most photo enthusiasts. It’s really a very fine performer thanks to the three pieces of special low dispersion glass and three aspherical elements.

For prices, technical specs and user reviews on the f/4-5.6 lens, see:

B&H Sigma 10-22mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Amazon Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

For prices, technical specs and user reviews on the f/3.5, see:

B&H Sigma 10-22mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD Aspherical Super Wide Angle Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras
Amazon Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM ELD SLD Aspherical Super Wide Angle Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras

For wide angle image making, most photographers use f/11 or f/16 for extensive depth of field, making a wide aperture lens unnecessary. (f/11; Circular Polarizer).  ©2009 Peter K. Burian
For wide angle image making, most photographers use f/11 or f/16 for extensive depth of field, making a wide aperture lens unnecessary. (f/11; Circular Polarizer). ©2009 Peter K. Burian


Photographers who often shoot in dark locations where a tripod is not allowed - or when the subject is moving, as it was in this case - a lens with a wide maximum aperture can be a blessing. (f/3.5; ISO 800)  ©2009 Peter K. Burian
Photographers who often shoot in dark locations where a tripod is not allowed - or when the subject is moving, as it was in this case - a lens with a wide maximum aperture can be a blessing. (f/3.5; ISO 800) ©2009 Peter K. Burian




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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. f3.5 is a nice addition to the lens and its still less expensive than the Canon 10-22. I remember when I bought the Canon, the main reasons of my choice was the better aperture for just 200$ more and the Canon quality. But now I think having a fix f3.5 could be a good reason to buy the Sigma.

  2. Bedros
    thanks for the help im picking up the lens tomorrow

  3. So I am looking for an affordable lens simply for nighttime star shots and time lapses…the sigma 10-20 looks like the answer …I am just wondering will the f/3.5 be significantly better , clearer etc with a tripod for star shots and time lapse?…the difference is only 75$ between the f4 …will there be any difference in quality at all?

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