Tips & How-Tos

Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary: Hands-On First Look Review

The Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary lens is the second in the series of fast-aperture prime lenses designed specifically for Micro Four Thirds and Sony e-Mount mirrorless cameras. This bright F1.4 prime equates to a 24mm F1.4 lens on the Sony e-Mount system thanks to the 1.5x APS-C crop factor, and is the first wide angle lens for this system to offer this focal length and aperture.  On Micro Four Thirds cameras with a 2X crop factor, it equates to a 32mm F1.4 lens. And it is just a flat-out great optic for these systems!

The Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN | C is a great lightweight, fast-aperture wide prime for mirrorless cameras. Ideal for travel and documentary photography, this economical optic is a winner. For the photos in this article, it is paired with the Olympus OMD-E5, for a 32mm F1.4 equivalence. This pony was captured at 1/2000 F2.2 ISO 200.

I’ve had the Micro Four Thirds sample for a few days now, and offer up this first look, hands-on mini-review with a variety of image samples of the lens paired with an Olympus OMD-E5. In a nutshell: this is a great, economical, fast-aperture prime wide angle lens for mirrorless cameras. The lens is super-sharp, the stepping motor provides swift, quiet autofocus, and it feels great in the hands and is right-sized for the systems it pairs with.

I stopped down to F71. to get unlimited depth of field along the water’s edge on the Brooklyn side of the Verranzano Narrow Bridge. 1/500 F7.1 ISO 200.

I’m impressed with this lens wide open at F1.4 for subject isolation shallow depth of field, and stopped down, it is edge-to-edge sharp from here to infinity. The focus ring offers great grip to balance the lens and is very responsive when switching over the manual focus.

Looking up at the columns and entrance of the Somerset County Courthouse. 1/2500 F6.3 ISO 200.
Since this is a prime, I had to physically walk farther from the building to recompose this looser shot showing the whole dome and statue. Again at 1/2500 F6.3 ISO 200.

For the most part, I shoot with the OMD-E5 through the eye-finder, but I did use the LCD for a couple of high- and low-angle shots. Single-shot Focus locks very swiftly in most lighting conditions with decent contrast and tracking focus was dead-on in both my still and video experiments, and most importantly, the AF motor is unobtrusive, and does its job to keep focus moving well below the ambient noise levels in all but the most sterile of audio environments. This isn’t meant to be the end-all set of images with the lens, but is a sampling of my first week in a variety of situations to give the lens a performance run-through. I’ll be adding some holiday lights bokeh shots early next week.

I stopped down to F6.3 to keep the entire bike in focus along one of my favorite local trails. This lens is nice and sharp from edge to edge. 1/640 F6.3 ISO 200.
I had to hold my camera over my head and tilt the LCD to focus on the words “Winter Wonderland” on the Santa’s Mailbox sign in the foreground. The tree is about 20 to 30 paces from the sign. 1/4000 F2.0 ISO 200.
Peeling birch bark at F5.0 to give just enough DOF to keep most of the trunk and paper-thin bark in the focus zone. 1/1000 F5.0 ISO 200.
I’m stopped down to just F2.8 here for a bit more depth of field to keep both sides of the mural box fully in focus. This lens in crisp and sharp! 1/4000 F2.8 ISO 200
I’m shooting directly into the morning sun here. Flare and ghosting is very well controlled. I cranked up the vibrance and opened up the shadows in Adobe Camera Raw here. 1/4000 F5.6 ISO 200
The LED headlights and foglamps of an X1 are just a few feet from the lens, and at F7.1, there’s great starburst effects, and minimal flare and ghosting 1/5 F7.1 ISO 200 on a tripod. (License plate partially cloned.)

The nine rounded aperture blades make the images from this sharp, fast, wide prime shine and create great background blur when wide open, and create pleasant starbursts when stopped down. The lens just feels good in the hands, and with the 32mm field of view on the Olympus OMD-E5, the overall experience is very similar to pairing the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art with a full-frame camera; but in a much more compact package for top-quality imaging with a smaller footprint than a big full-frame kit.

The compact design of this fast prime fits perfectly with the smaller sized cameras it is designed to pair with. My seven year old daughter made this shot of me in a backyard leaf pile. She’s a big fan of this mirrorless lens and camera set-up! 1/500 F1.4 ISO 800.

All in all, the 16mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary packs a lot of performance into an economical, compact package for Sony E-Mount and Micro Four Thirds photographers.

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