One of the best ways to kickstart my creativity when I’m exploring a city is to try a new focal length lens. That change from a zoom lens to a prime, or from my favorite 35mm lens to, say, the SIGMA 20mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary I series lens, pushes me to look at the world in a new, wider perspective. And for me, a 20mm prime is actually an old friend, being one of my favorite lenses when I started out as a photojournalist.
I have always been naturally drawn to telephoto lenses, so in contrast, a 20mm lens forced me to get closer and more intimate with what was before me, and I soon learned that such a wide lens — even if it might create some distortion on the sides — was more than a lens for just photographing a scene as wide as I could. I learned to put my subject off-center at times, so as to emphasize it more than just include it in the composition.
The latest 20mm on the block
So it was surprise as well as pleasure when SIGMA announced a new 20mm I series lens in early 2022. I mention it specifically as an I series lens because it is part of a subset of SIGMA Contemporary line lenses that have very unique features.
The seven lenses in that series are all-metal construction. They include a manual aperture ring (as well as the convenient “A” automatic setting). And the I series are designed to take advantage of the latest lens technology for mirrorless cameras (available in Sony E-mount and L-Mount).
But, full disclosure, as an older photographer that at times reminisces about the early days, I really love the retro look. While a technical reviewer might be more concerned with the special glass elements and coatings, I just love the way it looks on my cameras.
Seeing the streets through the SIGMA 20mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary
Of course, what counts is performance. I had the privilege of putting the lens through its paces as photojournalist might. But the most fun was walking the streets of Chicago and capturing the city, the people and the streets.
My 20mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary lens was mounted on a 61-megapixel SIGMA fp L camera, giving me a conveniently small paring to carry around in my coat pocket. To immerse myself in my personal retro feeling of street photography, I shot in RAW and set my Tone to black and white. This allowed me to stay in “street mode” when I checked a capture on the rear LCD, while also having the ability to create a color image while in post production.
Of course, street photography doesn’t have to be captured in a big city or just in black and white. Sometimes that moment you want to capture needs to be in color. And you can find those moments even in the town you live in, like this photo of my friend Sarah against a huge floral mural in Oshkosh, WI.
Would I recommend it?
Absolutely. The SIGMA 20mm F2 DG DN | Contemporary lens handled great on the street in Chicago, being sharp, versatile and small enough to have camera and lens easily fit into my coat pocket. I didn’t crop any of the images so I could illustrate how sharp this lens is edge to edge, but one of the advantages of a lens this wide is that you can crop when you need to.
Another advantage I found was that despite its extremely wide angle of view, the lens takes normal 62mm filters. No more large lens filter adapters and expensive glass plate filters needed.
The best recommendation I can give about this lens? I pre-ordered one before it was released, and I can’t wait for my next trip to a big city to use it.