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Reader Comment: Macro Shooting, Sigma Macro Lenses

Reader Jeff L writes:

My 4 primary macro lenses are the 100mm Zeiss ZF, 100mm Leica APO, 120mm Hartblei/Zeiss, and 200mm ED micro Nikkor. Last summer I learned that the coatings on the 200mm Nikkor make the lens all but unusable for any kind of side lighting or backlighting. [DIGLLOYD: agreed, lousy bluish coatings]

Something with the Zeiss macros handle with aplomb. The 200mm ED micro Nikkor holds its own against the Zeiss macros in standard lighting. I still like the feel of the images from the Zeiss or Leica better. But when I need the working distance and the lighting is not extreme the Nikon is no slouch.

I have rented the 150mm Sigma macro from LensRentals several times. With one exception I got good copies of the lens that were well centered with no out of whack corner or edge softness. I feel the lens is as good or better than the 200mm ED Nikkor. But when I have gone to buy a 150 sigma on my own I get HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE copies. One was so bad I thought they had purposefully built in a 5 degree tilt. The lens skew as among the worst I have ever seen.

I DO NOT KNOW what to do with Sigma. I have tried in the past to get them to take a lens in return, recollimate it so it is a good copy. They just refuse to acknowledge. Usually I end up being told to send it to that place in Arizona. They claim they recollimate but I know they DO NOT EVEN DISASSEMBLE the lens. I know for sure because my years in camera repair taught me how to finagle screws and such before returning an item for service so I can tell if it has been opened. One time they simply insisted my problem was I need to use AF adjust. Which is ridiculous since I never use lenses in AF. I could not even get them to understand the issue was related to element decentering and not AF. Sigma has no clue as to how to deal with the demands of a pro or serious amateur. 5 times I sent items into Sigma and I know for a fact that on 2 occasions the lens was not opened or disassembled. That is just shameful.

I would love to buy and use Sigma gear in the course of my work. But even if I do get a good copy. What happens if I drop it or damage it? I have ZERO confidence they can return a lens to me in a condition without major lens skew and/or decentering.

As of now the only hope I have of getting a Sigma lens that is not out of whack is to rent as needed from lens rentals. And even that is not a 100% guarantee. As good as they are they do make mistakes. In addition to a bad 150mm sigma I rented a D3X from them that had a sensor so far out of alignment it was ridiculous.

DIGLLOYD: Unfortunately I must confirm that Jeff L’s statements on perceived Sigma quality and support echo what I’ve hear from other readers, including pros, some of who refuse to consider Sigma based on past experience. See Lens Repair Data 2011 over at LensRentals.com for hard data on repairs.

However, my recent experience with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM establishes that Sigma is capable of producing best-in-class optics. And many place offer 30 day returns, so there is some leeway. Resale value? Probably not so great versus Nikon or Canon.

My initial impression of the Sigma 150/2.8 APO and 180/2.8 APO is highly favorable in some respects, but I have only started my evaluation and I have not yet checked for alignment issues at distance (typically the worst case). THAT said, I have seen left/right symmetry issues at infinity with brand-new Leica M, Leica S, Zeiss ZF.2, Nikon and Canon. What I cannot determine is with what frequency these issues occur.

Sigma 150/2.8 APO, 180/2.8 APO
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