Sigma Filtermatic 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by craigd, Apr 27, 2012.

  1. I've been thinking for a while about buying a Minolta MD Rokkor-X 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. They're not that hard to come by (KEH often has them), but the issue has never made it to the top of my priority list. However, I recently came across another fisheye lens in MD mount. I've never had that high an opinion of Sigma lenses, but I gave it a try and found it quite usable. The price, as well, was significantly lower than I would likely have had to pay for the Minolta fisheye.
    1. Sigma Filtermatic 16mm f/2.8 fisheye on Minolta SR-T 201
    2. Frontal closeup
    At this point, you may be wondering what "filtermatic" means, and why a lens with a fairly large front element appears to be advertising that it takes 22.5mm screw-in filters. The answer to both of these questions is that if you press the silver button on the top of the lens behind the front element (visible in the first image), the front part of the lens twists off, bayonet-style, and there is a place inside where 22.5mm screw-in filters can be attached.
    Minolta's manual-focus fisheyes usually had built-in filters, selectable by a switch without disassembling the lens. Nikon's early 16mm f/3.5 fisheye had built-in filters, too, though their later 16mm f/2.8 fisheye did not. The Filtermatic design is therefore not really an advantage for Sigma unless you can get a wider selection of filters for it (since the Minolta and Nikon lenses were limited to the filters the manufacturer chose to build in).
    3. Lens in two parts, with clear filter (right)
    The package I bought included the original lens caps, hard lens case, and contrast filters (yellow, orange, and red). The lens looks like it has not been used much, which I suspect is often the case with fisheye lenses -- people buy them because they seem cool, but after some initial experimentation, the fisheyes get stored away for years until they finally get sold off.
    I haven't been able to find out very much about this lens. Since it has the MD tab (which is even labeled "MD", as you can see in the image above, below the f/16 mark on the aperture ring), I assume it must date from the period 1977-1985, or possibly a bit later. There is another model of Sigma Filtermatic 16mm fisheye that is marked "XQ". The XQ carries the notation "multi-coated" and has a metal focusing ring, while mine, though clearly multi-coated, is not labeled so, and has a rubber focusing ring. The styling of the XQ looks older in a number of ways, as well, so I assume it is an earlier model. One XQ that I came across online was in Nikon F mount with the AI feature, suggesting it was manufactured no earlier than 1977 (unless Sigma offered a factory AI update, which I doubt). My lens, then, is probably from the 1980s.
    Performance, once stopped down a bit, is very good in the center, and not bad around the edges, though a bit of CA is visible toward the corners.
    One very nice feature of this lens, a definite advantage over comparable lenses from Minolta and Nikon, is that its minimum focus distance is only about 6". Here is an example -- and even this is not quite at minimum distance:
    4. Succulent
    The lens has less trouble with flare than I expected, though ghosting can be a problem with the sun in or near the frame. I took this shot of Mountain View City Hall in part to check for flare. I thought there woud be a big flare blob in the lower right corner, but there isn't. There is, however, a small row of multi-colored hexagonal ghosts running through the center of the image.
    5. Ghosts
    This next one, on the other hand, was just shot for the pure pleasure of it. The clouds were lovely that day, and the tall office building across the street provided a centerweight for the composition.
    6. City Hall Plaza
    So, all in all, I'm glad I came across the Sigma Filtermatic 16mm f/2.8. It's not by any means a mediocre lens, and being rather uncommon and little-known, and with its unusual filter design, it's a nice little conversation piece as well (if you happen to have the right kind of company over).
    (Fisheye images shot on a Minolta SR-T 201 with Provia 100F slide film)
  2. That's a nifty little lens, Craig; the filter system makes a lot of sense, and the ability to get in close certainly extends the possible uses for the fish-eye, which I've personally always found to be somewhat limited. I haven't come across one of these before, and it looks like a handy addition to your kit. Magnificent sky in your last pic.
  3. Craig,
    This is an interesting lens. You have put it to very good use. I agree with Les that the City Hall picture is great.
    I will look to see if I can find any information on this lens.
  4. Yes, I like the Fish-Eye-Takumar 17mm f/4 too. It takes great pictures, and it's remarkable how compact it is -- though the flip side of that is that it has no room for built-in filters, and it's very easy to accidentally get a finger into the shot.
    For comparative purposes, here is a list of minimum focus distances for the fisheye lenses I am familiar with for 35mm film cameras, shortest first:
    Sigma-Fisheye 16mm f/2.8 Filtermatic
    Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye
    Olympus Zuiko Fisheye 16mm f/3.5
    Pentax Fish-Eye-Takumar 17mm f/4
    Minolta Fish-Eye W.Rokkor-X 16mm f/2.8
    Nikon Fisheye-Nikkor 16mm f/3.5, f/2.8​
  5. Rick, I agree that the very short minimum focus distance helps a lot. This is true of all lenses, I think, but especially super-wides. My Vivitar 20mm f/3.8 in Nikon mount can focus to half the minimum distance of my Nikkor 20mm f/4, and it makes some striking compositions possible. Unfortunately, the Nikkor is a much better lens in other regards (more contrasty, sharper in the corners, more resistant to flare, and physically much smaller -- the Vivitar takes 82mm filters, compared to the Nikkor's 52mm filters). This is all a question of design trade-offs, of course -- making a lens perform well at really short distances probably requires compromises in other areas.
    I've recently added to my small collection of classic Vivitar Series 1 macro zooms (that is to say, now that I own four of them instead of just one, I can call it a collection), and the macro facility really adds to the usefulness of these lenses -- I reach for my extension tubes far less often. That will be for another post, though...
  6. Nice work.
    Now everybody will want one, I know I do. ;)
    that is to say, now that I own four of them instead of just one, I can call it a collection​
    OMG, now I am a ≥500m mirror lens collector!
  7. Here is a test of the Sigma. It was originally posted in the July 1981 issue of Modern Photography.
  8. Here is an ad for the Sigma. It was in the April 1981 issue of Modern Photography.
  9. Marc, thanks for the info -- very interesting.
    Les, I would guess that the "chrome base" is a Canon FD breechlock. By 1981, Canon has switched to the "New FD" faux-bayonet style, but the underlying mount was still breechlock, and Sigma may have preferred to stick with the traditional form.
  10. Love that third phot. I want a fish-eye too! Indeed 18mm is usually a bit expensive. I have a nic 135mm Sigma. I do it agin sos to say! Nice sharp and contrast rich.
  11. I've seen other early Minolta SLR lenses with chrome bases too (e.g. 58mm f/1.2), but they seem to have gone all-black by 1970 as far as I can tell.

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