Old 11-28-2009, 05:57 PM   #1
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Default Railfan Glass: Sigma 17-70mm F2.8-4.5 DC MACRO

When I was starting to take photography seriously, several members of the forums suggested the Sigma 17-70mm as a good, relatively inexpensive, relatively high quality walk around lens.

If you have this lens, how often do you use it? What are its strengths, weaknesses, etc? Do you own a different lens with similar capabilities?

I'm generally pleased with mine, although I wish it were a little bit sharper (something I've only noticed when shooting large landscapes), and I wish it focused as quickly and as accurately as my Canon USM lenses did. I do like it's macro ability - I've used it a few times to photograph my wife's jewelery and my N scale trains. It's an adequate landscape, wedgie and roster lens.

As of late, I haven't been using my 17-70 all that often - I seem to favor my Canon 10-22 and 70-200 now. Half of the time because I just don't end up with a scene in front of me that would be properly captured with it, half of the time because I know my other glass will do a better job. Eventually I'd like to replace the Sigma with a Canon 24-70 f/2.8 IS L, although at $1,200, it'll take a long while for the budget to allow it.

Here are some example shots from this lens. Some of these (all of the wide angles) would be shot with my 10-22 if I was to go back and replicate today.

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Old 11-28-2009, 06:16 PM   #2
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Other than this shot being unlevel, it's one of my favorite of yours.
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:24 PM   #3
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I have the Sigma and I use it for probably 60-70% of my shots these days. I have the 70-200 f/4L IS, but wider seems to work much better in CO than it did in ND...
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:29 PM   #4
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The jury is still out for me on the Sigma 17 to 70. I hate how it "hunts" the focus in AF and my eye sight isn't good enough to trust for focus. Last night I was shooting a stationary object in good light and it couldn't focus on it. (I had to do it myself. It's still in the camera, so I don't know how it turned out.) But my issue might be with the camera since it did the same thing with the kit lens, which I was still carrying around for an emergency.

The sharpness of the Sigma does leave some to be desired so far too. It pales in comparision to my 10 to 22. My first real test with the Sigma on railfanning moving trains should be next Saturday. But right now, I kinda wish I had gone with another lens.
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:52 PM   #5
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Canon doesn't have a IS version of the 24-70L yet. Canon rumors expects it to come out early next year along with a updated version of the 70-200L IS. Anyway once the IS version comes out I will have a 24-105L for sale everyone .
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Old 11-28-2009, 10:42 PM   #6
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I used a Sigma for a few months. It did the job. It wasn't until after I got rid of it that I found out that my XT had a focusing issue, not the Sigma. Still, using the lens on other cameras, it's slowish to focus (unusable in low light), and not tack sharp, but you get what you pay for.

Here's a few examples of this lens coupled with a Rebel XT:

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Old 11-28-2009, 11:09 PM   #7
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Canon doesn't have a IS version of the 24-70L yet.
D'oh! You are correct. I was looking at the 24-70 without the IS.
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Old 12-28-2009, 11:13 PM   #8
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Well, for those of you not a Facebook friend of mine, the jury is in on this lens..... and the lens sucks. Today, it mucked up more shots than it got. It seems to have a problem focusing on a scene that has a -- get this -- moving object within the frame. I've sepnt the last few outings with the lens on 4/5s of the time trying to either learn the lens or tell if the problem lay with it or with me. I've used the AF points more with this lens lately than I ever did before thinking maybe it needed more help than I've been giving it. Same results.

It's done well on stationary subjects.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/joethep...n/photostream/

(Though it could be argued that the water was moving. And, of course, it was.)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/joethephotog/4204872307/

But just today, it went 1 for 4 with a moving train. I thought I had diagnosed the problems to be mainly when the lens was stretched out beyond 55 mm, esp. if the train was not the main element, but one of the shots it screwed up was at 17mm with the train the main element.

So the jury has returned with the verdict and it is that lens sucks. I would never recommend anyone taint their camera (or their camera bag) with this worthless POJ.
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Old 12-29-2009, 01:58 AM   #9
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Contrary opinion, I had the 17-70 and loved it. Oddly, given what others have been saying, one thing I noticed with it in particular was its sharpness, way better than what I had before.

I only sold it because doing so, along with a sale of the 35/2, allowed me to get a 17-55 /2.8 IS and have not only a nice RR lens but a great indoor family lens.

One other comment, I am curious as to how much of your preferences, Nick, are driven by focal length preferences rather than lens preferences. Obviously the 70-200 only overlaps trivially, and while the 10-22 overlaps a lot more that lens is a good default wide lens because it covers the wide part of the 17-70 yet offers much more.

I can see doing a trip with my 10-22 and 55-250 and skipping the "normal" focal lengths completely.

A second point, I wonder to what extent people are attracted to the non-normal focal lengths, whether wider or more tele, simply because they are less routine and offer more of a visual kick? I'll have to ponder that in terms of my own shooting. I have been shooting rather little tele of late, but have been doing more wide than normal also.
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Old 12-29-2009, 04:09 AM   #10
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The balanced side to Joe...this is a grab shot at 23mm of a moving train in a snow storm using the autofocus after widening out from a 70mm shot (in other words, an action shot):
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Perhaps you got a bad copy, Joe, rather than the entire line is junk...
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Old 12-29-2009, 04:15 AM   #11
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Joe, what kind of camera do you have? I use a 17-70mm and do have the focus issue, but I believe it's my XT body, not the lens, as the issue also exists with the kit lens. When the 17-70 hits it's a lot sharper than the kit.
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Old 12-29-2009, 05:30 AM   #12
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I opted to save my dough and go with the 24-70 f/2.8L. To sum it up, I also have a 17-40 f/4L and a 70-200 f/4L in my bag, and the 24-70 stays on my camera every second possible. It is ridiculously sharp (even at f/2.8 ), and after shooting a good 10,000 shots or so with it, I can count the number of times it mis-focused on one hand. Color and contrast are excellent as well, and the auto-focus is lightning quick on top of being extremely accurate...as they say, you get what you pay for.
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Old 12-29-2009, 05:38 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe the Photog View Post
Well, for those of you not a Facebook friend of mine, the jury is in on this lens..... and the lens sucks. Today, it mucked up more shots than it got. It seems to have a problem focusing on a scene that has a -- get this -- moving object within the frame. I've sepnt the last few outings with the lens on 4/5s of the time trying to either learn the lens or tell if the problem lay with it or with me. I've used the AF points more with this lens lately than I ever did before thinking maybe it needed more help than I've been giving it. Same results.
Put the focus on the * button and you'll never have any problems like that.
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Old 12-29-2009, 07:43 PM   #14
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Canon doesn't have a IS version of the 24-70L yet. Canon rumors expects it to come out early next year along with a updated version of the 70-200L IS. Anyway once the IS version comes out I will have a 24-105L for sale everyone .
Let me know when you're ready to part with that 24-105. Who needs IS anyway?

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Old 12-29-2009, 09:08 PM   #15
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Thumbs up Love it! On my second one!

Joe, I don't know if this is related to the issue you had but for a while I was very unhappy with the results I was getting about 50% of the time. Some shots were just not sharp while others were. After paying closer attention I noticed that photos closer to 70mm would be sharp and ones were I was depending on the focusing to be accurate at 17mm were just not focused correctly. To remedy this I got into the habit of zooming in, focusing and zooming out to the focal length I wanted. It never occured to me that it could be a lens issue so I kept doing this. In September I started working at a photography studio and got to play with a 40D and later a 5D Mark II. On my first shoot I was excited to see how lenses and a better camera, 40D, SHOULD work compared to my XT and Sigma 17-70. I figured I didn't have to do my little focusing dance that I usually do. I took a few test shots to show the boss and to see how they were coming out. Out of focus. Even though the focus points lit up, the focusing wasn't where I wanted. I tried different lenses same result. I did what I have to do with my Sigma and everything was clear as day. A month later, my boss got the Mark II, again I did the test and same results. Needless to say, I don't trust focusing points at all. They light up red and yet the subject is out of focus. I figured it wasn't the combination of my XT and Sigma but something that most camera/lens combinations get wrong.
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Old 12-29-2009, 09:14 PM   #16
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If you have this lens, how often do you use it?
90% of the time.

Quote:
What are its strengths, weaknesses, etc?
Strengths: 17-70mm is perfect for me. F2.8 has saved my a-- a few times whether its an unexpected visit to an enginehouse or up in the cab. F36 is perfect for pans or blurs on a really sunny day.
Weaknesses: I'm still not sure if its a lens issue but setting the focal length and focusing does not work. I need to tele in, focus and reset in order to insure correct focus.

Quote:
Do you own a different lens with similar capabilities?
I used the kit lens until it melted in the sun and wouldn't work below 35mm.

For my style of shooting, 2-3 scenes at one location of one train/subject it suits me perfectly. I can take one image at 70mm, another at 35-50mm and then go full 17mm. I've had times where my 17-70 and 75-300 have combined for 5-6 different looking images at one location of the same train. Of course, once I can afford to I will use all 'L' glass but for now I'm loving the Sigma/Canon combo I have.
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Old 12-29-2009, 10:20 PM   #17
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I do exactly what Andrew does... zoom in, focus, zoom out to the focal lenght I want. This gives me spot on focus. Only time I don't do this is with a train that is moving too fast and I am shooting a number of frames. Usually in a case like this, I will end up with a couple soft frames and a couple tack sharp frames. (I'm also XT and 17-70 Sigma).
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Old 12-30-2009, 01:08 AM   #18
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For the Andrew/Charles technique to work, the zoom lens must be a "parfocal" lens, which simply means the lens stays in focus as the focal length changes. The other kind of zoom lens is a "varifocal" lens. Just as info so that, when you try the technique on your lens, you understand what may or may not be happening. I have no idea what lenses out there are parfocal or varifocal nor even what proportion go each way.

This article says there are lots of varifocal lenses on the market today:

http://www.cheapshooter.com/2007/09/...blurry-images/
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Old 12-30-2009, 01:10 AM   #19
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For the Andrew/Charles technique to work, the zoom lens must be a "parfocal" lens, which simply means the lens stays in focus as the focal length changes. The other kind of zoom lens is a "varifocal" lens. Just as info so that, when you try the technique on your lens, you understand what may or may not be happening. I have no idea what lenses out there are parfocal or varifocal nor even what proportion go each way.

This article says there are lots of varifocal lenses on the market today.

http://www.cheapshooter.com/2007/09/...blurry-images/
If you are holding the shutter down half way and the focusing ring cannot be moved, how would the focus change?
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Old 12-30-2009, 01:21 AM   #20
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If you are holding the shutter down half way and the focusing ring cannot be moved, how would the focus change?
You have asked me an engineering/design question, and I shall not try to weasel into an answer. Feel free to google around.

Having said that, I shall now weasel into an answer. I believe the basics are that having a focus ring in a particular position does not mean you are focused at, say, 500'. It simply means the ring is in a particular position and so the lens elements are in a particular position. A varifocal design means simply that any particular focus ring position will correspond to 500' being in focus for some focal lengths and not for others. So, you move the zoom ring and leave the focus ring unmoved. There is no particular reason why that movement should maintain focus at 500' unless the lens designer made the lens that way, aka, made a parfocal lens.
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Old 12-30-2009, 03:33 AM   #21
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I always assumed if I focused at 70mm and adjusted the focal length to 17mm, the focus would change.

I realize the XT doesn't have it, but Live View and the digital zoom with that function make manual focusing (or checking your focus) a snap...
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Old 12-30-2009, 01:35 PM   #22
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I always assumed if I focused at 70mm and adjusted the focal length to 17mm, the focus would change.
I did as well. I guess I've just never gotten around to checking it. If I zoom in, focus, take a shot, and then zoom out, I'll focus again before taking the wider photo. So I guess I don't have to do that, eh?
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Old 12-30-2009, 03:13 PM   #23
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I did as well. I guess I've just never gotten around to checking it. If I zoom in, focus, take a shot, and then zoom out, I'll focus again before taking the wider photo. So I guess I don't have to do that, eh?
You have to if the lens is varifocal, don't have to if it is parfocal.
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Old 12-30-2009, 04:52 PM   #24
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You have to if the lens is varifocal, don't have to if it is parfocal.
Ether way most lenses may need a focus adjustment after zooming.
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Old 12-30-2009, 05:24 PM   #25
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Zooming in to get a focus and then zooming out is how I was taught to do it..... using a Pro ENG camera for TV news. I later tried that with a still camera. (Can't remember what lens, but it was a long lens) and it didn't work at all. Maybe this one would, but the problem with mine is that it won't focus properly when zoomed all the way out to 70 mm.
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