This is the first reference lens in range of Sigma lenses designed exclusively for 24×36 sensor hybrids, the Sigma 45mm F/2.8 DG DN Contemporary delivers its full potential from the very beginning. And this is not only its quality but other cool features as well. In this review article we’ll discuss its main features, ergonomics and the ground photographic capabilities.
- Mount: Sony E, Leica L.
- Maximum Covered Format: 24×36.
- Actual Focal Length: 45 mm.
- Maximum Aperture: f/2.8.
- Minimum Opening: f/22.
- Reproduction Ratio: 0.25X.
Compatibility: Announced in early summer, the Sigma 45 2.8 is one of the three lenses in the DG DN range designed specifically for hybrids with 24×36 sensors. It comes in two mounts (FE for Sony hybrids, or L for Leica, Panasonic and Sigma cases). It can therefore be associated with a Leica SL, Panasonic S1, S1R and future S1H as well as Sigma FP when available.
Lens Construction: This Sigma lens is made from 8 elements divided into 7 groups, but Sigma does not specify whether among them are lenses made of special glass or aspheric shape, but we found it (see image). It is nevertheless known that the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary is equipped with a circular diaphragm with 7 slats and that its maximum opening is limited to f/2.8. A choice that allows it to remain compact and lightweight and embodies the “search for balance”, the leitmotif of the contemporary range.
Design Details: Its minimum focusing distance drops to 24 cm, which offers a maximum growth ratio of 0.25x. Made of chromed brass, its bayonet has a seal, but no other has been placed at the barrel. The lens has a diaphragm adjustment ring and comes with a sun visor.
In L-mount, it comes to fill a certain lack of compact and light weight lenses at the low price and will present itself in a certain way as an alternative to the Panasonic’s Pro 50 mm F1.4 sold for $2,500 whose weight of 955 gm and the 13 cm long impose. Leica does little better in terms of compactness with the 750 gm and 102 mm APO-Summicron-SL 35 mm f/2 ASPH and APO-Summicron-SL 50 mm f/2 ASPH. As for the pre-existing Sigma range, it is also quite cumbersome since it is the adaptation of the f/1.4 Art aperture lenses of the reflex range; for example, the 40 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art already weighs 1200 gm in its SLR version and the 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art 910 gm.
In Sony mount the competition is more important, although only one reference offers an identical focal length with the Samyang AF 45 mm f/1.8 FE. Facing the Sigma 45 mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary, we can still oppose the Zeiss Sonnar FE 35 mm f/2.8 ZA, Distagon FE 35 mm f/1.4 za or Planar FE 50 mm f/1.4 ZA, Sony FE 35 mm f/1.8, FE 50 mm f/1.8 or Macro FE 50 mm f/2.8, or Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.4 FE, AF 35 mm f/2.8 FE or AF 50 mm f/1.4 FE. More anecdotally, we could also mention the Voigtlander Nokton 40 mm f/1.2 E, compact and brighter, but devoid of auto-focus.
Ergonomics of Sigma 45mm F/2.8 DG DN Contemporary
With its 46 mm long and only 215 gm weight, the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary first seduced us by its compactness and lightness, even if it does not break a record in this matter. Shorter than the Samyang AF 45 mm F/1. 8 FE, it is slightly heavier despite its lower brightness. Nothing exceptional therefore for a Sony hybrid owner, but the performance remains honorable and the lens very convenient to carry.
In L-mount, its characteristics are much more interesting because the optical range is now more limited. This 45 mm f/2.8 is therefore the lightest.
Its design is quite different from that of the latest models presented by Sigma. Made of metal, it inspires confidence and solidity while its look gives it a retro side. Its diaphragm opening ring is notched by 1/3 diaph with a firm mechanics very pleasant to use. If you prefer to adjust the aperture via the camera wheels, you can of course set to position A. On the other hand, and contrary to what the future 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art should offer, it is not possible to remove clicks to have a continuous and fluid adjustment in video.
On the front, the lens has a fairly narrow manual focus ring. It is in relief and will certainly fit very well with a video follow focus. However, we could not test this configuration. It is easy to access and offers a good grip, provided you do not install the sun visor. With this, the ring is more complicated to handle. Nevertheless, its friction remains very good and gives it a good adjustment precision. Sigma did not provide a stop at its ends, nor a distance scale, but the latter being automatically displayed in the viewfinder of the Sony or Panasonic hybrids, this point cannot be considered a defect.
Similarly, the lack of stabilization cannot be considered as a defect since most of the devices for which the lens is intended are equipped with it.
On the side, there is a focus mode selector that allows you to quickly switch to manual, while the lens allows manual touch-up of the point in auto-focus mode.
Sigma does not specify whether the lens has seals. It seems that only the Mount has such protection. This potential vulnerability could be the main flaw of the lens. Use in the rain or in conditions of very heavy dust should be avoided as a precaution.
Finally, note that the sun visor is supplied with the lens. It does not have a lock button, but its fastening is reliable and strong. Made of metal, like the rest of the lens, its design is not very modern, but its efficiency is quite satisfactory.
Ground Test & Performance Review
Obviously, a fixed focus cannot have the versatility of a zoom and this 45mm will not be able to adapt to all types of subjects. Its focal length is not the most common on the market and falls between the 35mm appreciated for street photography and the 50mm considered the normal focal length of the 24×36 system, which often have the advantage of being very bright and inexpensive. This 45 mm then offers an in-between.
If we consider the glass half empty, we will regret its very average brightness of f/2.8. There is no less bright model than this and the standard is rather at the opening f/1.8 for the cheapest models and f/1.4 or even f/1.2 for the brightest. But this average opening is certainly the price to pay to enjoy a good compactness.
The circular diaphragm with seven slats of the lens combined with its optical design nevertheless allow to obtain a nice bokeh whose shape in the center is perfectly circular and that does not suffer from the phenomenon of onion-rings. At full opening, the edges are slightly cat-eye but the phenomenon disappears as soon as one closes the diaphragm of a notch.
Vignetting is visible at full opening without damaging the field to a harmonious rendering. It becomes very discreet at f/4 and disappears completely at f/5.6.
Geometry side, nothing to complain about. There is no distortion, which will allow this lens to be used in architecture or for photographing geometric subjects.
Another highlight is its close focus at only 26 cm allowing it to reach a maximum growth ratio of 0.25x. It is 45 centimeter on the Samyang AF 45 mm F/1.8 FE, 40 cm on the Panasonic Lumix s Pro 50 mm f/1.4 or 35 cm on the Sony Zeiss FE 35 mm f/2.8. We are far from the macro ratio and to indulge in this discipline, it will be better to turn to the Sony Macro FE 50 mm f/2.8 and its 1:1 ratio for Sony hybrid users. In L-mount, there is only the Sigma 70 mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art which offers a true macro ratio to date.
Without offering a macro ratio, this 45 mm makes it possible to approach a subject reasonably to place it in the foreground or to make a very tight portrait.
The auto-focus is ensured by a step-by-step motorization of which we were able to appreciate on the ground the reactivity and almost total silence.
Also, worth noting is the effective surface treatment of lenses that allows a good management of stray reflections and flare. We were able to photograph in full sun without the appearance of ghost images or colorful dominants.
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Measurements in our laboratory are made in partnership with Imatest. (Software, tools or charters, Imatest offers complete and tailor-made solutions to analyze and test the quality of photographic devices and lenses.)
The notion of Pique is quite delicate to deal with. This is what can be equated to the “sensation of sharpness” or the “accuracy” observed on an image. It can be very different from one lens to another, from one focal point to another and from one aperture to another. It can also vary between the center and edges of the image. We tested the L-mount lens with a Panasonic Lumix S1R with a 24×36 mm 47.3 megapixel sensor with a definition of 8,368 X 5,584 pixels. Each pixel thus measures 4.27µm sideways.
The results obtained after measurement show a very good homogeneity of the lens, with a stitch almost equivalent in the center, on the edges and in the angles of the image at all openings. This is very rare, but not surprising from Sigma who had already impressed us on this point with lenses like the 40 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art.
Another strong point of this goal is to offer almost equivalent quality to all openings. On the ground this is an important point that allows you to choose the aperture value of the diaphragm only for its aesthetic consequences on the image and not for the best performance of the lens at a given aperture. This is all the more appreciable as this 45 mm only opens at maximum f/2.8.
Finally, the measured dive values are excellent. We don’t have much comparison points for L-mount lenses on the Panasonic S1R to date, but they easily reach the measurements made with the Panasonic’s Pro 50 mm F/1.4.
These beautiful performances are also verified on our test scene of which we present above excerpts at 100% of the size of the pixels. Homogeneity and detail rendering are well highlighted.
• Opening ring.
• Silent Autofocus.
• Focus at 26 cm.
• No stray reflections.
• No distortion.
• High Pique.
• Beautiful homogeneity.
• Focus ring too narrow.
• Non-removable diaph notching.
• Medium aperture.
• Unique seal.
Seduced by its optical qualities. If it belongs to the category of Sigma’s contemporary lenses – the others being divided between the Sports and Art categories. It is mainly due to its modest opening and its unique seal placed at the mount. These are practically the only reproaches we have to make this Sigma 45mm F/2.8 lens, balanced by its qualities of compactness and lightness. It fills a clear lack of the L-Mount optical range, but could also interest Sony hybrid users.