on July 27, 2010
So I've been bouncing back and forth between the big three competitors. If you're looking at this lens, you've probably weighed Tamron's 2.8 17-50 VC and Canon's more expensive but much beloved 2.8 18-55 IS that's been out for a few years. I finally broke down and went into a store to wrap my hands around all three, shoot some comparative video with the various IS/VC/OS, futz with the focus rings and zoom, etc. I did not run a full professional test on the image quality, but those reviews can be easily found online. In most fields the Sigma beats the Tamron, like Bokeh and low distortion. The Tamron is ever so slightly sharper at 2.8. At 2.8, I do get some easily visible circular distortion in the corners with the Sigma when pointing the camera at a window or bright source. I basically determined that image quality between the lenses was a draw. The Canon tests slightly better, but I found looking through that lens for the very first time that I was getting all sorts of unwanted flair at 2.8 indoors. I was at a pro shop in town, and I asked if other rental customers and pros had experienced unwanted flair under those conditions; they said yes. So I finally decided that the difference between all three lenses in terms of optical quality is very slight.
That left price, handle, build, and vibration control.
Price: Canon is about $1080, Tamron is about $550 with rebate, Sigma is about $640 depending on where you buy it (not including tax)
Handle: The Canon had the nicest overall handle. Since I'm primarily concerned with shooting high-end video, the range of focus is particularly important, as is how the focus ring handles (smoothness). On this front that Canon wins hands down. The focus ring continues after you hit the edge of your range, and dampens so you know you've maxed out. Both the Tamron and Sigma have hard stops. The Canon also provides the most breathing room, so if you're tracking focus, or need to attach a follow focus, this lens is going to make life a lot easier. The Tamron had the second longest range, though only about 20% more than the Sigma. The Tamron ring got caught and was a little jerky. If I applied outward pressure, the ring wouldn't stick. The Sigma was smooth and slightly dampened. However, it's range is super tight. This is my only complaint about this lens. You better be amazing at eye-balling focus, and have some killer dexterity to pull this off. The incredible feel of the ring makes this tricky, but not impossible. I actually found it easier to hit marks with the Sigma than the Tamron, because of the quality of the ring. For video applications, auto-focus doesn't really even matter. Sure it's super silent, but if you're pro, you're probably operating this guy in manual anyway. All of this said, because the range of focus (by that I mean distance the ring turns) is so limited on the Sigma, and because I'm using this for video; I'm still contemplating paying the extra $475 for the Canon. This would be the only reason I would buy the Canon over the Sigma.
Build: Like another reviewer said, the Sigma is solid. It feels great. I actually thought the zoom ring beat the Canon head to head. It's also lighter than the Canon, but made out of more rugged materials than the Tamron. In terms of build, Sigma is the winner in my opinion.
Vibration Control: After all of my testing, it was hard for me to gauge superiority on this front. With the Canon, the VC is obvious. It's also obvious with the Tamron. For whatever reason, despite flicking that switch on and off, I have not been able to visibly see the difference. The image seems to move fluidly whether I have the darn thing turned on or off. According to the instructions, the OS kicks in when the shutter button is depressed half-way. However, when I put my ear up against the lens, I can hear the OS working round the clock. It's very quiet, but the on-camera mic might pick it up. Regardless, I'm satisfied with the smoothness of the image. With both the Tamron and the Canon you can hear the VC/IS turn on. There is no sound associated with the OS on the Sigma unless you listen really closely (similar to Canon's IS on its new lenses).
Wrap-up: The Sigma has a few tiny setbacks, and if you've got the money and video is your world, get the Canon. I like the feel of the Sigma more than the Canon, but the focus ring on the Canon makes a big difference. This guy weighs less and feels great in your hand. The Tamron feels cheap by contrast, and the focus ring is loose and gets caught. Whether I was shooting video or stills, I would choose the Sigma over the Tamron.
on May 25, 2011
First, lets establish a few things about me, the reviewer, before you go on to read my review. I am a full time professional photographer. fine-art portraits, high school seniors and glamour is where I specialize. I own two Nikon cameras; D300 and D700. I own a total of 5 lenses for use on these camera bodies; Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, Sigma 85mm f/1.4, Sigma 70mm Macro and this lens, Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8.
Immediately, this should tell you a few things. One, I make money doing photography -- full time. I'm a professional and as a professional, I do not take short cuts when it comes to equipment. I need quality and dependable equipment and my gear needs to work hard. My results must meet high standards for my clients. Secondly, if you look at the various lenses I own, you should be able to ascertain that I do not hold loyalties to BRANDING. Yes, I own Nikon cameras and I love Nikon; but contrary to all the fluff out there by the brand using die-hards, you can get great quality pro lenses from the likes of Sigma, Tamron and Tokina for half the price of a pro lens from Nikon. In the end, I'm a consumer who requires quality for value; not quality for the sake of a name branded onto my lens.
My first experience with this lens took place at an on location photo-shoot with another professional. During the shoot, I was using two primes; a 35mm and a 50mm, but at this one particular indoor location, I couldn't get enough separation between myself and the model for a full length view and take in some of the setting. So, my buddy, who is also a Nikon shooter, reached into his bag and handed me his Sigma 17mm-50mm. I attached the lens to my D300 and focused in at 24mm. Just the right length to bring in the scene and my model at full length. I was so impressed with the results I was getting, that I ended up shooting the remaining session with this lens! It is solid, with a good weight to it, but not so much that it felt heavy on the camera. The auto-focus was slick and fast; unlike several other reviewers here, I did not note any abnormal noise in the auto-focus feature or the VC feature. But what really grabbed me was the amazing sharpness I got out of this lens at lengths 24mm to 50mm. I mean, this lens was tact sharp; impressive!
So, naturally, having a need for a lens like this, I went ahead and purchased one for myself. All I can say is that this is just a gorgeous piece of glass for the money you pay. I did not experience any of the issues other reviewers complained about with this lens. It is not slow, it is not noisy, no noticeable color fringing and it has amazingly fast focus. Vibration control is hard to evaluate compared to other lenses; however, the feature exists and works perfectly.
To enable this feature you need to depress the shutter button half-way. As a general rule, I tend to keep my minimal hand held shutter speeds at the direct inverse of the lens' focal length. However, for experimentation purposes and to check out the VC on this lens, I shot one of my models at 1/15s [hand-held] while at 35mm and her eyes came out crystal clear. I tried the shot again at 1/15s with my prime 35mm lens and I got no where near the same result. I mean, the image came out okay, but the eyes were not as sharp as they were with the sigma lens using VC. That tells me that the VC definitely works! I will say, that when using VC, you can hear the lens working, but it wasn't as predominant as others reviewers would seem to suggest; nothing abnormal. However, this is one notable area where Nikkor lenses with VR excel over Sigma.
The one other minor issue I had with this new lens, which went away after my third heavy photo-shoot, was with the zoom ring sticking a bit. And of course, there is some minor distortion at 17mm, but then again, show me a wide angle lens that doesn't have ANY distortion at one spectrum or the other and I'll show you a price greater than $3000.00. Again folks...value!
I can say without a doubt, that if I were to lose this lens, I would replace it in a second with the same lens. It is a pro-lens in my book and as of this writing, it has become my second favorite lens...right after the Sigma 85mm f/1.4!! BTW, I love all my lenses!
on February 8, 2012
After purchasing this lens I had to join the chorus of praise heaped on it. I had all the intentions of getting the Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS to go with my new Canon EOS 60D. However the recent January-March price drop of $60 sealed the deal. I figured it was worth the gamble, or as I've often seen it referred to "the Sigma lottery". The reviews on this lens have been in for a long time, and most of them are quite positive. Some even rate this lens better than the venerable Canon EF-S 17-55. However, there is also the black cloud that seems to hang over Sigma's head - that of variable quality control. You'll see the bitter reviews of folks with bad experiences right here.
If you hang around the camera forums, this can get to be even more depressing. People going through all kinds of tests for their lenses, constantly trading them back in for better copies. Or, claiming after going through 2 or three or five copies finally giving up. The brand that usually seems to pop up most often is Sigma. Perhaps because they (more than others) have a range of lenses that go toe-to-toe with the big boys. In some cases they're just as pricey as Canon or Nikkor.
The 17-50 is claimed by some to be as sharp, and even sharper than the 17-55 at above f4. For almost half the price I figured it was worth a shot, and this seems to be one of those rare cases where I really feel I got my monies worth. There are some trade-offs in features, but not quality. One thing I'll mention right away that I've seen mentioned elsewhere, and that's a "rattling" noise the OS makes when you shake the lens. Now, it never occurred to me to shake my lens. But I guess I'm odd that way! So, now than I finally have the thing I shook it. You know what? I don't hear it. I mean, I can hear a bit of movement, but nothing like my EF-S 17-85 for instance. Take that for what it's worth!
I decided to first test the lens on my "I know how it works and I know it's working" XTi Rebel. The first shots looked promising, and further tests showed it to be sharper than many reviews I've seen. I've posted a photo of the lens center and extreme corner at 17mm f2.8, where the lens is purported to be at its worst. It only gets better from there! After pairing to my 60D, well, keep reading!
Fit and finish:
This new Sigma no longer uses their matt crinkle sort of rubberized finish. While I liked the old finish, it showed marks, collected dirt and is very hard to clean. The new matt finish is smooth and nice, perhaps nicer than the speckled finish of the Canon EF-S series. The lens feels as of-a-piece, there's not a hollow spot or loose fitting anything anywhere. One complaint I see popping up regards the lens hood fit. At first I was all there with the "it barely hangs on" thing. Jeez, what's up with that? Oh. Duh. You rotate it a bit harder and it snaps in place. A firm "click". Nice. It's not going anywhere. This is very different from past Sigmas and the Canon EF-S lens hoods, which while nicely finished are still flimsy and don't fit all that great. The interior is not ribbed like old Sigmas, nor flocked like Canons, just a simple matte finish. At least it didn't cost $35! Other than that you'll find a zoom lock, AF/Manual and OS On/Off switches. One bizarre characteristic can be seen when viewing the mount and back element. If you zoom the lens out and the element travels inward, the camera's electronics are exposed! I found this weird enough to check my other lenses, and no, this is unique. I guess just don't check it out in a rainstorm and you're good to go. My final comment is that there is no distance scale window (just a distance scale on the barrel), an obvious price cutting issue. I don't really use the scale for a lens this size, but miss the little jewel like window all the same.
It is extremely solid and operates smoothly. The zoom is nice and smooth with a good amount of equal resistance in both directions. There is zero creep, and even still there's a zoom lock. This can't be said for the EF-S 17-55. The biggest issue I've got as others have mentioned is the overly thin rotating focus ring and short focus rotation of about 45 degrees (!) with hard stop. This is not a big issue for me in still photography, but it seems this could be a problem with video and somebody as ham-fisted as I am. The feel of the focus ring while smooth offers almost no resistance. In comparison, my other lenses are far superior in feel. Again if manual focus is a priority then this should be a consideration. The switches are a huge improvement over some past Sigmas, and each snaps quickly and firmly with identical feels. The zoom lock is quite small and there's no chance of accidentally hitting it, but it's large enough and has a positive enough feel to find and engage with confidence.
The AF is fast, as fast as any lens I've got. Perhaps it's so fast because of the short focus ring distance? It's not at all noisy. No hunting, no hesitation. Even in low contrast conditions it's just bang on. Considering the horror stories I've heard about the AF, this is another one for the mystery files. OS is another thing - while I've got a pretty steady hand (at certain times of the day, depending on barometric pressure and planet alignment) I'll assume it's doing its job. All the low-light shots with slow shutter speeds I've taken look great - consistent down to 1/10. 1/6 not so much. They claim 4 stops worth so I'll assume it's 3 and call it good! The OS is not at all noisy either, it was enough to concern me at first! I had to put my ear up to it and depress the shutter to confirm its operation when I first started. Summary, AF and OS are everything they should be and more.
It's incredibly sharp across the board. At 17mm and f2.8 is tack sharp center, with a slight softening in the corners - and I do mean slight. at 28mm and above it's mind-boggling. Seriously, I simply can't believe how sharp this thing is wide open. I'd have to say if there's a sweet spot it's around 5.6, but it really is wonderful up to about f/11. Typically, pixel peeping at 100% can be a depressing thing on a Canon APS-C camera. Now I just giggle!
Vignetting is quite apparent at the shortest focal length as would be expected, but very evenly gradated. CA is evident in extreme corners at all ranges, most notably distant high contrast objects. On my copy it only seems to be red fringing towards the outside, highly controllable in PP. Barrel distortion is pronounced at 17mm both vertically and horizontally. In comparison, my Sigma 10-20 f4-5.6 has almost no vertical distortion at 10mm. Distortion is pretty much gone by around 24 up. Really nothing unusual for this type of lens. I've actually found my distortion problems go away after owning a lens for a few weeks anyway! Why? I tend to stop shooting brick walls and start shooting other things instead. Of course, the vignetting and distortion are easily fixed as is CA using Lightroom, Photoshop, DxO or a host of other applications.
Contrast is another place this lens really shines, as what I would expect from an L series lens. Colors are deep and rich if slightly on the warm side. Flare seems well controlled, I've shot pretty much into the sun with no issues. Bokeh? Meh. It's good, pleasing actually, but nothing I'd call creamy or recommend the lens for. Bright objects do tend to have outlines, but no real fringing, odd shapes, holes or halos. You'll be able to find lots of samples both here and in reviews at lenstip dot com or photozone dot de.
- Great fit and finish
- Excellent size and weight
- Fast, accurate AF
- F2.8 is better than usable!
- Sharp, great contrast
- Better than advertized corner sharpness
- Low CA
- Image Stabilization
- 60% the price of the EF-S 17-55
- Comes with case
- Comes with lens hood
- Center pinch and edge pinch lens cap like most "modern" lens manufacturers (hello Canon?)
- Great warranty
- Skinny focus ring
- Rotating focus ring
- Manual focus turn only 45°
- Focus ring hard stop
- Mediocre focus ring feel and resistance
- No full time manual focus
- Vignetting at lower focal lengths
- No distance scale window
- Short focal length
- Possible QC issues
- Always run the risk of future EOS body incompatibility with third party lenses
If you need an f2.8 type lens, I highly recommend giving Sigma a look. If you're looking to replace your kit lens, or are really only going to have 1 lens you may consider something with more of a focal length like the EF-S 15-85 f3.5-5.6. Basically in this category of lenses there are only about 4 choices. The Canon EF-S 17-55, the Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 XR Di-II LD SP , the Tamron AF 17-50mm F/2.8 SP XR Di II VC and this. IMHO, the Tamron lenses are out of the running for either being sharp with no VC, or not sharp with VC. Tamron build quality is good but not great IMO. The Canon is top notch IQ but not top notch build, and then (are you listening Canon?) you still have to pony up for a mandatory and potentially lens-saving hood.
All I can say is this is a perfect "specialized" walk-around for crop bodies as others have mentioned. For indoor shooting it's a winner. You've got f2.8 in a small well built package that's razor sharp at f4 and above. See my chart test for opinions on f2.8. When introduced this was a pricey lens and it was hard to not consider just spending the extra $200 for an EF-S 17-55. But slowly the price has come down. At its current street price of around $650, it's a deal. Buy it, test it and if you do get a defective copy, then you've been fortunate enough to buy it from Amazon, right? Send it back and get another one, it's just that easy. And speaking of easy, this one is an easy 5 stars.
on August 18, 2010
I am a serious hobbiest, with a Nikon D90. Other lenses in my kit include the 18-105VR, 70-300VR, 300mmf4, 35mmf1.8 and 50mmf1.8. The use of the short fast primes (35mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8) really opened me up to available light photography, but I don't always want to constantly switching back-and-forth, or trying to zoom with my feet (which is not always possible in the confines of a small room). There's a time and place for the primes, but I decided that it was time to pick up a fast zoom to compliment what I already had. I tried a couple of options, and was very pleasently surprised by the Sigma 17-50mm OS.
Plain and simple, the lens is sharp. The image center is quite sharp throughout the zoom range, even wide open. The borders are reasonable good at f/2.8, but are noticeably less sharp than the center, when under 30mm. Realistically, I doubt I'll use f/2.8 for many shots where I require critical sharpness for the entire frame. Stopping down to f/4, the image is virtually even, across the frame. email@example.com sharpness is comparable or better than the Nikon 50f/1.8, at the same aperture. At all similar focal lengths and apertures, this lens in notably better than the 18-105VR.
The Sigma is as fast focusing as any lens I've used, and other than a couple of misses at slower shutter speeds and f/2.8, focus has been bang on. Honestly, the misses could just as easily have been as a result of user errors, subject motion and/or shallow depth of field, so I'm not knocking the lens here... I also tested the Tamron 17-50VC and, overall, I'd say speed was equal, but the Sigma was far less prone to mis-focusing like the Tammy.
There is some minor distortion at 17mm, but it is pretty minimal compared to zooms with similar range, from my preliminary tests. For example, it's no where near as noticeable as the Nikon 18-105VR that I also have. Otherwise, the optics of this lens are near superb. Bright, contrasty with accurate color reproduction.
Weight is nicely balanced on the D90; the Sigma 17-50OS is about the same size as the Nikon 18-105VR, but is noticeable heavier. I wouldn't have any problems carrying the body + lens around my neck, all day long. The 17-50 range translates to 25-75 on a DX body; this is the classic "event" range, and I can see why. Strictly shooting indoors, there would be almost no need for a second lens; the range is great. In a pinch, 50mm can be used for individual portraits, which this lens does a good job at, but a longer lens would be better for this specific purpose.
The OS (optical stabilization - same as Nikon's vibration reduction) works well on this lens. I haven't put it through the rigors of heavy testing yet (only be a few days), but even with my shakey hands, I can easily handhold 1/15" shots of static subjects at 50mm. I can say with certainty that there is no way I could do that without the aid of stabilization.
I wish the Sigma had some form of weather seal, or a rubber gasket, rather than the bare metal visible when mounted; I gather this is due to the larger Canon mount this lens also accommodates. This is my first non-Nikon lens, so the zoom ring spins the wrong way, for me, and the focus ring spins while AF'ing, so I need to get used to these quirks, but these (relatively) minor nits weren't enough to scare me away from an, otherwise, very good lens.
on May 30, 2012
I thought this was going to be the lens for me. I refuse to pay what Canon wants for the 17-55, the value equations is just not there. I picked this up from a local retailer last minute before shooting pics of my daughter and her prom date. Thankfully I had just enough time to take it outside and shoot a few pics at various focal lengths and apertures. I was rushed for time in looking at them in Lightroom, but it was obvious that something was wrong at the wide end of the zoom, seriously fuzzy pics in contrast to the nice sharp results I was getting at the longer end of the zoom. Thankfully that was just enough info to keep me in the sweet spot of this zoom to pull off some really nice prom pics. I liked the results with my 7D better than the results from my 85mm f1.8 or 50mm f1.8.
The next day I started to investigate the lens's behavior at the wide end, methodically comparing tripod taken and also handheld with OS pics of the brick on the side of my house and various other subject matter outside. What became clear in reviewing all the evidence on my 27" iMac was that the lens could not focus correctly below about 24mm zoom. Every time was a front focus, just enough to ruin the sharpness of the pic. So, I then repeated the same pictures with varying focus modes on my 7D - the original pics used center point plus expansion, so I took two more sets with center point only and then center zone (9pt array). The other modes were better than the first, but the keeper rate was still very low, at maybe 1 in ten. And by keeper, I'm not even meaning publishing quality critical sharpness.
If the lens had consistently front focused across all focal lengths, I could have played around with my 7D's microadjustment and possibly fixed it. It is such a shame, because when this lens does nail the focus, it renders a really sharp, well saturated, contrasty image. I was totally bummed to take it back to my local retailer. I loved the image quality at longer focal lengths, the build was great, the OS worked well, and the price sure beats Canon. I will probably order another one from Amazon in a few months and see if it interacts with my 7D any better. I really want this lens if it can focus correctly!
Update 10/8/12: Bought a second copy from a prominent NY retailer. Same exact problem with it - horrible focus at all focal lengths below 24mm. That is a design flaw, not a QC issue. I again tried every possible focus technique and setting and nothing fixed it. Tried it on my original Digital Rebel backup body. Same. Exact. Result. I'm so disappointed because the optics are just stellar, but I'm not paying this much for a manual focus lens. I will be trying the optically inferior Tamron version next, I suppose...
on October 10, 2015
This lens is everything I imagined! It is a great all around lens with a wide range of capabilities! I took this on my most recent backpacking trip and it's great for (almost) everything: soft water, astrophotography, portraits, landscapes! The lens has a nice weight to it and sturdy build! The auto focus is fast and if I do say so myself I think this is an absolutely georgeous lens! If you're looking for a high quality all around good lens, then I would highly recommend this!
on September 14, 2011
I take my purchases seriously, taking sometimes months just researching and comparing prices, reviews, specs, etc.
I could not decide between the 17-70mm and this lens. I bought the 17-70 instead and immediately realized my folly. I was looking for a lens to do events and thought the extra reach would benefit me, figuring I could use my post processing to compensate. However, after just taking a few shots indoors, I did not like the noise that I had to contend with plus the unsaturated look. The 17-70 might be a great lens outdoors but because it does not enable the 2.8 throughout the range,it was not enough.
I immediately arranged for a refund and I must say that Amazon's service is amazing, which is why I keep returning....lol..that did not sound right...you know what I mean!.
I purchased the 17-50mm and it came 2 days ago, I immediately began taking photos. The 2.8 throughout the range was excellent. With flash(SB900),I took some amazing photos. It seemed to me that the color information in the photos(raw) allowed me to really bring out a sweet color depth range, almost as if I were using a full frame camera, I am using a D90. I took shots of flowers that were better than I have ever taken before. The 17mm took me in close, about 6-8ins, with a sharpness that makes you feel like it is a macro lens. With the OS, I did not even need a tripod...shooting at 1/25, sometimes even 1/15 on shots without flash. This OS really makes a difference. I also noticed that it has a decent bokeh at 2.8...which should work well for portraits but I will be testing that later. People remarked on the colors. This lens took my photography to a new level. The focal length ring is quite stiff and it could be because it is new. That is only thing I find wrong with this lens so far, besides a cheap feel compared to my Nikkor lens.
So far I am loving this lens but need to really put it through some more hurdles to compete this review. I will post the pictures later of the flowers.
on July 13, 2011
I am not a professional photographer but I know what a good photo quality is.
I own a Nikon D7000 and my previous lens were: Nikon 18-105mm, Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8, Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, Nikon 50mm f/1.8G.
Of course the 35mm and the 50mm are different lenses compared to the zoom lens, so I'll be mostly comparing the zoom lenses.
Hands down the Nikon 17-55mm wins the whole battle... such a beautiful lens that is well built and the quality is very satisfying.......HOWEVER!
It is SO DAMN expensive.. $1500?? are you kidding me.. seriously... I'll pay $800 MAXIMUM for a lens.. come on.. it's a glass with some metal and plastic for god's sake.
The 18-105mm which was the kit lens for my D7000 was a good lens, took some good photos but the rear lens was made out of cheap cheap plastic and I like to see some bokeh when I take photos, so I was researching and studying for the right one..
I tried my friend's Tamron I and liked the results but come on, the auto focus sounds like a robocop walking down the street. I might be in a situation where I need to take photos at a quiet environment but with this robocop lens, no way jose. But the picture quality isn't too bad, so I recommend the Tamron as well.
So... I finally picked up Sigma 17-50mm after trying it out for couple of days... I freaking love this lens. The price, built quality, AF sound, the look, picture quality, EVERYTHING. I love everything about this lens. Awesome lens. If $1000 is no problem for you, then get a Nikon because it wins over all the lens, however, if you intend not to spend over a $1000 for a glass, then Sigma is the answer. Good luck!
on February 16, 2011
I bought a Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 and a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 prime lens when I bought my Nikon D7000. Both are great lenses, but the very fast prime lens was too limiting for an every day choice and I have become addicted to shooting in low light with no flash. Speed was the need. The reviews for the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 were good and the price was appealing for a lens that offered f/2.8 throughout the range. The focal lengths for this lens covered nicely my usual shooting habits, so I decided to give it a try. Being a serious amateur with a limited budget, I was looking for a way to fill gaps in my lens line up without limiting myself to one new lens a year, which is where I would most likely be if I bought only fast Nikon lenses. After a short time with the Sigma, I have revised my wish list completely. For my needs, the Sigma more than fills the bill. The Nikon 16-85mm will still serve me well in certain situations, as the added focal length will come in handy from time to time. However, the performance of the 17-50mm Sigma has compelled me to make this my first choice for all around shooting. The lens focuses very quickly and images are sharp. The controls for changing to manual focus and going in and out of OS(like Nikon's VR) are well placed. I am enjoying this purchase very much and plan to add many more Sigma lenses to my collection as my budget allows. Pros may feel more comfortable staying with Nikon brand lenses, but for me the results are far more than I hoped for. I shoot a lot of images, both in JPEG and RAW, and so far the Sigma has been a winner. I do not think you would be sorry if you bought this lens.
on July 13, 2011
i picked up the sigma after previously owning the tamron 17-50 (non-stabilized version), which was stolen. after a few months of field use, shooting photojournalism assignments and some street photography, i feel i can evaluate this lens objectively. i shoot nikon and use this on a d90 and d300s. i've felt the nikon 17-55 is overpriced, considering it doesnt have stabilization.
BUILD: better than the tamron. solid, yet still compact.
IQ: pretty sharp in the center at 2.8. even better at f/4. the colors are very contrasty and a little yellowish, but this lens handles high-contrast scenes very well on both my DX cameras. i did have to turn down the saturation a bit on the d90, but since then, no real complaints. a little less distortion at 17mm than the tamron.
AF SPEED: not as fast as my pro FX zooms (24-70 and 70-200) but that is to be expected. in real-world shooting conditions, fast enough.
OS: it works. can enable handheld shots at 1/15 or even lower. this is great for low light shots and still lifes. for more than 2x the price, the 17-55 should have this feature. the thing is, that you don't always need stabilization, and it can actually degrade picture quality or cause mis-focus as you wait for it to kick in. at shutter speeds faster than 1/100,its irrelevant at this focal length, so i leave it in the default 'off' position unless i need it.
BOKEH: better than the tamron. way better than the nikon 50/1.8. smooth defocused areas. not as good as the sigma 30/1.4 or the nikon 24-70 and 70-200.
i dinged it one star for having a zoom ring which is backwards on nikon bodies. this takes a bit of getting used to. i do like that it takes 77mm filters, unlike the tamron.
IDEAL USES: pretty much anything for which a standard 2.8 zoom is needed. unlike the nikon 17-55, its compact enough for travel. good for events, sports, portraits, candids, street photography. close-up range isn't as good as the tamron, so you need another lens for semi-macro shots.
OVERALL: i would give it 4.5 stars if i could. for the money, a good deal. if you're on a budget, the non-VC tamron is just as good optically. if cost is no object, the nikon has better build and faster AF, but is a lot heavier.