A Lens Combo For Traveling Photographers : Sigma’s 12-24f4.5-5.6 & 120-300f2.8

As I have been delving further in combing still photography, video shooting and travel I have also been exploring new equipment to maximize my potential in creating images I want while reducing the amount of equipment I carry.

In the process of checking out all sorts of gizmos, gadgets and lenses I found an unlikely combination of lenses from Sigma that have become a game changer for not only what I carry, but in the way I am able to shoot.   The two lenses are almost complete opposites, one is wide and slow, the other is long and fast …

The two lenses that have become standard pieces of equipment in my bag for creating both still an video content from a DSLR camera platform are the Sigma 12-24f4.5-5.6 EX and Sigma 120-300f2.8 EX.

The Sigma 12-24f4.5-5.6 is in a class all by its self as the only 12mm lens capable of reaching its full potential on a full-frame DSLR camera, such as the Canon EOS 5D Mk II or Nikon D700, etc etc etc.   As a photographer, and now videographer (OK, I can’t come close to calling myself a videographer yet) I like to shoot wide…in fact I often find a 16mm lens to constrained for what I want to see.

The Sigma 12-24f4.5-5.6 allows photographers to explore the world through a new set of visual tools, given them access to an Ultra-Wide to Standard-Wide view.  I have found the manual focus capabilities of the Sigma 12-24f4.5-5.6 to be superior to virtually all of my Canon wide-angle lenses when it comes to shooting video.

While my Canon wide-angle lenses are optical superior in terms of still photography, there are other factors that allow this lens to be an excellent piece of equipment.  Unlike some other Sigma lenses, and I have used many over the years, the 12-24f4.5-5.6 is a rugged lens. The lens is not built for ‘low end’ consumer usage, the optics are capable of producing professional results and when it comes to creating video, the sheer extremes of this lens allow photographers to position themselves in places to create a visual perspective that is unrivaled.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the near polar opposite of the 12-24f4.5-5.6, is the Sigma 120-300f2.8. While the Sigma 120-300f2.8 is a substantial lens, its size is quite compact and offers photographers a huge range of potential, and in fact weighs less than both the Canon 300f2.8 and Nikon 300f2.8!

The Sigma 120-300f2.8 may not be many photographer’s first choice when they think of an ideal travel lens, however the relatively small size of Sigma 120-300f2.8 allows it to fit into many pouch systems, in fact I comfortably the wear the lens inside my Think Tank Skin 75 Pop-Down pouch, which is part of my Think Tank Skin Kit.

Recently I have been swapping my old reliable Canon 70-200f28 for the Sigma 120-300f2.8.   While the 70-200f2.8 is nearly three inches shorter than the 120-300f2.8 the benefits of the reach of the 120-300f2.8 are superior in many cases, as is the ability to use the lens with a Sigma 1.4x tele-converter and achieve a 420f4 lens without adding addition significant weight or gear to a traveling kit.

The design of the 120-300f2.8 makes it very easy to handhold, although with video I use a monopod to keep everything as level as possible.

Much like the 12-24f4.5-5.6, the smooth manual focus of the 120-300f2.8 makes it an ideal DSLR video lens.  In my experience, I have a much more consistent panning follow focus success rate with the Sigma 120-300f2.8 over the Canon 70-200f2.8 and other longer lenses.

A benefit to the Sigma 120-300f2.8 that should not be overlooked is it’s minimum focusing distance. The 120-300f2.8 has a minimum focus of 4.9-feet, compared to Canon 300f2.8’s minimum focus distance of 8.2-feet and the Nikon 300f2.8’s minimum focus distance of 7.2 feet.  Being able to focus closely with a long lens, while zooming in to out of a shot, both when shooting still or video images, adds a wide range of visual possibilities.

While there are significant gaps to be covered between Sigma 12-24f4.5-5.6 and Sigma 120-300f2.8, these two lenses offer a lot of flexibility, combined with excellent optics and a durable construction for photographers on the road.

Granted, these lenses don’t come cheap, with the Sigma 12-24f4.5-5.6 costing approximately US$860 and the 120-300f2.8 costing approximately US$3,000 … which is actually quite less expensive than both the Canon 3002.8 and Nikon 300f2.8 … neither of which offer any zoom capabilities.

Below is a photo of the Sigma 12-24f4.5-5.6 and 120-300f2.8.   Additionally I have posted two videos shot earlier this week for with the two lenses of a United Airlines Boeing 747-422 at San Francisco International Airport shot for an upcoming project.

The video content is raw, and keep in mind I was unable to use a tripod while shooting thee videos for a variety of reasons … but the perspective of the 12mm lens showing a Boeing 744 taxing directly over my head should give you a good sense of the visual potential at 12mm.

Happy Flying!

Video #1

Video #2

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