I rented this little beauty from Ziplens.com and I’ve been shooting with it all week. It’s a fun lens if a bit of a specialty item. There are a lot of very technical and in-depth reviews of this lens on the internet (here’s a good one that compares all of the wide-angle offerings) so I’ll stick to my impressions rather than delving into charts and graphs.
First of all, the good: the build of this lens is very nice. It’s got a very satisfying heft. The focus and zoom rings are both wide and operate smoothly. I especially like the clutch mechanism in the focus ring for switching between manual and auto-focus. It focuses accurately and reasonably quickly. The focus mechanism isn’t silent but it’s quieter than some of my other lenses (my 50mm is louder).
As for the optics, it’s satisfyingly sharp in the center. Sharpness gradually decreases towards the edges where the image is most distorted, especially at the shorter focal lengths. But it performs well even at 12mm and f/4. I didn’t have any problems with flare and all of my images were nicely saturated with good contrast.
I was thinking of buying one as a complement to my 18-70mm for when I need to go really wide but I think I’ll hold off. The only bad thing about this lens is finding a use for it. It’s great for super-wide closeups (this baby focuses extremely close) but that style isn’t what I do, primarily. And for landscapes, my 18-70mm is wide enough 99% of the time and more versatile to boot. It’s a fun lens with excellent optics and build. Just double check that you actually have a use for it before you plunk down $500 for one.