Eric L. Woods

Fickle files: Kudos to Sigma for the new primes but…

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Before I get to the heresy and hypocrisy portion of this post that I may regret later let me say this.

I really like the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary.

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary

It is without a doubt one of my all time favorite lenses. What helps it a lot is that it lands in the range of my all time favorite focal length. Add its relatively close focus distance and compact size to the great image quality and it is a very versatile lens. Ok, ok, let me throttle back on my Sigma 45mm fan service. Great as a one lens option.

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary

On to the topics of this post. The three new Sigma lenses that are all made in the same design theme with reportedly better image quality. In fact all of these Sigma lenses share the following traits as positives so I will list them once here:

  • More premium look and metal build. It matters.
  • On camera switchgear like aperture ring and AF/MF switch.

I have listed these here so I do not have to mention them again below. While nice neither of these traits makes for a better image. But the issues all three of the latest lenses have is that they are all at focal lengths that I…

  • Use less.
  • Already have covered.

…so they will really have to make strong cases for themselves in order to be considered. I will list the Sigma lenses below with comments as of today that I may very well one day contradict as I purchase them.

Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary

Versatility and compactness are at issue for me here.

Versatility

I use wide lenses less often than longer focal lengths. For that reason versatility is welcome here. The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 fits this bill. Also when compared to the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 on paper:

Sigma 24mm f/3.5 advantages:

  • Smaller size.
  • Less expensive.
  • Primes do tend to have superior image quality.
  • Closer focus distance at 4.3″/10.8 cm as opposed to 7.48″/19 cm for the Tamron.

Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 advantages:

  • The Tamron lands quite the blow with its f/2.8 aperture on paper.
  • Tamron then follows up with 17mm to 28mm focal length spread.
UNC Bell Tower

But there is one large caveat here. Other than a certain Sony pancake lens I have not run into a single “bad” or even mediocre lens in a long while. For that reason any image quality gap between these two lenses would not likely be enough to sway me. But even with that I could make an argument for having both. The next lens is a bit more of a challenge for me.

Compactness

Tamron makes some compelling f/2.8 primes but the same lens that offers the more significant challenge for space in my bag for both of those also offers the biggest challenge for the Sigma 24mm, the Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8.

Sigma 24mm f/3.5 advantages:

  • Closer focus distance.

Rokinon/Samyang AF 24mm f/2.8 FE advantages:

Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8

Will the Sigma have better image quality? I would say most likely yes. Do I care? No. No, I do not. I have yet to ever take a picture with this lens and later say, “I wish this image was sharper.” This lens is also so flipping small. And relatively cheap. But who knows. A compelling reason not yet realized may materialize. On to the other new lenses.

Sigma 35mm f/2 and 65mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary

These two have a brighter aperture than the new Sigma 24mm so they better compare to other primes on the market.

The Primes

Sigma 35mm f/2 and 65mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary advantages:

  • Up one switch on the lenses below.

Rokinon/Samyang 35mm and 75mm (Calling it close enough.) f/1.8 prime advantages:

  • Smaller.
  • Lighter.
  • Brighter aperture.
  • These lenses add a function switch that allows for aperture control.
  • Considerably less expensive.

While I am not sure which lenses are sharper I have read that the f/1.8 Samyang/Rokinon primes perform just fine. There are other Rokinon/Samyang prime options that are even brighter at f/1.4 (35mm mainly. The 85mm also deviates in focal length too much to compare.) but they are a bit too large to compare directly. But there is also another, slightly slower but smaller and less expensive f/2.8 option at 35mm (Sample below.). If I were not f/1.4 aperture obsessed (my personal choice)…

Night Shots
Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/1.4 Sample Shot

…and had to choose between Sigma and Rokinon/Samyang options, all of which are significantly less expensive regardless of spec, I would likely lean towards the Rokinon/Samyang f/1.8 options.

_DSC9805-2

Another issue for the new 35mm and 65mm Sigma lenses in my world is the existence of the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. And while we are at it Rokinon/Samyang offer longer focal length, faster aperture options that are also less expensive that I would lean towards. The 85mm f/1.4 is my personal choice.

Rokinon/Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE
Rokinon/Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Sample Shot

While I fully appreciate that these lenses are made for a different use case having both in my bag is not likely.

The Zoom

The excellent Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 is nearly as bright and covers both focal lengths with room to spare on either end.

Sigma 35mm f/2 and 65mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary advantages:

  • Smaller size.
  • Brighter aperture.
  • Less expensive… kind of. More below.
  • Primes do tend to have superior image quality.

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD advantages:

  • Really not that much larger when considering that this is a zoom that covers both focal lengths.
  • While more expensive than either lens above it does cover more than both focal lengths while costing less than both combined.
  • Combined with the bullets above I would likely do just fine with f/2.8 as opposed to f/2.
Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding
Open in Flickr and check the focus on the groom’s right eye (our left). I do not need anything better than that. Ditto colors and background blur. It is functionally my bag of primes lens.

I will also add that I have had no issues with the image qualities of the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8. Changing over for f/2 alone does not seem likely. And again if I did go with primes many of the Rokinon/Samyang lenses make a compelling argument.

Heresy and Hypocrisy

Some would balk at comparing Sigma to other third party brands as heresy. Not me. With all respect due I am about what a lens can do, not who made it. All compelling mixes of build, image quality, specs, and value welcome.

Who knows. After all the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 did win me over from the Rokinon/Samyang 45mm f/1.8 (Not really. Another lens really dethroned that one.) after making for a compelling A7c pairing. When the Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 came I dedicated an whole blog post to extol the virtues of Sony G Master 70-200mm f/2.8… only to later fold like a cheap tent and get the Tamron zoom with no regrets. That is the potential hypocrisy part.

Another bit of hypocrisy is that alongside the Sigma 45mm I have several other 50mm-ish focal length lenses. But that is easily explained away by my nonsensical obsession with the 50mm-ish focal length. I view the different options as specialist tools. Other focal lengths are not allowed this luxury. The Sigma 45mm displaced the Rokinon/Samyang 45mm f/1.8, I also liked…

Samyang/Rokinon FE AF 45mm f/1.8

…, due to its film build feel throwback, manual control having, relatively compact every day knockabout lens qualities. But as much I like the Sigma it is not my favorite AF 50mm-ish lens. That title is still held by the Rokinon/Samyang 50mm f/1.4.

Rokinon FE 50mm f/1.4
Rokinon/Samyang 50mm f/1.4 Sample Shot

Other focal lengths do not warrant multiple options so the objectively brighter, most cost efficient, and optically proficient lens will win.

Who knows. Will take my kicks where I can get them. May very well end up with one or more of these lenses before it is over. Planning on not taking any of it too seriously no matter what happens.

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