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Living on the edge
#1
I just committed to a photographic first for me: I've bought a third-party lens. After years of only using Olympus glass, I've branched out and ordered a Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG ETC Macro lens. (seriously, who names these things? My mailing address needs less writing than that.) I've read a lot of reviews and went over B&H's return policy carefully - Olympus users seem more likely to be dissatisfied with Sigma lenses - but the general impression of this lens seems very positive, and there aren't any available in Canada.

My fingers are crossed that it will all work out, but at one-quarter the price of the Olympus 150mm f/2.0, it seems like a better choice. The trade off is a unsealed, slightly softer and slower lens, but it does have a macro ability which is something that will help me make money. In another photographic first, this lens is entirely paid for out of my business bank account.

I have to admit that I'm pretty nervous about straying from the path...
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#2
I wish you very best with it, Matthew. The unsealed part - not a big deal. @ 1/4 of the price, you can afford to throw the lens away if dammaged and buy 3 new ones. The speed difference may meen slightly heavier reliance on CS3 for blurring the background and isolating subjects, but I suspect that in practice, it will not make any real difference. I wonder whether the softness will turn out to be a big a deal, especially if you stop down a little. At 1/4 of the price, I doubt you can go wrong. I know you can also rent lenses (in case you really need a sharper lens for some project), but my sense is that it may be harder with Olympus than with Canon or Nikon. Also I think that it is harder to rent a lens in Toronto than in some big US cities. Again, best of luck. Pavel
Please see my photos at http://mullerpavel.smugmug.com (fewer, better image quality, not updated lately)
or at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pavel_photophile2008/ (all photos)
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#3
Good on you Matthew! Big Grin

The sigma 150/2,8 EX is highly regarded for both the Nikon and Canon mount, cant see it should be much diffrent for the oly.

I actually owned one back in 2005. Great piece of glass,nice macro but also a great allrounder. Its actually the best AF lens iv used to MF with. The focus is buttery smooth.

I returned though, cause of backfocus issues on my D2X. BUT it should be noted that it wasnt the lens, it was the D2X that was out of alignment, i realized that after my 5th D2X body that summer. .-)

Im quite confident you will be very pleased with it.

Looking forward to hear what you think of it.

14 out of my 17 lenses are 3rd party... Big Grin
Strives to make photos instead of taking them...
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#4
Yes, of course what you forgot to mention is that some of these third party lenses are Zeiss. Not your bargain basement. Pavel
Please see my photos at http://mullerpavel.smugmug.com (fewer, better image quality, not updated lately)
or at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pavel_photophile2008/ (all photos)
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#5
Dreamingpixels Wrote:Yes, of course what you forgot to mention is that some of these third party lenses are Zeiss. Not your bargain basement. Pavel
3rd party nevertheless..Wink

Should correct the numbers
12 out of 17 are 3rd party. (first numbers where manual lenses)
Strives to make photos instead of taking them...
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#6
Pavel, thanks, and it's a good point about the weather sealing being relative. It just bugs me to think that it's not an always-available lens - which is what I think a 'pro' lens should be - because even though I rarely shoot in bad weather, it's produced some of my best results. The reality is that it's an easy problem to solve, and not a big problem at that.

Paul, I'm glad you have a good impression of the lens even though it didn't have a permanent home with you. I'll certainly report back with my impressions, and the macro ability has gone from one that I wasn't going to get (with the Oly lens) to something that I'm really looking forward to. Trading some autofocus snappiness doesn't seem so bad. (And I've heard that the autofocus on those Zeiss lenses is really slow. Tongue)

To be fair to the Sigma, I have heard really good things about it, including its sharpness, and near-complete lack of CA &distortion. Putting the lens on the even-smaller 4/3 chip can only help it, since it should have no problem exceeding the sensor resolution for generations to come. I've also seen plenty of photos with fantastic bokeh and colour. And the way I shoot distortion and OOF blur is far more important to me than absolute sharpness. I think that the difference in opinion from 4/3 users is that it's being compared to the 150 f/2.0, which is usually considered the sharpest lens that Olympus makes, and also that both lenses are so exotic that test charts may make up more of the reputation than actual results and experience do.

I also have to admit that some of my reluctance to consider the Sigma was because of persistent but probably over-represented reports of quality control problems. By buying through B&H and importing the lens myself, I lose the multi-year warranty that Sigma offers. So my fingers remain crossed...
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#7
Hi Matthew, sitting by the door waiting for the brown truck ?Tongue

I actually find one photo from the 150/2,8 EX, sadly the few photos i had from this lens was destroyed due to HD crash in 2005.

Not a great photo by any means (well the subject is great, since its my wife :-) but i thought i share it, kind of fun to look back at images what you at the time thought where pretty good. Big Grin
[Image: d2x_wife2.jpg]

Im getting a delivery of a macro lens aswell (tomorrow)....Wink (need i say its a manual lens ?)Big Grin
Strives to make photos instead of taking them...
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#8
No Brown truck for me - I use regular mail or FedEx whenever possible. With luck the mailman will be here Wednesday or Thursday, but I'm also expecting another package Monday or Tuesday, so it'll be a nerve-wracking week.

Thanks for sharing the photo, it's a cute one. She doesn't have "the wife look", which my GF gets by the time I've raised the camera to my eye. Nice.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#9
My new lens arrived today, and I have to say that I'm pleasantly surprised by the compact size of the lens (with the hood attached, it's shorter than the barrel of my 35-100) and how unobtrusively the mottled "ex" finish matched the camera body. I have to say that the lens has matched most of my expectations.

matthew Wrote:I also have to admit that some of my reluctance to consider the Sigma was because of persistent but probably over-represented reports of quality control problems.
Unfortunately, my fears of poor quality control is one that came true. It has a consistent and obvious front-focus misalignment. It's blatantly OOF on portraits (f/2.8, head-and-shoulders, taken from fifteen or twenty feet away, nothing is sharp) and shooting a test target from 40" away shows a consistent 1/2" miss. Focusing with live view is spot on and sharp at various distances between 2-10 feet, but switching to AF and repeating the same photo (on a solid tripod with geared head) gave consistently fuzzy shots. I'm seeing similar results with three different bodies (although I have yet to figure out a test that's accurate enough to be revealing while being easy enough for my E-1 to attempt) and have never seen anything similar from any of my eleven Olympus lenses on any of the four bodies that I own.

So now I have the weekend to decide what to do. I can send it back to B&H for exchange, or cancel the order and try to get it from the Canadian distributor. Both of those options involves an extra shipping charge (or two) and several more weeks of waiting, and I'm still not guaranteed of getting a working lens. The alternative is to have it serviced, which won't be any cheaper or faster than an exchange, but probably has a better chance of getting me a working lens.

There's probably a word for something expensive that doesn't work right out of the box...

But I already like the lens enough that I'm not considering simply returning the lens for a refund and taking $120 in shipping charges as an expensive lesson in buying third-party lenses. But the cost and hassle is rapidly mounting: if I had known then what it would involve, I'd probably still be saving up for the Olympus option.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#10
May be a 3 day holiday in New York is a good idea. You could combine pleasure with the need and $120 you would need to spend anyway...

I am sorry to hear about your experience, Matthew. Pavel
Please see my photos at http://mullerpavel.smugmug.com (fewer, better image quality, not updated lately)
or at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pavel_photophile2008/ (all photos)
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#11
Darn, I have to work both weekends that fall inside the return window. Otherwise that would be a really tempting idea. I've wanted to go visit B&H for a while. This may take some thinking...

... I just checked airline and bus schedules, and it's still almost tempting. The plane and bus fare add up to a little more than what I expect shipping costs would be, but there's also a 17 mile cab ride from the airport to the store. It looks like I could walk between the bus station and store, though -- two nights on a Greyhound for a day in New York and a chance to swap a lens?
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#12
There may be hotel shuttles for a lot less than the taxi or even free. worth checking out. Find major hotels near B&H and call and ask if they have an airport shuttle or how to get to their hotel from the airport. There is bound to be something. In my experience, the shuttle never asks if you have a hotel reservation. let me know if it helps. Pavel

Hmm, I should have been a travel agent.

I do not know if it would help, but the whole eastern seaboard of the US seems interconected with chinatown busses. I went from Philly chinatown to Big Apple chinatown for $10. They go every half hour or hour or so. Busses are a bit run down and not immaculately clean, but the trips were pleasant and comfortable enough.
Please see my photos at http://mullerpavel.smugmug.com (fewer, better image quality, not updated lately)
or at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pavel_photophile2008/ (all photos)
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#13
Just give it a solid whack against your bad neighbor's car--it should work fine after that.
(I tried that with my F717 and it didn't work, but Sonys are the exception to the rule.)

Sorry to hear about your bad luck.
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#14
Thanks Keith, that was... weird. Big Grin Unfortunately my biker connections aren't as good as they once were.

I've been considering smacking the 150 a couple of times, but don't want to mess with the warranty (in case I send it for service) or scuff it (in case someone wants to resell a defective lens as new). It'll be a couple more days before I'll know enough to make a decision on how to fix this.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#15
So my 150 Macro and my E-3 have both gone for a trip to the spa.

After a two-day e-mail exchange with B&H, in which they appear not to have read more than five of the words I wrote and concluded by not answering a single one of my questions, I had to call them directly to get some information. The short version is that even if I was to take the lens back to them in person I'd either need to have it shipped back or pay NY State taxes, which defeats the entire purpose of selecting a replacement lens.

At the same time as I was - finally - getting the bad news from B&H, I also learned of another person who bought the same lens to use on the same camera (at the same time, no less) and has found the exact same problems. So this may actually not be an example of poor quality control - my apologies to Sigma - but rather a camera/lens dissonance that is also a hazard of buying a generic lens. I would have thought that since Sigma is an actual partner in the 4/3 format, and not merely reverse-engineering proprietary lens mounts, that this wouldn't be a problem. Ah, well.

Hopefully Sigma's Toronto service centre, whom I trust very much, will be able to calibrate the lens to the camera. If not, there's always manual focus...
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#16
Sad to hear this Matthew, hopefully Sigma will make it right.
Strives to make photos instead of taking them...
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#17
Thanks, Paul.

The current status of the lens is that Sigma decided that it needs a new circuit board, and the ETA on the part is roughly September.

This morning I learned of another person who bought a Sigma 150 used, and it shows the exact same problem - focuses fine on older bodies, doesn't focus on the E-3. This sort of thing would have been handy for me to know a month ago... Rolleyes
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#18
Tough luck, but September is roughly nearly here..already. :|
Lumix LX5.
Canon 350 D.+ 18-55 Kit lens + Tamron 70-300 macro. + Canon 50mm f1.8 + Manfrotto tripod, in bag.
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#19
Well, September's nearly finished, and I picked up my lens yesterday. It spent almost two months waiting for the new circuit board that will fix an issue that Sigma already knew about, but one that they hadn't sent out as a service bulletin to their repair centres.

If the company had been a little more proactive, it could have saved me from finding a half-dozen others who had the exact same problem that I did and amassing enough information to make the case that there's a fundamental issue between this lens and this particular camera. At least it's public now.

But enough of that - it's a great lens, and I'm happy to have it back. The sharpness is excellent, and the OOF blur is really impressive. Here's a shot from yesterday, taken at f/5.6, focusing on the signs:

[Image: 379766786_dhJw8-L-1.jpg]

Most lenses are optimized for blur behind the subject, if it's considered at all, so seeing that nice and smooth a treatment in front of the subject is amazing. I have other shots of the same scene at f/4, and the lines in the brick just smooth away to almost nothing with no jarring transition. Beautiful stuff. I'm planning on taking it to the Zoo tomorrow, to continue my "behind bars" project, and it's coming with me on a photo outing to Niagara Falls the day after that. So it'll be a busy weekend for me, but I'm really looking forward to seeing what my 'new' tool can do.
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#20
Your picture looks great Matthew.

Splendid weekend to test a new lens!!

Look forward to seeing your pictures ... Smile
A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.
Paul Cezanne
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#21
Using a macro lens for what it's made for there! A man after my own heart! Ouch: DoF at that aperture/length looks slim enough to part a fly's, er, bits...
[ Not hijacking here, but I seem to recall that Tamron are upgrading(hardly seems possible though) the stonking 90mm macro.]
All my stuff is here: www.doverow.com
(Just click on the TOP RIGHT buttons to take you to my Image Galleries or Music Rooms!)
My band TRASHVILLE, in which I'm lead guitarist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6mU6qaNx08
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#22
Congratulation Matthew! The photo looks nice and sharp. I just drove to Barry today and the leaves are begining to turn. So far it is the early adopters, but I have it on good authority, that other trees are planning to follow suite... May be a fun time for you to take photos from tops of hills or details of leaves or whatever you do in Autumn with camers. Pavel

P.S. I was supposed to get my Tokina today, but Adorama was too lazy to include the apartment number and the Fedex guy was too lazy to ask in a gatehouse and just turned around and marked is as address unknown. May be tomorrow....

Pavel
Please see my photos at http://mullerpavel.smugmug.com (fewer, better image quality, not updated lately)
or at http://www.flickr.com/photos/pavel_photophile2008/ (all photos)
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#23
Irma, thanks. Tomorrow will be the big test, and will be a perfect use for this lens. I'm really looking forward to all of those smooth, blurry animals. Big Grin The weather forecast for the trip to the waterfall is for rain, so the unsealed sigma may be more limited than I hoped.

Zig, did I post this one before?

[Image: 338847208_wp4Xh-L-4.jpg]

That's my 'finger's crossed that the lens will get fixed soon' photo, taken with manual focus because the AF just wouldn't work. But I am glad to have it back, because I've really missed it for taking my photos of signs and brick walls. (100% not kidding on this one.) Isn't Tammy adding a focusing motor to the 90 Macro for the Nikon mount?

Pavel, I've had the same experience with both FedEx and Oops, where they seem to hit the front lobby, knock on the door, and then leave when the elevator doesn't open. I think the courier companies need to make the paperwork far more difficult for non-deliveries in order to motivate the drivers to try a little harder. (Ironically, there was no problem with getting this lens delivered, possibly because I'd already thrown a fit the last time that particular carrier did that stunt.)
matthewpiers.com • @matthewpiers | robertsonphoto.blogspot.com | @thewsreviews • thewsreviews.com
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#24
Very nice detail in your picture Matthew.

Are you considering buying a ring flash for this lens? I am thinking already to buy one for my macro.

One option would be this one from Canon that I find good, the price here is about 490euro. :|

But, taking into consideration that all my flashes are Metz, possibly my best option would be this wireless macro flash from Metz too. The price is about 300euro Smile

Time to start my Christmas list... Wink
A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art.
Paul Cezanne
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#25
You've all got money to burn...Big Grin Glad you have got the lens back Matthew. Smile
Lumix LX5.
Canon 350 D.+ 18-55 Kit lens + Tamron 70-300 macro. + Canon 50mm f1.8 + Manfrotto tripod, in bag.
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