An interesting lens. Not sexy, just useful and apparently very sharp.

For quite a while the web-o-sphere has been shaping our desires when it comes to the gear we lust after. The Shelby Cobras of the lens world are the fast glass crowd. If you are looking for an 85mm portrait lens chances are you're lusting for an f1.4 or even an f1.2, even though you know that the f1.8 or the f2.8 will all function very well at the aperture of f4 you'll need to keep someone's face in sharp focus....  In the 50mm's we've been locked in a love hate relationship with the ultra fast fifties since, well....the 50's.

Even in micro four thirds and the Nex family the underlying rythme of the drums is a hope for more and more fast glass to come to market. So in the midst of all this Sigma goes all counterintuitive? What the heck are they thinking?

They've introduced two optics that are very interesting by dint of not being obviously interesting at all. They are a 19mm and a 30mm set of prime focal lengths with the plebeian maximum aperture of.....2.8.  But before you dismiss them out of hand I have two cogent things to say that may push you to consider adding one or both to your selection/collection of optics for your mirrorless camera. 1.  According to all accounts and every review site I've stumbled across in my Quixotic research, these lenses are both very sharp wide open and maintain that sharpness as they are stopped down.  And, 2. They are tiny and dirt cheap. (That's actually three points altogether).

Each lens is available for around $199. They are plain matte black (think very discrete) and don't come with image stabilization. No big deal for Olympus shooters who have world class IS built in to their cameras but a possible non-starter for our shakier brethren shooting Sony Nex.  What they do have is new configurations complete with aspheric elements and small, sharp elements.

Here's what Erwin Puts, the world's leading expert on Leica optics (with the exception of Leica engineers, of course) about slower lenses: (to paraphrase) Every time you increase the diameter of a lens element (essential in the design of fast glass) you increase the complexity of grinding and finishing that glass by a factor of 8X. It is far, far easier to design a high performance (meaning great image quality) lens with a slower (smaller) aperture than to make one with a large aperture.

And this is why most fast 50mm lenses, for example, are soft and of low contrast when used wide open, with atrocious corner performance, and only get better when stopped down a couple of stops. It is also why fast lenses that can  be used at their maximum f-stops cost thousands of dollars.  

I am putting down my keyboard in about 60 seconds to walk out the door, get in my car and drive over to Precision Camera to pick up a 30mm Sigma for the Nex that they have on hold for me. I haven't decided if I will also pick up the 19 mm but I sure am considering it. I'll have my first report on your desk in the morning.  Bye.


Art in LA said...

I bought that Sigma 30mm for my NEX system. It rattles and feels a bit cheap, but all in all I love it! Here are some pics from the Getty Museum using my NEX-3 - http://bit.ly/SvebKB

Huw Morgan said...

I was very dissatisfied with the kit lens that shipped with my Nex-7. After reading the lens resolution tests here - http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/04/nex-7-lens-imatest-resolution-comparison, I went straight out and bought the Sigma 30 mm. The rattle doesn't bother me at all. I haven't missed IS. I love the 45mm focal length and the look of the photos that are produced from this terrific lens/camera combination.

I was so happy that I ordered the 19mm version.

Kirk Tuck said...

cool link. I jjust ordered the 19 as well. Thnks.

j said...

Kirk, you will love the lens. Note, when you take it out of the package, you will think it is broken, it is not, it rattles when not hooked up to the camera or if the camera is off.
The only downside of the lens is that it doesn't do video nearly as well as the sony lenses, but for stills, you will be very impressed

John Krumm said...

They make the same lenses in the m4/3 mount and people have been enjoying them for that as well. Cheap, decent focusing, and sharp from what I hear.

Chad Thompson said...

They feel cheap as hell and rattle when the camera is turned off, but it's seriously the best $200 I've spent in quite a while. In some ways I'm more happy with it than the Zeiss 24mm. But only some.

lsumners said...

Stays on my camera all the time- noisy but very sharp.

Kirk Tuck said...

Picked mine up this afternoon and shot some tests. I immediately called up the store and had them hold the 19 for me as well. What a bargain!!!

Art in LA said...

I've heard that the Sigma 19 is better and less expensive than the Sony 16 that I have (unless you need those 3mm). Enjoy your toys!

cidereye said...

You can't go wrong Kirk. I bought the 30mm the day I bought my NEX-7 on impulse, best impulse buy I've made in a long while. I then saw a mint & boxed 19mm on sale a few weeks ago for a mere £89 and grabbed it quick.

Sharp? Hilariously sharp on both lenses all the way down to f/2.8, I think (?) it was Ken Rockwell who recently tested the 30mm and compared it against a Summilux 35mm on an adapter and said there was no point using the Leica over the Sigma as it was that good and held many advantages over the manual focus Leica lens. Stays on my NEX-7 most of the time.

My only gripe is that the 19mm comes with a hood whereas the 30mm for some strange reason does not. A cheapo Leica style metal screw-in 46mm hood is ideal. You're gonna love these lenses Kirk I'm sure!

Claire said...

Hmmm.. Gonna be the party pooper here. I shoot 100% manual lenses on my NEX cameras. I got this lens "in case", I'd HAVE to have AF. Well, focusing is so slow it's hardly "automatic". Sharp, it is. So is the wonderful legacy glass that I use.
Lens shot about 2 frames and went back into its BOX... That shows how little intention I have to use it in the future.
It did get out of the closet today. My 4 yr old has gotten used to shooting my GX-1 with PL25/.4 quite a bit, and tonight she wanted to take a few shots. Of course my all manual set-up with legacy glass is impossible for her, so I slapped the Sigma on and she could do her thing. That'll probably be the only future of this lens in my home. If I want something in this focal range, my PEN F 38/1.8 is 10x more lovable.

cnit said...

Hi Kirk, it's always a pleasure reading your views, and am particularly looking forward to your review of the Sigma 30 (and 19?). Will you be reviewing the m4/3 version of these lenses as well? I am considering both -but with m4/3 mount- as a economic entry to the "world" of prime lenses, and would like to know what you think of them.



Crix said...

" I'll have my first report on your desk in the morning. Bye."
Err, it is now way past the next day. Did I miss your report on this lens by any means :-) ?
I already have the SEL50, a FD35/2.8 MF therefore I am more interested in the Sigma 19.


Kirk Tuck said...

Extensive review of the 19mm: Wow. That's one really great bargain. Sharp wide open, small, light and cheap. No brainer.