Pardon the pun, but in the wide world of wide-angle lenses, the usual go-to are lenses from your camera manufacturer. However, third-party lens makers are currently producing some of the highest quality lenses ever from their lineup. In particular, one such lens is the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art.
Sigma’s Art series, especially in prime lens format, has been whipping up a storm offering great optics for the money and solid performers for the working photographer. In this review, we will see what their 30mm lens can offer and if it stands up against the regular contenders in this market.
The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art follows the same design principles as the rest of their line. A simple barrel design with only the essentials needed. The lens barrel is made from thermally stable composite (TSC), not the all-metal construction of other lenses, but still rock solid to hold. The lens is also not fully weatherproofed, but is dust and moisture resistant and has a rubber gasket to keep out the majority of nasty elements.
The rest of the exterior of the lens has a smooth turning focus ring, standard distance scale and an auto and manual focus switch. The lens also comes with a regular shaped hood which is shallow, but substantial enough to reduce lens flare and protect the front element.
The internal workings of the lens consist of an aperture range of f/1.4-f/16, with a 50.7-degree angle of view. Internally the glass consists of nine elements arranged in eight groups, with nine rounded diaphragm blades which should produce nice background blur and rounded highlights. All topped off with a 62mm filter thread and a total weight of 435g.
On the whole, the lens feels very compact and when strapped to a Canon 5D Mark IV, balances very well. At this point, the lens feels like something you could happily carry around all day and enjoy during a full day of shooting.
The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art in Use
As the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art is locked into the 30mm focal length, it’s erring on wide-angle, but also just short of what is considered as a regular walkaround lens. Generally, a 35mm or a 50mm is considered the standard focal lengths, which means the 30mm will give you a slightly wider view of the world. A great solution if you prefer something just a bit wider than a standard focal length.
One big draw of this type of lens is the f/1.4 aperture, which you simply can’t get as wide open as with a zoom lens. This means that it’s a great low-light performer and you can achieve very shallow depths field. This rings true with the Sigma, when set at f/1.4.
The rounded nine-blade diaphragm can produce some wonderfully smooth bokeh when commanded. Also, when shooting in low-light, the extra couple of stops gained from an f/1.4 aperture really makes the difference. Very useful if you’re shooting nighttime images and you want to keep the ISO levels down.
The autofocus in the lens snaps into place quickly and efficiently. Even in low light conditions, there were only a few occasions where there was some focus hunting, but this was really when the lens was presented with near darkness to test its abilities. If you want to swap to manual focusing, there’s plenty of rotation in the focus ring and in live view and mounted on a tripod, a good way to shoot landscape images.
As for overall sharpness, the lens is slightly soft in the corners when fully wide open and stopped down past f/11. Stopping down a little to f/2.2 up to f/11 produces the sharpest results, but even at the extremes it’s still pleasing unless you are really pixel peeping. As for center sharpness, the lens is a great performer across the range.
One characteristic which seems to be the case with the 85mm Art prime from Sigma, is that it suffers from chromatic aberration when fully wide open. This bears out as purple fringing in high contrast areas but reduces dramatically from f/1.8 and above. The effect can be removed or reduced in postprocessing, but depending on the subject matter, it can drop the clarity levels on the overall image if you’re not careful. In many ways, this is the only drawback to this lens.
As for the overall image quality, once you nail the focus, subjects are rendered with a very high degree of detail. Past f/1.8, images are super sharp and have a neutral look, which gives plenty of leeway for experimenting in post-processing. Some lenses can push a little on the saturation or certain colors, but the Sigma gives that little extra edge of quality and very impressive results on the whole.
How Does It Compare?
If you’re Canon user, then a likely alternative would be the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens. This is a great little workhorse lens, lightweight and has many of the features of the Sigma. The Canon has only eight rounded diaphragm blades, with the Sigma having nine, but the Canon is also lighter in weight.
Although the Canon is a great performer, the Sigma has the edge in overall optical quality, but on the flip side, it also costs more. However, if budget is your primary concern, then there is the tried and tested Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM. It can’t compete optically with the Sigma or the previous Canon f/1.4 lens, but it’s great value for money. At 50mm, it will give a more narrow angle of view than a 30mm, but you can’t go wrong with this lens as a cheap and cheerful performer.
|Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art||Canon EF 50mm f/1.4|
|Elements||9 elements/ 8 groups||7 elements/ 6 groups|
|Blade||9 rounded||8 rounded|
The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art on the whole is a fantastic lens, which when stopped down just a little will give you very pleasing and sharp images. It works very well in low light and the very shallow depth of field at f/1.4 can come in very useful for producing dreamy images.
At 30mm, it has plenty of applications, minimal distortion levels and could be a good solution for landscapes to street photography, or anyone who just wants a fast and efficient lens.
The Sigma obviously has a few caveats, such as chromatic aberration when wide open. But in total, you won’t be disappointed with the optical quality. If a 30mm prime is on your shopping list, then the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art is a good choice to shortlist.