Some time ago I discussed with a good friend of mine the topic of wide angle lenses and I told him how satisfied I was with Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D. Then, I heard from him for a very good alternative – Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super Wide II lens, for the first time. Apart from the standard parameters, Sigma fascinated me also with the fact that it has a macro mode, and it can shoot in 1:4 scale.
On the whole, the Nikon 24/2.8 lens is slightly superior to Sigma in terms of sharpness, chromatic aberration, distortion and vignetting. Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D focuses a little faster, though both lenses have a Normal AF. Also, Nikon 24mm f2.8 lens works a tag better with the flash than the Sigma. Both lenses perform very well on Nikon D800E and utilize the resolution of the device quite well.
Bear in mind that during the tests I had only a DX camera. Mounted on FX body like D800 or D800E, the Sigma 24/2.8 will be in less advantageous position – the extreme corners are softer and with more vignetting compared to Nikon 24/2.8.
If we disregard the direct comparison of the lenses in a lab, in other words, if I go out to shoot in real conditions, the advantage of Nikon 24/2.8 against Sigma disappears because Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super Wide II is a very good lens that shows excellent results even on bodies like Nikon D800. Not to mention that selecting a lens based mainly on its frames zoomed at 100 % is a quite unreasonable way of choosing optics.
The Sigma has two very strong assets that it eventually reveals – the ability to shoot from a very close range and its price. Sigma has a minimum focal length of 0.18 m and zooms 1:4, while Nikon shoots at 0.3 m and zooms 1:10. This Sigma Macro opens new opportunities for shooting from a very close distance and interesting perspectives. As for the price, when it is bought second hand, the price is 2-3 times lower than that of Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D.
I had the chance to test two versions of the Sigma 24mm f2.8 Macro – one with a matte rubber finish of the body and a larger window for the distance to the object, and another that looks a lot like the Nikon – a sleek black body and a window that is smaller than that of the other Sigma. All three lenses have a metal body. Check this post regularly in the near future as I will post photos taken from with both lenses outside the studio.
Here are two photos taken with the D300 and the Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super Wide II and Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D lenses at their minimum focal length. The chick has a diameter of about 2 cm.
Although Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D is a slightly better lens than Sigma AF 24mm f/2.8 Super Wide II Macro, for amateur purposes I would certainly recommend the Sigma because of its macro capabilities and the much lower price. For people who are willing to sacrifice more money and are not interested in the macro mode shooting of the Sigma, Nikon AF 24mm f/2.8D remains the better choice.
12 MP NEF file converted with Capture NX2: sharpness 5, exposure compensation, some desaturation, everything else is at default settings as in the camera. No adjustments of the vignetting, aberrations, etc.
Download the original file (12 MP)
The same building, shot in a contrasting light. Nikon D800E, Sigma 24 mm f2.8 @ 2.8, jpg file from the camera without any post processing.
Download the original file (36.2 MP)
While testing the sigma, I also made a cross test of the lenses Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D and Nikon AF-S 50mm. It appears that given the three lenses shoot from their minimum focusing distance the DOF is the same. So you have a 24mm lens that is 24mm wide and can shoot with the DOF of 50/1.8 lens when the sigma is put in macro mode – isn’t this just great? And one more thing – do you find the sigma bokeh the best one when compared to the 50mm Nikon lenses or this is just me?!