Gear Review: The Sigma 15mm F2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye

Gentec  International, the official Canadian supplier of renowned brands such as Sigma, Velbon and Sandisk, has provided me with a copy of the Sigma 15mm F2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye to review. I had been wanting to try one of these specialist lenses for a long time, and this was the perfect opportunity to do it.

As you may know, these lenses offer an extreme angle of view that covers a whopping 180 degrees. The main effect of these lenses is that the edges of the frame are significantly curved, while the centre remains essentially untouched, giving a definitely unique look to your images.

Note that I am in no way sponsored by either Gentec International or Sigma and that I have been given carte blanche to offer unbiased and fair reviews. While I have not purchased the reviewed lens, it was only provided to me as a loan for the duration of the testing.

The large field of view of the lens and fast speed (f/2.8) allow you make funky looking images in dim light.

Lens specifications:

Optimized Diagonal Fisheye AF Lens
Minimum Focusing Distance: 15cm
Filter Size: Rear (Gelatin)
Lens Construction: 7 Elements in 6 Groups
Angle of View: 180 degrees
Number of Diaphragm Blades: 7 Blades
Minimum Aperture: F22
Dimensions Diameter: 2.9″ x 2.6″ Length
Weight: 370g

Handling
As is my experience with all the Sigma lenses I’ve tried so far, the lens is very solidly built. It is very small and light, which makes it a great companion for when you need to carry a small kit. The autofocus is very fast and quiet and works like it is supposed to. For those who prefer manual focusing, the focus ring, while small, is very easy to locate and is nice and smooth. That said, I have to admit I used it rarely as I had a lot of trouble seeing if I had actually achieved focus through my viewfinder. I think that was likely due to the fact I wasn’t very used to the curvature of the frame.

I really like the very close focusing distance on this lens (15cm). You can pretty much put your lens right against your subject and still cover an incredible field of view. I have to say that is just mindboggling. This is particularly useful when you need to fill the frame with your subject. As this can only happen when you are very close to the subject, the close focusing distance is critical.

Here I am practically at the base of the columns, yet, my field of view allows me to capture an incredibly wide shot.

Performance
I have to admit I am very impressed with the sharpness of the lens from edge to edge, and even wide-open. Peak sharpness is between f/5.6 and f/11, but you have to look real (and I mean REAL) close to tell the difference with f/2.8. Having read several reviews about the lens previously, I expected the vignetting to be overwhelming at f/2.8, but I have to say it is more than manageable. While it is definitely noticeable at f/2.8, it is much less so at 5.6 and completely disappears by f/8. From an image perspective, the lens is very contrasty and has a very nice color rendition.

Another great feature of the lens is its flare resistance. Given the fairly prominent and bulbous front element, I expected it to be a flare disaster. Interestingly, I have not managed to have see flare at all with this lens, even shooting straight at the sun (to be fair, I haven’t pushed it to its limit, but I have tried enough to be very impressed).

On the less impressive side is something that I didn’t expect: chromatic aberration. I have not seen a single review mention this problem on this lens. However, the sample I tested displayed some pretty ugly chromatic aberration at the edges at f/2.8. At f/8, there was still some CA, but it was more acceptable.

To Recap
Pros:

  • Very sharp
  • Close focusing distance
  • Flare resistant
  • Solid build and smooth operation

Cons:

  • Chromatic aberration wide-open, and to a lesser extent at smaller apertures
  • Price. With the recent increase in price, it is only $100 less expensive than its Nikon counterpart, which makes it less of the no-brainer it once was.

Overall
While I consider this to be more of a specialty lens than a mainstay in my kit, I think Sigma has a definite winner in their hands with this model. It is a very solid performer in a compact and light package that will extend your toolkit and allow you to go for a different look in your images.

Your turn

Do you have cool fisheye images to share on the blog? Please post them (or links) in the comments section below.

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6 Responses to Gear Review: The Sigma 15mm F2.8 EX DG Diagonal Fisheye

  1. Amanda says:

    it was a fun lens, for sure! thanks for not posting the close-up fisheye pic of my face. hee.

  2. Dave Wilson says:

    I’ve had this lens for almost a year and love it. Like you, the CA was a bit disturbing at first but Lightroom’s profile for the lens does a nice job of cleaning it up. I suspect that, like me, you have been spoiled by using too many of Nikon’s pro lenses which are essentially CA-free!

  3. Dave Wilson says:

    I forgot these in the last comment. You wanted some links to images shot with the lens:

    Erwin Center at UT Austin
    Corner of Smith & Bell, Downtown Houston
    Texas State Capitol Rotunda

  4. PhotoHop says:

    I used this lens on a cropped sensor, and using DxO, completely corrected the distortion making this an awesome super wide angle for my D60 and D90…
    Thanks for the review!
    P.S. I always wanted the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 and when I finally got a hold of one I sold the 15mm…Sadly, I think the Sigma 15mm was a lot more fun to use, so I sold the Tokina 11-16 and bought another Sigma 15mm…for about 1/2 the price of the Tokina as well…I’m happy again…

    • Dave Wilson says:

      On a crop sensor body, take a look at the Sigma 10-20mm or the newer 8-16mm. They are enormously fun lenses. Make sure you check the focus at wide apertures on the 10-20mm if you buy one. They may have fixed the problem recently (mine was an old model and they’ve updated since) but some had a problem of being unsharp on one side of the frame.

      • Animesh Ray says:

        If you had choose between the Tokina 11-16mm, Sigma 8-16mm and the Sigma 15mm Fisheye for a crop-sensor camera which one would you choose?

        This is a confusing question to me at least.