Ever since Canon introduced the EOS M mirrorless camera system in 2012, a small, but growing fan base has been asking SIGMA to craft lenses for this emerging platform.
I, for one, love these little cameras. I own the EOS M50, and it has become my go-to camera for travel, family outings, hiking and casual telephoto work. It’s small, light, comfortable, easy to use, and thanks to the swiveling screen it’s great for group photos and selfies. Autofocus is fast enough for most situations, and the controls are familiar and straightforward. Put simply, it’s a joy to use. But I, and many other fans of this system have been craving compact, fast-aperture primes for the promising EF-M mount that, until now, had yet to surface.
Enter SIGMA and their trio of F1.4 prime lenses! The SIGMA 16mm, 30mm and 56mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary (meaning it’s designed for crop-sensor, mirrorless cameras) lenses, which have been quite popular on crop-sensor Sony and Micro Four Thirds systems, are also available for Canon EOS M cameras (UPDATE: and now FUJIFILM X Mount and Nikon Z Mount!).
Considering a crop factor of 1.6x, these lenses have equivalent focal lengths of approximately 26mm, 48mm and 90mm when mounted on EOS M cameras, covering your wide, normal and portrait fields of view. Thanks to the wide open maximum aperture, they are incredibly useful in low light situations, helping to keep noise to a minimum (which is frankly a bit of an issue on many existing EOS M models). Not only that, but the lenses offer gorgeous, natural-looking bokeh, and they’re all very reasonably priced.
I recently packed this collection of lenses for a day trip to the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train Show, in which dozens of carefully-constructed New York City landmarks (made entirely out of natural materials like sticks, leaves and nuts) would be on display alongside festive little electric trains running laps around the venue. In this environment, the super-fast DC DN lenses would be lifesavers since the entire presentation would be sparsely lit by strings of white-ish Christmas lights, a few VERY YELLOW incandescent spotlights, and whatever fleeting daylight that could make its way through the sides of the tent.
16mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary
The SIGMA 16mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary is the largest lens of the trio, but perhaps the most useful overall, especially in a cramped setting like this, with dozens of people crowding around each section of the exhibit. Thanks to the wide focal length, I was able to snap some very detailed photos of famous NYC buildings in all their woody glory, and in the garden sections of the venue, I could take photos from interesting angles and perspectives. Yes, I could have achieved the same angle of view with my pack-in zoom lens, but with this prime, I could shoot at a much lower f-stop, keeping my ISO as low as possible to avoid the inevitable noise that would usually muddy up the details.
30mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary
I know I literally just wrote that the 16mm was the most useful lens of the three, but with its “normal” equivalent focal length of 48mm, the 30mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary was actually attached to my camera most of the time. Sharp, lightweight, and enough background separation at lower f-stops to produce some seriously sweet images, from the train show to the (very humid) gardens. This is the most affordable lens of the three, kind of a “nifty fifty” if you will… a standard focal length that produces natural-looking images, much like the ones shot on every film SLR camera for generations.
The big difference between this “standard” lens and the bundled primes of old is the amazing close focusing distance of just 11.8 inches, meaning you can shoot closeups, too! This purple lily was just inches away, but it fills the frame with color and detail, and at f/1.4, the background just melts away. This lens is an outstanding value, and a must-have for any EOS M shooter.
56mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary
If you’re shooting portraits on an EOS M camera, your lens options are very limited. For that classic, 85mm-or-greater look, you either use the 55-200mm zoom or you adapt a larger EF lens, and neither route is ideal. SIGMA’s 56mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary is incredibly compact, razor sharp, and that background blur… MWAAHHH!! This is the type of lens that keeps one from upgrading to a full-frame camera. I really don’t want to oversell it, but you can seriously shoot terrific portraits in virtually any lighting without even trying. Random picture in a greenhouse? BAM! Spur-of-the-moment candid at the kitchen table? KAPOW!! You’ll be shooting your friends’ new profile pictures on a daily basis with this thing.
Of course, this focal length also comes in handy to give depth and atmosphere to otherwise static subjects. During the train show, I used the 56mm to capture the details of otherwise overlooked areas, like the clock outside the New York Botanical Garden or the back end of a passing model train.
The DC DN F1.4 Trio Overall
Quite honestly, there’s little about these three lenses to complain about. Mounted on EOS M or Sony crop sensor (A6000, A6400, etc.) cameras, they hit those three essential focal lengths that photographers have been relying on for decades. They have an ultra-wide max aperture for use in low light, plus deliciously-smooth bokeh. They’re light enough to carry an entire essential lens set in a single, slim bag. Build quality is exceptional. The manual focusing rings are big, easy-to-grip, and turn smoothly. What’s not to love?
Full disclosure! Yeah… I work for SIGMA. But I’m a photographer first, and these three lenses allow me to create the images I really want on a camera body that, quite frankly, I wasn’t sure about keeping long term. Now, with these compact, quality primes, my little “travel” camera can finally hang with my full-frame gear, and I’ll have a lot more frame-worthy shots to share with my family and friends.
In this case, good things definitely come in threes!