Finished the trio.
I found out about the three Sigma Contemporary f/1.4 lenses late in the game.
First up was the 16mm.
I bought it for video, but it knocked it out of the park for stills.
Next up was my favorite focal length-ish. The 30mm for a 45mm equivalent lens.
Another win and has become my everyday lens.
Now I will be the first to admit I had no need for the last of the f/1.4 trinity, the 56mm. Had this focal length (85mm-ish full-frame equivalent) covered already. A reasonable choice would be to stand down. But:
- Since when was photography supposed to be a reasonable endeavor.
- As much as I really like the 85mm kit I had the idea of a smaller set up has great appeal.
- They made three f/1.4 lenses so…
Another winner? Yes. Yes, it is.
The first thing I noticed was the size and weight difference. Camera and lens together feel as if they weigh about the same as a full-frame 85mm f/1.4 lens alone. Similarly, size is a real winner also. The full-frame rig will not be fitting into a jacket pocket, but this is actually the shortest of the three f/1.4 Sigmas and I managed to get it into a jacket pocket without much struggle.
This pays dividends for candid photography, my favorite. Even novices tend to take notice when I am wielding an 85mm full-frame lens. But this 56mm barely gets any notice.
And it nets impressively similar results as full-frame (Full frame to APS-C lens comparison at this post.). Here are shots taken at two chorus rehearsals. This one with the 56mm/APS-C:
This one with the 85mm/Full-Frame:
In every real-world non-pixel peeping measure the 56mm was a match for the 85mm.
- Colors (See above)
- Fall off/Bokeh
- Fast/Accurate stills focus
- Smooth and accurate video AF as tested below on the a6100.
- Low light
I felt no compromise when using this APS-C setup. All with considerably less wrist fatigue.
These lenses with the compact Sony APS-C bodies really delivers on the mirrorless promise. Full frame mirrorless cameras can be compact, but full-frame mirrorless lenses are barely any smaller than their full-frame DSLR equivalents. A viable portrait solution this small and light is a bit of a revelation for me.
I had another 56mm APS-C lens some time ago. The Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2.
Under perfect conditions that lens was amazing and f/1.2 is quite impressive on paper. But there are a few things that had me selling this lens off not long after purchase.
- Focusing was not particularly fast or accurate in my experience.
- I did not find it to be that sharp wide open. The Sigma is sharper to me.
- Real-world the bokeh did not blow me away to the degree I expected.
- It is not cheap at $1,000 brand new. The Sigma is less than half of that.
Another great mirrorless portrait solution was the ridiculously sharp wide open Olympus 75mm f/1.8. (Portrait of Manu below.)
- At a 150mm full-frame equivalent focal length it can be a bit impractical for daily use.
- A bit longer and heavier than the Sigma 56mm.
- The Olympus 45mm f/1.8 might be a better MFT apples to apples focal length equivalent comparison, but that lens was in a different league than these two lenses.
- Good value for the performance, but it costs hundreds more than the Sigma.
I honestly do not believe I would have captured a shot like this one below, taken with the Sigma while I was mid-stride as a test, with the Fujifilm 56mm or the Olympus.
Great lens, but snappy AF was not the Fujifilm lens’ thing.
Another Sigma hat trick that even the full-frame 85mm lens cannot match is close focus (1.64′ / 50 cm). This shot was taken by my friend Anthony at arm’s length by him and it surprised us both.
Based on past experience with portrait focal lengths neither one of us expected this lens to focus this closely.
As an added bonus this is the first APS-C portrait lens that finally got me past the anticlimactic demise of the dead mount walking Samsung NX 85mm f/1.4.
That lens was amazing and a major reason why I hung on to the NX system long enough that it almost proved fiscally calamitous. But now I am good.
So Sigma is three for three. If they make another APS-C Contemporary f/1.4 I am likely to buy that also.
Well done Sigma.
Here is an ongoing album with a few more samples below.
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