Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC

Sigma, who have grabbed the opportunity of the digital revolution with both hands, need to be congratulated on this one! As we write, it is the only prime standard lens designed exclusively for digital. And it’s a fast one to boot!
ePHOTOzine is the first UK magazine/web site to get their hands on this new lens and provide a review. Here we take a look at how this totally new lens behaves.

Focal Length 30mm
Max Aperture f/1.4
Min Aperture f/16
No of Blades 8
Angle of view 45º
Filter size 62mm
Construction 7/7 elements/groups
Focus type AF/MF
Closest focus 400mm (1:10.4)
Weight 430g
Dimensions 76.6x59mm
Mounts available Sigma SA, Canon, Nikon (D),
Tripod bush No
Price (SRP) £320

Build and handling
As an EX lens, the finish is the same matt black, hard-wearing surface as the remainder of the EX series lenses and comes supplied in the zipped stiff pouch along with lens and mount caps and a petal shaped ‘perfect’ hood. As with all the newer small pouches, it is fitted with a belt loop, making it a useful accessory. The hood is finished to match the lens.

Controls on the lens are simple, consisting of a switch on the left side for AF/MF (except Nikon) and a focus ring. Between the body and the focus ring is a distance window, but, surprisingly, no depth-of-field scale.

The focus ring is well torqued and there is no difference in this torque whichever mode it is used in. The HSM motor, which is both quiet and responsive, allows manual override of the focus in AF mode. As for how responsive, the autofocus was almost instant and as quiet as any lens I have used.
The size and weight of the lens is not unpleasant although smaller primes do exist. The inclusion of the HSM motor probably accounts for this and is well worth the small penalty. The EX build quality seems to improve with every new model, and this latest addition certainly fits that trend.

Optical performance
We all know that primes are better than zooms, don’t we? But with the improved performance of modern zooms, is the price of a prime still warranted? The answer, in the case of this lens, at least, is an emphatic yes! The main reason for this is a lack of compromise. The lens is designed to do one job and one job alone. It does so far better than any zoom can hope to do. The simple construction, just seven elements in seven groups including one Aspherical element, one SLD (special low dispersion) and one ELD (extraordinary low dispersion) element, allows for the best possible corrections. The fall-off in image quality at either end of the aperture range and from the centre to the edge is so much less than any zoom and the light gathering ability is way beyond a zoom’s capability.

The lens has been optimised to work at a single focal length and it has been done well. CA (Chromatic aberration) has been eliminated to all intent and purpose. Shooting against a clear sky and blowing up to 400% showed no evidence of any fringing from f/2 onwards. Contrast is good and colour balance excellent. Only slightly softer at f/1.4, the lens was still usable at this extreme aperture.

With modern, high ISO digital cameras, this lens is the one for shots of the proverbial ‘Black Cat in a Coal Cellar’!

Ramsgate Lifeboat in for a service. Shot against a plain sky at f/8 and there is no evidence of any fringing.

Another studio shot taken at f/11

.A still life of shells taken at f/5.

Click on each of these two comparison photos to view full size versions

Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use this graph look at this article: How we test lenses

This is a ‘standard’ lens for a cropped digital SLR. 25 years ago, all SLR’s came with a ‘standard’ lens and everybody learned how to use one. Those lenses, at 50mm, are still about but don’t have the versatility that they had on a 35mm film camera. This 30mm offering from Sigma is a brave move forward that takes a backward step! It makes a lot of sense. The picture quality alone, putting all the acquired knowledge of digital capture from the last few years into a simply constructed lens will pay dividends for those of you who purchase this lens. Me? I don’t really want to send it back!

In summary the main positive points of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC are:
Fast aperture
Picture quality
Consistent performance
Fast autofocus

Negative points are:
Price (Discounted in site shop)

Check the latest price of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC here

Test by Ian Andrews

By: mayaman 6337 days ago
The maritime museum shot really looks much softer than the MTF graph would indicate to me. You have it resolving as highly as the Canon 70-200mm f2.8... I am genuinely not seeing this at all. It looks soft at the center of the frame and blurry in the corners.

Maybe it's just me but there seem to be a lot of screwy results on this website.
By: tophorus 6336 days ago
It looks to me like the maritime photo just has a major case of camera shake. The letter on the sign seem to have distinct "ghost images" rather than lack of resolution. The shot of the harbour, on the other hand, looks pretty damn sharp to me.
By: radimsvejk 6320 days ago
I bought this lens for 4/3 standard (Olympus E-500) two months ago. I am really satisfied, this lens is well suited for making photos in bad light conditions without flash. The pictures are little softer than by use of Zuiko 14-54/F2.8-3.5 lens, but nice. The work with DoF is perfect. Good parameters & price, perfect choce as a alternative to zoom lenses. RR
By: mpcevat 6155 days ago
The photos here are not as crisp as I know this lens can produce. If you look at the sign next to the white door, letters are not sharp. This does no justice to this lens at all!

Amazing that some of you compare this lens to zoom lenses. It outperforms any of the Nikkor zoom lenses I have by far. The sharpness in the center is just as good as the “old fashioned standard” Nikkor 1.8/50 I used on F5. Like that lens, this 1.4/30 is much better than any of the zooms in the corners, both on resolution and chromatic aberration. Also there is very little distortion, which is visible only when you make photos of long straight lines like in architecture.
There is only a small problem with auto focus in the worst of lighting conditions, but manual focus under those circumstances work better anyway.
By: wmjaeger 6023 days ago
I have used this fast Sigma lens and was so disappointed I returned it after two weeks of shooting. The main issue was sharpness, to the eye, on a computer monitor. This was just an impression at first, but was bourne out in casual comparisons to my f/2.8 zoom at about 30mm. A shame. Is it possible that the individual lenses vary enough to account for such a range of impressions?

Anyway, just wanted to throw that in. I didn't think the HSM focussing on a D40 was anything special either, and ended up manual focussing in many cases.

By: jujujack 5761 days ago
Used the Sigma all weekend long to shoot historic architecture at the beach. Fabulous sharpness, great color. The lens reacts well to changes in light, and focuses well. A winner!
By: lensam 5507 days ago
Recently purchased this lens, but was very disappointed in IQ. Images seemed less than sharp and I confirmed this by running controlled comparison tests against my Tamron 17-50 2.8. The Tamron was significantly sharper at all f-stops (including wide open)! I expected to see just the opposite.

Focus on my 40D was fast, but also noticed a fair number of "misses." Guessing that Sigma QC is not very good.

Returned the lens and will be looking at a Canon 28 1.8 or 35 2.

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