NOOOOO!!! Sigma discontinued my primary lens!

While looking through BorrowLenses‘ rental catalog, I noticed an absence of the primary lens I shoot with, my Sigma 17-70 F2.8-4.0 Macro HSM IS.  After poking around the internet a bit, I discovered some troubling news.

My most-used lens has recently been discontinued!

The 17-70 is my #1 lens, the one I can’t do without, and it is an exceptionally versatile lens.  Both of the shots below were taken with this lens, one at each of the extreme ends of the lens’ focal lengths.

There are a few lenses that are similar, but none that have the same combination of range and speed as my Sigma.  Since this has been both my own go-to lens as well as a lens I highly recommended to my one-on-one photography students, I felt that I should look into some alternatives for the day when my lens finally kicks the bucket and another isn’t available.  Though none are really a true replacement of the Sigma, here are a few options I’ve found:

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

This is probably the closest comparable lens to the Sigma, though it is 15mm shorter in focal length at its longest end.  The fact that it’s a fixed-aperture lens is probably nice enough to make up for that lack of extra length, but as a general purpose lens, it’s still a bit on the short side in my personal opinion, especially if you tend to shoot with a very candid, non-invasive style.  I could probably get by with this and my 70-200mm, though it’s not perfect.  At $1100, it’s more than twice the cost of the $450 Sigma that it would replace, though much of that cost likely stems from the fact that it’s a fixed-aperture lens, a highly desirable feature.  If I had the money, this is the lens that I would get to replace the Sigma.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM

This one is slightly better as a general purpose lens, but for the kind of super-wide shots I tend to shoot at events, 24mm is just a bit narrower than I am really comfortable with, as it’s hard to get those full-length shots without backing up from the subject and landscapes end up feeling cropped.  This lens would definitely necessitate me buying another lens in addition to it, in order to get those super-wide shots, meaning that I’d be carrying 3-4 lenses at events, rather than 2-3.  Plus, at $1600, it’s four times the cost of the Sigma that it would be replacing.  Too steep for as restricted a lens as this one, though once again that’s due to its being a fixed-aperture lens.  If you’re going to plunk down that cash, I’d look at some of the L-Series lenses.

Canon EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS

This is one of Canon’s most popular lenses, and it’s not hard to see why.  It has a wide range of focal lengths, and though its lens glass isn’t as good as the previous two lenses, it’s not bad either.  This is a good general lens and at around $575, is probably the best replacement for the Sigma.  It would never replace the 70-200mm F2.8 L-Series that I have for my telephoto shots, but in a pinch or a situation where I don’t have the luxury of carrying around a bag of lenses, it could serve pretty well as a general purpose lens.  I may give this lens a shot by renting it for a weekend, to see how it fares with my style of shooting.  I know many people who swear by this lens, and though I prefer to double-check lenses for myself, with my own camera and on my own time, the reviews do seem to be mostly positive for this versatile lens.

Canon EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

This is a mediocre lens that is the offspring of an infamously bad lens, Canon’s 18-85mm kit lens.  It’s better than its predecessor, but the glass still isn’t great and it’s overpriced for what it is.  However, it is the closest lens in the list to covering the same focal range as the original Sigma that it would be replacing.  At $700, I feel that it’s overpriced for what it is, and if you choose this over the 18-200 (which is the same speed lens over a wider range), you’re essentially paying $200 for a slightly quieter lens that doesn’t shoot as far.  Most of the rental houses don’t even stock this lens, which tells you something about the quality of the lens, as well as the number of professionals who use it (hint: not many).  For the price, I would want to see this with better glass and a stop faster, as it’s double the price of its predecessor and not all that much better.  But, if you don’t like any of the other options, this could be the lens for you.

So, while I’m not a huge fan of any of the options out there for replacing my Sigma 17-70, there are some decent lenses out there that offer most, if not all, of the features of my favorite lens.  If you’re in the market for a good general purpose lens, you might want to check some of these out.