Should the new Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN standard lens be top of the list for Micro Four Thirds and Sony E-mount users? Richard Sibley finds out.
Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN – Build and handling
Externally, the lens is nothing to write home about. It has the clean black aesthetic that we have come to expect from Sigma, ever since the company announced its Global Vision direction around four years ago. Besides the lens designation and reminder that it has a 30cm minimum focus distance, the only other marking of note on the lens is the silver ‘C’, which denotes is as being part of Sigma’s Contemporary range. As a reminder, the Contemporary range is designed to offer ‘High performance, yet [be] compact and lightweight’, whereas the Art lenses focus more on image quality.
We tested the lens with a few cameras, including a Sony Alpha 6000, the new Alpha 6300 and an Alpha 7R in its APS-C crop mode, and it felt nicely balanced on each. It is fairly large for the focal length. Most of the other lenses I mentioned previously are smaller, almost pancake, but then they don’t have an f/1.4 aperture, which obviously requires larger elements.
The lens measures 64.8×73.3mm and weighs 265g, which certainly isn’t going to inhibit your ability to carry it around with you all day. It has a 52mm filter thread, and usefully, the lens employs internal focusing, so should you use an ND grad or polarising filter with it, you will not have to worry about the front turning or extending when focusing.
The large ribbed focusing ring on the lens barrel is impossible to miss and is easy to find with your eye held to the viewfinder. I had no problem with manually focusing this lens, and I was able to get very accurate focus when using the magnified view offered by the Sony cameras. Even very slight nudges of the electronic focus ring were rewarded with precise shifts in focus. Highly responsive, a slow turn of the ring will shift the focus slightly, whereas a sharp shift could see you jump from a metre to infinity.
Overall, the lens was quick to focus. On the Alpha 6300 it seems slightly slower than Sony’s own lenses, but it was by no means sluggish. As Sigma claims, the motor itself is very quiet. You have to hold your ear to the lens to hear any slight whirring noise. However, there is an audible click or clunk as the lens engages focus. Again, the sound isn’t particularly loud, but if silent photography is your thing, or you plan to use AF while shooting video, then you may want to take note. The rest of us needn’t worry.
It should be noted that the lens isn’t optically stabilised, so care needs to be taken when handholding at slower shutter speeds. If you have sensor-based stabilisation on your camera, remember to switch it on. Otherwise, the rule for handholding at the closest shutter speed to the equivalent focal length applies, so don’t expect to get sharp results at speeds much slower than 1/50sec. If you have a camera with built-in image stabilisation, you’ll obviously be able to take this into account.