Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art Lens – Is it the perfect landscape lens?

Sunflowers at Sunset
Sunflowers at Sunset – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 24mm, ISO 64, F/22, 1/25th sec

This blog seems fitting since today is the 1 year anniversary of me getting the Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art Lens. I have been wanting to do this blog for a while and today it just seems right. Some of you know that I already have the Sigma 14mm, 20mm and 24mm so you may be asking why does he have/need the 14-24? Great question and I am happy to explain. It wasn’t really a matter of need but more want the lens. My goal was to find out if this 1 lens could replace all 3 primes. Some of you are probably reading this and think I am crazy. That’s good.. I kind of thought so too. While I do focus most of my work on Landscapes and Nightscapes, I also consider myself a fairly general photographer. If you were to see a lot of the work that I never post to my socials you would see what I am talking about. Nonetheless, my purpose was to test this lens in all areas and see if it was right for me. I will break this down into 3 sections. Landscapes, Astro/Nightscapes and City Photography.

LANDSCAPES

Fall Rushes By
Fall Rushes By – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 16mm, F/11, ISO 64, 1/5th sec

Various regions will require various focal lengths to get the right composition. I find myself using super wide and wide angle lenses when I am up close to my subjects and want to put an emphasis on the foreground as well as create depth. This works well for waterfalls, reflections and when your subject is fairly close to you. When I first moved to Colorado I found that most of the scenery I was shooting required a longer lens or I needed to find ways to get closer to my subject.

Pulling Tides
Pulling Tides – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 24mm, F/9, ISO 64, 0.4 seconds

One thing I love about the Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art lens is that it covers 3 popular focal lengths for landscape photography. Because I already have 8 lenses in my bag, this lens pretty much lets me eliminate 2 of those. I have never been a photographer who shoots my lenses wide open. It’s sure great to have the option to shoot at 1.4 or 1.8 but it’s rare that I would ever do that. For landscape photography I also would never shoot a scene like this at 2.8. So the need for a super fast lens for landscape photography isn’t something that I personally need. I will talk about the benefits of these lenses in the next section. Making sure your image is in focus all the way through the scene is important so shooting at F/stops that range from 7.1 – 16 and sometimes 18 and 22 is what I mostly shoot with.  Also I don’t generally shoot images that would be easy to focus stack so I rely more on hyperfocal techniques to get my images sharp.

Deep Blue
Deep Blue – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 14mm, F/10, ISO 64, 1/125th second

With super wide angle focal lengths as long as you are 4ft or so from your subject you should not have any issues getting the image sharp from front to back. This scene of a thermal pool was shot at 14mm from the boardwalk and I am only about 7ft away from the edge of the pool. Had I shot this with even a 24mm lens and did verticals to stitch into a pano, I don’t think even shooting at F/16 would have got it in focus from front to back. Having the versatility of 3 lenses in one is incredible and lets me focus on my work rather than trying to decide which lens I need to use next.

Feeling Alone
Feeling Alone – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 19mm, F/8, ISO 100, 1/400th second

Getting close to my subject is key sometimes to create the mood or feel to an image. The Sigma 14-24mm has a minimum focusing distance of just under a foot. At 10 inches it allows me to get down and dirty to get the right angles when needed. I do believe that I was right at the 11-12 inches when I shot this image. I remember getting a little too close and not being able to focus so I backed up and zoomed in just hair to end up shooting at 19mm just to eliminate some of the super wide angle distortion that I normally like.

Whispers in the Woods
Whispers in the Woods – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 16mm, F/18, ISO 31, 0.4 seconds

There is beauty in putting a lens on your camera and knowing that you may not need to take it off all day. Thus the case on a recent trip to the east coast where I was shooting waterfalls and creeks all day long. This image was shot around noon on a very overcast and damp day. I was able to get right out into the water with the camera and lens just above the water surface. Knowing that I was going to blur the water with my shutter speed, I decided that I wanted the big foreground to fill the lower portion of the frame and that it did not need to be tack sharp. With my camera and lens about 6 inches above the water I knew that it was too close to focus on so by focusing on the rock where the water was cascading over I was able to create depth in the scene with it appearing sharp throughout by using an f/stop of 18.

Frosted Trees
Frosted Trees – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 18mm, F/8, ISO 64, 1/2000 second

Sometimes a shoot happens that doesn’t involve much planning. This particular location is super closet to my house and it’s a place I like to visit when the conditions are right. Snow being one of them. For this shot I wanted to make sure that the entire reflection was in the image and that I did not give the viewer that “looking down” feeling. I set my camera up right at the waters edge only a few inches above the water and by doing this I was able to get more of the reflection of the trees and clouds.  The sharpness of the Sigma 14-24mm is incredible and I hope you can see that in this image.

NIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY

Radio Silence
Radio Silence – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 24mm, F/2.8, ISO 8000, 10 seconds

As a night photography instructor for the last 7 years, it would make sense that I suggested to students to bring a super fast lens to shoot with. Sigma makes AMAZING Super fast primes, there is no doubt about that and not even something I want to question or debate. The real question here is can a 2.8 zoom lens take the place of a 1.4 or 1.8 prime lens for night photography and I will get right to the point and say yes. Yes it can. Part of this stems from the quality of the lens and part of it stems from the processing of the images.

Lets blow the roof off this place
Let’s blow the roof off this place – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 14mm, F/2.8, ISO 6400, 20 seconds

It wasn’t long ago that photographers with digital cameras who were shooting the night sky were doing so by shooting 1 single image. This meant we needed super fast lenses to let enough light in that would allow us to use a short enough shutter speed to make sure we did not get star trails. With the advancement of various processing tools and stacking software 2.8 is plenty fast and often times I will shoot at F/3.2 or F/4. We can now shoot at much higher ISO’s at greater DOF’s and use shorter shutter speeds to get amazing results by stacking images.

Turret Arch
Turret Arch – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 14mm, F/2.8, ISO 12800, 15 seconds

I’ll be very honest in saying that I no longer care about what ISO I am shooting at at night. If I need to crank the ISO up to 12,800 ISO to get a 15 second shutter speed instead of a 30 second shutter speed at 6400 ISO I do it. I know that the noise is now irrelevant when shooting because I can remove it later. Stacking images is the key to noise removal when you don’t have the option to shoot a single long exposure for your foreground. We can talk about the techniques all day long but I want to keep the focus of this blog on the Sigma 14-24mm lens and how well it performs. It’s my opinion that the sharper the lens and the better the focus you can get in your image, the less noise you will notice in a well exposed image. A sharper image will also allow you print larger.

Stargazing Dock
Stargazing Dock – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 24mm, F/3.2, ISO 6400, 15 seconds

When an image is super sharp and well focused at night the noise is often mistaken for detail. At smaller sizes this is not noticeable but when you print larger images over 30 inches it becomes a crucial element in the entire process. If you have an image that is even the slightest bit out of focus, enlargements are pretty much out the window. Having a lens that you can get razor sharp focus with will allow you to see details in your images you have not seen before.  Image quality should be a major concern to you as a photographer and your image will only be as good as the lens that lets the light into your sensor. I can say this with confidence because we did a test in one of our workshops with a student who had a Nikon D3400 and a Sigma 20mm and we compared that to one of my images that was shot with a Nikon D810 and a Sigma 20mm lens. Even though her camera produced more noise to begin with the final images were 99% identical in terms or how little noise there was. Razor sharp focus is key! I can’t repeat this enough.

Night Classes
Night Classes – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 18mm, F/3.2, ISO 6400, 15 seconds

Having the ability to use 1 lens all night is, as I have said before, a wonderful feeling. You would be surprised at how many subjects and compositions you can get between 14mm and 24mm. Being able to get your composition right in the camera at the time of shooting is another element I wish more photographers took seriously. This was shot at 18mm which falls between that 14mm and 20mm length. I prefer not to crop my images because I like to retain the native file sizes the best I can. I want to make sure I can include everything in the image I want and not have to crop in later or cut something off that may be important to the scene. As with the tree on the far lower left..

URBAN/CITY

Cobblestone Cafe
Cobblestone Cafe – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 18mm, F/10, ISO 64, 10 seconds

While I don’t do a lot of urban or city photography on a regular basis, I did have the chance to use the lens and do some while on a trip to Tallinn, Estonia. Again, and I feel like I am repeating myself, it was nice to be able to walk around the city and not have to worry about changing lenses. 14mm is wide enough and 24mm was telephoto enough to allow me to get a lot of shots I wanted without having to change lenses in the rain or snow. The added benefit to this is that the less you change your lens the less likely you are to get dirt or debris on your sensor.

Take Me Back in Time
Take me Back in Time – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 14mm, F/7.1, ISO 31, 1/160th sec

People who shoot with me on a regular basis know that I have a bad habit of changing lenses a lot. I like to capture the same scene with lots of focal lengths and compositions. With the 14-24mm I can eliminate a lot of that. This was a particular scene that I needed the 14mm. I could not go back any further without including a bunch of junk in the image. A 20mm or 24mm would not have allowed me to capture this image the way you see it here.  With just the right amount of sky and arch with the open doors this scene came together very well at 14mm based on the fact that this was my only vantage point to capture it from.

Sunset in the Town Square
Sunset in the town square – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 17mm, F/8, ISO 200, 1/250th sec

I’ve talked about the uses of this lens and now I want to finish up by talking about the quality of the lens. For starters it’s built like a tank. You are not getting some chuck of plastic. This lens is built to endure whatever you throw at it… Just not a bucked of water probably. I have shot with this lens in the rain and snow and it works without problem. It does come with a built in lens hood so filter options are limited. I don’t personally use filters so that is not an issue for me. The lens provides wonderful edge to edge sharpness in both landscapes and astrophotography. It has a very small amount of distortion that is only noticeable at the 14mm range and is easily corrected in ACR or LR by using the Lens Correction panel.  Minimal chromatic aberrations and color fringing throughout the zoom range for improved clarity and color accuracy. If you do happen to be shooting a super contrasty subject and you get some CA, it’s super easy to fix with one click in ACR and LR.

Glade Creek Grilst Mill
Glade Creek Grist Mill – Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, 16mm, F/18, ISO 31, 0.3 seconds

If you are a photographer that REALLY needs that extra couple stops of light then by all means grab the Sigma 14mm, 20mm and 24mm primes. I still own the 14mm and the 24mm 1.4 lens and they each have their own unique purpose at the wider Fstops. After a full year of shooting with the Sigma 14mm-24mm 2.8 I can now honestly say that If I only take that lens and leave the 14mm prime and 24mm prime at home, I’ll be ok and my image quality will not suffer one bit. It should be noted that I am also not in my 20’s anymore and while I am still very active and healthy, I am trying to be more aware of the stress I put on my body. Because these lenses are so well built and do have a bit of weight to them, only needing to carry one lens can be a nice rest for your back.

This lens fits all my needs in terms of image quality and focal lengths at the wider angles.  If you are looking for an amazing lens that can do it all at the wider angles then I highly suggest you check out the Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art lens! You wont be disappointed.

THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ MY BLOG

If this has helped you out in anyway or you’d simply like to show a little support, I accept small donations at www.paypal.me/DWP  

You can find more about this amazing lens at Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art Lens

My website can be found here – Darren White Photography

A shout out to companies I work with and enjoy doing business with:

Sigma Lenses

Robus Tripods

Moab Fine Art Papers

Artbeat Studios – Acrylic Prints

Reed Art and Imaging

Nitecore Lights

Englewood Camera

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Please feel free to use the contact form below if you have any questions or want to schedule a Zoom session or a small group or private night photography workshop.

10 Basic Tips to Improve Your Night Photography.

As someone who grew up working in a photo lab developing other people’s pictures, I quickly learned what I liked and what I didn’t when it came to the outcome of images. I knew right away when a particular customer walked in to drop off his or her film what their images would look like. I feel it’s kinda the same way now that we are all connected through social media and the internet.  Over the last 8 years I have helped teach 100’s of students during our Night Photography Workshops that we hold in the summers, except this summer due to the pandemic. In our workshops the info is pretty deep and I could probably write an entire encyclopedia set just on Night Photography.

Riding through the Heavens
Nikon D850 – Sigma 20mm 1.4, ISO 6400, F/2.5, 15 seconds, Single Exposure

Most of my friends who I shoot with know that I refer to myself as the lazy photographer. Not because I am lazy physically, but because I will find the easiest way to do something in the least amount of time with the best results. In this blog I will give you, my opinion only, what I feel are the 10 best tips to improve your night photography.

1.Fill the Frame – all of our cameras have lots of megapixels now. This is no reason to have a crappy composition and tell yourself you will just crop and recompose in post. Composing in the dark can be hard… If you don’t have a light that will shine on the entire scene you’re shooting then just point your camera in the general direction and shoot a 20 second shot at a very high (12800-25600) ISO. The image quality will suck but you will then be able to see what your composition is like. Adjust your comp until you get it just right and then tone down your exposure to something like 6400 or 8000 and do your shooting.

2.Sturdy Tripod – This is a MUST. At night when we are doing long exposures (20 seconds to an hour or more) any amount of movement can ruin a shot or a set of shots. I personally use Robus Tripods for my work and have been using them for the last year. I recommend whatever tripod you purchase that it not have a center column or it has the short center column. I love my tripod because it does not have a center column and I can get super low to the ground. It also has a hook that hangs down from the tripod platform that I can hang my bag on in windy conditions to help stabilize and eliminate movement.

IMG_7957

3.Scout and Plan – It’s important to know what will be in the night sky on any particular evening you’re planning on going out shooting. If you want your images to look like daytime with only a few visible stars then shoot on a near or full moon. If you want lots of stars in your image then shoot closer to a new moon. There are many apps that will help you figure all this out. I use 2 different apps to do my planning because they each serve a unique purpose. Moon Phase is an app that tells you the phases of the Moon, when it will rise and when it will set. It also tells me when golden hour and blue hour are. Photopills is an app I use for my planning. Once I know the phase of the moon, then I can plan where I am going to go based on where the Milky Way or other celestial object will be in the sky.

4.Proper Exposure  This is one of the most important components to getting good night       images. As our eyes adjust in the dark the back of LCD seems to become extremely             bright. This will fool you into thinking your images are bright and properly or over           exposed when in reality they are probably underexposed. ALWAYS use your                         histogram to make sure you are not pushed up against either side. With cameras                 today you should not have any pure blacks in your raw images unless you want it               there. Having a good histogram means that the info should be off the left side a little         (blacks) and not pushed up against the right side (whites) Having a proper exposure         to work with will give you a huge advantage when it comes to post processing.

 5.Use different ISO’s – If you are new to night photography and possibly afraid of the            high ISO’s don’t be. You’re not wasting film by taking test shots. You have nothing to          lose. I suggest you take one night to learn before going to a specific location to shoot.          In theory ISO 6400 should have more noise than 1600 ISO right? Well, yes and no. A            well exposed 6400 image may actually have less visible noise than an underexposed          1600 ISO image that you have to bring way up in post processing.  6400 is also 2 full            stops brighter than 1600 so you can use shorter shutter speeds to help keep the stars          from trailing during your exposure. So if you are shooting 30 second exposures at 2.8        at 1600 ISO with a 24mm lens and you are seeing the stars trail in your images then            you can bump your ISO up to 6400 and shoot 8 seconds and you wont have the                    trailing stars anymore.

 

Room With A Skylight View
Stacked and Blended – Nikon D850, Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art – Foreground ISO 64, F/2.2, 20 min – Sky ISO 8000, F/2.2, 8 seconds X 51 images stacked. 

 

6. Lens selection – I have a bad habit of carrying all my lenses (8 of them) with me each time I go shoot. It never fails that when ever I leave a lens at  home, it’s the lens I need. I don’t suggest you do this when going out at night… In all honesty if you have 3 lenses that cover 14mm up to 50mm you will be fine. You don’t need anymore. Knowing the difference between what a 14mm scene looks like vs what a 50mm scene looks like is very important. If you were too close you may cut off part of the image you wanted. With a 14mm you may end up with a lot of empty space and end up cropping later (see tip #1) Generally I shoot with 14mm, 24mm and 50mm. I recently sold my 20mm after extensive testing with the Sigma 14-24 2.8 art lens. With my style of shooting I did not need the F/1.4 that the 20mm offered. I can shoot at 2.8 and be totally fine.  More on this a little later. Keep your gear light and simply bring what you need. Quality of lenses actually make a difference too. The sharper your lens and the ability to focus with give your  image less visible noise on a properly exposed image. Also the sharper the image the more you can enlarge without increasing the noise.

7. Shooting Technique – Stacking or single shots?  This is where people seem to separate in their styles. Do you shoot single images or do you shoot a set of images to stack later. I can honestly tell you that if you are not using one of the stacking programs available today (Sequator for Windows, Starry Landscape Stacker for Mac OS) your image quality will never be as good as those who do. This really all boils down to, “What am I going to do with the image?” If you are just out for fun and want to share online with friends and family then you probably don’t need to use one of the programs. If you are out shooting for images to print and or hang in homes or offices, then using one of the stacking programs will help advance your overall image quality. Personally, I stack all of my night images using Starry Landscape stacker the reason I use the stacking program vs noise reduction in PS or other programs is because it works the best to keep the details in the image while removing the noise. ALL the other programs remove more detail when any noise reduction is applied. I like details in my images. I don’t want my images to look like what some have called “oil paintings”. If you use too much noise reduction it can create a painterly feel by smoothing the entire scene and removing lots of detail. Can you get a good image without stacking? Sure, and if you never compare it to a stacked image chances are  you wont even know the difference. As you can see in the image below there is much less noise in the stacked image. No editing has been done to these images other than stacking. This is a 100% crop from the image below it after it’s been edited and sized for web presentation. By stacking you not only give yourself a much better starting point but your beginning image has more data (colors) to work with when you process it. By stacking images in your shooting technique, you no longer need to worry about the noise in each of the raw frames… I typically shoot my stacked sequences at 6400-12800 ISO because I know the stacking will remove the noise.. This allows me to use shorter exposure times and get sharper, more pinpoint stars. As a general rule of thumb, Stacking images to reduce noise reduction works like this, if you stack 16 images you will get a 4x noise reduction factor, If you stack 36 you will get a 6x noise reduction factor so that means that your 6400 ISO stack of 36 images will have an end result that has the noise of ISO 100. This works up until you get to 36 images, after that you need to double the images to get any more visible reduction…so 49 wouldn’t be any better than 36 but 72 images would.

school stack comp

Night Classes
Nikon D850, Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art, ISO 6400, F/3.2, 15 seconds X 24 images stacked

8. Calculating super long exposures – This is so easy. Let’s say you want to do an hour long exposure. You can’t just point your camera and set your timer for an hour… Well, you can but chances are you wont get the desired results. First you need a good test shot at a super High ISO. Your test shot can be 30 seconds because we don’t care if the stars are trailing a little or not…Once you get a good, properly exposed test shot at, for example let’s say 10,000 ISO, F/2.8, 30 seconds. then we know our final long exposure will be 80 ISO for 64 minutes and the image should look exactly as bright as the test shot at the high ISO.  No matter what your starting ISO is, just cut it in half and double the exposure time until you get down to your desired length. Most cameras now go below 100 ISO into what is known as expansion ISO’s. My D850 goes down to ISO 31 so for the above example, if your camera doesn’t go below 100, then just set it at 100. It’ll be slightly brighter but not by much. Most all the times in our workshops we start with test shots of 6400 ISO 2.8 and 30 seconds so then the final long exposure will be 100 ISO for 32 minutes. The long exposure is very useful for 2 reasons… 1. It will create beautiful star trails. 2. the low ISO foreground can be used to blend with a stacked sky for optimum results.  In the below image you can see the single high ISO image on the left and the long exposure at a low ISO on the right. The image quality of the low ISO image is 100x better in my opinion… Try this for yourself and see.

Hi ISO 3200 vs Low ISO 100

9. Post Processing – I think it’s safe to say that most of us are like kids in a candy store when it comes time to start processing our images… We get home, get the images stacked and then bring them into Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw and start moving the sliders..We make the images bright and colorful, boost up the saturation and vibrance add some contrast and WOW…this looks awesome… Now go take a break for 15 minutes, give yourself a chance to be away from the computer…then come back and open your raw file on top of your processed file in photoshop, toggle back and forth and see if maybe you went too far too fast.. Maybe, just maybe, it needs to be toned down a bit. Other things to look for are processing artifacts caused by over processing your image. Banding between color gradients, Halos around rocks or buildings because you have too much contrast or sharpening,  Level your image… If this was not done when you shot it, do it now. Check for dust bunnies. Don’t be afraid to work on your image at 200-500% to make sure you get everything. Dust bunnies generally don’t show up in night images because we tend to shoot at wider f stops…but it’s always good to check for them. Remove Chromatic aberrations, these are the bright yellows, greens, reds, purples and blues around rocks and buildings or other areas where there is a lot of contrast… Each lens will produce a different amount and it’s fixable with one click in LR or ACR. I recommend you do this as a first step before doing all your other processing. When processing your images ask yourself, does this look right? Get another persons opinion before posting it. Is it too crunchy looking. In my opinion I feel that images that are over processed have a very harsh/crunchy feel to them and it’s just not my preference.  Remember, less is more and the cleaner you can get your image the better it will represent you as a photographer.

10. Use a star tracker or not? – This is a topic I feel pretty strong about on a personally level.   I’ve already spent money on camera, lenses, extra batteries, remote cord, memory cards, lights, light stands, do I really want to spend more money on another piece of gear to carry with me in the field… Not really, am I willing to try it? Sure… I even went so far as to borrow a friends tracker….guess where it is… sitting in my closet in a storage bin with other photographic accessories. Why? Because honestly I don’t feel the need to bring it with me and try to polar align it (you can only properly align it if you have clear visibility on the north star). For me personally, it’s just not something I want to deal with. I will say that when trackers get better and can track for a longer period of time I may reconsider this as an option.. For now, I am totally fine stacking images with amazing results.. I do suggest if you want to get into high quality night photography then check out a tracker and see if it may be an option for you. After all we all do things a little differently with different styles.

Delicate Arch Pano May2018
Made from 81 light frames – Nikon D810, Sigma 14mm 1.8 Art, ISO 6400, F/2.2, 20 seconds. 

As always, Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate each one of you. If you have any questions at all please feel free to fill out the contact form and I’ll answer as soon as possible.

Companies whose products I use and support- 

Sigma Lenses

Robus Tripods

Moab Fine Art Papers

Interested in taking a Night Photography Workshop? We are already planning for 2021 at Night Photography Workshop in places like Moab, Utah; Yellowstone National Park as well as Colorado.  I offer Zoom Learning through private 1:1 Zoom sessions to help take your processing to the next level. Private Small Group workshops available here in Colorado as well. Contact me directly to learn more about these.  They are great for people who live in and around or travel to the Denver area. I have specific locations picked out based on the time of the year and what is up in the sky.

Sigma fp review with images

 

Over the last 2 weeks I had the chance, thanks to Sigma, to get my hands on the “Worlds smallest, full frame camera” . The Sigma fp.  It’s about the same size as your smartphone but a little thicker. They had to make it deeper to put all the crazy bells and whistles inside. While this camera is, in my opinion, designed as a video/cine camera it also works amazingly well as a still photographers camera.

This is the very first mirrorless camera I have ever shot with. I admit I was a little nervous at first but it was much easier than I thought.

Pros-

  • Super Low ISO’s down to 6!
  • Very small and lightweight – Epic travel camera
  • Super Easy to use
  • Fantastic image quality up to 3200 ISO
  • Some lenses are smaller and lighter than their DSLR equivalents
  • Files are fast and easy to work with
  • 24mp Full Frame
  • 60-500 seconds in camera for the lower expansion ISO’s
  • Solid Build
  • Designed to be fully customizable

Cons-

  • No flip screen on back of camera
  • Really small camera for those with bigger hands – a grip would solve this
  • Color noise in underexposed images.
  • Image Stabilization only available in jpg modes
  • HDR only in jpg modes
  • IS and HDR can not be used at same time

 

Sigma fp c43900

I had the chance to use this camera here in Colorado as well as on a trip to Kansas to photograph the largest running locomotive, Union Pacific’s Big Boy 4014. I shot in some extremely cold temps but nothing that would be considered warm. The weather was very cold over the last couple weeks which made me worry about the battery life. I was surprised to see the battery last as long as it did.  I did not count image to see how many I got off one charge but I can say for me that having 2 or 3 batteries would be enough to last me all day shooting.  This was nice to see since the camera does not have an EVF or eye piece.  Everything is done right from the back of the camera in live view.

IMG_3640

 

The info on the back of the camera is well laid out and easy to read. One thing I really love about this camera is that the histogram is one of the display options on the screen.  Having the histogram and the level on the same screen was great for me. I teach people that the histogram is the scientific proof of how much data you are or are not collecting in your image. Being able to see the histogram and how it changes based on your ISO, Shutter Speed and Fstop was really nice. I didn’t have to take a shot, look at it and then adjust. I could just dial up the histogram so that my exposure was correct every time!

Sunrise Path
Chatfield Sunrise, Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm at 23mm 

 

I’ll be very honest here, the real reason I wanted to try this camera was because of the ISO going down to 6. Yes, 6 ISO. I don’t think there is another camera out there that has an ISO that low. This meant that I could shoot long exposures in the daylight, I did not need any filters and the image quality would be amazing.  What I did not know at the time was that the lower ISOs – Below 100 – had longer shutter speeds available to them as well. At ISO 6 you can shoot for 500 seconds, that’s crazy!!! It totally makes sense though. Why would any camera company give you the option to shoot at an ISO that low and then limit your shutter speed to 30 seconds…So I had to try this for myself.  I went into Denver where I knew I could see the skyline and hopefully get a nice sunrise. I arrived before it was light so I could take full advantage of the super low ISO and the super long shutter speed.

Denver 5001
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 6, f/16, 500 seconds

I fell in love. As someone who loves the lower ISO’s and longer shutter speeds, I was in heaven. I had to try more…so I did… in the snow and some very cold temps.

Cold Morning at Nymph
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 6, F/5, 60 seconds. 

My goal on this morning was to shoot Dream Lake under a partial moon and shoot sunrise as well. When we got up to Dream Lake the wind was blowing at least 100mph. Those of you who have been there know it’s like a wind tunnel at times. This particular morning was nothing less than brutal. I stood on the ice as the wind pushed me around like an ice skater. I knew there was no way I was going to set up a little camera on a tripod and expect to get any kind of decent shot. We decided to head back down to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park where we were partly protected by the wind. It was still very cold out!  Once again I cranked the ISO down to 6 and used a 60 second shutter speed to completely smooth out the clouds. I liked how the clouds formed the same shape as the tree line. Yes, there are some trees moving because of the wind but the details on the face of the rock, Hallett Peak, are amazing.

Moraine Valley
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/10, 1/160th 

After leaving Nymph Lake I headed into the meadow where I captured this stream in front of the mountains with a wave cloud over it. The light was nice and the camera handled the highlights and shadows without fail.

Coco
Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm, ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/800th second handheld. 

On a walk with my dog, I decided to try and see how well the focus points worked. This is the one things that is touch activated on the back of the screen. If I were to press down and focus, then I could simply touch the back of the screen where I wanted it to focus and it would bring up all the points where I could change it to. In this image I was able to move the focus all the way over to my dog’s eye. My dog doesn’t like to look at the camera so a side profile is the best I’m gonna get!

_SDI0151
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/125th second handheld 
Anytime I get some new camera equipment the first thing I do is test it out on my daughter. She hates having her picture taken. I think I have ruined her.  Knowing the fine details of hair, eyebrows and eyelashes I knew she would be the perfect subject so that I could get a great idea of how well the new Bayer sensor was going to perform. I took the shot, zoomed in and was blown away with the details. The ISOs from 100 down to 6 are very smooth and creamy but retain a lot of fine details.

 

 

Chatfield Snow
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/5.6, 1/500th second

Whenever it snows, I always go over to the lake near my home. The Fall colors were over for the most part but a tiny bit were hanging on. It was snowing when I shot this and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had actually photographed a deer walking in the snow in this image. I did not see the deer when I pressed the shutter. I loved the intimate details in the image from the background all they way to the front of the image where the snow is falling and actually out of focus because it’s so close.

Foggy Creek

Later in the afternoon I ventured over to this little stream/waterfall and found these bubbles floating down from the bridge. It was fairly bright out but with this camera I wasn’t worried…I just cranked it down to ISO 6, F/22 and shot for 2 seconds. That was enough time to allow the bubbles to move and create a sense of motion.

HDR
Sigma fp, 14-24mm, ISO 200, F/5, 1/400th second – top image is in camera HDR, bottom image is a single image. 

This past weekend I headed to Kansas to photograph the “Big Boy 4014” Locomotive that was touring across the USA as part of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Completion.. I thought this could be once in a lifetime opportunity to see it in action.  When I arrived in Kansas I found this old church next to a museum and thought this would be a perfect place to test out the HDR feature in the camera. I set it to shoot + and – 2 along with a normal image and then combine them all. The top image is the HDR image and the bottom image is a single image metered the best I could get with the white conditions.  Because the HDR is only able to be used in Jpg mode it doesn’t have the latitude for post processing as a DNG file. With the DNG file I was able to recover a lot of details in the shadow area without any issues with noise at 64 ISO.

_SDI0528
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 1600, F/5.6, 1/80th second handheld 

In Wallace, Kansas is “The Bank” it’s an old bank that has been converted on the inside to a coffee shop/antique shop. I met the owner and enjoyed a cup of hot coffee on this cold morning while I snapped some shots on the inside at higher ISOs. I had nice soft light coming in the window on the left and it really made the image look very natural. I was extremely happy with how ISO 1600 was working.

Inside the Bank
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 3200, F/2.8, 1/250th second handheld 

I loved all these old farm and tractor signs hanging behind the antique cash register. I thought they would make a good case for a higher ISO. Generally with higher ISO’s they tend to lose color as the ISO gets higher. I felt this one came out very natural based on the lighting inside the shop. The greens, reds, yellows and blues all came across nicely. Even upon close review ISO 3200 is really nice and very usable. Just for kicks I ran this image through Topaz DeNoise and it came out super clean in the areas that did have a little extra noise. That being said. I would print images shot at ISO 3200 out of the Sigma fp.

Ride To Church
Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm, ISO 100, F/7.1, 1/200th second handheld 

A fun image for sure with a wide angle lens. When I saw this little cart on the train tracks I knew I wanted to shoot it with the church. My reason for this was to see how well the camera would balance the white of the snow and church with the yellow of the cart. As you can see here it did a great job. The yellow stayed very natural and the white stayed white without greying out. I feel this Bayer sensor in the fp was a great choice.

Midnight Rest
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 400, F/5, 4 seconds

Big Boy arrives in Sharon Springs, Kansas for an overnight maintenance stop. When I arrived in the afternoon there were still quite a few people around the train. That wasn’t my idea of an image I wanted to capture. I checked into my hotel about 5pm and at 1:30am I got up and went to down to the station to find myself alone with this beast. I talked to the police officer who was “on guard” and he was really nice telling me I could get a close as I wanted to do photography. I told him the moon was going to be rising soon and that I wanted a shot of the moon over the train but he didn’t seem to care too much. From 1:30am – 3am I had the whole place to myself. I shot many image at lots of angles. This gentleman shows up and we talk for a while and then we go our separate ways to do more photography. I really wanted the moon rising over the train so I stepped back to include the tracks in the foreground and I noticed him down a ways shooting his own images. I normally don’t include people in my images but I felt he added a great sense of scale compared to the locomotive.

Wheelhousing
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 32, F/4.5, 40 seconds
Big Wheels
Sigma fp, Sigma 45, ISO 32, F/9, 100 seconds
In review, this camera was an absolute joy to work with. It takes crazy sharp images and allows the photographer to use super long shutter speeds without the need for a cable release or using the bulb setting. I was reviewing this camera as a backup, travel camera and it fits the bill perfectly. For still photography this camera has most everything you need and it can be fully customized as well. I see a lot of people picking this camera up to take on longer trips when packing a 44lb camera bag isn’t going to work well. I know as I get older I am always looking at ways to downsize my gear and what I take on each trip. I found a lot more positives to this camera than I did negatives. One of the positives is that some of the lenses for this camera (L-Mount) are smaller than their DSLR Counterparts. As you can see below, the Nikon lens is almost a pound heavier than the Leica L mount. The L mount is also smaller. So if weight is really an issue for you in your travel and adventures, I would highly recommend you taking a good hard look at this camera. Because it’s such a small camera you can also get away with a smaller tripod too.
Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 1.44.51 PM
Now in all fairness let’s talk about some of the things I would like to see improved in the next version or a firmware update.
  • Articulating screen on the back of the camera. This is something I would have loved to have since the camera is so small. I mentioned this to Sigma and they agree and said that many other photographers had mentioned the same thing.  The camera is so small that doing reflection shots at ground level seems like an obvious thing to do. Without the screen being able to tip up means you need to get down to ground level too.
  • I did notice some color noise in underexposed images when I tried to boost the shadows on ISO’s over 400. I am guessing this is to be expected, I’d just like to see a bit less.
  • IS and HDR only work in jpg mode. I think IS should work in RAW or DNG mode too.  If you have a lens that has IS on it then this is not an issue for you. I am only talking about the electronic IS in the camera.

The 3 issues above are not deal breakers for me in anyway.  I would never base my decision to purchase a camera on the fact that HDR or IS don’t work with RAW files. As long as you expose your images properly the color noise should not be an issue. Having the screen be able to flip out would be super nice but I could be happy with the camera without it.

When I am testing out a camera the main things I look for are image quality, ease of use. I shoot all my images in Manual so I adjust the settings myself. Being able to do this easy is a key for me. The Sigma fp made it super simple. They even have a quick select button that, when pressed, it brings up 8 of your basic settings like ISO, File type, Metering, WB and aspect ratio. F stop is controlled by the dial on the top right of the camera or the lens itself as with the 45mm. The shutter speed is controlled by the dial on the back right side of the camera. These can be changed to your liking as well.

I would be thrilled to take this on a longer trip with me overseas where I am walking around cities and doing some night photography. Using a smaller travel tripod would be perfect with this camera and I would not need to sacrifice image quality.

I look forward to using this camera again in the near future!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs.  I am always happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to drop me a line by filling out the form below.  I am going to include a bunch of links fo you to check out if you’re so inclined. Thanks again

Sigma fp Camera

Sigma 45mm Lens

Sigma 14-24mm L Mount ART

Robus Tripods

RRS BH55 Ball Head

2020 Night Photography Workshops

Bandon, Oregon Workshop Feb 2020

 

Improve Your Landscape Photos With These Simple Tips.

When I started landscape photography back in 1988-89 I didn’t really know what I was doing but I knew I liked taking pictures, I liked seeing the images printed and I liked doing the printing.

Almost (99%) of what I know today is self-taught/trial and error and trust me…more error than I would care to admit. The people I shoot with can attest to my mishaps, mistakes and poor judgement in the field when shooting on my own and that’s what makes going out with friends fun.

Over the years I have picked up a few tips and trick along the way that have really improved my being able to capture good images in the camera. When I was younger, think 10/11 years old I would hold up my hands with my thumbs touching and fingers pointing up to isolate a scene that I thought looked nice. By doing so I could get rid of the elements that did not compliment the scene and while I did not know this at the time it has helped me to “see” better. People say that artists have an “eye” for things. This simply means that we see the beauty in something that others see as mundane, chaotic or ugly. By picking out certain little things from a bigger picture and composing so that only the good or beauty shows through our images.

I get asked all the time by people around the world who want to know the exif data of my images. While this question is very vague in terms of the desired outcome of an image, I gladly share. I will explain this a little more later on.

I have put together a little list things you need to help take a great landscape photograph.

  • DSLR Camera – Mirrorless Hi Res Camera
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Great Lenses – This really applies if you are printing your work
  • Patience
  • Good Light
  • Good Composition
  • Good Exposure

Today’s cameras really aren’t the issues behind bad images. Most of the newer cameras take great pictures and it doesn’t matter if it’s a crop sensor or a full frame, they all do a good job. The bigger issues lie with the rest of the list as I will explain.

Having a sturdy tripod may sound like common sense to most people but everyone defines “sturdy” as something different. I live in a very realistic world when talking and teaching photography. Companies I consider to have sturdy, solid tripods are Induro (that’s what I use) Really Right Stuff and Feisol. Ninety percent of all the photographers I know use one of these three brands… A few I know use Gtizo but not many. There is value when purchasing a tripod and in all honestly I see no need to spend upwards of $1000 for a tripod when you can get the same quality and sturdiness from a different brand.. I personally feel that $500 will get you and awesome tripod that will work wonders for your landscape photography. I don’t see any need to pay more. Chances are if your tripod has thin legs or comes in a fancy color, it’s safe to say that it’s not the best choice for doing landscape work. Investing in a sturdy tripod is the first step to getting good sharp images. One question I do get asked is this, “What if my lens has VR, IS or OS” all of which are intended to prevent blur from handholding your camera. This is all fine and dandy until you forget to turn it on or have it on but need a shutter speed that’s slower than what the lens will work with. Too many times I have just went out shooting casually and forgot to turn it on only to get home and find a bunch of blurry images..and no matter how long you keep a blurry image, it will never get any sharper. That’s a fact you can take to your grave.

What could be more critical to your work as a photographer than the glass the light passes though before it hits your sensor. If you are using a kit lens that came with your camera I highly recommend you purchase a different lens…  I used a 18-70 kit lens on my Nikon D70 for 2 years before I purchased a different lens and I can’t tell you happy I was even way back then. Lenses have come a long way since the days of 6mp cameras and with the High Res cameras we have today we NEED lenses that will give us the full resolution that our cameras can provide. Many of you know that I am a Sigma lens ambassador and have been officially for a couple of years. My first Sigma Art lens I purchased was when I got my D810 in 2015, it was the 24-105 F4 and I was blown away. After my first outing with the lens and getting the images back on the computer screen I thought someone had performed Lasik on me. I could not believe all the detail I was seeing. Images were razor-sharp and looked stunning… I don’t put my name with a company that I don’t believe in 100%. There is good reason why all my lenses are Sigma now. While I can’t recommend the Sigma 24-105 enough, the point of this is to ditch the kit lens, get something with an F4 or faster, if the zoom range is too wide like 18-300 then forget about that too. Be willing to spend a little money for a good lens.  You will thank yourself every time you go out shooting.

Now you have your camera, lens and tripod and you’re ready to go make some great images. This next time is by far my weakness when it comes to shooting great landscapes. Patience. I have never been a patient person, I don’t like to wait, I am an only child, I get bored easy but for great photographs we wait, and wait patiently for good light. Several years ago I flew into Flagstaff, AZ picked up my rental car and took off for Grand Falls (google it) I had been dying to see this place in person and knowing it was a long bumpy gravel road I gave myself lots of time to get there by sunset in case I got lost, had a flat tire ect… Well everything went perfect and I arrived there about 5 hours before sunset. It’s hot, I was in the middle of nowhere and in those 5 hours I only saw one other car and 2 naked people (that’s a whole other story) but dammit, I was there and I wasn’t going to miss the sunset. I came all the way for this one shot! So I waited, waited, waited, walked around, found a dog…found the naked people who owned the dog, did some more hiking and then finally….Little Colorado Sunset

Light is very crucial to landscape photography. Light creates depth, shadows, contrast and can be the difference between a good image and a fantastic image.

dayshot

These images were taken roughly 3 hours apart from each other and I think it’s safe to say that the top image is more appealing to most people. Just by having better light I was able to take the viewers focus away from the ugly brown pool of water and put more attention on the falls and the sky. Would you agree? As landscape photographers we have the ability to turn and ugly scene into something beautiful with just the right light.

Here are some various types of lighting I like to look for when shooting. The first is often during sunrise or sunset when the light is right on the horizon. This will allow to you get a naturally soft glow effect by placing the sun just out of the frame so that the light naturally bleeds in from the side.

Natural bleeding light

In the image above I am looking south, the sun is just ready to set and the light is all from just placing the sun outside my frame. This creates a naturally soft light on the scene you’re shooting.

I also like direct or isolated light. This is often times harder to find depending on the conditions. The image below was taken about an hour before sunset. The sun was setting behind me and because of the cloud cover behind me it was only allowing the sunlight to hit the front of this cloud as well as the small portion of the mountain. I liked how it kept the rest of the image dark. This adds a great deal of depth in the clouds as it goes from light to dark.

Isolated light direct light

Backlighting can be fun as well. It can make for nice silhouettes or light fringing around an object. In this example I was driving around Acadia National Park in Maine one early morning and these deer were in the shadow of some big trees while the sun was hitting the bushes behind them. This made for a nice backdrop for the deer. Had this scene been full shadow or full sun the outcome would have been totally different.

Backlight

Composition and composing can be one of the most difficult aspects of landscape photography. I have heard almost every photographer I know say, “I just can’t get my composition right”, at one point or another. Composition is a very mental part of this and we all go through some challenging times trying to find good compositions. Good compositions in landscape photography come from finding a good scene with a nice sky and a nice foreground. Don’t just point your camera up at the sunset sky with a tree in it and click the picture…Well, you can do that if you want but if you have a great sky that makes you want to photograph it, put a nice foreground in it to hold the viewer’s attention longer.  Some key elements to think about when composing an image-

  • Create visual interest – include foreground
  • Rule of 3rds
  • 50/50 reflections
  • diagonal Lines/Leading lines
  • Simplify/Negative Space

Leading Lines in the foreground

Creating visual interest, using a foreground and finding leading lines can usually all be combined into one. This image of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine does just that.. I have created interests throughout the image with the use of a big foreground with highly textured rock as leading lines that take your eye right up to the lighthouse. This image also uses the rule of 3rds as I have placed my subject in the upper left 3rd of the frame.

Clouds Water Offset

This is a non reflection shot that has what I like to call an X-Factor Comp to it. If you look at the water that is going down to the left and the cloud going up to the right, those combined make the / part of the X. The water coming over the rock in the lower right and the ridge line behind the tree in the upper left make the \ to form an X. This is a pretty common composition in landscape photography and one that’s worth paying attention to when you’re composing  your shot. Even if you don’t see the X you should see the clouds and the water mimic each other in reverse. It can also work with clouds and reflection shots as seen below.

Leading Lines X factor

Framing your subject when you can is important to keep the viewer’s attention in the image longer than usual. By framing your scene it doesn’t give the viewer’s eye an easy out, they have to want to look away. There are many ways to frame an image. Here are some examples.

Framing Example 1

The waterfall has been framed by the trees below, to the side and above. This keeps the eye moving around the image. The low fog helps as well by keeping the bright spots up top toned down.

Framing Example 2

Something as simple as the sun can be easily framed by an opening between 2 trees that are holding hands…..err branches.

Tunnel View

Naturally occurring frames like this cave entrance is a beautiful natural frame to the ocean landscape outside.

Balance

The 50/50 split works best in my opinion for reflection images. This is one time it’s ok to break the rule of 3rds rule.

Last but not least is exposure. Generally speaking if your image looks good to you on the back of your camera it’s not the best it can be. Using your histogram is the scientific way determine a good exposure. Even with today’s high-end cameras I still feel it’s important to expose to the right. This means taking your exposure as far as you can go to the right before you start to blow out your highlights. This helps to ensure better shadow detail, colors and tones and less noise in your image. An underexposed image will have more noise than a properly exposed image.. I am not talking about proper exposure based on your camera meter but proper exposure based on your histogram. They are 2 totally different things. This is really important if you are going to print your work. Anytime you shoot an image that’s underexposed and then try to bring up the shadows in post processing you create noise. Some cameras handle this better than others but it still happens.. By exposing to the right and getting more light in those shadow areas you will end up with a cleaner final image.

Exposed to the right

The image above is one of my RAW files with the histogram showing the data I collected. You may think this looks like crap and you are correct. By shooting this far to the right I was able to collect all the data I need to properly process the image. Nothing in this image is blown out and no shadows are clipped. Are you looking at the sky and thinking this is a total wash? Where are the details in the clouds or the water for that matter? Well, by bringing your exposures DOWN in your RAW converter you will get a much better image than if you are always pushing them UP.  By bringing them down we are simply darkening the info we already have. If you are pushing them up, you are trying to create data in pixels that were not properly exposed to begin with.

Tidal Cleansing RAW edit

As you can see, the colors, tones, shadows, and highlights are all in check here and this is only with the adjustments I made using the RAW converter. I haven’t even finished processing it yet. You will see that image a bit later on.

If you’re new to Exposing to the right, take a few shots like this the next time you’re out and work on processing them to see what you think. It works for every scene. The key is to watch your histogram and only expose just until you see a very tiny portion of the image blown out, like a cloud highlight. If you are shooting with an older camera the benefit will be much more noticeable.

Focus and Live View – I highly recommend that if you are using a tripod and taking the time to set up a great shot that you also take the time to use Live View and focus manually. I know this may sound silly since our cameras are amazing autofocus machines but it’s true. If you have spent the money on a great camera and great lens then why not make sure you get everything out of them you can. Even if your eyes are bad this will still work..  Set your camera on live view, zoom in to where you want to focus with the LCD zoom, not the lens zoom, then manually focus until the image is as sharp as it can be. If your eyes are bad use reading glasses or whatever helps you see up close. You can also use a loupe too to place right on the LCD to help you see better.

Things to keep in mind

  • Always shoot in RAW format
  • Always shoot in Adobe RGB color space
  • Use the lowest ISO possible/Native ISO
  • Use a sturdy tripod
  • Be willing to spend a some money on good lenses
  • Take your time – Wait for the right light
  • Include a foreground – give the viewer a sense of being there
  • Expose to the right – Collect more data to work with
  • Use Live View to focus manually
  • Leave no trace

 

Thank you for visiting. If you have any questions or comments please free to send them my way and I will respond in a timely manner.