Lens Guides

First Look: SIGMA 35mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens

SIGMA is getting very good at reading my mind. In the very recent past they have introduced three mirrorless zoom lenses (14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art, 24-70mm F2.8 DG DN | Art and 100-400mm DG DN | Contemporary), which were exactly what I needed as a working professional photographer to handle just about any assignment. Then they added the perfect portrait lens (85mm F1.4 DG DN | Art). And then they added the perfect macro lens (105mm F2.8 DG DN | Art).

What else was on my mind, SIGMA? You guessed it… compact prime lenses designed specifically for full-frame mirrorless cameras. Smaller, lighter and more economical than their DSLR counterparts… but just as sharp.

Specifically designed for L-mount and Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, the 24mm F3.5 DG DN | Contemporary, the 35mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary and the 65mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary are part of SIGMA’s new I series of lenses. Think “Innovative” and “Impressive”. These all-metal lenses borrow their design from the 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary lens that received rave reviews, as well as SIGMA’s line of cine lenses.

As I unboxed my new 35mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary lens, it became obvious how well the all-metal lens complimented my Sony camera. It has a classic, retro look, featuring a manual aperture ring and tough metal lens hood.

There was also something extra in the box — in addition to the familiar plastic lens cap, there was a metal lens cap that attaches to the front of the lens magnetically. And as someone who is always forgetting where I put my lens cap, the optional magnetic lens cap holder (with a handy carabiner clip) is another useful accessory.

But, of course, looks aside, the real test is how well this lens performs. I’m not the type of photographer that is going to put this lens through bench tests and give you a lot of numbers and graphs about lens performance. There are experts to do that. For me, I need to hit the streets and see in real life what it can produce.

The 35mm focal length has always been a versatile workhorse in my stable of lenses, one that can easily go from landscapes to portraits to group photos. My first chance to put the lens to use was while watching the sun come up from a local park. My first idea was to capture a long peninsula with silhouetted trees (see above), but then a little piece of rock art caught my eye (below). I framed the rising sun inside the opening in the rocks for a dramatic silhouette. This was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the manual aperture ring to bracket my exposure. The ring has a firm click at each 1/3 f-stop setting as well as being able to click into full automatic mode.

The lens seemed a perfect fit for my Sony camera as I walked around my local downtown area. Because the lens is smaller and lighter, it is easy to carry around, or even slip into your jacket pocket. Meeting a friend for coffee led to an impromptu portrait session in a local coffee house. I love using a 35mm for a wide portrait, positioning the subject to one side of the frame and letting the environment fill in the other side. Eye AF locked on and quickly followed the movement of Jessie’s eyes as I had her change positions. But the real thrill of this lens was seeing how incredible the sharpness was. At F2 her eyes were both in focus and piercingly sharp, while the background dropped off to a beautiful, creamy blur. The rounded nine-blade diaphragm does an incredible job with bokeh.

Autofocus with this little lens is quick and accurate. I panned a few passing cars and focus easily locked on and tracked them in dim light. And the lens takes advantage of the built-in image stabilization of my Sony camera.

Manual focus is focus by wire. Coupled with the manual focus magnification in my camera, it was smooth and easy to focus on stars to capture a star trail image from my back yard.

As a regular user of both E-mount and L-mount lenses, this is a definite addition to my camera bag. The 35mm focal length is very versatile. And don’t let the small size fool you… this lens is built to professional standards, and with its all-metal construction, it is built to last. And most importantly in my final analysis… the SIGMA 35mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary is so sharp it can be used for any work assignment a client hands me.

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