Lens Guides

The Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is an Instant Classic

As regular readers of this blog know, I’ve been very excited about Sigma’s new line of DN lenses since I first posted about them back in early January. And now that I’ve spent a few weeks with the Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN paired with my trusty Olympus E-PL2, I can report that this has quickly become one of my favorite lenses for my Micro Four Thirds cameras for making both stills and videos.

An Instant Classic: The Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is designed for both still and video shooting on Micro Four Thirds and Sony E-mount cameras.

In the hands, this camera and lens combination feels like a classic analog rangefinder from years gone by. Except, of course, that the Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is a fully modern lens designed for the rigors of today: it autofocuses with a linear drive motor that is optimized for both still images and HD video capture without intrusive motor noise, and the telecentric optics are designed for edge to edge sharpness with digital image sensors.

1/1250 F3.2 ISO 200. Afternoon sunlight fills a bunch of early blooming tulips with simply amazing light. Notice the lovely quality of the bokeh in the background thanks to the 7 rounded aperture blades.

As you look at the images in the this article, you will, of course note how sharp and crisp the in-focus elements are in the frames. But also pay special attention to the lovely quality of the bokeh in the highlights in shot of the tulips, the pizza store mascot, and behind the skateboarder. That’s the feeling the seven rounded aperture blades lend to the images.

Shallow depth of field at F3.2 and a field of view just a hair tighter than normal perspective allows for nicely softened, but recognizable elements such as this pair of bridges in the mid and background. 1/1600 F3.2 ISO 200.

This is a lens that is designed for discerning photographers who pay attention to all the details. When the shoot requires switching to manual focus, the focus ring is nicely ridged and wide enough for a confident grip with a thumb and index finger, and the rotational resistance is well damped–not too loose, not too stiff. And of course, it is internal focusing, so when a 46mm filter, such as a polarizer, is threaded on, it won’t rotate its angle during any focusing operations.

The telecentric design of the Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN produces images with excellent edge to edge sharpness. This image was shot wide open at F2.8, 1/1250 F2.8 ISO 200.

The linear drive autofocus motor in the Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is exceptionally quiet. Of course, this is great for still shooting without disturbing skittish or sleeping subjects. But it is even more so for capturing HD video with autofocus engaged to keep moving subjects in focus as camera position or your subject move about. In my experiments, in all but the most extremely silent situations, the linear drive autofocus should be imperceptible and indistinguishable from the existing ambient and environmental background noise during video capture. (We’ll be posting some video samples on our YouTube channel in the near future.)

This rather chinny and weatherbeaten fellow stands watch outside a pizza place. Notice the lovely bokeh quality of the small lights in the trees behind the wooden chef. 1/800 F3.2 ISO 200.

The Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is a “standard” lens on both the Micro Four Thirds and the Sony E-Mount systems. When focal length and sensor sizes are taken into account, it is just a touch wider than 50mm on the Sony NEX cameras, and just a touch longer than 50mm on mirrorless interchangable lens cameras from Panasonic and Olympus.

Notice how sharp and crisp the on-focal plane details are, but also how wonderfully shallow the depth of field is when the Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is close-focused. 1/3200 F2.8 ISO 200.

This means that the relationship between objects anywhere within the frame, and anywhere in the fore-, middle-, and background will be very similar to the natural perception of our eyes. There’s neither much in the way of telephoto compression (significantly minimizing the apparent distance between objects) or wide angle forced perspectives (expanding the apparent distance between foreground and background subjects.) The naturally pleasing look of this standard field of view never feels out of style.

Here is another example of close-focusing to highlight nuances of detail. Notice the sharpness in the chalk point and the lovely focal plane falloff in fore- and background. 1/4000 F2.8 ISO 200.

For discerning photographers shooting with Sony E-Mount and Micro Four Thirds cameras the Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN is a great new standard lens for both stills and videos. It combines a rock-solid build, a telecentric “designed-for-digital” optics system for edge-to-edge sharpness, a state-of-the-art linear drive autofocus system for seriously unobtrusive AF adjustments, and seven rounded aperture blades for simply lovely bokeh.

The sensor-shift stabilization of the Olympus E-PL2, combined with the fast F2.8 aperture of the Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN allowed me to make this sharp shot of my daughter’s hand while she slept with a 1/13 shutter speed at ISO 400. With a 5.6 aperture on a kit micro four thirds lens, you’d either have to slow the shutter down to ⅓ second and risk a blurred frame, or crank the ISO to 1600 and add a lot of noise to create an equivalent exposure.

This lens has a classic feel, classic looks, and a very nice price. Some things simply never go out of style.

Comments (6)
  1. Ken says:

    The DN series is just what many of us NEX users needed! Moderate size, moderate aperture, great performance.

    Please continue developing new primes in the DN series. I personally would love to see a 60/2.8 which would give us NEX-7 users a very usable three lens combination.

  2. Stigma says:

    Not only NEX users will love this lens. Micro 4/3 users might find it interesting too. If the sharpness, bokeh and contrast wide open are as good as or better then the legendary Panasonic 20mm f/1.7, this might be a winner. The 19mm unfortunately is not. It’s softer and has lower contrast.

  3. Jim Francis says:

    I am a micro four-thirds user, and a fan of Sigma. So I am delighted you are entering the field. Please continue developing lenses for my Lumix G3, both prime and zoom lenses. How about a good macro?

    Thank you!

  4. JH says:

    Would love to see a m4/3 version of the 18-50mm next 🙂 I have the 30mm and it exceeded my expectations in terms of color, contrast and sharpness.

  5. sonny says:

    This lens convinced me right after I read its reviews. For the price I paid, it was a no brainer. And then I mounted it on my EM5…it did a whole lot more than I expected. Very impressed, I was.

  6. Andy says:

    Sadly this lense is not usable for videorecording, at least on the Sony NEX5… there’s too much and too loud constant rattling noise that gets recorded to the Video. You could use MF of course, but thats no solution. That’s a pity, because it has a great Image Quality in Video too.

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