7.23.2022

Big, fat lens goes away. Replaced by a newer, smaller lens that's just as good. Or better. The tale of two thirty-five millimeter primes.


 This is the new lens. It replaced an older lens. The older lens was traded in. It was a good idea...

When I first starting playing around with the L mount system I bought a bunch of big-ass primes. There were few lens at the beginning for the Panasonic S1(x) cameras and at the time Sigma was making big headlines with the image quality of their Art series lenses. One of the Art series lenses I bought was the first generation 35mm f1.4 in the L mount. It was enormous. It was incredibly sharp; even wide open. But it was incredibly heavy. But it was nicely contrasty and had great nano acuity(tm). But it was long and ponderous.... etc. etc. At the time the only choice for a nice 35mm was either the Art lens or some sort of adapted lens from another system. Either that or the $5K Leica 35mm Summicron. But I wasn't ready to go there yet. (or...still). 

I quickly decided that the Art lens was fine for all the corporate work I was doing and it seemed to find a place in the case on every paid assignment. But just as quickly I decided that it just wasn't a great choice for walking around on my own dime and shooting "found" art in the streets. While the image quality was unimpeachable it just stuck out like a hippopotamus in a Miata. So, lately, after all the permutations my L system as gone through the lens mostly has been languishing in a drawer. Neglected and ignored. 

Especially so after buying the Leica 24-90mm zoom lens. At the 35mm setting the lens handily outperforms a who bunch of prime lenses at the focal length --- but it should considering the marketing hype and the asking price.  

In the same time frame I started  discovering the i-Series Contemporary lenses from Sigma. These were quirky and interesting lenses that have wonderful industrial design, great performance for imaging and feature less than half the weight and half the volume of their "Art" siblings, in the same focal length range. The trade offs? Slower apertures and ...... not much else. 

I have two L mount systems running side by side here. One is the full frame (35mm frame size) cameras from Leica and Panasonic and the second is the APS-C sized Leica CL and TL2 cameras. Both have their place and in both systems I've been more and more attracted to 35mm lenses for different reasons. 

For the full frame stuff the 35mm represents what most people consider the universal option for most quick, on the street and in the moment styles of photography. I'm just getting comfortable (after 45 some years of trying) with the focal length and find myself using it more and more. When I go out with one camera and a lens I find myself wishing I had just the right 35mm lens for the format. I wanted smaller, fast, sharp and stylistically comfortable design in one reliable package. And I wanted it at an "efficient" price point. 

I've also be hankering after a "normal" "standard" 50mm equivalent for the APS-C system which would be a 35mm focal length. In the best of all possible worlds I would be able to buy a lens that fit both of the L mount cameras and provided me the two different use case I was looking for in one product. But I do live in the best of all possible worlds (or blissfully unaware of my actual circumstances?) so the smaller Sigma 35mm presented itself. 

I saw a review on YouTube by a fellow named, Hugh Brownstone. His channel is "Three Blind Men and an Elephant." He shoots with a lot of Leica stuff and gets invited to Leica in Germany for the big product reveals. He is prejudiced toward the Leica universe of cameras and lenses and owns quick a bit of their product. But he did a review of sorts comparing the Sigma 35mm i-Series lens with the more expensive Sigma 35mm (newest version) Art lens. It was pretty much of a draw across the board, at equivalent apertures. He also mentioned that he compared the inexpensive i-Series 35mm f2.0 to the $5K Leica Summicron 35mm and basically said that if you aren't pixel peeping files from both at more than 200% magnification one would never be able to see a difference. 

Yes. I would like to save 9 times as much cash on a lens. 

I took the big Art lens up to my (now second) favorite camera store and traded it in on the i-Series lens, which was also on sale. Might still be. I got home from the store late in the afternoon yesterday and had domestic chores to complete so no test of the new optic was possible then. But after a routine Saturday morning and the ritual family lunch I headed out with the new lens on the front of a Leica SL and went to look for a new mural, a series of commissioned art, that was over in the Govalle Neighborhood of east Austin. And that's where I did my preliminary tests of the system and the new arrival. 

It's a single subject test done on a 103° afternoon and mostly at a single aperture but it is a start. And I do have about 24 sample images for you to look at. 

My initial impression is that it's a very good lens and will work well for my mixed uses. Before I left the house I took one photograph of a blue-ish pillow sitting on a leather chair. The rest of the images are from the Govalle Neighborhood Mural on Bolm Rd. If you live in Austin it's pretty easy to find and will reward you with a half hour of fun looking. Click through my images below.  Let me know what you think!  


Mural by Catie Lewis who I photographed in my studio last Fall. 


Detail from image above. 





Detail from image above. 










Sharp, snappy, filled with luxurious nano-contrast....



Alternate shot taken when the sun went behind a cloud.



I'm amassing collection of i-Series single focal length lenses. 
It's my answer to the Leica SL primes. We'll see how that all works out.