So I have this "three strike" rule for myself when it comes to purchases. If I buy three things from a company that expire, explode, disintegrate, deteriorate, malfunction, deform, or otherwise fail—especially in some idiotic or inexcusable manner—then I don't buy from that company again. And I can hold a grudge for a long time.
For example: Black & Decker's third strike, for me (never mind the first two, they were unremarkable), came when I bought a cordless electric lawnmower of theirs. I wanted it because it was quiet and I'm sensitive to noise—the whine of lawnmowers on summer weekend days is like somebody poking me repeatedly in the head with a stick. It was basically a nice product and worked well, but it had an utterly maddening flaw: B&D was too cheap to reverse-thread the bolt on one of the rear axles—they used the same part on both sides. So as you wheeled it around—as naturally you do when you're cutting the grass—one of the wheels would rotate against the thread and stay tight, and the other rotate with the thread and the wheel would loosen and eventually fall off. I tried everything from locking washers to nail polish to get this to stop happening, but nothing did more than slow the eventual failure. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the bolt that needed tightening was behind another structure that had to be removed with a wrench.
The lawnmower held enough charge to cut my whole lawn, it was beautifully quiet, and it cut cleanly and well. And it was handy to maneuver. They'd gotten all the difficult bits right. However, designing a non-powered wheel so that it that stays on its axle has been a solved problem in engineering for some while as far as I know. I don't think it was the fail that bothered me so much—earnest incompetence can actually elicit a sort of pitying sympathy—it's that one wheel worked fine and the other was a fail. So they had proved on the very same product that they knew how to do it right. They just didn't care or bother to make it work on both sides. After about the 150th time I reattached that wheel, I decided that Black & Decker engineers were morons who, in a further slap against their customers, obviously didn't even use their own products. So I decided never to patronize that company again. To this day, I won't buy anything from Black & Decker. Maybe they've changed; maybe they have some great products; don't care. Three strikes. Begone.
The only photographic company that has ever inspired my three-strike ban?
I never really advertised this personal decision before, and I won't tell you the sad stories of the three cheap-crap products that let me down over the years, because I don't want this post to be about that. (Although I will say that I learned from all three experiences.) But some time ago I simply decided, for myself, that I wasn't going to buy any of their stuff any more.
And then recently I broke my own rule.
The reason? It appears that I'm a Sony man (still). Lenses for Sony systems in general are thin on the ground—it's one of the company's failings. Sony likes to introduce new systems willy-nilly, produce a hodgepodge of lenses, maybe promise a few more, then move on. This is the opposite of Canon and Nikon, which produce unimaginative SLR cameras with legacy 35mm-film form-factors, but refine their designs and keep them compatible with broad ranges of accessories (except APS-C-specific primes, which for some reason neither company wants to build). Sony, on the other hand, innovates, but chaotic, piecemeal, and incomplete lens systems are part of the price of that.
Long story short (unless it's too late for that), I was looking for a reasonably-priced short telephoto for my NEX, to extend my lens arsenal towards the super-traditional three. Not a whole lot of choices there. And one option was...
Well, what the hell. I swallowed my steely animus, forewent my old grudge, broke my unilateral feud, and ordered a Sigma 60mm ƒ/2.8 DN lens. (It's available for Micro 4/3 as well, but it's longer on those cameras.)
This is going to seem anticlimactic after all that, but here's the big surprise: I actually really like this lens. It looks like half of an unprinted aluminum soda can, but it's light, and it's actually smaller than my 35mm-e normal (which I must say is overpriced—it's a good lens, but not a great lens). And yes, it rattles—because of the unusual focusing mechanism Sigma uses here which I seem unable to understand, an interior optical assembly slides back and forth when the lens isn't in use. You would think this would alarm me, given my mistrust of Sigma, but it's obvious it's intentional and not a sign of something amiss, so it doesn't bother me.
But what do you know? It seems like a really pretty lens, optically speaking. I really could not care less how it "tests," and it's true that it doesn't have that hard, screechy, barbed-wire sharpness that all the noobies seem to love these days. I just care about how the pictures look to me, and they look unusually nice. The lens is "rich sharp" like a good Zeiss, and the bokeh is generally muted and unobtrusive but not fuzzy.
I'm liking a Sigma.
No pictures here, because all I have a "test pictures" and you can see enough examples on the web. But I'll work toward presenting a little mini-portfolio of pictures by the springtime.
Of course, something could still go wrong with it. Sigma isn't out of the woods with me yet.
But I'm keeping this. I like it.
Oh, and another thing: I had a Black & Decker string trimmer for the yard, a purchase which pre-dated that third-strike lawnmower. And just a couple of months ago I was using it when I noticed the handle was starting to get warm. Then the trigger stuck and wouldn't turn off; then the handle began to get hot, and then it caught on fire. I'm not making this up, I swear. The handle of my electric string trimmer caught on fire. By the time I unplugged it and got the fire extinguished, half the handle was melted.
Fourth strike, retroactively. I might soften some toward Sigma, but I'm really never buying anything from Black & Decker again.
Original contents copyright 2013 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Roger Bradbury (partial comment): "Your string trimmer had a bad connection. Instead of a low resistance which doesn't use any power to speak of, the connection had a relatively high resistance. This uses power. The connection heats up and so the resistance rises, which means more power is used so the connection heats up and so the resistance.... As you now know, this can soon get out of control."
Yves Papillon: "The best cordless lawnmower for your health."
Jeff1000: "I bought a Sigma zoom lens in the early '90s that literally fell apart in my hands. I swore that I would never buy another Sigma product, and I haven't. I’ve been tempted by the 35mm ƒ/1.4 for Nikon, but the memory of that zoom lens threw a wet blanket on that. I wish you the best of luck with your lovely-looking 60mm ƒ/2.8, but you’re clearly more adventurous than I."
Greg Boiarsky: I thought I was the only one constantly re-attaching a wheel to that damn mower! I've never bought anything Black & Decker since then. I can recommend Worx mowers, though. They are quiet and have great batteries. Their Achilles heel is the blade, though—very soft metal. I just sharpen it every month or so, and I'm happy.
"Sigma? Never again: no way, no how. Soft corners and awful autofocusing on each lens I've ever purchased."
Matthew Langley: "I really like the Sigma Micro 4/3 lenses. I'm using the 30mm and, since no one was talking about it, I thought I was the only one who thought they were solid lenses (and rightly priced). Glad to see you are having the same happiness I am."
Sven W: "For the last 20 years my Dad has been repairing and re-conditioning lawnmowers for a hobby (he's 84 now). The build quality of mowers has been going downhill for at least the last 10 years. My advice: 1) Buy a good secondhand unit that's 15+ years old. 2) Metal body, plastic catcher. 3) Four-stroke is quieter than two-stroke. 4) Ball bearing wheels (i.e., not a cheap model with non-ball bearing wheels). 5) After use, hose down the underside to remove all grass, hose out the catcher. 6) Also store in a shed—never outside. 7) Always check the oil level before use. 8) Service every couple of years."
Carlo: "I've had my Sigma 60mm for my NEX-6 for a couple of weeks now. It really is a terrific lens. I love it. Sixty millimeters on a crop sensor seems just the right focal length for portraits. I'll probably pick up the other two Sigmas for NEX. This would let me approximate my favorite three-lens setup...a Contax G with 28mm, 45mm, and 90mm...or my other favorite consisting of Nikon FE with 28mm, 50mm, and 100mm Series E lenses. It's a shame Sony hasn't put more effort into the E-mount lenses. I really have no use for large and pricey Zeiss lenses."
Ruud van ruitenbeek: "This really is the best cordless lawnmower!"