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Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN

46mm Filters

When Sigma's new NEX/Micro 4/3 lenses were introduced, there was a lot of online whining about how unexciting the focal lengths were. Personally I loved the Nikkor 28mm f/2 on 35mm format, so I was excited about 19mm EX DN which equals the focal length on the APS-C format of Sony's NEX series. It's an odd lens for our times, where we expect a prime lens to be at least f/1.8 or f/1.4 and or have some form of image stabilization and an AF system that needs an acronym too. Personally I've always wondered about some of Sigma's prime offerings in the past, like their 20mm, 24mm and 28mm f/1.8 trio which are notoriously bad wide open and average at f/2.8. Why not just make a light weight lens that is good wide open? It seems like Sigma read my mind, because this is just that.

Yes it's only 5oz. That's to say this lens barely weighs more than your standard professional sized 77mm filter. With a 46mm filter it's easy to adapt all my classic 52mm filters to, so no complaints there. 
My only real complaint is that the mark to align the lens for mounting is hard to see. This lens small but not a pancake lens, which doesn't bother me because none of the current NEX cameras will fit comfortably into pant pockets anyways. The build mostly plastic of a consumer grade feel, but not absolutely dismal like the third party bargain lenses of a few years ago. The lens makes a rattling sound when shaken, but this goes away when the lens is powered on. This makes it feel potentially fragile, but mine has survived a lot of use and abuse bumping around in the back of my kayak. A metal lens mount is a nice touch as well as the addition of a padded case and lens hood, all for $200. That's more than some brands $1,000 lenses come with, so well done Sigma for not trying to save a dollar and gouging the consumer for a lens hood.

Rok Sribar enjoying the waterfalls of Dinkey Creek. Here we are clearly out of the center of the frame and at f/4.

Sony NEX-5n, Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN @ 1/800 f/4 ISO 100

A 100% unsharpened crop from the 16mp sensor.

Sony NEX-5n, Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN @ 1/800 f/4 ISO 100

Top left corner unsharpened crop.

The Sony NEX-7 is notorious for having the most demanding, pixel-dense sensor currently in production. Here is the Sigma 19mm wide open on the NEX-7

Sony NEX-7, Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN @ 1/400 f/2.8 ISO 100

Granted this is the center of the frame, but things are looking pretty good for a f/2.8 crop from a 24mp sensor.

Sony NEX-7, Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN @ 1/400 f/2.8 ISO 100

Corners don't hold up as well at f/2.8 on the NEX-7, but they improved dramatically by f/4. Any color fringing can be easily corrected in photoshop.

Sony NEX-7, Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN @ 1/400 f/2.8 ISO 100

One thing not often mentioned in reviews of the Sigma 19mm EX DN is its ability to close focus, which is very good, this shot is not even at closest focus distance.
Sony NEX-5n, Sigma 19mm f/2.8 EX DN @ 1/250 f/6.3 ISO 200

  Build: 6/10                  -  Better than a kit zoom.
  Handling: 5/10            -  Not much to mention here, but the by-the-wire focusing feels better than the Sony 18-55mm kit lens.
  Performance: 8/10      -  It's not trying to do a lot, but it does it well
  Value: 9/10                  -  Good performance at $200 with full accessories.
  Overall: 7/10                - Performance is better than the price would reflect.

Practicality for kayaking: 9/10  

   For kayaking this lens is near perfect for what it is: light, sharp, moderately fast and quite cheap. It's also not terribly fragile, and for $200 it doesn't break the bank if it does suffer a mishap. The colors and contrast look natural (compared to the kit lens) and this lens blows away Sony's 16mm f/2.8 in all aspects except AF speed. I give this little gem two big thumbs up considering the price. It's not perfect, but it's very good and moderately priced, and performs better in the real world than test chats tend to show. Price-performance goes through the roof if you can find it and the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 EX DN for sale as a $200 kit.

   Other Reviews:
Kurt Munger

To get a feel for size, here is a common household item compared to the 19mm Sigma EX DN with the lens hood attached. I'd say it has about 1/3 the mass of a beer can.

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