Nikon and Sigma Pro Camera Lenses: Nomenclature
In order to identify the best Nikon and Sigma pro camera lenses for your photographic needs, first let’s take a look at some of the nomenclature used in the lenses.
Pro camera lenses are those which are preferred by professional photographers, usually due to reasons such as better optical quality, superior build and better overall performance. Each lens manufacturer has his own system of nomenclature.
Sigma’s EX Lenses, Canon’s “L” lenses and Nikon’s “G” lenses indicate superior build and optical quality and are used to differentiate them as pro lenses.
Terms used in Nikon’s "G" Nikkor Lenses:
- ED – Extra Low Dispersion glass elements used in this lens. Indicated by a gold ring around the lens
- VR – Nikon’s image stabilization. Known as Vibration Reduction (hence the VR)
- FX – Cameras with full format sensors
- DX – Cameras with cropped sensors (APS-C format)
Note: Usually the f/2.8 prime lenses amongst Nikkor lenses are preferred by professional photographers.
Terms used in Sigma’s EX Lenses:
- OS – Optical Image Stabilization, similar to VR in Nikon
- DG – Full format cameras, similar to FX in Nikon
- DC – Cropped sensor’s (APS-C format), similar to DX in Nikon
- APO – Apochromatic lens, used to minimize colour aberrations. Uses low dispersion elements, similar to ED in Nikon
Other terms used are IF – Internal Focus, RF – Rear Focus and ASP – Aspherical Lens.
For further reference, please read this glossary of terms related to camera lenses.
Various Types of Lenses: Nikon Vs. Sigma
Normal Lenses: A normal lens is one with the same range of vision as the human eye. It is equivalent to a 50mm lens for a 35mm (full format) camera. On a smaller sensor camera, the equivalent lens is a 30mm which is available in Sigma, but is not manufactured by Nikon. This makes the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC a very good buy.
Read 3 Reasons You Should Own a 50mm Prime Lens to understand why a 50mm prime lens (normal lens) is essential for every photographer.
Wide to Telephoto Zoom Lenses – Standard "Kit" Lenses
These lenses (18-55mm/18-50mm) are usually supplied as Kit lenses and have one major weakness – an extremely small aperture (e.g. f/4 or f/5.6) which makes it difficult to shoot in low light without a tripod. The pro lenses from both Sigma and Nikon are f/2.8 which solves this problem. The Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC is reasonably priced. However, in the absence of price constraints, I would go for the 17-55mm F2.8 lens from Nikon which is of better optical quality.
When it comes to the 50-150mm, 70-200mm or the 70-300mm zoom lenses, I would go with the Nikon lenses as there have been many instances of complaints related to these Sigma lenses.
Read The Best Nikon Zoom Lenses for Your Digital SLR to learn more.
The macro lenses from Nikon and Sigma are available both as prime lenses with shorter focal lengths and as telephoto lenses with longer focal lengths. The shorter ones are cheaper and the Nikon lenses are preferable due to superior optical quality. However when it comes to the longer focal lengths, the Sigma lenses offer extremely good quality for their price point.
Final Decision Between Nikon Vs. Sigma Pro Camera Lenses
In order to make the final decision between Nikon vs. Sigma pro camera lenses, besides evaluating technical parameters such as presence/absence of image stabilization, number of elements, whether a F Low Dispersion (FLD) Glass is used, minimum/maximum aperture, etc. one also needs to evaluate the following factors
- Prime vs. Zoom: i.e. a fixed focal length lens or a variable focal length lens.
- Type of Lens: The nature of your photography usually determines the type of lens you need.
- Nature of Camera Sensor: Full format cameras vs. APS-C sized sensors
- Nature of Camera Mount: To ensure camera body & lens compatibility.
- Price: Helps to establish a ballpark figure so that you don’t splurge (too much!).