16 January 2009

Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro mini review

Just recently I managed to get my hands on a Sigma 50mm f/2.8 Macro for a very reasonable price. This macro is a manual focus lens with the A setting on the aperture ring which according to Sigma first came out in 1990 and was the first generation of their line of 50mm macro lenses. The Sigma is a dedicated macro lens that goes to 1:1 magnification without the need of any extension tube or close-up diopter, similar to my auto focus Pentax FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro. A compact and light lens, it comes with a screw-in lens hood.

My interest in this lens was stirred because I once had the Pentax A 50mm f/2.8 Macro, another fine manual focus macro that like many macro lenses then only goes to 1:2 magnification. For life size magnification, an additional extension tube or a close-up lens was needed. Secondly I also have a similar manual focus Sigma macro lens in the Sigma 90mm f/2.8 Macro.

In the short time I have used this lens, it has given me very nice images with very nice colour and sharpness. The focusing ring is wide and smooth and being able to focus all the way to 1:1 magnification certainly gives it an edge over the Pentax A 50mm f/2.8 Macro. Focusing manually is not a handicap and certainly at the macro range, is much preferred. On balance this is one lens I can highly recommend and for the price I paid, definitely a bargain.

When comparing the two manual focus Sigma macro lenses, the Sigma 50mm macro is almost similar in size and weight with it's 90mm macro counterpart. Both lenses use a wide rubberised focusing ring and about the only complaint I have is the silk-screened distance and magnification markings look like it can be rubbed off over time.

50mm on the left, the 90mm on the right

From the front both lenses are about identical in diameter and share a common 52mm filter thread. When extended to their maximum magnification, the 50mm macro (1:1) extends a little longer than the 90mm macro (1:2). In order to reach 1:1 for the 90mm, a screw-in diopter is provided which in practice can be a little fiddly to use in the field. Nonetheless, the 90mm macro makes for a very compact lens for the focal length and is great for portraits.

Almost identical from the front

The Sigma 50mm macro uses a screw-in plastic hood while the Sigma 90mm macro uses a deeper bayonet type hood that is flocked internally. There isn't much information available on the internet regarding the manual focus Sigma macro lenses (there is also a Sigma 180mm f/5.6 macro that goes to 1:2) but suffice to say I'm happy with the image quality from the two that I have. Bokeh from both lenses are generally pleasing and the out of focus transitions is smooth.

Fully extended at maximum magnification

All shots of the Sigma lenses were taken with the K20D with the FA 50mm f/2.8 Macro.

08 January 2009

FA 43mm random images

Some images from the new FA 43mm Limited with the K20D. It is such a lovely lens and I'm always wowed by the colour rendering. It's the cheapest and most compact of the FA Limiteds and the one that I will be putting in some quality time.

Took these unusual hand railings and had it processed in Photoshop CS4. Like the colour and composition. It's important to have confidence in one's equipment and when you experience that honeymoon period where you have a succession of keepers, it's positive reinforcement to generate more confidence down the road. I've had a great time with the FA 43mm in the past and using it again brings to mind those good vibes.

03 January 2009

The Pentax FA 43mm Limited

I decided to start the new year with a new addition to the lens collection. Yes the dreaded "lens buying addiction" bug has hit me! The lens in question is the FA 43mm f/1.9 Limited. I really love the images from this lens. They have a hard to describe three dimensional like rendering that it's nearest focal length counterparts, the DA 40mm Limited and the ubiquitous FA 50mm just doesn't convey.

This is my second copy of the lens, an uncommon super cool silver version. I had previously owned a black version that a good friend had sourced for me and while I had some lovely images with this lens, the copy I had seemed to exhibit a bad case of purple fringing when shooting specular highlights. On this copy, the colour fringing was well controlled, hardly visible at f/2.8.

Now one would ask why get the FA 43mm when the FA 50mm has a wider aperture and much more affordable? The FA 50mm is indeed a fine lens but I needed a lens that was a little wider in angle of view and while the diminutive DA 40mm fit the bill, it simply is outclassed by the FA 43mm in maximum aperture, build quality and image rendering. I certainly hope to put this beauty to work in 2009.

02 January 2009

Some Macros For The New Year

Took these images at the Singapore Botanic Gardens a some days ago.
I particularly like the backlighting of the flowers from the afternoon sun. The Pentax FA 100mm Macro lens that I used here gives a lovely colour rendition and out of focus bokeh. Although a macro lens, it does well as a telephoto, one of the reasons why I like the versatility offered bymacro lenses. Definitely one of my favourite shots.

K20D FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro

The flower from the common ginger plant is pretty eye catching. It's a big flower and pretty easy to shoot. The shot was taken with my manual focus Sigma 90mm macro, a lens that goes to half life size. A very compact lens and quite hard to find but one I like to use if I want to focus manually.

K20D Sigma 90mm f/2.8 Macro

The family of juvenile grasshoppers feasting on a leaf together isn't a common sight. Puts a new meaning to the phrase "family buffet." Shot straight from camera and post processed with Adobe Photoshop CS4.

K20D FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro