Is it worth replacing a lens with the new/improved version?

December 30, 2013 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in News & Events, Q&A by

I’m shooting with a full-frame Nikon D800, often with a Sigma 12-24 mm f/4.5-5.6 EX DG Aspherical HSM zoom that I bought in 2005 for use with a 35 mm Nikon SLR. It works fine but I wonder if I should upgrade to the new Sigma 12-24 mm f/4.5-5.6 II DG HSM lens. Will it provide better image quality?
—Sharlene T.

This topic is relevant to anyone who is still using older lenses, especially those  designed for film cameras. The much newer versions offer superior digital optimization, providing features that are valuable in digital photography. In a nutshell, Sharlene, the answer is usually yes for any new vs. very old lens, including your 12-24 zoom.

In spite of the similar designation, the two Sigma 12-24 mm lenses differ significantly in both cosmetic and optical aspects. The version II model benefits from superior technology, including a new type of high tech (FLD) glass. Photos courtesy of Sigma Canada

In spite of the similar designation, the two Sigma 12-24 mm lenses differ significantly in both cosmetic and optical aspects. The version II model benefits from superior technology, including a new type of high tech (FLD) glass. Photos courtesy of Sigma Canada

The Version II Sigma model incorporates the latest optical design to provide superior performance, including FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) glass, which is said to be as effective as the very expensive fluorite glass. Like the previous (and discontinued) lens, it’s equipped with Special Low Dispersion elements as well as aspherical elements to correct distortion and optical aberrations.

Version II of the Sigma 12-24 mm zoom features four of the new "F" Low Dispersion (FLD) glass elements, one piece of Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass plus four aspherical elements to correct optical aberrations. Photo courtesy of Sigma Canada

Version II of the Sigma 12-24 mm zoom features four of the new "F" Low Dispersion (FLD) glass elements, one piece of Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass plus four aspherical elements to correct optical aberrations. Photo courtesy of Sigma Canada

This newer zoom also benefits from Super Multi-Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting; this is even more important with a camera using a highly reflective sensor vs. 35 mm film with a matte surface. Version II was also designed to provide superior brightness and sharpness at the corners of an image. This is another aspect that’s particularly important with a digital SLR, especially when used with a wide-angle lens.

Although we have not conducted comparison testing of the Sigma 12-24 mm lenses, the DXO Labs group has and their report confirms that the version II lens is superior to its predecessor. Note that the overall score is 17 vs. 11. So, if you’re serious about wide-angle image-making, you’ll probably want to trade up to the newer model.

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