Prime lenses make up the bulk of my tools — I am driven by creamy bokeh and extremely shallow depths of field, a love that started the minute I was exposed to a wide aperture. I can never have too many fixed lenses, and I am always on the hunt for more.
But in this pursuit of speedy optics comes the caveat of weight and size to support the glass inside… and with much of the world (including myself) hopping onto the mirrorless camera train, the idea of “small and powerful” has been deeply implanted in the mind. With cameras a fraction of the size they were, all of us photographers have been eagerly hoping for the same design to be implemented in our primes to nicely balance out the shape and form of mirrorless camera bodies.
Lo and behold my ecstaticism upon being given the news that SIGMA has revealed the 65mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary lens, along with several other I series lenses that offer all-metal construction and are small, fast, high-quality, and frankly, good looking. To be sent one for testing is even better! With my other SIGMA lenses all sporting pristine sharpness and great native communication, I held high expectations for this little guy.
The unboxing itself presented some qualities that I had not previously seen in lenses of this caliber before. Already taken by the small size of the box before even unpacking, removing each component enthused me even more as the lens really is teeny. I cannot elaborate on this point more… most of us are used to some pretty big prime lenses at focal lengths that surround 65mm (such as the 50mm and the 70mm), and here we are with a 65mm that is so petite.
In removing the usual suspects — the instruction manual, lens, and lens hood — there was another small packet in there. Hidden within a white slip is an odd little circle I hadn’t seen included with lenses before. I could have read the manual to figure this out, but I didn’t, and an unseen force immediately compelled me to see what happens when this component comes in contact with the front of the lens…
Boom, it’s a magnetic lens cap. Surprise! I hadn’t even considered such a thing before, and it was the little satisfying clink I had been missing in my photographer life. Instead of doing the usual pinch and release, the magnetic cap made this lens quicker to the draw for spontaneous images.
Now, bullet points on first impressions:
- Small and lightweight
This might be a situation in which the camera is actually heavier than the lens itself. I paired the lens with my Sony A7R IV, and the balance was superb.
- Feels significant and durable (despite the small size)
Small is associated with fragile, and this lens breaks the mold because it does not feel like it will shatter in your grip. Metal, all metal!
- Physically brilliant
The black is sleek, with the white lettering crisp. The ergonomic design makes this lens intuitively comfortable.
- The usual (favorite) suspects are all there
This lens includes an aperture ring on the lens itself, easy autofocus / manual focus adjustment, and a tactile focus ring with a smooth spin.
I think 65mm is another one of those focal lengths that flies under the radar for many photographers, often living in the shadows of the 70mm or 85mm lengths. Even when using the commonly beloved 24-70mm F2.8 lens, I find myself at 65mm without even realizing it. Being presented with a fixed 65mm brings you to the realization that you could have been using this focal length all this time for a large variety of reasons.
I started off with a quick stroll with my dog around the neighborhood. The small size demands such a use, being so easy to throw in any sort of purse, backpack or camera bag (it even fits into my waist bag, funny enough). The local scenery doesn’t tend to be overly exciting, but the wide aperture helps make any location eye-catching.
Animal Eye AF suffered no issue, it was a quick and easy snap. The low weight of the lens made getting both lower and higher vantage points a real breeze as well. To be frank, there were times when I forgot that I had a camera strapped to my body because of its discreet size and lack of heavy-ness.
Although my home of Los Angeles is known for its perpetual summer, we do have some plant life that can remind us that seasons actually do change throughout the year. Our walk brought us to a tree that changed to rich reds and oranges — a disservice to walk past and not photograph. The shallow F2 aperture is pretty perfect for subject separation, and I found that the lens delivers very clear colors. Notice a trend in my love for wide apertures?
Equally for fun, the pine tree growing behind me gave an epic opportunity to showcase just how detailed this lens can be. Right in the focus point, everything is tremendously clear, with the rest offering a very smooth bokeh fall off.
That being said, let’s be honest… I want to use this lens to capture people. One of the grand benefits of a 65mm focal length is that it’s just long enough for you to not be involved in what’s happening — you’re not influencing the moment, you’re just taking what’s there. I like the candid nature of that. Once more, the F2 aperture allows plenty of light to hit the sensor, creamy bokeh, but still a deep enough focus plane to capture the most important features, such as your subject’s entire face. My boyfriend barely noticed my being there to capture these moments of his daily routine, practicing the guitar.
This lens is a gorgeous piece of glass. As I mentioned earlier, my expectations were high based on other SIGMA lenses in my possession, and this one didn’t disappoint in the least. I haven’t needed to move a Clarity or Sharpen slider up in my editing software at all, each image is already crisp and detailed as is. And it provides beautiful native communication with the camera’s focusing system, ensuring you get all the fancy AF features you paid for.
To me, the greatest beauty of the SIGMA 65mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary is that it truly is a wonderful companion. You want a lens that becomes a reliable friend to count on when the right image comes about. This nifty 65mm can so easily ride along in a bag with me or sit on the edge of my desk, ready to capture any moment with ease — and knowing its sharpness and accuracy, I can spend more time focusing on photographing and less on being concerned as to whether that moment will actually be well documented with the gear within my reach.