As an outdoor photographer, most of my lenses are larger zoom lenses with a diverse focal range, perfect for a variety of subjects from downhill skiers to distant mountain goats. But every now and then, a nice, compact prime lens finds its way into my kit. This time, it was the SIGMA 24mm F3.5 DG DN | Contemporary lens, one of the compact, all-metal, full-frame primes in SIGMA’s new I series.
I really enjoy shooting with wide-angle lenses, as they are great at telling the story by showing the “big picture”. In fact, I use the 24mm focal length in particular quite often for travel, landscape, action sports, or any time I want to include a lot of the scene in my shot.
As I was loading up my backcountry pack for a day on the mountain recently, I pulled the new 24mm F3.5 DG DN | C out of the box, just in time for some wide-angle action on the slopes. My immediate thought was “Wow, it’s so small and light!” So tiny, in fact, that it almost disappeared when I dropped in into my cavernous MindShift Backlight Elite 45L pack.
As it rolled easily in the palm of my hand, I noticed a few other features. All-metal construction… nice, this is built to last. Rubber gasket on the mount to keep out moisture… excellent for us outdoor photographers. And of course, a manual aperture ring with its positive “click” that harkens back to the days of slow films and handheld light meters. All in all, small, light, durable and packable. Now let’s see how it performs in the field.
A Very Compact, Solidly-Built, Wide-Angle Lens
I don’t think I can really emphasize enough just how small I found this lens to be. My regular kit includes numerous F2.8 zooms, and in comparison the 24mm F3.5 DG DN | C is absolutely tiny! It feels more like a micro four-thirds lens than a full-frame prime! But as light as it is, SIGMA did not skimp on build quality, and it shows. It just feels absolutely solid in the hand. Same for the lens hood, which is also all-metal and built to last.
Going back to build quality… I was glad to see that the lens also has a rubber gasket to help keep out moisture. The all-metal body and metal hood are also hallmarks of a high-quality lens. One that will withstand the elements and the rigors of heavy shooting and last you a very long time.
As I mentioned earlier, the lens features a manual aperture ring. The ring has a nice feel and solid click at every 1/3 stop. This gave the lens a fun “throwback” feel and I enjoyed the tactile experience. There is also an AF/MF switch for those times when you want to focus manually. And that leads me to the manual focus ring itself. It’s built in as a single piece (no rubber ring ) and is extremely smooth. And while all these manual options are fantastic, you can always put the 24mm F3.5 DG DN | C in A (automatic) mode when you want to control the aperture from the camera.
The lens also has a unique feature that will really come in handy for street and travel shooters… the magnetic lens cap and its corresponding optional magnetic holder that clips right to your photo pack. No more searching for that lens cap in every pocket when an impromptu shot materializes in front of your lens!
Excellent Optical and Technical Performance with Mirrorless Cameras
The autofocus of the SIGMA 24mm F3.5 DG DN | C was quick and accurate. It worked very well in both servo and single shot modes. In servo mode, I was able to track my athlete (in this case, a downhill skier) as he moved quickly down the mountain. And in single shot mode, the lens was able to focus accurately right on the ultra-bright snow without hunting… which is something of a challenge for some lenses.
Optically, the lens is nice and sharp as you would expect, with multiple aspherical elements and SLD glass. This gave images crisp contrast and essentially perfect color rendition. Lens flare is well controlled, and I had no issues shooting into the sun at any aperture. The seven rounded aperture blades and small F22 minimum aperture means that you can create beautiful starbursts at any time.
Close focus distance is also really impressive! In fact you can get an impressive 1:2 magnification with the subject just 4+ inches away from the lens! This is really handy and can make for some great shots either isolating the subject or for near/far perspective shots.
Conclusion: A Full-Frame, Wide-Angle Lens That Fits Everywhere
The SIGMA 24mm F3.5 DG DN | Contemporary is an ultra-compact lens with premium optics and useful features. And the price is also pretty light on the wallet. So who is this lens for? I think travel photographers will love the small size, light weight and durability, for sure. Backcountry landscape photogs will love it for the same reasons. I also think street shooters will dig it for its low-profile nature.
Really, I think anyone looking for a full-frame, high-quality prime that’s small and light and don’t mind skipping the extreme speed of a huge-aperture lens will really love the SIGMA 24mm F3.5 DG DN | Contemporary.
DISCLOSURE: In addition to his role as a SIGMA Ambassador, Liam also has a partnership with Think Tank.