You know, if I had been asked to design a travel portrait lens that could also double as a travel anything lens, it would’ve been this lens! I think that combined with the now five additional (24mm F3.5, 35mm F2, 45mm F2.8, 65mm F2, and the new 24mm F2) I series lenses, the new SIGMA 90mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary rounds out an amazing collection of light and durable glass.
Designed specifically for mirrorless cameras, the I series is smaller, lighter, and just as sharp as the rest of SIGMA’s product offerings. Since I normally shoot portraits and macro work, I was super excited to try out this new lens! It’s obviously not a macro lens, however it does do really well as a walk-around-the-gardens lens for flowers and trees! Adding an extension tube to it makes it almost a macro in a pinch. If I were traveling and didn’t want to take my entire camera gear bag with me, the SIGMA 90mm F2.8 DG DN | C would be an amazing lens to cut down on weight and bulk. And it’s easy to see why…
First Impressions of the SIGMA 90mm F2.8 DG DN | C
The look and feel of the SIGMA 90mm F2.8 DG DN | C is exactly in line with the rest of the I series lenses. Its all-metal construction and bright white lettering against sleek black goes amazingly well with my Sony a7R IV camera body.
Because this lens has an entirely metal construction, it feels very durable. I had no problems tossing this lens in a bag and going about my business. I feel like I could throw it down some stairs and it would be totally fine! Because it is built for light weight and small size, the glass components in the lens are also smaller, which for me means there’s less to scratch! I’m the type of person who doesn’t bother much with lens caps or babying my camera gear, so my gear can look a bit well-loved.
The size and weight are the selling points of this lens, hands-down. It’s meant to go with smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras like the Sony Alpha series or the SIGMA fp L. On the front of my Sony, it’s almost barely there. It’s light, and while walking around with it, I felt like I had nothing on me. It’s only slightly larger than my beloved SIGMA 45mm F2.8 DG DN | C.
This entire setup means that I could carry three lenses with me on a hike, and still have my hands free. Since they’re so well built, I have zero concerns about putting them together like that. Side-by-side with my 45mm, you can see that they both fit comfortably in my hand together.
In the box, it comes with the regular front and back caps in plastic, but it also has two somewhat unexpected extra components! It comes with an all-metal lens hood, and a magnetic lens cap! I tell you, the click of the magnetic lens cap is so satisfying! Just POP and it’s on there. Yes please.
Plus the lens hood is metal instead of plastic, which just makes me love this whole setup even more. I feel like it could take a beating and still keep going great! The hood is a great addition, although while I was out shooting with this lens I didn’t feel like I needed it at any point for flare. The lens handles flare beautifully.
Getting a bit of a closer look, you can see that the 90mm F2.8 DG DN | C has a manual aperture ring like the rest of the I series lenses. I love this because it’s so tactile. The lens ring clicks at every stop so you know how many times you’ve moved it, and it just feels nice holding it. The lens also has a focus switch on the barrel, so that you can use this lens with autofocus, or you can focus manually with the precise focus-by-wire system.
This lens test fell during a week that I actually had quite a few different types of portrait sessions booked, so I was able to take the 90mm F2.8 DG DN | C with me and give it quite a test! I had a high school senior, two maternity sessions, and a ballerina dance session. I brought it along to those portrait sessions, and I also brought it to the botanical gardens with me while I was out shooting macro pictures of flowers.
The first thing that I noticed is that it’s fast and reliable to focus, and utterly silent. And I mean utterly silent. I heard absolutely nothing from this lens the entire time I was shooting with it. I could definitely get used to that! The eye-AF is quick and on point every time, just confirming its use as a perfect portrait lens. Even animal eye-AF is just as fast and reliable.
It’s quick to focus in every instance. I didn’t have to worry about action with a high school senior or my maternity clients, but I definitely did have to worry about focus speed and responsiveness with my dancer that I had scheduled. I didn’t have any problems with the lens being too slow to catch her in the air.
The second thing I noticed was the lens character itself. I am a complete nut about my color, and occasionally in lenses I’ve used in the past, I have had a difficult time processing the color afterwards. I will absolutely get rid of anything in my camera bag that can’t handle highlights or backlight well. The SIGMA 90mm F2.8 DG DN | C doesn’t have any of those problems. It is bright and yet not blown out, it is crisp and yet not crunchy, it’s smooth and yet not soft, and just plain all-around lovely. It doesn’t struggle in the highlights and shadows especially on overcast days.
It also doesn’t have an overly warm or cool tone, which is a huge advantage when working with other lenses. You don’t want each lens that you use to have a different color cast. The bokeh is smooth, without the crunchy or swirly artifacts you can sometimes get in other F2.8 lenses. 90mm is the perfect portrait length as well. I really enjoy the amount of what is in focus in each frame.
Overall Thoughts on the 90mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary
Overall I am very impressed with the SIGMA 90mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary. It’s fast, it’s reliable, it gives amazing quality color and sharpness, and it’s tiny! It worked beautifully for every test I gave it. While I didn’t actually throw it down the stairs, I definitely feel like it would hold up to anything else I did to it.
This lens and the rest of the I series really does embody the feeling of “everyday lenses” while still keeping the quality of every image high and the enjoyment of using the camera for something more than just taking pictures. I can take pictures with my phone, but carrying a camera is different and the images should look different. This lens just feels nice in hand, on the camera, and the images are amazing.
Having spent some time shooting with the SIGMA fp L, I think that these two would be seriously the perfect pair. A camera and lens combination that has the functionality of a mirrorless full-frame camera and yet is small enough to fit in one hand. The advantages for street photography would be big. I would definitely take the fp L and the rest of the I series for traveling.
And no matter what camera you have (this lens is available for E-mount and L-mount systems), this would be an amazing portrait lens where weight and size would be a consideration. I definitely could see adding it to my bag as a wedding photographer if I needed to pack a small bag for a destination wedding.
I very much enjoyed this lens and would recommend it to anyone who wants a small, weightless, compact portrait lens. What would you use it for?
Hoping so much for a Sigma I series contemporary in 135mm f/2.8 . Yes a 3.2 might be lighter and I’d take a 3.2 yes (.2) . I’d prefer the f/2.8 for my low light work but could maybe make a 3.2 pass .
I believe I’m going to get the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 over this 90 because of the speed and my low light video work .
I need light and small with a big light path . These don’t go hand in hand . Thank god for the 12,800 on my Sony a7siii.