12 September 2016
Walking onto Sigma's impressive stand at IBC last Friday was weird but wonderful. Not only is it the first time that Sigma have attended the show, I hadn't expected such an impressive stand to be honest. Together with a strong presence of Sigma Japan's management, it very much showed how seriously they were taking the launch of their new Cine lens range.
Yet since announcing last week, some points have been raised and I thought I would try my best to answer them. In the press release, Sigma explained that the Zoom lenses, the 18-35mm T2 lens and 50-100mm T2 lens, would be launched first but strangely only to US and Japanese markets in a couple of months (we would have to wait until next Spring). This seemed just crazy, especially when you consider they were launching the lenses at a European Show (to be followed by another European Show - Photokina - next week!). On the stand, I spoke at length with not only my friends at Sigma UK, but also their Japanese colleagues, to establish firstly why this was the case and secondly could we do anything about it? Supply is apparently going to be low initially and thus fulfilling all markets was going to be hard. But surely it makes sense, even with a short supply, to drip feed that globally? I have customers who have already contacted me wanting to try the lenses so I asked if we could arrange to have some production samples to allow customers to try out. I was promised this could be arranged and I will be working with Sigma UK to try and make this happen in October. Interestingly, speaking to a few of the dealers during the rest of my trip, it would seem I was not alone in trying to persuade them on reconsidering their decision!
Right, next point - parfocal and breathing issue. This is another one that I was asked about by several of our customers. The answer is that the lenses are optically identical to their stills counterparts. So they are not 100% parfocal (i.e. maintains same point of focus during zooming in/out). It was pointed out that the stills lenses are pretty close to parfocal (and was one reason they were chosen) but I have to stress they are not parfocal. The next issue is breathing. One of the great things about cinema lenses is their lack of what is known as breathing - this is where the focal length appears to change as you shift focus - the 50-100mm is particularly noticeable at 50mm at say f/4.
Now for some, this has been an instant turn-off but I do think things have to be taken into perspective as these lenses are expected to be a lot cheaper than an equivalent cine alternative. Or are they? So let's come onto pricing. I was told they'll come in under $5k (which is what came up in the Newsshooter interview as well so wasn't just my hearing). I think that's too much. With the stills equivalent selling around the $1k mark, I just can't see people paying that premium. To put this into perspective, Zeiss CP.2 primes are available around the $4k mark. I am hoping that Sigma realize this and they end up being closer to $2k-$3k. I have always respected the fact that with the Global Vision range, the precedence set by Kazuto Yamaki has been an honorable one - that is to set a fair price that doesn't need to be discounted massively - indeed this was brought up in our conversation. I am therefore hoping that pricing will be realistic in line with expectations.
Build quality. Blimey, they are VERY well constructed. All the rings turn in a beautifully damped manner. They are significantly bigger than the still lenses but not overly big (if that makes sense). Again, whilst heavier than their stills cousins, they are actually pretty light for what they are (especially when you compare them to the recently announced Tokinas which are all floating above the 2kg mark)!! You certainly won't feel short changed and given the use our lenses get, I am pleased to see that all of the rings and the mount have been sealed against water and dust. Clearly all we could see what the image being shown through the cameras on display which appeared naturally sharp.
So there you go. We now have to wait until (hopefully) October and with the kind assistance of both Sigma Japan and Sigma UK, I am very much hoping that we should see a couple of samples we can get out of the door. The rest are due next spring. We're planning to stock each lens in both E and EF mount.