SIgma Zoom-Pi 35-200 4-5.6

Front view of a Sigma Zoom-Pi 35-200 lens.
Front view of a Sigma Zoom-Pi 35-200 lens.
SIGMA ZOOM-PI 35-200mm 4-5.6

Focal Lenght: 35mm – 200mm
Max Apeture: 4 – 5.6
Lens Mount: M42
Min. Focus: 0.45 mm
Filter Size: 62mm
Weight: I didn’t weight it
Coated: MULTI-COATEDI 

LENS STORY

This review was originally written nearly two and a half years ago, so I’ve tweaked it heavily. Back then I wasn’t sure what format to follow, what to do or not do. I tried taking ten pictures at each aperture, but later realised – personally when I look at reviews, I don’t care about charts. I want to see how lenses are used in real life, if I want to zoom in the corner – I can do that myself.

One of my visits to Germany took me to a local flea market, where I picked up a pristine Olympus OM-10, which came with two lenses – a 50/1.8 and the Sigma. This was my first OM camera.

 

HANDLING

A lens with such a wide zoom range was designed so you don’t have to carry a lot of lenses. You saved space, weight and back pain. That was before plastic was a common material in lenses. After using modern zoom lenses, you’re used to a light package, that doesn’t weigh you down.

The Sigma Zoom-Pi feels a bit like a big and heavy beast, eliminating it as an option for a walk-around lens, at least for me. 

It’s not well balanced on the Sony A7, I constantly found myself worrying over my lens mount getting damaged. The up side is that the metal construction makes this lens feel solid and a good choice in self-defense equipment.

The lens features a “one touch” push and pull zoom, where you use one ring to both zoom-in and focus. It feels smooth and isn’t that bad in use, although you sometimes accidentally zoom in or out.

OPTICAL PERFORMANCE

Wide open this lens is not that sharp, even with it’s slow aperture. Chromatic aberrations are well controlled and flaring isn’t a big issue. There’s a lot of spherical aberrations, adding to the feeling you get when you shot from a plane or mountain top.

Stopping down doesn’t improve things as much as I’d like. Images still feel as thought you’re shooting wide open, sharpness and contrast don’t improve that fast. By f8-11 you can still get decent IQ, but there are a lot better options, that become usable by f5.6.

I can hear a chorus of forum members screaming “WHAT WOULD YOU EXPECT OF A VINTAGE ZOOM LENS”. You know how forums get.

Zoom the lens over to 200mm and you can focus the lens down to 1:3.7 magnification.

I’m guilty of undervaluing magnification on macro lenses, to a point where I’ve found myself unhappy if I read a lens goes to 1:2 and not 1:1. It’s silly, to first judge by numbers on paper instead of actual images, isn’t it?

Well this lens proved me wrong. In macro mode, you can get some decent results and the 200mm focal length means you can keep a good distance from your subject. The Sigma Zoom-Pi performed much better in Macro mode than at 35mm.

Wide Open, stopped down, this lens always seem so suffer from poor contrast and desaturation. Color improves when stopped down, but nothing to write home about. Although it gives images a specific look, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Distortion is tricky with vintage zoom lenses, at the low end of 35mm you get barrel distortion, while zooming in to 200mm it passes the field over to pincushion.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I didn’t really enjoy using this lens much, although having the 35-200 range was nice, I found myself mostly using the longer end of 200mm.  The macro function is nice to have and really the best thing about this lens in my opinion. 

The size and weight alone is a deal-breaker for me – I’d rather go with a few primes that are smaller than this big metal beast. (or I’d grab my Zenit 12 and carry that around. Or you know – a bag of rocks)