Eric L. Woods

Third Party Lenses and Sony: Sigma APS-C Trio

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I have always liked the Sony a6000.

Sony a6000

But the first few times I bought one I ended up selling them. Why? Lenses. Or lack of lenses. One lens that was a deep disappointment was the one above. It has OK image quality.

Daily Life

Just do not look too closely at them. Even the simplest images fall apart. I get sharper images from my phone. The 20mm f/2.8 had exactly two advantages.

  1. It was small.
  2. Fast AF.

That was it. But the small size means little if the image quality is sub par.

Sidebar: Sony… Please release either an optically improved version 2 of this lens or better yet a blatant knock off of the the Samsung 30mm f/2 that is so good that I still own an orphan mount NX300 to this day. Buy their design. Samsung is certainly not using it.

Another lens I do still have is the 16-50mm PZ. Like the 20mm it catches a lot of flack in reviews, but I keep one on hand. The aperture loses out to the 20mm prime, of course, but I find it has more advantages.

  1. Also small.
  2. Also fast AF.
  3. Actually pretty sharp.
  4. Close focus.
  5. OSS is handy since I prefer no IBIS crop Sony bodies.
  6. Power zoom is handy for videos.
  7. Perhaps a result of low expectations, but better IQ than I would expect.
Random

Will not win any awards, but quite handy.

Other than that no other Sony APS-C lenses interested me. Sony prime lenses were all too expensive, did not have specs that impressed me, or did not make sense. The only one that came close to interesting me was the 50mm f/1.8 but I would sooner buy the full frame Sony FE 50mm f/1.8. The 35mm f/1.8 should be considered but I chose the Samyang 35mm f/2.8 for its small size, IQ, and full frame mount flexibility instead. And why so few Sony E mount prime lenses, 7 in all? And why no new prime lenses after so many years. Zoom lenses were no better. Few Sony choices and the few that exist are either slow at f/4 or worse, large, or expensive. And why so few third party AF lenses?

The only Sony APS-C lens that really interested me was the 24mm f/1.8, but at over a $1,000 dollars it is more than I am willing to pay for an f/1.8 lens with OK reviews.

Then came the Sigma f/1.4 prime trio.

All three Sigma f/1.4 lenses combined with a case cost exactly $19 more than one Sony 24mm f/1.8 lens. Wait. What?

Based on my prior AF experience with the a6000, interest in the newer, reasonably priced even better a6100, and the excellent Sigma lens reviews I figured this may be what I was looking for. This led me to selling off a Fuji kit that I was mostly happy with, but would happily trade them for faster focusing Sony bodies with a consistent set of lenses to replace the great but inconsistent mix of Fuji mount lenses I had put together. An fine performing Viltrox that was larger than I would like for a replacement for the slow focusing 56mm f/1.2 I had tried previously. A great 27mm f/2.8 that was also compact. A 35mm f/1.4 that is also great,. All OK with the XT-100 and X-E2, but still not enough to keep me with Fuji. Good? Yes. Good enough to keep? Not if I could find a better option.

Good reviews are great but the Sigma lenses are not values if they do not perform in actual use. And they do. These are three of the best prime lenses that I have owned. Here is a list of common strengths across all three lenses.

  • Design consistency. Common build. Common materials. There is something oddly satisfying about having aesthetic similarities across a line of lenses.
  • Aperture. f/1.4 across the board all with 9 rounded aperture blades.
  • Image Quality. Across the board.
    • Color. Beautiful colors. Far more pleasing than any other Sony APS-C lenses I have used.
    • Sharp. Pin sharp wide open.
    • Bokeh. All have fantastic bokeh.
  • Low light. All have great low light performance.
  • AF. All have swift, silent, and accurate autofocus.
  • Compact. Light and small, especially considering their specs and impressive performance.
  • Value. Contemporary price with Art level performance. I had a discontinued Sony mount Sigma 30mm f/2.8 lens before and it was nowhere near as good as these lenses even though it was branded as an Art lens. As stated earlier all three can be purchased for the same price as one Sony prime.

Now here are my favorite traits of each lens.

Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens

https://www.instagram.com/p/B8m2EiZne8M/

The first of the three I purchased. I liked this lens straight off, but one photo floored me.

a6100

A simple hip shot taken while pumping gas, but it is wonderful. At dusk but it did a great job with the light available. Great colors. Sharp and detail filled from corner to corner from the rain in the upper left corner to the seat belt buckle in the lower right. Here are a few more samples.

a6100
a6100

This led me to pick up another.

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens

Sony a6000

With the 16mm having done so well it got me interested in the smaller, less expensive 30mm f/1.4. I am always interested in near 50mm full frame equivalent lenses. This lens also did not disappoint. Sample images below.

Sigma 30mm f/1.4
Sigma Contemporary 30mm f/1.4
Sigma Contemporary 30mm f/1.4
a6100/Sigma30mm f/1.4
Sigma Contemporary 30mm f/1.4
Sigma Contemporary 30mm f/1.4
a6000

Next up is a lens that makes no sense.

Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens

85mm Full Frame/56mm APS-C

As I said this lens makes no sense.

  • Longest focal length of the three but the most compact.
  • Lighter, smaller, less than half the price, and much faster focusing than the Fuji 56mm f/1.2. And I prefer the Sigma’s IQ.
  • Joins the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 and Samyang/Rokinon FE 85mm f/1.4 full frame lenses in focusing much faster than you would expect for a fast portrait lens.
  • Focuses much closer than you would expect from a portrait lens.

Here are some samples.

a6100
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary Lens

I already wrote posts for these lenses. Why am I writing about them again? Something dawned on me. These lenses saved APS-C Sony cameras for me. I have always liked their cameras. They have been affordable strong performers that had one glaring weak spot. A pitiful selection of compact, affordable, high performing APS-C lenses. Solved.

In addition to solving the Sony APS-C prime lens issue they also solve a larger digital problem for me. Many fast aperture digital primes are ridiculously large, heavy, and expensive nowadays. One exception is the relatively svelte Rokinon/Samyang 45mm f/1.8. Excellent lens. Far better than the Sony 50mm FE f/1.8. Problem for both is once you pair it with an A7 body it is larger and more fiscally dear than I would like for a knock about 50mm-ish prime. Meanwhile the a6000 nears small film rangefinder Leica CL and small SLR PEN-FT proportions. With these lenses I have sold off my larger full frame FE primes and mostly use those for adapting glass or zooms.

For my purposes Sigma has does what Sony themselves did not do and single handedly elevated Sony to my favorite APS-C system.

Thank you Sigma.

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