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Sigma 50-150/2.8 HSM II or Tokina 50-135/2.8 screw AFS for D7000

Ajay Ukidve , Apr 21, 2011; 12:22 p.m.

Hi Folks,
I am in a dillima and want advise.
I have recently purchased the Nikon D7000. I have the Tamron 17-50/2.8 A16 NII with the built in motor which is a superb lens.
I have lined up these 2 lenses to compliment the Tamron for street photography and isolating people and faces in the crowd. I travel a lot.
1. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 II EX DC HSM about USD 500 in India.
2. Tokina AF 50-135mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro DX which has a screw drive about USD 750 in India.
I would like to buy the Tokina which has excellent reviews every where on the net. However I feel the price appears a bit more with a slow AF screw drive.
The Sigma has mixed reviews. Many complaints about front focusing, softness at 150/2.8 and allied QC issues. However some reviews are very good.
I want frank advise from those who have used both these lenses. Which one should I go in for. I would state here I do not mind paying the extra USD 250 if folks are convinced that the Tokina is really that good on all counts, I am not into sports photography etc so IQ is more important to me than AF speed.
Thanks in advance.


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CC Chang , Apr 21, 2011; 01:45 p.m.

Just to remind you that both lenses have been discontinued, and a new version of the Sigma with OS has been announced. So you may want to wait to get the newest thing ... Newer 3rd party lenses may work better with newer camera body in terms of AF consistency.

Having said that, I did manage to find a copy of the Sigma to use on my D90. It does front focus and after being repaired by Sigma, it still does but to much less extent. When I called the Sigma, they said that they could adjust the lens to fit my camera, but they mostly recommend this to people who live close by as it may take a few trips to get it right. This was not an option for me, however. I also learned from talking to them that the equipment they have to calibrate the AF is designed to check at only 50 and 150mm, but not any where in between. So it is possible that while a lens is calibrated "properly", it can still have some issue, most likely at focal length different from the two extremes. Despite the small front focusing issue, which is evident when I tested in at night in my kitchen at about 70-100mm, it seems to be field irrelevant as I don't see this in most of the actual pictures I took when the light is relatively good. The lens is sharp with good bokeh and small and light for the fl that it covers. The "softness" that some people reported may be caused by inaccurate focusing, but not the glass itself. I heard fewer complains on the Tokina. If you plan to use this lens a lot indoors at close range, Sigma's AF accuracy may be a concern.

Eric Arnold , Apr 21, 2011; 01:50 p.m.

i've owned both versions of the 50-150 and currently own version II, which i use with my DX kit. it's not overly-soft at 2.8, though it does improve noticeably at f/4 and is super sharp at 5.6 -- which is a characteristic shared by most lenses of this type. the sharpness is relative, though, because this lens has really great bokeh, so it's all about the contrast between in-focus and OoF areas. basically, the in-focus areas appear 'sharper' b/c the OoF backgrounds are rendered so nicely.

QC has been fine on both my copies --no front-focus or AF issues. the zoom ring is really smooth on the 50-150, which makes it great for action. also, the 50-150 II is better at max zoom than version I and may be sharper at 2.8 as well. what's really interesting is that i find both versions of the 50-150 compare well to the thrice-more-costly nikkor 70-200 II.

i see your dilemma. the 50-150 is perhaps more of a 'sports/action' lens, whilst the tokina is more of a 'landscape' lens, with non-removeable tripod collar and all. for portraits they both seem equally good, although not sure the extra 250 USD would be worth it to me, considering that the 50-150 is much faster to AF and has an extra 15mm wiggle room on the long end. the sigma also has instant MF-override.

on the QC front, however, you have just as much chance of getting a bad copy with tokina as with sigma. perhaps i have been lucky, but none of my sigmas nor any of my tokinas have had issues. i suspect some of the widely-reported QC problems have to do with specific camera/lens combos. my sigma 17-50 OS seems to AF a little better on my D300s than my d90. i know sigma will calibrate EX-series lenses to specific bodies if you register the lens on the website and send it in. not sure if tokina will do this.

bottom line is for street photography, i would get the 50-150.

btw, judging by price can be a bit of a misnomer--in the USA, the sigma was the more expensive of the two when both were available new.

Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest at Rock the Bells, sigma 50-150

Ajay Ukidve , Apr 21, 2011; 01:54 p.m.

My Dear CC,

Thank you for your prompt reply. No I will not be using it much indoors. For that I use the Tamron 17-50/2.8 A16 NII. The sigma or Tokina lens is for evening street photography only. Like shop fronts and faces in the crowd for isolating objects. I travel a lot, I specially want one of these lenses because I found the Nikon 18-135 not good in low light. Though it is tack sharp. I was using it with the D70s which has poor low light capability. Beyond 400 too much noise so I have bought the D7000. So I think you are happy with the Sigma. gr8. Thanks for your input.


Ajay Ukidve , Apr 21, 2011; 02:03 p.m.

My Dear Eric,
Thank you for the very informative reply. Things are quite clear to me now. I am going in for the Sigma. The best I can do is take my D7000 to Mumbai where the lenses are located ( I happen to be located in Pune so can easily drive down). Fit it to my camera and do a quick test with pencil cells for front and back focusing and select the best. Incidentally the dealer has 8 new pieces and only 2 of Tokina. He has kindly agreed to allow me to do that, in case I get a bad copy first time or the second etc. D7000 has a front and back focusing correction so should not be difficult to test. With respect to cc's advise The OS version is too expensive so that is out.
Thank you once again Eric.

Ajay Ukidve , Apr 21, 2011; 02:06 p.m.

Great picture Eric !! Confirmed I go with Sigma.

CC Chang , Apr 21, 2011; 02:33 p.m.

Hi Eric, Do you think that the lens actually focused on the bracelet instead of the face of the singer? If so, it front-focused.

Ramon V (California) , Apr 21, 2011; 03:44 p.m.

I will second all what Eric said about the Sigma 50-150mm. The extra stretch of 15mm is very useful at times. I have one and I use it from weddings and other events (street and indoors) to sports. I got lucky with my copy.

Hello, CC. I think the focus is more on the cheek and/or nose. I could be wrong. The knuckles are more focused than the bracelet so I guess it didn't front focus. It might have just looked that way because of the contrast of the bright and blue metal on the skin tone of the performer. But my set of eyes are getting old.

Good luck in your choice, Ajay.

Eric Arnold , Apr 21, 2011; 03:51 p.m.

no. what you're seeing there is a reflection of stage lighting which hit the bracelet (made of iridescent/sparkly material) but not the face. if you look closely at the bracelet you can see a yellow stage light reflection on the left side and a white stage light reflection in the middle. the white light is more washed out. you're seeing more glint from the subtler yellow light which in your mind was sharpness but that's not the case--its not even across the entire bracelet because the white light overexposed.the other thing too is that his hat is covering his face, shielding him from the stage lighting. so his hand, which isn't covered by his hat, is better-lit, which again, could give the illusion of mis-focus, though that's clearly not the case.

in the full-size, full-rez version (resizing and compressing/stretching for posting robs some visual acuity) the face is clearly in focus. also, other shots in that same sequence are pretty much spot-on.

shooting live concert shots is pretty tricky btw, because you're dealing with a moving subject and constantly-changing lighting conditions. if you have to shoot at wide apertures to get a fast enough shutter, the plane of focus can shift ever so slightly, giving the appearance of missed focus when it's actually not. so it's a matter of technique and shooting conditions more than lens error. i've used the 50-150 enough in those situations (and gotten enough keepers) to report with confidence i dont have a front-focus issue with that lens.

Q-Tip, sigma 50-150, d300

Eric Arnold , Apr 21, 2011; 03:55 p.m.

another phife shot...

when's the last time you heard a funky diabetic?

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