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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!