Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens Review

Sigma’s range of Contemporary lenses are all about maintaining a balance between size, performance and price. They’re not smaller versions of the Art series lenses, which are meant to deliver the best possible image quality, regardless of size.

With a 55mm filter thread, and weighing 215g ( 7.58 oz) its diminutive size nicely complements the Sony A7/9 series and maybe also the larger Leica SL and Lumix S1 models [advertiser links] for which it has been designed for.

At around £549 / $549 [advertiser links] this all-metal lens is beautifully made. It even comes with a metal hood which is ridged outside for improved grip and baffled on the inside to reduce flare and ghosting.

The lens itself has a ridged metal aperture ring with detents at third-stops, which feels silky-smooth and precise without any play at all. The manual focus ring is also nicely machined and gives a very assurred grip. It feels very fluid though as it’s a small lens it’s quite narrow and similar in width and feel to aperture ring. Not that you’re likely to use the MF ring often, as Sigma has found room for a AF stepper-motor, which on the A7 RIII is fast, smooth and practically silent.

It’s not fully weather-sealed but there is a gasket around the bayonet mount.

Inside it has eight elements arranged in seven groups and while it doesn’t have much in the way of esoteric glass like the Art series, it does have three aspherical elements. Sigma claims the optical design has been optimised to deliver smooth bokeh, with a ‘gradient to a soft blur’ something along the lines of the ‘feathered bokeh’ used in the design of the outstanding Olympus Pro primes. It also has a really usefully short minimum focus distance of just 24cm.

Performance 

Image quality from the Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN | C is very good indeed. Sharpness is good wide open centrally leading to very good the frame across when stopped down.

Some slight spherical aberration is noticeable wide open but that has been left deliberately, much like the older, classic lens designs. Depending on your point of view this either adds to, or masks, the quality of the bokeh but certainly lends to smooth transitions. After all, the double lined edges you sometimes see in highlights are usually found on modern lenses, which is a sign of over-correction (of SA). There’s the slightest hint of that still though, with an additional but slight colour tint that’s sometimes referred to as ‘spherochromatism’ or ‘colour bokeh’.

Some pincushion distortion is noticeable in the upright elements of this scene.

There’s also some pincushion distortion which for a standard or ‘normal’ focal length like this is unusual but likely another of the compromises in the C series. Strangely, it’s not compensated for in the built-in profile which only applies some chromatic aberration correction  – which is mostly absent in images.

Some fringing is apparent though if you zoom in (with purple rearward and cyan towards the front around high-contrast elements) but it’s minimal.

Verdict

Ultra-fast lenses are all good and well but we need more, better quality primes with smaller apertures that are the same (or better) quality as the F1.4 models. This lens goes a long way towards that, but it’s still not quite at the level of excellence of the Art series, understandably. It’s not just the very good optical quality though that appeals, Sigma appears to understand that we photographers want smaller, lighter and better quality lenses. Even thought there’s still some trade-off between price and performance at the initial aperture, perhaps it will be Sigma that takes the lead and offer comparable performance in a smaller form factor. If this lens is anything to go by, it certainly seems like they’re heading in the right direction.

For

Small size
Metal build
Superb image quality
Reasonable price

Against

Thin MF ring
Sony E  Pan/Leica L only

Leave a Reply