The Sigma 65mm f2.0 lens is wonderful. All the right stuff in one package. And affordable.


 I finished re-reading a favorite novel this afternoon (Ada. By Vladimir Nabokov) and decided to get out of the house and get some fresh air. I grabbed the Leica SL2 and the Sigma 65mm lens and headed over to the UT campus. I wanted to see Laura Wilson's show of Writers' Portraits one more time before the holidays kick in and schedules get crowded. Once again I was the only guest in a large gallery space on the first floor of the UT Humanities Research Center. I took a quick glance at their copy of the Gutenberg Bible, took a gander once again at the "first" photograph by Niepce and then headed in to really examine my favorite portraits from Wilson's show.

I'm drawn to classic portraits like the one of Carlos Fuentes just below. I wanted to look at about a dozen that I really like and since no one else was there I could get close enough even to examine the grain structure of the prints and make some observations about where we are in the state of art of large, exhibition printing. The images from digital were interspersed with images from traditional film and the printing technique was so polished that all of the prints fit together. Unless you looked to the grain --- and you'd have to have your nose nearly on the print to see it clearly, you couldn't tell which came from what medium. 

There is a freedom in seeing a show by one's self. You can criss cross the gallery from favorite to favorite, circle back again and never have to wait for someone to get out from in front of a print. You also don't have to listen to any inane mobile phone conversations.

Again, I strongly suggest that photographers in Austin make an effort to see the Laura Wilson show at the HRC before it comes down in January 2023.

After I soaked up what I came to look for I headed across Guadalupe street to Medici Coffee which is just opposite the UT campus on what used to be the main drag. I guess it's still considered the main drag but it has none of the foot traffic and vibrance that it did when I attended UT as a student or when I taught there shortly after. Many of the older building on the street have been shuttered and are awaiting demolition so they can be replaced by much bigger buildings with much less character.

I walked into the coffee shop and immediately felt my chronological age. Every person in the shop was so much younger. The young woman at the ordering station was soooo patient with me. I got the sense that she felt I might have never ordered (non-drip) coffee before. She was walking me through the process like someone explaining a concept to a person with a limited vocabulary or hampered cognition. She seemed amazed that I knew how to tap my credit card on the sensor to pay for my drink. Or that I could sign for the charge on an iPad screen with my finger. 

I also ordered a scone. In a kind and quiet way she let me know that since it was after 3 pm and since I was also buying a coffee the scone would be half price. She looked at my unshaven face and my clunky, ancient camera with sympathy bordering on pity. I'm presuming she jumped to the conclusion that someone my age, alone on a cold, gray and rainy day, was.... down on my luck. It's okay. I get it. I have white hair. I guess I can't hide my battle with imminent mortality from the youth of today. But, on the other hand, it was nice to see a display of kindness and compassion. Even if I don't necessarily deserve it.

Moving on.

I used to change camera systems more quickly than many in our audience might change their underwear. But I've held onto the Leica SL2 since the Autumn of 2020 so that makes my tenure with this particular camera and the surrounding infrastructure a little over two years and there's no sign yet of me tiring of shooting with it. I do like to add a few lenses from time to time just to keep the credit cards well greased but I've yet to come across a camera or a system I'd prefer to shoot with now. That bodes poorly for my local retailer but it does help me focus on working with the camera more intently.

The L mount system in general has been a lovely platform for shooting with a wide variety of lenses.

Today I pulled the 65mm Sigma out of the drawer and took it out for a spin. It's a solid lens and a bit heavy but it's a good and comfortable match for the SL2. The finder image is really good for two reasons: the first is that the camera's EVF is nearly 6 million dots and uses Leica glass in the viewing path. Secondly, the lens itself is very sharp and contrasty all the way to f2.0 so the performance of the lens enhances the look of the image in the finder compared to lenses that provide less performance. 

The lens is built with 12 elements in 9 groups. One element is an SLD (super low dispersion) and two others are ashpericals. The diaphragm has 9 blades and they are rounded to enhance bokeh. The closest focusing distance is 55cm (which, I think, it just over 20 inches). The lens has an extremely nice, external aperture ring which will also click into "A" at one end and the focusing ring is very workable for manual focusing. This is a lens that can be shot wide open with no real optical compromise. It may be the sharpest lens I own in the normal focal length range. For anything really close up the nod would have to go to the Sigma Art Series 70mm Macro. 

The color rendering of the lens, even when using Jpeg format, is right on the money. And the AF is quick as a bunny on speed being chased by zombie coyotes. In all it's about as perfect as a "long normal" lens gets and the whipped cream on the top is the very sensible price of $700. Pretty much Leica performance at a very non-Leica price. I should buy an extra in case they stop making this model.....

Which brings me to my one wish/request/plea to Sigma: 
Please, please, please make us a 50mm f2.0 lens with the same cosmetics and eye-watering performance as that of the 65mm. It would fly off the shelf. Well, I could guarantee that at least two of them would fly off the shelves because I'd snap them up fast. 

After my geriatric coffee drinker meets benevolent barista I set out to walk the streets somewhat fearful that someone at the coffee shop might be calling in a "silver alert" and put out an A.P.B. for a "lost senior." I'd hate to have been snatched off the street and delivered home before I got a few frames off. But, of course, nothing of the sort happened. I was free to wander unfettered. 

And in the process I found some really nice color images in front of my camera. Lots of colors for a gray and chilly day. 

Above: A Bob Dylan graphic on the wall of The Hole in the Wall. A night club we used to go to in the 1970's. It's still there, still open and still banging out tons of live music. Right on Guadalupe St. right where it's been since 1974.

And, in case you were worried, I was able to find my car at the end of my photo walk and find my way home. I even remembered to bring the camera back with me...

Hope your Sunday was eventful in good ways and non-eventful in potentially unpleasant ways.