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Sigma 30mm f1.4 EX DC HSM

One of the things we lost with the smaller sensors of digital SLRs is depth of field. Another problem that is always hanging around is digital noise, especially if you are forced to use the higher ISO ratings on your DSLR. The 30mm f1.4 is Sigma’s contribution to solving the problem!

Gathering another three stops over a typical wide-range zoom lens is a significant benefit. While stabilised lenses can give you about three stops extra hand-holding capability, they do nothing to assist you if the subject is moving. In these circumstances nothing beats a bit extra shutter speed.

Sigma Lens

At first sight the focal length of this lens seems rather odd; I do not recall any other 30mm lens on the market, 28mm being the norm. Given that a standard lens should approximate to the diagonal of the format, the 23.7mm x 15.6mm chip size of the Nikon D100 (say) should have a focal length of 28.4mm. So the 30mm suddenly fits into place, it’s a wide aperture standard lens with a little bit extra!

Vital Statistics

The lens has 7 elements in 7 groups, an angle of view of 45°, a minimum aperture of f16 and a maximum of f1.4. The filter size is 62mm and the lens comes equipped with a petal hood. It is 76.6mm diameter, 59mm long, weighs 430g (15oz) and is available in Sigma, Nikon and Canon fittings. It costs £319.99.

On Test

The most important feature in a lens of this type is its large aperture. As soon as you stop down beyond f4 you are back in your standard zoom lens territory but without the versatility. For this reason we concentrated mainly on the full aperture performance

 

We sent the lens as a guest at two weddings, one with Tom Lee, the other with Martin Sellars. We also took it for walks in the country, on a museum visit and to a stately home – it will be well educated when we give it back!

Both Tom and Martin liked the lens and found the extra light-gathering power useful in preserving the mood at the wedding ceremony by leaving the flash off. Martin would have liked a few more millimetres of focal length, but used the lens to image some wedding groups – an interesting comment this as he would presumably find a 28mm too short also. Tom found himself twiddling the focus ring, forgetting it was not a zoom lens. Both of them thought the focus snapped into place very quickly and smoothly. Neither of them found any particular technical advantage (or disadvantage) over their normal zoom lenses – a mixture of Nikkors and Sigmas.

For the only serious resolution comparison, Martin Sellars shot, using a Nikon D2x with both the Sigma and a Nikkor 24-85mm zoom lens (at the 24mm end of the scale). The D2X, incidentally sees the 30mm lens as equivalent to a 45mm in the EXIF data (Tom Lee’s Fuji S2 thought it was a prime 29mm lens – there are obviously variations in the way things are being read from the lens). Both shots were taken at f7.1 and 1/125th at ISO 200. The image was made as a full resolution JPG in Adobe RGB (1998) creating a 35MB file in Photoshop. There is a difference in scale between the two images, which makes comparison difficult. There was a slight difference in residual chromatic aberration but the chip will influence this as well as the lens back focal length so we steered clear of comment! Overall there is little to choose between the two lenses, both are good.

Conclusion If you need a really wide aperture to preserve the atmosphere of a ceremony or to shoot without being detected, this is about the only lens in town. An f1.4, portrait focal length lens to keep it company next please Sigma!

ABOVE Depth of Field returns. At f1.7 the word “Indigestion” is sharp, but by the time you come forward to “Roberts and Jobson” things are starting to blur a little.

Tom lee

RIGHT: Despite the backlit subject and dark oak panelling, Tom Lee was able to capture the recently-weds without flash at 1/6oth s LEFT: The Marlborough’s little pad in the country. The 30mm shows no significant distortion around the frame edges, although there is residual chromatic abberation where the masonry joins with the sky. Detail is well rendered all over the image.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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