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09.07.2011

12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II Features:

  • Designed for use with full frame digital cameras. May also be used with smaller APS-c size sensors with a corresponding effective increase in focal length to about 17-35mm with most cameras
  • One SLD and Four FLD glass
  • Minimum focusing distance of 11 inches
  • A front cap adapter, front/rear lens cap and carrying case are included with the lens.

By Kevin Ames

Scenics? Architecture? People in the street? Interior spaces? Live performances? Art?

The one lens that answers all these photographic situations is Sigma’s new 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG HSM II wide angle zoom. Come along in this exploration to New York, Maine, Chicago, Nashville, Orlando, Arlington, Washington D.C. and Atlanta to see what this versatile optic can do.

Hewett’s Island, Maine • 12mm 1/20th f/13 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

The striated rock formation pointing diagonally toward the Atlantic ocean on Hewett’s Island in Maine is accentuated by Sigma’s new 12-24mm wide angle zoom set at 12mm.

Popham Beach State Park, Maine • 13mm 1/320th f/9 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Landscapes are made for wide angle zooms. At 12mm this lens sees 122º of scenic beauty. Its low distortion makes for straight horizons.

I have to say right here that I am not a landscape photographer. Like everyone facing one of nature’s wonders, I can’t help putting the camera up to my eye and doing my best. That said, when I find a beautiful place I am more than willing to get up before dawn to arrive in time to record a place it gorgeous light. The nicest part of it all is having the 12-24 on my camera atop my tripod. The super wide angle of view makes photographing landscapes fun and the results are rewarding.

Buildings are sculptures. We live, work and play in and around them. Photographing architecture can be a challenge particularly when the vertical lines of a building have to be parallel—not converging at the top. The solution is to position the camera so it is completely level. Conventional wide angle lenses simply aren’t wide enough for the job.

24mm 1/320th f/9 ISO 200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

This shopping center in Atlanta, Georgia illustrates the problem. Here the camera is level. The sides of the tower in the center are parallel to each other. Unfortunately the top of the building is cut off. The solution is either a much higher vantage point or…

12mm 1/320th f/9 ISO 200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

…zoom all the way out to 12mm. The top of the building is in the frame. Of course the foreground could be cropped as shown below.

12mm 1/320th f/9 ISO 200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

The result looks like an architect’s rendering.

The Sigma 12~24mm is my go-to choice for photographing installations in front of buildings or in courtyards. Often it is impossible to move back far enough to get all of a foreground work of art in the frame. Even when there’s room enough to back up, the art in the foreground will become smaller. The ultra-wide zoom allows me to make exactly the composition I want to make the sculpture prominent.

12mm 1/40th f/11 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

I made this photograph of Alexander Calder’s 1965 sculpture “Two Discs” in front of the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington, D.C. The camera position is eye level about ten feet from the two story tall artwork.

24mm, 20mm, 16mm, 12mm 1/50th f/11 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Four views of the Courtyard Fountain at the Hirschhorn Museum.

The 12~24mm offers architectural possibilities not available in any other zoom lens covering full frame sensors. See the opportunities this lens gives of a single scene shot from the same position. The only changes are focal length and framing. As the focal length shortens the perspective becomes more dynamic. The pool in the foreground forces the eye to the fountain nicely framed by the building in the background.

I have done quite a bit of architectural photographs over the years across the country and in Europe with my trusty Sinar P 4X5 inch view camera. Digital capture with the 12-24mm from Sigma is way better.

Underground

One of my favorite places for “street shooting” is in subways. While I’ve never lived in New York City, I’ve learned to use the transit system. People in the city’s underground are amazing to watch and lots of fun to photograph.

“On the Platform” Subway NYC, NY • 24mm 1/50th f/5.6 ISO 6400. ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

“Waiting Between Trains” Subway NYC, NY • 19mm 1/20th f/5.6 ISO 800 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Sitting in a car with an empty bench waiting for riders. I love sitting and waiting to see who boards.

“On Their Way” Subway NYC, NY • 24mm 1/200th f/5.6 ISO 6400 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

I was on a different train with the camera braced on my knees in close to the same position as the previous photograph. I pre-focused, had the exposure set and waited for some riders to take there places on my moving stage.

Another city, a new subway…

“Coming, Going, Reading” Crystal City Metro Station, Arlington, Virginia. 12mm 1/3rd f/5.0 ISO 800 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

The super wide angle of view at 12mm allows interiors to become sweeping vistas of concrete, steel and glass.

Crystal City Metro Station, Arlington, Virginia • 12mm 1/4th f/7.1 ISO 1600 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station, Washington, DC • 12mm 1/4th f/7.1 ISO 1600 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

This view of the station reminds me of the Starship Enterprise. I wonder if the architect was a Star Trek fan…

Wide open interiors, these subway stations and platforms for instance, are begging to be photographed graphically. The 12-24mm is perfect. It’s small and lightweight. It’s also bright which helps composing in low light situations.

Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Florida 12mm 1/15th f/11 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Great interiors are not always in front of you. Look up. Then lie down. I made this one flat on my back.

I carry a camera with me pretty much all of the time. Why? ‘Cause I never know when I might want to make a picture. When walking a city for a day, I don’t like to carry a lot of gear. On one of these wanderings I take the camera and a single lens. The 12-24 allows me to explore a scene in a different way than with my usual “normal lens” Sigma’s 24-70mm f2.8 DG HSM.

“Colorful Shade” • 24mm 1/250th f/8 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved 24mm

I was strolling along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. I came upon these blue, green and yellow umbrellas shading the crowd on a restaurant’s patio. My first thought was to isolate the color. If my old “normal” was the lens of the day, this was all I could have put in the photograph. The extra 12mm of wide makes a big difference. Now I have the colorful shade makers in their environment. The ultra-wide 12mm focal length allows the inclusion of the tall buildings in the background.

Downtown Chicago • 12mm 1/250th f/8 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

At Millennium Fountain I noticed some colorful flowers that were a great contrast to the warm monotones of the pillars around it. I wouldn’t be able to get close. Or would I? Wide angle lenses often focus quite close and when they are set at a small aperture, even closer.

Flowers, Chicago, Illinois • 12mm 1/20th f/11 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

All of the flowers are sharp because of the extreme depth of field with an ultra-wide angle lens. I focused on the purple flower in the foreground. It’s only a couple of inches from the lens. The fountain and buildings in the background go quietly soft.

Millennium Fountain, Chicago, Illinois • 12 mm 1/20th f/11 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

I moved back about two feet from where I made the previous photograph. Same exposure. The focus is still on the flower at the front of the bowl. Now everything is sharp—the flowers, the green bottle of Mountain Dew and even the buildings on the other side of the river. Everything’s in focus from two feet to infinity. Talk about lots of depth of field.

There’s no way I could ever be a photojournalist. I can’t resist removing distractions so the Mountain Dew has to go. It was either pick it up, take the shot then carry the bottle around Chicago until I happened upon a waste can or take ten seconds in post production.

Millennium Fountain, Chicago, Illinois • 12 mm 1/20th f/11 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

The latter wins. Poof. No bottle, no worries.

Across the river in front of those buildings is a statue of Marilyn Monroe. It’s quite tall. Here’s the full frame picture.

“The Seven Year Itch Statue” Chicago, Illinois • 19mm 1/60th f/8 ISO 100. ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

I was most interested in catching the woman with hugging Marilyn’s leg and kicking her foot back so this is not as carefully composed. I have no qualms about cropping a photograph. Or removing distracting folks in the background.

“Marilyn and the Ladies” Chicago, Illinois • 19mm cropped, retouched ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Sigma 12~24mm ultra wide angle lens is an inclusive tool. When a story has lots of information, having all of the parts in one photograph makes the telling easier. I’ll show you what I mean in the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

Milestones of Flight Gallery, Washington, D.C. • 24mm 1/40th f/7.1 ISO 400 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

This is a great photograph of Charles Lindberg’s Atlantic crossing plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis” named for the city whose businessmen provided the financing. Since this is the Milestones of Flight gallery, the story is the different air and spacecraft on display.

Sigma’s 12-24mm allows more of the story to be revealed.

Milestones of Flight Gallery, Washington, D.C. • 20mm 1/40th f/7.1 ISO 400 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Milestones of Flight Gallery, Washington, D.C. • 16mm 1/40th f/7.1 ISO 400 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Milestones of Flight Gallery, Washington, D.C. • 12mm 1/40th f/7.1 ISO 400 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

This wide angle view features 1.) The Spirit of St. Louis, 2.) Apollo 11 Command Module (moon landing) 3.) John Glenn’s Friendship 7 first American to orbit the earth 4.) SpaceShip One (the first commercial space craft) 5.) Bell X-1 first aircraft to break the sound barrier 6.) The Wright Flyer  the world’s first airplane to fly under its own power.

Another use for the versatile 12~24mm is when the camera can’t be moved farther away from the subject and it’s important to get it all in.

Ford Tri-Motor, Washington, D.C. • 12~24mm 1/8th f/7.1 ISO 400 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

At 24mm I can barely get all three propellers of this Ford Tri-Motor aircraft. My back is pressed against the railing at the back of the walk way. Neither 20mm not 16mm is wide enough. 12mm does the job. The entire plane is in the photograph, wingtip to wingtip.

Art

The Sigma 12~24mm f/4.5~5.6 DG HSM II is amazing for creating abstract representations of sculptures.

Are Years What? (for Marianne Moore) 1967 Mark di Suvero Hirschhorn Museum Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. • 12mm 1/60th f/11 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

At 12mm the forced perspective coupled with almost non-existent distortion of straight lines made this photograph possible. The angle? I am laying down on the job again. The sky was magnificent. Passersby must have wondered what in the world I was doing moving around by crabbing on my back while peering through the viewfinder to find exactly the right composition. Fortunately it was desperately hot and humid so my shirt dripping wet from water on the lawn could be passed off as perspiration.

“Interconnected” Yvonne Domange, Boeing Gallery Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois • 20mm 1/25th f/8 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois • 23mm 1/25th f/8 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Millennium Park, Chicago, Illinois • 15mm 1/30th f/8 ISO 100 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

This water feature was lots of fun to experience. Yep I got wet again. My shoes were soaked through from wading through the water. I was extremely close to the pylon. The water falling from it sprayed me, the camera and the 12-24. More perspiration.

Music City

Music City. Nashville, Tennessee. This mecca is so much more than just country and western songs. I heard bluegrass at the Station Inn, Rock and Roll in the backstage of Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge and blues in front. Robert’s Western World (ya’ gotta’ have C&W in Nashville) and The Stage rounded out two great evenings. The only lens I took to all these venues was Sigma’s 12-24mm. Shooting in nightclubs means being close. Really close. Most of the photograph in this section are made at 12mm. They have an intimacy that can’t be had with any other lens. The musicians were great. They would see me shooting, nod permission and continue pouring the souls into the sound.

“Peace” Nashville, Tennessee • 24mm 1/40th f/7.1 ISO 3200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

The colors and characters and musicians make exploring Broadway on a Saturday night a photographically rich environment. It’s crowded so I worked close. Here a drummer in a club sees me shooting then throws me a peace sign.

I have always loved shooting at concerts. I remember back in the day sneaking a 600mm f/2.8 lens, a 2x teleconverter, a tripod, a motorized Nikon F3 and a gallon of High Speed Ektachrome into Atlanta’s Omni for a Billy Joel concert. I was able to get him full frame from the nose bleed section. Security wasn’t as tight. Artists weren’t so uptight about photography then. The Nashville musicians were a joy. Working close at 12mm is much more fun than shooting a1200mm lens far, far away.

The Stage, Nashville, Tennessee • 12mm 1/2 f/7.1 ISO 3200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Whenever I can, I make an establishing photograph to set the scene. Here I’m upstairs at a bar named The Stage. It’s fun to see all of the bottle caps on the floor behind the bar. I framed the shot with the longhorns embracing the activity. A guitar hanging from the ceiling blocks a lot of the brightness of the neon in the upper right corner.

The Stage, Nashville, Tennessee • 12mm 1/15th f/5.6 ISO 3200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Downstairs I positioned myself with my knees touching the edge of The Stage’s stage. This is up close and personal photography at its very best!

Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge, Nashville, Tennessee • 18mm 1/20th f/5.0 ISO 3200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Tootsies celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year. I love places that have been around a long time. There’s an earthiness, a comfort, a realness that’s lost in modern adult beverage establishments. For this photograph, I brace my elbows on the table, firmly press the camera against my forehead then gently press the shutter release. I have it on high speed motor drive exposing two or three frames. Usually one of them will be sharp.

Nashville is home to so many great artists, known and not yet known or never to be known. Bars don’t hire bands to play. The musicians work for tips. At the end of their set they share the proceeds with the bar for the privilege of entertaining the customers to the tune of twenty percent.

Bluegrass Jam at the Station Inn, Nashville, Tennessee • 12mm 1/5th f/4.5 ISO 3200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

Sunday nights are special at Nashville’s Station Inn. Bluegrass musicians of all ages pack tightly in front of the stage to play. They’re in front of the stage because there are too many of them to fit on it! It’s quite an event. Customers sit around talking while the music plays. Sometimes it seems that it’s background for the conversations.

Bluegrass Jam at the Station Inn, Nashville, Tennessee • 12mm 1/5th f/4.5 ISO 3200 ©2011 Kevin Ames All Rights Reserved

I’m on the stage shooting back to where the previous photograph was made. A customer watches the session. I use him to direct the viewer to look at what he is seeing.

The Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG HSM II is a versatile, compact, fast focusing ultra wide angle lens that I love. It’s a whole other way of looking at the world beyond its obvious uses for landscapes and architecture. There’s simply no other optic like it for any price from any manufacturer for the full frame photographer. (It’s amazing for cropped sensor cameras too!)

It joins my other two Sigma mainstay lenses the 24-70mm f/2.8 DG HSM and the 70-200 f/2.8 DG HSM OS in my travel kit and in the studio. I’m covered for eighty to ninety percent of the work I do or the play I enjoy.

Explore

It’s fun to take a lens out of its (and my) comfort zone and do photography that’s different than expected. On days when I am not shooting professionally, I put one lens on my camera and go exploring. I’m always amazed at the places I find. And by the results of accepting the challenge of photographing them with only one lens. Hey. Pick a lens, wander about and explore…


SPECIFICATION

12-24mm F4.5-5.6 DG HSM II

Sigma’s new 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 II DG HSM is an update to the 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 EX DG ASP HSM, which has been a photographer favorite since it was first introduced in 2002. Revisions to the lens include the inclusion of one Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass element and four of the company’s new “F” Low Dispersion FLD glass elements to compensate for color aberration and provide high imagequality. FLD glass is the highest level, low dispersion glass available with extremely high light transmission and performance equal to fluorite glass. The new 12-24mm contains three glass mold elements and one hybrid aspherical lens for advanced performance and compact and lightweight construction. It also features Super Multi-Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting, and a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) to ensure quiet and high-speed autofocus, while allowing full-time manual focus override. Its minimum focusing distance is 11 inches throughout the entire zoom range; its maximum magnification ratio is 1:6.4.

Lens Construction17 Elements in 13 Groups
Angle of View122-84.1 degrees
Number of Diaphragm Blades6
Mininum Aperturef22
Minimum Focusing Distance28cm/ 11in
Maximum Magnifications1:6.4
Dimensions
(Diameter x Length)
85 mmx120.2 mm/3.3 in. x 4.7 in
Weight670 g / 23.6 oz.
Corresponding Mounts
SigmaDG, HSM
NikonDG, HSM
CanonDG, HSM
HSM – Hyper-Sonic Motor
EX – EX Lens
DG – DG for Digital * The appearance, specifications, and the like of the product are subject to change for improvement without notice.

LENS CONSTRUCTION

MTF CHART

at 12mmat 24mm

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  1. Would be a nice addition to my camera bag. Don’t have a wide angle lens. Can’t afford to buy one yet. But this 12 – 24mm Sigma looks like the one for me.

  2. Can you tell me if in a near future you will released a version for sony A77 ?

    Thank you

  3. Are there any news about when this lens in Sony Alpha mount will be released? when does shipment starts for Malaysia?

  4. Hi i have pentax slr digital camera K-7. will sigms 12-24mm DG hsm-ii lens fits or not is it compateble
    thank you.

  5. Thanks for this great review: just pictures to show what the lens can do.