(NOTE: If you like this written review, do a search for “Loloho Photo” to find my complete video review! Also, this written review will be updated with more information as I gain experience with the lens.) First, my frame of reference: I own the Sony Zeiss FE 35,...
(NOTE: If you like this written review, do a search for “Loloho Photo” to find my complete video review! Also, this written review will be updated with more information as I gain experience with the lens.)
First, my frame of reference: I own the Sony Zeiss FE 35, Sigma 30mm f/2.8, Sony FE28 f2, and Sony/Zeiss 24 f/1.8. Yes, I suffer from a severe case of Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS). The only treatment is the constant purchase of new camera gear. If not for the steady supervision provided by my vigilant wife, I''d have already declared bankruptcy by now. Thankfully, I was able to secretly sell some blood plasma to get my hands on a copy of this lens.
Sigma sent shock waves through the camera world when it announced this 30mm f/1.4 lens for Sony E and Micro 4/3. Even though APS-C sensor cams like the a6300, a6000, and a5100 sell faster than Spock ears at a Star Trek convention, in recent years Sony has delivered nothing but full frame glass - mostly of the “expensive and heavy” variety. So Sigma''s announcement of this native APS-C lens was met with enthusiastic cheers. (No pom poms, though.)
Alas, unboxing the lens revealed an immediate disappointment – no lens case! All of my other Sigma lenses (including the “Art” series) have included nice padded and zippered cases, so the exclusion of a case was a letdown. Tsk, tsk, Sigma... My poor "Contemporary" lens feels naked without a matching case.
Fortunately, matters improved upon examining the lens itself. With the Contemporary series, Sigma has returned to a more traditional styling. Gone is the smooth metal barrel of the “Art” series. In its place is a more traditional ridged polycarbonate appearance with a dash of metal to boot. Sigma calls the material Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) and it''s supposed to handle changes in temperature well. Anyway, I''m happy to see grippy rubber ridges on the lens barrel; now I can eat greasy French fries without fear of the lens slipping through my fingers at a crucial moment.
The lens is made in Japan - not Thailand, China, or Bangladesh. Build quality is completely decent. It''s not pretending to be a vintage Leica or Nikkor, but it suits a modern Sony body quite nicely.
In fact, the lens feels great attached to a Sony a6000 or a6300. Goldilocks would approve of the handling: it''s just right. The weight is manageable at 9.35 ounces. There''s some substance here, but nothing that would prevent you from toting this well balanced rock all day long.
The thing is just under 3 inches long (that''s what she said!) so it''s not terribly bulky.
The front filter thread is 52mm, unusual for Sony E-Mount lenses. This will work nicely for those of you who have Nikon glass and filters lying around. If you''ve invested in 49mm filters for your other Sony lenses, then you may want to buy a step-up (or is it step-down?) ring.
And speaking of rings, the manual focus ring is YUUUUGE. Personally I like the massive manual focus ring and its reassuring rubber grip. Although focus is by wire, the ring appears to have been dampened. It turns with a smooth buttery feel. When manually focusing this lens wide open, you will want all of the control you can muster.
Why, you ask? Well, there''s one main reason you buy this lens, and it ain''t the fancy plastic: f/1.4, baby!
Let''s say it again, all together: f/1.4.
EFFFF... ONE POINT FOUR....
Ahhhhh, that felt good, didn''t it?
Indeed, this lens is faster than a Ferrari Enzo running on 110 octane with a stuck gas pedal. It''s faster than Usain Bolt after drinking three tall pints of Red Bull. It''s faster than... well, you get the idea.
The lens has a maximum aperture of f/1.4. This means loads of light, and a razor thin focal plane.
You want bokeh? You got it!
The bokeh, or out of focus areas, that this lens produces are smooth and beautiful. The lens has a rounded 9-bladed aperture. Bokeh is creamier than a Breve latte . If you want to see your subject swimming in a veritable sea of blurry background bliss, this is your lens.
What''s arguably more important than background blur? Acuity, which is a fancy word that photo nerds say instead of “sharpness.” Thankfully, this lens delivers optical acuity. Yes, it''s sharp.
How sharp? Sharper than a Hattori Hanzo sword. It''s reasonably sharp wide open, thank goodness, and matters improve as it''s stopped down a bit. By f/5.6, you risk slicing your eyeballs. This is why we buy prime lenses, folks.
What about the focal length? Well, on an APS-C camera 30mm translates to a 45mm field of view. Personally I''m fond of the focal length, as it delivers a fine “normal” perspective. Again, Goldilocks would approve: it''s not too wide, and not too narrow. You see something similar to what the human eye sees.
The lens is thus an ideal walkabout type of lens. The fast aperture means you can take it into just about any lighting situation. It''s useful indoors and outside.
It''s great for shots of people and contextual portraiture. It''s good for street photography and landscape. It''s excellent for museum shots of stuffed wombats, too. (Just a suggestion.)
The minimum focus distance is a decent 11.81 inches. While not as short as the wonderful Sony/Zeiss 24mm f/1.8, it''s not half bad. No, it won''t replace your macro lens. But if you want to get a dreamy shot of your fettucine alfredo before scarfing it down your gullet, this lens will get the job done.
Downsides? HOLY PURPLE FRINGING, BATMAN! When shooting wide open, sometimes high contrast areas can exhibit signs of lateral chromatic aberration in the form of purple fringing. Yes, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince (may he rest in peace) would have loved this lens.
Ahhh, purple fringing – the unsightly dandruff of photography. Unfortunately, the purple fringing here is pretty extreme. Take a shot wide open and examine the high contrast areas. You will hear the song "Purple Rain" playing in your head, again and again.
Fortunately purple fringing is easily solved in post processing with a simple one click treatment. If you have the software (Adobe Lightroom is what I use) and your right finger is capable of clicking a mouse button, you need not fret too much over purple fringing. Or you can stop down your aperture a bit to keep things under control.
There''s also some distortion. If you shoot JPGs you won''t need to worry about it, since it will be automatically fixed in camera. If you like to develop RAW files, well, you''ll want to correct the distortion. If you have tried the FE28, then you know the drill. Again, it''s not really a big deal in these digital days.
So what''s the bottom line? Not only does this lens offer performance comparable or better than the lenses I mentioned above, the price is pretty great. Sure, it costs more than the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 Art series, but in exchange for a little extra cash you get a fast fast fast f/1.4 aperture. To my knowledge, this is the only native APS-C f/1.4 autofocusing lens for Sony E-Mount. (Sure, there''s the massive SEL35F14Z 35mm f/1.4 full frame lens, but that will cost you an extra $1200 or so, and you need a forklift to carry it.)
The Sigma 30mm is a lot cheaper than the sublime Sony Zeiss 24mm f/1.8. If you want to pony up the cash for the Zeiss, you''ll get a slightly wider focal length, a shorter minimum focus distance, and those mythological Zeiss colors (including a nice blue badge). I love my 24mm, and would never discourage anyone from buying one. But you can pick up this Sigma and keep around $700 in your pocket. Your choice. With the Sigma you''ll have a faster lens, but you''ll also have purple fringing.
I was tempted to dock Sigma a star for the stingy exclusion of a proper case. But for now, I''ll be kind and simply wag my finger in their direction. After all, Sigma has delivered where it counts most. They''ve given E-Mount shooters a sharp fast normal APS-C prime at a reasonable price. Let''s hope they sell a lot of these things and are motivated to keep making more. Next time, maybe they''ll do a better job with the purple stuff.
Go ahead. If you want it, buy it. I think you will like it.
(As mentioned at the outset, if you like this written review, do a search for “Loloho Photo Sigma 30 Contemporary” to find my complete video review! Also, this review will be updated as I gain more experience with the lens. Thanks and happy shooting.)