Yesterday my colleague Alberto Lima gave his thoughts on using the Sigma 30mm f2.8 EX DN for Micro Four Thirds. While he mostly focused on using it for his personal photography, I wanted to talk about how I use it as a professional tool.
For the past several years I’ve been slowly developing my photography into a more minimalist style. You see I’ve been that guy who has spent thousands and thousands of dollars on camera gear. From the illustrious “Full Frame” 35mm dSLRs to the Canon “L” professional lenses, It can take years to recover from the financial impact of a hobby like that. I can tell you though, it taught me a valuable lesson. I learned that it didn’t take a “Pro Lens” with a “Pro Price” to make a “Pro Picture”. What is up there behind my 2 eyes is far more important than any one piece of plastic and glass. I’ve used Tamron lenses, Sigma lenses, Tokina lenses, and even kit lenses to make my pictures. They all have the ability to take a beautiful photograph.
Discovering the Sigma micro four-thirds lenses was really by accident. I had already made the decision to sell off all my Canon gear and migrate completely to mirrorless for my professional tools. I had taken a trip out to my local camera store to try out some cameras and lenses and try and narrow down what I wanted to use for my kit. After trying a couple of prime lenses I saw the Sigma 30mm and its little bro the 19mm f2.8 sitting on the shelf and asked to try them out, boy was I surprised. As soon as I saw the price of the 30mm getting around $150 I snatched it up faster than a hot turkey on thanksgiving.
Some people are not too big on the focal length of the 30mm, as it’s tighter than a normal lens but not yet a traditional portrait length. This is because both Sigma lenses have been designed for the Sony NEX mount first, then adapted to Micro Four Thirds. On an APS-C sensor the 30mm is a normal lens. I try not to think of this lens in equivalence as a 30mm with a 60mm look, and use up my brainpower making these mathematical conversions in my head. It really doesn’t matter to me anymore. I know that it is my go to medium shot portrait lens and one that works extremely well for shooting kids and pets. It has this certain characteristic that makes photos I shoot in my style shine. For a traditional portrait session I will end up using it 70% of the time, and it is really is my most used lens.
The fact that Sigma designed these lenses to be used on the NEX system actually is a good thing. They have chosen to use a high quality optical formula instead of relying on in camera digital correction (which is applied to both RAW & JPEG). If you are a Lightroom user who shoots in RAW, this lens is supported in the Lens Profiles unlike other Micro Four Thirds lenses. It really needs such little correction though, that it really shows just how good it is. It also has one of the most accurate rendering of color of any of the lenses I have used.
Nothing is Free of Faults
When it comes to the size of the Sigma it is pretty compact. Of course it’s twice the size of the Panasonic 14mm and 20mm pancakes, but I find it to be a much more comfortable lens to work with when using my Lumix G5. It gives you a much more natural feeling camera and you don’t look so silly holding it. On a compact body like my GF3, the lens is still compact and smaller than the 14-42mm kit lens.
It does have a rattle when not connected to a camera, but once it’s powered on it’s completely silent. Don’t be alarmed I have been told this is normal and the way it was designed. Some people have been reporting long start-up times of 3 seconds or more but in my use it takes maybe 1 second to start-up. It’s almost always ready before I am.
Another issue I have encountered once while shooting product shots is with the manual focusing fly by wire motor. When turned one way it will focus very smoothly, but when turned the opposite direction you can feel the different steps the motor is taking to focus. This makes it a little more difficult to get a solid manual focus. Fortunately, the auto focus is so quick and accurate that I rarely feel the need to switch to manual focus.
The Final Verdict
The Sigma 30mm f2.8 EX DN for Micro Four Thirds is a great photographic tool and an excellent buy. It may be a great bargain but it far exceeds the value to price ratio. Both the 30mm and the 19mm are being updated and will be available April 14th, 2013 and will feature a streamlined look that will be called the Sigma Art Series. It is expected to have some improvements, though I’m not sure how much they can actually improve on the image quality. The new line of lenses will also bring a new 60mm f2.8 prime, that will not be available at the same time, but I am eagerly awaiting it’s availability. If Sigma fixes the few faults of this lens then the next version will definitely be fabulous. It’s still possible to find some really great deals on the 30mm and 19mm siblings, but stock has been diminishing in expectation of the new versions. The used market may soon be the place to get a great buy on these lenses, but the new Art Series versions will still be at the awesome price of $199. If budget is a major concern for purchasing photography tools, then definitely check out these Sigma lenses, because your honestly getting a steal here on one of the most valuable offerings for micro four-thirds yet!