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Review: Sigma 10mm F2.8 Fisheye (Nikon F-Mount)

I’ve always loved fisheye lenses. They can present you with a world of new photo opportunities, and a distinctly unique way of looking at the world. With a nearly 180 degree field of view, it’s truly impressive how much a fisheye lens can take in, and how fun it can be to shoot with one.

That being said, fisheye lenses are a one trick pony, and are often viewed as a “novelty” piece of gear–one that rarely gets pulled out of the camera bag. Well, I had some time with Sigma’s diagonal fisheye offering: the 10mm f/2.8 DC for Nikon. Does it satisfy my love for fisheyes, or does it leave much to be desired? Let’s find out!

Specs

from B&H Photo and Video:

Performance
Focal Length 10 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Canon EF-S
Format Compatibility Canon (APS-C)
Angle of View 167°
Minimum Focus Distance 5.3″ (13.46 cm)
Magnification 0.3x
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:3.3
Groups/Elements 7/12
Diaphragm Blades 7
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread None
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.0 x 3.3″ (7.62 x 8.38 cm)
Weight 1.05 lb (476 g)

Design & Ergonomics

This lens is built like a tank. It’s one of the nicest feeling Sigma lenses I’ve used, and makes me wish all lenses in this price range took a page out of Sigma’s book here. It’s made of mostly metal, along with very high quality plastic. The lens “cap” is funky, as it requires a metal extension tube to be able to attach the pinch-type cap, due to protruding permanent lens hood. In my use, I left the pinch-type cap on the extension tube, and simply used the extension tube as the lens cap. Not a big deal, and it’s all very high quality material.

This lens is pretty heavy, despite it’s small size. You can tell there’s quite a lot of glass inside, and it gives the lens a very high quality feel in the hand. I never felt that it was too heavy, but if you shoot all day with nothing but a wrist strap, it may cause some fatigue later on.

On top of the lens, there is a focusing distance scale, which is a rarity these days. Unfortunately it’s not particularly useful, as this lens is 10mm, and when shooting anything beyond 10 feet or so away, you can just set it to infinity and you won’t need to worry about it.

This lens comes in a standard Sigma zippered fabric pouch, which is quite a bit nicer than other lenses in this price range. It’s well padded, fits the lens perfectly, and looks very nice. I felt that I could drop the lens while in this case and it would almost certainly survive. Kudos to Sigma for nailing the high quality feel with this entire package.

Optics

It’s difficult to review the optics of a fisheye lens, because it deliberately exhibits behaviors that would certainly be negative points for a normal wide angle lens. Due to the very nature of a fisheye, distortion is extreme, but in the very best way possible.

Images are tack-sharp in the center, and stay fairly sharp out to the corners. Obviously a lens with such severe distortion won’t exhibit perfectly sharp edges, but as far as fisheye lenses go, this one performs particularly well, even wide open at f/2.8. Things sharpen up more when stepped down, with the sweet spot peaking around f/5.6.

With a front element as large as this, you’d expect to find quite a bit of flare with this lens. Fortunately, the built-in lens hood seems to do quite a good job of taming it. I tried throughout my time with this lens to induce flare, and couldn’t manage to get much of anything worth noting to show up in images—very impressive.

Color fringing is minimal when shooting wide open, and completely disappears by f/4.0. I hesitate to even mention it at all, as even wide open, it’s so nominal that it’s really a non-issue.

Vignetting is something to be expected from a fisheye, or even just a normal ultra-wide angle lens, but it’s difficult to find any with this unit. I should note, however, that this lens is built for use with cropped sensor DSLRs, and if you decide to use it with a full-frame DSLR, you will experience severe vignetting with blacked-out image edges. It can certainly work, but you’ll need to be creative with your cropping in post production.

As far as bokeh goes, at 10mm, you’re not going to get much. But if you manage to find some out of focus elements in your images, rest assured that it’ll be pleasingly smooth with nothing harsh or distracting.

I really have no complaints about the optics of this lens. I was continually impressed with the sharpness and colors of the resulting images, and I wasn’t able to note any discernible flaws.

In Use

This is an autofocus lens, with Sigma’s hyper-sonic motor. Autofocus is quick and quiet, and I had no issues at all with locking focus, even in dark situations. Fortunately the focusing distance scale is short, so the focus system never has to move a whole lot to get things sharp. I’ve had issues with Sigma’s HSM focusing systems before, particularly with accuracy in low-light, but this lens didn’t exhibit any similar problems with my Nikon D7000.

I also didn’t notice any problems with autoexposure either. I shot primarily in aperture priority, and the AE communication between the lens and my D7000 worked flawlessly. I didn’t have any missed exposures, and I felt that all the chips were working properly without any hitch.

It’s pretty miraculous how much of the world this lens can take in at once. When you bring the viewfinder to your eye, you’ll be immediately taken aback by the nearly 180 degree field of view. It’s an addicting way to view the world, and an absolute blast to shoot this way.

Conclusion

I have nothing bad to say about the Sigma 10mm f/2.8 DC Fisheye. It does exactly what it promises, and does it with relatively impressive resulting performance. Images are sharp, colors are vibrant, and distortion, while extreme, is pleasing to the eye. It’s also a fantastic lens to hold, as build quality soars above many lenses twice the price.

If I had to note a flaw with this lens, it would have to price. At $649 on Amazon, it can be difficult to justify, particularly as it’s a lens that might not get pulled out of the bag often. It’s a specialty lens, and you need to be sure that there’s a place for it in your shooting style.

In addition, there are other options for fisheye lenses, and I haven’t quite figured out why I’d recommend this lens over the terrific Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8 DX Fisheye. The price is nearly identical, and in my experience, the Nikon doesn’t disappoint in optic quality. In addition, if you’re pinching your pennies, there’s also the manual focus Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 Fisheye which has also gotten a lot of praise, and is almost half the price of the other autofocus options.

Ultimately, if you believe this is a lens you’ll be using regularly, you will not be disappointed with the results from the Sigma. But if you’re concerned about spending nearly $700 on a lens that will likely gather dust, maybe the Rokinon would satisfy your hunger for extreme distortion.

Purchase the Sigma 10mm f/2.8 DC Fisheye on Amazon or B&H.

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