mix ‘n match lenses ..


Two images from quite a while back – a photo session on New Year’s Eve in Manhattan.  We stopped at various places in Manhattan, including the steps of St Patrick’s on 5th Avenue where I took these photos.

On this shoot I used a number of Canon zooms, and the Sigma 14mm for some ultra-wide shot. All the images where I used the Sigma lens, clearly stood out.  Not for sharpness or distortion .. but for a color cast.  (The Sigma is actually a terrific lens, especially for the price.)  The images with the Sigma lens are much warmer than the Canon lenses.  Neither wrong nor right … just different.  Different to the extent that it took effort to correct the WB differently for the images taken with the Sigma lens, than the images where I used the other (Canon) lenses.

For those two examples:  left: Canon 16-35mm f2.8  //  right: Sigma 14mm f2.8
Each lens was on a Canon 1D mk2N body, with both cameras set to Cloudy WB.

And no, the light didn’t change between the two images, and no, it’s not a camera issue either.  Even changing the WB as Kelvin settings using DPP, had the same effect – the Sigma lens was clearly warmer than the Canon lenses.

So the point of this post is that this kind of difference in the color characteristics might between lenses, might be a consideration when you consider an off-brand lens.  Fortunately I didn’t use the 14mm lens often, so this wasn’t a real problem for me.  But I can see how it would be a real pain to spend extra time to constantly correct WB for a specific lens, in any shoot, for such a change in color.  (Assuming of course that there is much less change in the color characteristics within a brand.)

I’m sure that there is the likelihood that these kind of color differences exist for different lenses within the same brand.  But I also suspect it will be less noticeable than this, and less of an issue. Personally I’ve never particularly noticed this problem before when using all-Nikon or all-Canon lenses.

This might then be a valid consideration – to consistently only use  lenses only within a certain brand, for a more efficient workflow.

7 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1 says

    I’ve noticed the same with my Sigmas, it really a problem to get consistent color in a series. Sigmas tend to be on the warm side. If shooting in auto wb the problem is a bit lessened, but then wb can change from picture to picture.

    Hinzmann, Germany

  2. 2Nick says

    Well known issue with Sigmas- they have a yellow cast. Haven’t noticed it myself with my 10-20mm Sigma. Guess if consistent color is important you need some sort of RAW utility that can automatically correct for the color cast, or at the very least apply a batch adjustment.

  3. 3Eileen says

    This isn’t something I’ve noticed with my Sigma/Nikon combinations, but it may be that I haven’t made careful enough comparisons. However I have noticed a colour difference across Nikon lenses. It’s not a completely fair comparison as one lens was much better and more expensive thaan the other. But when I compared the output from my 70-200 f2/8 plus teleconverter with a 70-300 kit lens, the change in colour was the most notable difference. The kit lens was much cooler, and in fact just a little more grey overall. Nothing I could do by way of exposure or white balance alterations could get rid of the difference.

  4. 4Duncan Bell says

    Just a thought.

    You can create a custom “camera+sigma_lens” calibration profile through Adobe DNG Profile Editor (free download) and use of a gretag MacBeth colour checker chart. Then in Lightroom automatically apply that calibration via the exif for the sigma on import. Time taken to set up, about 15 minutes. Problem solved forever.

  5. 6Ed Verosky says

    I think the main culprit with the way lenses render color is going to be the coatings used on the glass. Different manufacturers, different coating combinations.

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