The Third Time is a Charm? Lessons from the camera bag.

I have just purchased a lens that I have owned twice before. This will make my third go-round with the Sigma 60mm f2.8 DN lens. Why? That's probably a question for my analyst...

I bought the 60mm when I re-entered the Olympus m4:3 system for the second time. The EM-5 had been out long enough to get some pretty spectacular reviews so I bought a couple, along with the usual Olympus lenses and I liked everything pretty well. Then Sigma came out with there series of Art lenses for the smaller formats and I tried all three (the 19, 30, and 60). The 19 and the 30 were both decent, workmanlike lenses but they were really nothing great. The 60mm, on the other hand, was pretty impressive. Even wide open it was sharp and detailed. A bonus was that the focal length was just right for portraits when using the m4:3 format cameras. It was a nice, long focal length and, at its wide open aperture, it had a nice way of throwing backgrounds out of focus. 

I got a lot of use out of that optic but when the system moved out to make way for the Sony a99, the a850 and the a900, that lens went into the "for sale" category and moved on to some smarter new owner.

At a later date I bought a Sony a6000 and then an a6300. I was pleased to find out that the Sigma 60mm  DN also came in a Sony "e" mount and also was in the middle of a (temporary) price reduction so I thought it would kinda stupid not to pick one up for the princely sum of $149. As a "90mm" equivalent on the APS-C frame it was just right. I got a lot of use out of it right up until that system too went on the chopping block to pay for some other shiny system of objects. 

Lately I've been toying around with finding a nice portrait lens for my Panasonic GH5-based system and I stumbled back across some portraits I'd made on my first experiences with the Sigma. I've been playing with the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7, the 50mm Zeiss 1.7 and a few other lenses and I noticed that the Sigma imparted a different look to the photographs. I had recently done a photo assignment making portraits for a large accounting firm and decided to look at the data in the files to see if it would tell me anything. It did, with this format, it seems that the "sweet spot" or "where I end up in focal lengths" when shooting m4:3 is somewhere around 60mm. 

I went back and did a little research to convince my rational brain that my irrational brain wasn't being too heavy-handed with rationalizations and flawed memories of the lens's performance. I looked on DXO and found that the lens performed well for them. Then I read the review on Lenstip.com (which I really like for their lens reviews....) and it turns out that this lens is one of the best all around performers for Olympus and Panasonic cameras that they have measured! 

Of course I've ordered one. Which is kind of embarrassing if you think about it. But, well, um... I've done more stupid and expensive things. I'm calling it "My Christmas Present." I would call it my "Lens of the Year!!!!!" but I already gave that honor to the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens (well deserved). And it would be a bit silly since the lens has been around since at least 2014. 

Note to self: If I sell off the m4:3 system (for the fourth or fifth time) DO NOT SELL THE LENSES! More than likely I will return to the system in short order... I guess that means I like it --- mostly. 

The lens is cheap. Buy yourself one for the Holidays. I did.


Dwight Parker said...

Do you or your readers have an opinion how the Olympus 60mm macro fares in comparison as a portrait lens? ....is it "too" sharp ....

Anonymous said...

I have an Oly 60mm and love it. I am not a portrait photographer so can't comment with respect to that, but mine is razor sharp on E-M5 (original) at all focusing distances and all apertures up to f8. Mainly using it for macros, sometimes as a short tele.

Rev. Heng Sure said...

My experience with the Sigma 60 prime for M4/3 mirrors yours, Kirk. Its 19 and 30mm siblings are fine, adequate, and somehow they stay in the gear drawer. Not so with the Sigma 60, a lens I choose over the Olympus 60 macro when I venture out into portrait land - - with its 120mm field of view. It is particularly happy on the Panasonic G85 - - the scale, weight, and modesty of the lens suits the G85's personality. I've kept mine through three iterations of M4/3 bodies. Ditto your mantra: keep the lenses!

Jeff said...

I also sold my E-M10 camera and lenses and then missed them (terrible menus and all) and bought them all again. I wish you had written this a few months ago. Maybe it would have saved me from doing something dumb and expensive.

Rufus said...

Hi Kirk

Of course this sweet little lens does exactly the same thing as the ( relatively ) huge 50-150 F2.8 that performs so well.

Shooting with them is a different experience, but how do you think the output differs? I know we can start talking about micro-contrast and tonal transations in a Mingtheinian way, but how differently do you think they "render' an image?

Happy Christmas.

Anonymous said...

"If I sell off the m4:3 system ... More than likely I will return to the system in short order... I guess that means I like it --- mostly."



Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

I know it's the Christmas panic buying season. That's why I just got a notice from Amazon that my lens will NOT be here today but MIGHT be here Sunday. They are "Sorry" and they will be extending my Prime Membership by (yet another) month for free. Mixed blessing? Or royal pain in the butt? Or a little of both?

CWM said...

The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Contemporary is one of the finest lenses I've used. Also a bargain. MUCH better than the earlier 30mm. On a Sony A6500, DXO rated it the best lens yet tested for that sensor. I've used it on both platforms (APS and M43). Both are great although I prefer the 45mm equiv. on the Sony. Still, great wide open and nicely behaved at all apertures.

Noons said...

I started with the Sigma 60/2.8 DN for the EM5 a few years ago.
Nowadays it still gets a lot of use on the EM5MII!
Mind you: the Oly 60/2.8 macro is one very nice lena.
But I tend to slap it on only when I'm planning to do some close-ups.
Otherwise, it's the Sigma: much, much lighter and so sharp while it has a great way of throwing backgrounds away!
But then you had to mention the Oly 12-100/4 Pro, didn't you?
I can sooooo feel another GAS hit....
(roll-on January and my pay bonus!)
Wishing everyone chez-Tuck a super Xmas and a great 2018.