Facebook Pixel Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens Review

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM Lens Review

203_bigReleased earlier this year, the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM is a mouthful to say but a true pleasure to work with.  I begrudgingly write this review because it means I have to send the test lens back to Sigma….

…and I really don’t want to!

I had the task of testing this lens on a recent trip through the Gulf Islands in British Columbia, Canada and would like to relate my findings ‘in the real world’.

But first, some of stats for those that thrive on numbers.

This lens has 13 elements in 10 groups.  If that doesn’t wow you, then maybe the fact that it has seven diaphragm blades will!  It weighs in at just over a lb/half kilo (18.3oz or 520g) and is 3.4″x3.5″ (87.3mmx88.2mm) small.  It uses an 82mm filter and comes with a petal-type hood.  Minimum focus distance is 9.4″/24cm and the field of view is an astounding 63.8-102.4 degrees.

Oh!  And to decipher the lens’ name:

  • 10-20mm – This lens zooms from 10-20mm.  That’s the easy one.
  • f/3.5 – This lens has a maximum aperture of 3.5 across the entire zoom range.
  • EX – Sigma has a special external coating showing its superior build.
  • DC – This is a lens intended for digital cameras with an APS-C size sensor.
  • HSM – Hyper-Sonic Motor.  While not silent, this motor is quieter than a standard zoom motor.

All of these stats can be had on Sigma’s website.  I hope I didn’t bore those of your not into stats.  If you’re still reading, let’s take a look at some photos!  WARNING: Images are 15MP large.  Clicking on each picture will download a full sized image.  All images are copyrighted by Hidden Creek Photography.

Pender Island

1/250 - f/10 - ISO 100 - 10mm Copyright Hidden Creek Photography

Blood Star

1/160 - f/7.1 - ISO 100 - 20mm Copyright Hidden Creek Photography

Sun and a BC Ferry

1/60 - f/22 - ISO 100 - 10mm Copyright Hidden Creek Photography

All photos were taken with a Canon Rebel T1i.   All images are unedited directly from the camera.  Shot in JPG format, Adobe RGB, they have been converted for web viewing using Photoshop, while the JPG quality has been kept at maximum.

Image Quality

Overall, I find the image quality what I expected.  Being this large of a zoom, the corners will fall victim to flaring when the lens is pushed (both close and distant subject matter).  Even in the most extreme examples, I noticed very little chromatic aberration at the corners.  That being said, there is faint fringing (that slight ‘halo’ like effect) at the images outer edges.  Take a look at the first photo at top, specifically where the rocks meet the right edge of the frame.  Or the next photo below which was shot with the aperture nearly wide open.  It is slight, but it is there when zoomed close.

Gripes aside, I really enjoyed the image quality of this lens.  I am used to shooting with Canon L series lenses and yet I’m still very satisfied with this lens’ image quality.  As stated before, I enjoyed the quality enough to want to purchase this lens.  Knowing its limits is important and I think that is where an L series lens, with its substantial price premium, shines.  But directly comparing a $640 lens to a $1600 lens isn’t a fair comparison.  Also, Canon doesn’t make an L lens in this range. 🙂

The third photo above shows the lens’ response to direct sun light.  I was pleased with the burst of the sun and minor streaks (with just a couple noticeable flares, one from dust).  I know everyone has their preference on sun bursts and what should and shouldn’t a lens do.  My goal is to present you with what I found and let you decide if it works for you.


The lens is a breeze to operate.  One switch on the side for auto/manual focus keeps it uncluttered and easy.  Focus is indeed quiet, close to the sound a cell phone makes while vibrating.  It’s an ‘in the background’ type of noise.  While it is noticeable when using the video feature of the T1i, standard operation is not so obvious.

Focus is quick and accurate.  The lens is quick to lock on, helped in part by the fact most shots are taken a fair distance from the subject matter.  Having a f/3.5 aperture across the entire range of zoom makes estimating lighting situations simpler.  The lens does not get noticeably darker when zoomed in, thanks to the constant aperture.

Manual focus and zoom is smooth across the entire range.  Of course, I had a newer lens so I can’t speak to wear over time.  But when new, the unit has just the right amount of tactile feedback while performing both of these functions.

Rural Postboxes

1/50 - f/4 - ISO 100 - 10mm Copyright Hidden Creek Photography

1/25 – f/3.5 – ISO 800 – 18mm Copyright Hidden Creek Photography
Sturdies Bay Bakery
1/13 – f/3.5 – ISO 200 – 10mm Copyright Hidden Creek Photography
Glass Wall In Nanaimo
1/200 – f/8 – ISO 100 – 10mm Copyright Hidden Creek Photography

Overall Impressions

This lens is a keeper.  Except for the fact that Sigma wants theirs back and I can’t keep it.  I’m going to sorely miss this lens on my next trip and will likely purchase one before the month is out.  The ability to go this wide on an APS-C (1.6-Canon/1.5-Nikon crop factor) lens opens up a whole different realm of looking at the world.  Good work, Sigma.

Buy it Here

This 10-20mm Sigma lens comes for Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony DSLRs. Get your variety at Amazon below:

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Peter West Carey
Peter West Carey

leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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