Through to the Final...

Tallying the points out of a possible maximum score of 16 gives us the following results:

Leica 21-35mm at 24mm
Nikon 17-35mm at 24mm

Sigma 12-24mm at 24mm

8 points
11 points
5 points

Obviously the reduction of all areas of a lens’ performance to a single number can’t help but grossly over-simplify its worth. However, focusing solely on resolution, distortion and aberration, the numbers don’t lie.

If we factor in colour rendering, there is little to shift the evaluation either way: the Sigma is horribly yellow; the Leica and the Nikon are both outstandingly attractive. Personally, I prefer the Nikon for blues, and the Leica for reds and greens. The Leica is more forgiving with shadow detail; the Nikon has better contrast.

If we factor in build quality, one would hope that the Leica is better screwed together than the Nikon, given the price difference. Both feel rock solid – but the Nikon is much smoother and more positive to focus and zoom. Naturally the Sigma feels second tier, but it’s a lot cheaper.

If we factor in utility, the Sigma is autofocus and covers wider focal lengths. The Leica is clearly less useful than the Nikon, but is considerably smaller. Both require stop down metering. The Nikon’s slightly faster aperture and much bigger elements makes it easier to focus manually.

Bokeh and flare were not tested in this review.

It should also be noted than on a Canon 5D, the Leica 21-35mm’s rear element is too close to the mirror at the wide end to project an unimpeded image circle. No problem with the 1Ds I and II. For details on how to mount this lens on a Canon EF/EOS body, please see the compatibility pages.

All told, then, the Nikon scores a narrow points victory and proceeds to the next round where it confronts the cream of the primes in the semi-final stage.