Field Test: Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for Micro Four-thirds

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

sigma30mm-2You may have seen my postFirst Impressions: Sigma’s 30mm f/1.4 DC DN lens” and if not, you want to bounce back and take a read because it has the technical detail about this lens. Sigma’s 30mm f/1.4 lens ($339) is designed for Micro Four-thirds cameras as well as Sony’s E mount and since it arrived a week or so ago I stuck it on a Panasonic Lumix GX85 and took it with me wherever I ventured forth into Colorado’s most beautiful fall weather.

One of the first things I did with the lens was take it to Parker’s O’Brien Park where I made a photograph of the gazebo that seems to be a right-of-passage with any new lens that I test. Next I wanted to give it the classic brick wall test. To aid in consistency I always use the same brick wall of what looks like perfectly laid brick on an old bank building in Old Town Parker. And here’s what I found: Even wide open at f/1.4, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN lens is crisply sharp from edge to edge, which is not something you expect to find in a fast lens, especially one that’s so modestly priced at $339.

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mary-night-30mmWith its fast aperture, I decided to give the lens an extreme low light test and again went to O’Brien Park, this time at night, where I made a photograph of Mary near one of the many sculptures that populate Old Town Parker. The “Frankenstein” lighting produced by the light coming from beneath the subject, probably isn’t the most flattering to her but with some light retouching, it’s not too bad. (At least, I don’t think so.)

The camera used was a Lumix GX85 with the 30mm f/1.4 DC DN lens with an exposure of 1/15 sec at f/2 and ISO 800. As a side note, I also made images of Mary during this nighttime shoot using a flippy mirror camera with no image stabilization and shot at 1600 ISO. Here, I took Mark’s advice (ignoring my own) and used Auto ISO and got sharp images at 1/15 sec while the flippy mirror camera had problems with only 10% of its image were acceptably sharp. All of the images made with the image stabilized Lumix GX85 and Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN lens were sharp.

I would not call Sigma’s 30mm f/1.4 lens a portrait lens although it produced a heckuva nice portrait, especially under these lighting conditions. What I would call it is an extremely versatile lens whose combination of fast aperture, reasonable size and price point make it an all-round practical lens for mirrorless (Sony and Micro Four-thirds) to make all kinds of photographs under all kinds of lighting conditions.

It is a rare lens or camera that I hate to return, having fallen in love with it. The first time this happened was when testing the Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 ASPH Mega OIS lens. It had everything including legendary build quality and image sharpness, image stabilization in a compact size. Alas it was expensive—$797.99— remains unobtainable for now. The second lens is Sigma’s 30mm f/1.4 DC DN lens for many of the same reasons and while it may lack the build quality of the Leica lens, it’s still pretty darn good plus it is also very affordable.

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Barry and Joe are co-authors of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s currently out-of-print but while new (non Prime) copies are available for $19.95 plus shipping, you can purchase used copies at giveaway prices—less than seven bucks—from Amazon.