For quite some time now I’ve been reviewing various lenses from the Sigma line, most notably (based on continued traffic to the posts) the 18-250mm and the 50-500.  Other glass from Sigma that has passed through the blog includes the 85mm, the 8-16, 70-200, 4.5mm fisheye, much more.  Use the search function on the upper right with keyword “Sigma” for a complete listing!

One of the latest lenses that they folks at Sigma have been gracious enough to let me borrow for an extended period of time is their 30mm f1.4 lens.  You read that right: f1.4!  Much like the “nifty fifty” because after the crop sensor is factored in, it’s really close the an equivalent of a 50mm on a full frame sensor (30*1.6 = 48)!

I’ll take the usual tack and look at Focal Length, F-Stop Range, Noise, Size/Weight, Build, and Cost, and Image Quality separately. So, let’s get started!

Focal Length

At 30mm fixed, this is another lens where zooming is not an option so you have to zoom with your feet!  This means walking around to get either closer to or far enough away from your subject to get the composition you need.  This could be construed as a disadvantage for those that prefer to dial their lens rather than shuffle their feet, but since I need all the exercise I can get, I am going to call this a positive!  Another positive is due to its relative focal length (48mm) after crop sensor size is factored in.    The rationale here is that it’s a pretty close approximation to what the human eye sees naturally.  So, it’s very much a WYSIWYG approach to composition (what you see is what you get)!

One of the advantages of this is that because it’s a fixed focal length, optical quality is pretty tack sharp all the way through, and even through various f-stop levels.  Overall, the focal length is definitely a positive- even for those used to zooming or adjustable focal length lenses.  It’s quite a treat to get into shooting with a lens like this!

F-Stop Range

The bane of a photographer’s existence is having a scene present itself to you where the light is fading, and you have no tripod or way to stabilize your gear.  The counter to this has been to invest in what’s becoming commonly known as “fast glass”.  The idea is that you can capture a scene at a wider f-stop ratio to let in more light in a shorter amount of time.  The downside to shooting wide open like this is that your depth of field will suffer unless you are focused to infinity. This does limit creative possibilities if you are hand-holding, but the advantage is that you can shoot in lower light.

At f1.4, this lens is designed to let in an amazing amount of light when shot wide open.  I was able to take some decently sharp pictures in near darkness with nothing but sidewalk lights and an indoor light around my house.  Another shot I was able to get included an underpass that was in near darkness and I could make out details in the underpass (see sample shots further on)  This feature alone (in my opinion) makes a lens worth considering if the budget is there.

Noise

As is the case with most modern lenses, the noise that comes from running the auto focus is becoming much more tolerable.  Older lenses have had noisier motors (like my Sigma 70mm Macro- very loud when focusing).  Because this is a newer lens, and also due to its prime lens design, the lens is very quiet when it does focus in (the focusing ring never has far to go)  Another pro for the 30mm!

Size/Weight

The Sigma 30mm has the size of a kit lens. It’s very compact which makes for easy inclusion in a camera bag.  When you have multiple lenses and need to decide whether a lens goes with you or stays home, this is one to take with you simply because it takes up such a small amount of space.  As for the weight of the camera, it’s surprisingly well-balanced on the Canon 40D, providing for a nice fit and comfortable shooting environment.

Build

The signature brushed dark metal of the Sigma line is present here and I’ve always been a fan of how these lenses are built and how they feel in your hands.  Exuding professionalism, and a solid graphite brushed metal coating make this a definite pro.

Cost

At B&H, the build cost is the same for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and all other mounts at $489.  You may be able to save a couple bucks here and there by shopping for sales and discounted or used equipment sites, but based off the retail price, the ballpark is around $500 for this lens.  While $500 is a substantial dent to most wallets, I would have to say that this is worth the money.  I’ve had this lens on loan from Sigma for the last 2 months, and it’s not left my camera through several photo walks, two assignments, and of course all of the testing.

Image Quality

Now for the fun part: the image testing!  Now in the interests of full disclosure, I cannot share some of the images here on the blog because of client releases and such (although I will say that I was comfortable with photo delivery to clients using this lens, so that should be an indication of image quality).  Here are some shots from when I was shooting in other various conditions:

USA Pro Bicycling Race

The Golden Light

Perspective View of the 30mm

Low Light

Close Up

Very Low Light

So, there you have it – various examples of the lens shooting under normal, close up, and low light conditions.  In most I’ve just done simple post production work for sharpening, so there are straight out of camera (sooc).  In the low light shots, I did include some noise reduction to handle the grain, and you can see it cleaned up fairly nicely.  Overall, a great lens – thanks to the folks at Sigma for the extended use for testing.  I’ll be sad to see it go!

5 thoughts on “Hardware Review: Sigma 30mm f1.4

  1. Yup, lovely lens! Sharp as a tack on my 50D, nice colour and it can focus in really no light at all. If I could only have one lens and one lens only – this would be it.

    Cheers!

  2. Thanks for you well-reasoned response, Jason; when you mentioned ‘field of view’ in your response I remembered that fov is often specified as the aspect of a fifty mil that “approximates” human vision.

    And thanks for combining my posts; I had already posted the first when the second thought came to me, and I couldn’t find a way to edit the initial comment. Good dialogue….

  3. Concerning your statement about the crop factor making it similar to what our eyes see naturally (i.e. a fifty mil on full-frame), I’m not convinced…
    All a non-full frame body does is take a “crop” of the image circle projected by the lens, right? So doesn’t the image still have the other characteristics of a 30 mm point of view?
    Things like: a stronger foreground to background subject ratio (i.e. things in the background are *more* smaller in relation to foreground with the 30 than we’re used to seeing them), receding lines near the edge of the frame being more distorted with the 30 than a 50, etc.
    I may be wrong, but that’s what my engineer’s brain says… I’ve got two bodies (40D and 5D MkII) and a 50mm, and I’d really like to test this sometime, but I don’t have a 30mm prime.
    Having both bodies (with their respective lenses) shooting from the same tripod would really help me toward a full understanding of the crop factor difference. If you know of such a test published online, please let me know!
    Going the other direction with the crop factor, we’d say that a 300mm on a cropped body “is like” a 460mm on a full frame; a more extreme case like this is where I’d think there has to be a noticeable difference between the two setups. Surely the ff picture would show visibly more compression in foreground/background wouldn’t it?
    The photos would contain the same elements, but it seems like their relation to each other would be different.

    1. I hear ya Michael – and there really is no lens that is equivalent to the human eye, either in focal length, depth of field, or field of view. Additionally, the human eye scans across a scene and “remembers” parts of the scene that were otherwise out of focus, as well as being able to detect what we try to replicate in HDR photos. To say that a 50mm lens (or any lens) approximates the human eye is a serious over-simplification of the matter, and yes, I am guilty of that over-simplification.

      In this context though, I wasn’t factoring in all of these features or “elements” of the larger picture. It was a very superficial statement (but somewhat accurate) made on the basis of the normal field of view (from left to right, not front to rear) for a person. The “test” that I remember is to take a point on a wall and look directly at it. The bring an object in from your right and mark the distance to that dot from the center dot at 5′ away, 10′ away, and 15′ away. That will give you a rough estimate of the range of your field of view. Now repeat the experiment with at least 101 people to get a decent enough sample size (although the larger the better). Take the average from that sample, tossing out 5% on the narrowest and widest ends and there is the average field of view for humans. Now, take that width and compare to the tested field of view for lenses available on the market. By and large, that will be close to the field of view for a 50mm lens on a full format camera.

      Only taking into account the crop sensor portion of all of the above conditions, the way over-simplified conclusion would be that a 35mm lens on a crop sensor body would give approximately the same field of view as the 50mm on a full frame, which is itself an approximate equivalent to the human eye. There are all sorts of simplifications and assumptions being made here that make a larger conclusion much more inaccurate to draw. To that end, I was making light of something that you are speaking of (from a mathematical and engineering perspective) that would likely prove to be untrue. Having said that, the field of view was my only correlation being used to define the “equivalence to the human eye” from the post.

      Thanks for the thoughts though, as it’s always good to have discussions, especially when it raises the bar! 🙂

      (P.S. I edited your two posts down into one…)

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