The $199 Sigma 30 f/2.8 Lens Review on the Sony NEX-7! Bang for the Buck of the year!
So here I am all back home and rested for a couple of days after the week long photo cruise across the East coast. I shot quite a bit on that trip with the Fuji X-Pro 1 to see how firmware Version 2 would fare but I also had the Sony NEX-7 and 30 2.8 lens. You know, that $199 Sigma lens that gives us a 45mm equivalent on the NEX system? The one that Sigma also makes for Micro 4/3? At $199 you would think this lens would be mediocre but maybe you will be pleasantly surprised with one. After all, the buzz on the photo sites are saying it is excellent. I even had a quick guest post here a while back about this lens.
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These days $199 is quite cheap when it comes to purchasing a lens for your favorite interchangeable lens camera so when you see something at this price you wonder…“Is it any good”? Well I am here to tell you my thoughts on this little Sigma lens.
Sigma has officially entered the mirrorless market in an affordable way with this lens as well as their 19 2.8 lens which is also coming in at a lower priced $199. The 19mm would give NEX users a 28mm equivalent so I am also excited to see how that one stacks up because a $199 28mm 2.8 lens is hard to come by 🙂
As always with my reviews you can click any image for a larger and much better looking version! f/3.2 – iso 125 – 1/60s with the 30mm on the NEX-7
Lenses Lenses Everywhere, but which ones to buy?
There are so many great lenses for ALL systems out there today but most are either expensive (most Nikon/Canon), or hard to find in stock (Olympus 75 1.8) or BOTH expensive and hard to find (Leica). Fuji X lenses run about $600 and up. The better Olympus lenses for their Micro 4/3 system run anywhere between $400 and $1300 for the good glass. We all know where Nikon and Canon stand. So how does this under $200 Sigma do in the grand scheme of things? I mean $199 just sounds so cheap for a known brand name 2.8 prime lens! Sure we have the cheap 50 1.8’s from Canon and Nikon – the Plastic Fantastics..but the Bokeh is mind numbing and they are soft wide open and have funky corners. So will the little “Sigma that could” really be THAT good? I was soon to find out!
I bought this lens after getting so many e-mails telling me “you HAVE to try this lens Steve”! So I dipped into my camera buying website work fund and bought it from Amazon. For $199 and free shipping. (Love Amazon Prime)!
Shot this from a tour bus in NYC while heading to the airport – f/2.8 and 1/60s – Sony NEX-7 ISO 200
When the lens arrived I opened it and was surprised to see that it came with a nice lens case..wow. This lens is also quite small and light and when I picked it up I heard a rattle sound and thought it was broken. When I moved it I heard the lens element shift inside. Did not sound good at all but as soon as I attached it to my NEX-7 and powered it up the lens was 100% solid and did not shift. I later found out this was normal so my lens was NOT broken. You can see what this sounds like in this quick video overview of the lens I put up on YouTube:
So far so good. The lens was cheap, small, light and even came with a nice case AND METAL MOUNT. But I wondered…what about the IQ? The image quality has to be soft right? With an aperture starting at f/2.8 I figured I would be getting soft performance wide open and decent performance by f/5.6. When I started snapping I saw the auto focus speed on my NEX-7 was mediocre but not bad at all. It was fast but not lightning quick. Very acceptable and for the price I was quite happy.
So to sum up the build this 30mm 2.8 lens has 7 elements in 5 groups with a plastic build and feel. It is not fancy but rather quite plain jane looking on the NEX cameras. It is all black and looks like..well..a cheap lens.
But no worries, the lens is a strong performer!
Wide Open this lens is SHARP at the focus point. Click the image below for a larger view to see the sharpness and some smooth Bokeh. F/2.8 – 1/60s – ISO 400
Nope! This is not your normal “Budget Lens”
Nope this is NOT your normal budget lens. In fact it is sharper than just about ANY Sony lens I have shot with on my NEX-7! In fact, when shooting this lens it was almost like my Sony NEX-7 had a veil removed! No joke. I saw a crispness I never saw in the 18-55, 16mm or dare I say…even the Zeiss 24 1.8. I am not saying this is a better lens than the Zeiss as the Zeiss is better made, has better color reproduction, is much faster at 1.8 and is a premium lens for the NEX but I am saying this Sigma is pretty damn crisp and beats out my Zeiss 24 in that regard. Crispness 🙂
The Sigma 30 at f/5.6 – click this image to see a larger view and full 100% crop. Damn. BTW, THIS SHOT IS FROM RAW, FROM CAMERA
The shot above will show you what this lens is capable of. It is sharp, has great contrast and color and I can not believe a lens this cheap can be so good. It has been glued to my NEX for weeks now. From daily snapshots to shooting street scenes from a tour bus it has never caused me to miss a shot and it has never given me an out of focus shot. It’s been ALL good. $199 folks..at this price it is hard to beat.
Check out the next few shots..
Haunted Dolly – f/2.8 – 1/60s – ISO 200
From the bus – f/2.8 – ISO 100 – 1/100s
Street scene – can see some of the barrel distortion here with the sign. f/2.8 – 1/60s – ISO 160
So what is wrong with the Sigma 30 2.8 lens? Distortion & AF no go for video!
If I had to complain about something with this lens I would say that the AF speed is a bit slow and the build is on the light/cheap feeling side. It also has some slight barrel distortion (as in straight lines can be a bit bent at times). Nothing that is not fixable in Lightroom but keep in mind this is not a technically perfect lens at all. No way it could be at this price. Also when shooting video you will hear the creaks and noises of the lens as it struggles to AF, especially in low light. This is not a speedy video lens. This is a BASIC lens with great IQ. That is all.
Remember this is a $199 lens and for that $199 you get a hell of a bang for your buck for image quality. Next three shots are all wide open at f/2.8
My time with this lens…
I tried to shoot a wide variety of things with this lens. I never ever shoot action like sports or running kids and if I had to guess I would say this is not a lens for those situations as it is not a speedy focusing lens. I have read in other reviews that this lens has flare issues but I failed to shoot one shot with any kind of lens flare so if it is there it never showed its head in my images. Then again, I never really shot in to the sun.
I believe taking a lens out and shooting it for a few weeks..getting to know it..testing it in many situations…thats the way to do it. This lens never disappointed me but instead it kept surprising me. I am used to shooting mega buck Leica lenses and while this lens can not compete with the world’s best it can kick, stomp and destroy just about any other $199 lens made for the NEX system 🙂
Sigma decided to test the mirrorless lens market with some cheapies but this cheapie is a performer. If you are into the 45mm focal length, if f/2.8 is fast enough for you and you do not want to spend the bucks on the fancier pieces of glass then this lens could be your solution. This and the Sigma 19 could be the combo to beat and for under $400 for BOTH..well..that is unheard of these days.
I have not yet tested the 19 2.8 but if it is as good as this 30 2.8 I would be thrilled.
Flare Test – VS – Leica 35 Summilux FLE
It seems that some has been written about the flare of the Sigma 30mm but I found it quite tame and when shot directly into the sun without a hood the flare was minimal. Less than the Fuji X100 lens and less than even the $5000 Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE that was USING A HOOD! So the Sigma is great in regards to flare. See for yourself by clicking the images below. One from the Sigma and f/2.8 and one from the Leica at f/2.8 – Both on the NEX-7.
The Pros and Cons of the Sigma 30 2.8
- Cheap at $199
- Comes with a nice lens case
- Sharp performance even at f/2.8 wide open
- Cheap (build)
- Some slight barrel distortion
- Tad slow with AF/Video creaking noise
So would I buy this lens to keep? My final word…
Even though there are better lenses to get for NEX and one in particular coming down the pike SOON (the new Sony 35 1.8) this lens is cheap at $199 but has the image quality of a $350 – $400 lens. As you can see in the title of this review I am calling it the “Bang for the buck of the year”! It may not be for everyone but if you are tight on funds and want a new lens that will beat your kit lens then this little guy will only bring smiles to your face. I can not image anyone being disappointed with this lens at this price.
I bought it and kept it. Kind of a no brainer.
Where To Buy the Sigma 30 2.8 for NEX?
I always buy from B&H Photo or Amazon for most of my gear. Great service, great reputation, great return policies. PERIOD.
Lady and her smiling dog – NYC – f/2.8
Wide open again at 2.8
from street meat to mean street machine!
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I bought the Sony 35mm F/1.8 OSS and then the Sigma 30mm F2.8. I did my own comparison shooting and found the Sigma to be a little sharper, plus lighter and shorter so that it fits in the neoprene case I bought for my Nex 3N. The Sony is a nice enough lens but expensive. I find many comments about decentered Sonys and wonder about the durability of the OSS system. I travel quite a lot. If my 3N and Sigma are stolen, not a big deal. I am selling the Sony 35 F1.8.
Have you done a comparison with these lenses? I know you mentioned that the Sigma is the best bang for the buck, but how much better are the Sony and Zeiss….specifically the autofocus and low light performances ? Is it worth the additional cost?
I am fairly new and am trying to decide on which lens to get. Non of the local shops have Sony e-mount lenses for rent so I’m curious to know which you would choose at these price points.
Zeiss 32mm f/1.8 Touit Series – $499
Sony 35mm F/1.8 OSS – $448
Sigma 30mm f/2.8 DN ART Lens – $199
steve E-PM1 + Sigma 30mm is $365 USD (both new). Will the autofocus work on the EPM1 ?
forward to 2015, do you think this combo will work great for street/people shooting also ?
Budget is tight. I was looking at EOS M + 22mm, superb deal, however, very very awful autofocusing despite the last updated firmware.
Any help greatly appreciated.
That Sigma lens is VERY slow to AF. The E-PM1 is fine, the lens is slow. Great deal though..
Thanks for the review Steve. I actually have this lens for my GF6. Now I have a renewed love of this lens. 🙂
I was considering purchasing the SEL35F18 as my first prime lens, but this article makes me think maybe the Sigma 30 is the way to go. Two questions though. Is there any signaficant difference between f/2.8 and f1/.8 for either low-light or bokeh? Also, would the lack of OSS be a factor for lit indoor and daytime outdoor photos?
Is image quality better with SEL35F18 or with sigma 30f28 (besides the fact SEL is faster and stabilised) ?
Thanks for your help
anyone have a recommendation for the best lens for to shoot landscapes? I’m new to photography and just like to have fun, so I will be signing up for a photography class in the near future…. so forgive my simple questions – thanks advance for your imput. I currenly own the Sony NEX-7 and have the kit lens, the sigma 30 f2.8 and the sony sel50f1.8
My sample from Henrys did not give all functions on a Nex 3 and now fails to focus on auto or manual.
this is a macro lens. so test the macro performance. that is what I want to see.
why take normal picture ?
This is NOT a macro lens 🙂 This is a standard 30mm lens. Why not get the facts straight before posting a comment?
Hi Steve. Enjoy your reviews here and on Youtube. Several trusting folks including yourself have raved about both the 19mm and the 30mm. Now the “Art” series has replaced both of these and now Sigma have added a 60mm. (Perhaps in some degree to compete with the Zeiko 60mm Macro). I’m primarily a Canon 7D user shooting street and special events –> now almost exclusively shooting MFT. I own an Oly EPL-5 that came with a 14-42mm. I purchased the Sigma 19mm and the 30mm recently and I agree, they are quite stellar, considering I picked them BOTH up for $130 Canadian dollars each. I have one question. Do you know if the optics are the same in the NEW “Art” line of the Sigma 19mm and 30mm? I believe it is only a cosmetic change — looking at the “wording” carefully in marketing copy. I have now ordered the 60mm “Art” lens at a very reasonable $230 as a budget portrait lens for the MFT. Perhaps you will do a review/update of the new “Art” line?
I am a newbie in this field. I just purchased SONY NEX F3 bundle with E-Mount SEL16F28 16mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle Alpha E-Mount Lens + 18-55mm Lens. I don’t knot if that would be enough. I read the article and I want to buy the lenses that you suggest for prim lenses which is 35..something. Should I buy it?
Do you mind giving us some in sight og this Sigmarit in comparison to sony’s own emount 50mm 1.8? the price isnt actually that far off.50bucks difference.
Thanks for the thorough and trustful review. This lens is what I was looking for. I was thinking about selling my Nex-3, but I’ll give a try to the Sigma 30mm f2.8. Your pictures are great in terms of composition and texture anyway.
I am having the NEX F3, I have these lenses attached along when i purchased it; 16mm f/2.8 Wide-Angle + 18-55mm Lens. Does the sigma lense make better picture? should I get that lenses in stead of using the stock lenses?
Steve, I’ve now read your Sigma 30mm f/2.8 review, & your partial review (more comments) on the new Sony 35mm f/1.8. How would you compare the two in terms of sharpness & contrast at f/2.8 & at f8.0?
At $150 on sale this lens got me tempted but I got the NEX-6 with the 16-50mm lens and was wondering if you have done any testing to see how the 16-50 compared (at 30mm) to this Sigma lens.
I have both here and am shooting both with the 6 now, will keep you posted!
That is awesome! Thank you so much! 🙂
I also commented on your review of the 50mm Sony lens since I have a Pentax SMC Pentax-A 50mm F1.7 that I am using with the NEX-6 but have been trying to find out how it compared to the Sony.
Thanks a lot for this.
Sorry for bugging just wondering if you have any comments about it. Just want to know what to do before the sales price is over for the Sigma.
Sigma 30mm. beat Sony’s 50mm. in almost all areas, there is no doubt. Sony 50mm. I use almost exclusively for portraits, because of the blurred background which it produces, and it is also better in low light. Sigma 30mm. is just better for everyday use, since it is sharper and gives better colors, and fits just perfect on a Nex-7, it’s a winner. Last but not least, the picture quality is an expensive lens worthy.
Sigma 19mm and olympus 17mm, which one is better?
Did you know that the picture you took from South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan captured the 4 main AIG buildings in one shot? The shot with F/5.6 to show how sharp the lens is. You have 180 Maiden Lane, 70 Pine (no longer AIG’s), 80 Pine, and 175 Water St. Great shot by the way.
Very nice, Iam definitely thinking about grabbing this and the 19 to increase my auto focus ability… I pretty much shoot only manual on nex, so a couple of new autos may be handy for when I want to hand the cam of to the mrs who hates shooting manually. Haha
Cheers again Steve.
Long time lurker, first time poster.
I’m a freelance cameraman working in the UK, mainly in commercials, dramas and broadcast programmes, but have recently got into the mirrorless market thanks to the Sony NEX (5 and then 5N) cameras.
Lens wise I have the kit 18-55mm zoom, the 16mm pancake (plus the VCL-ECU1 wide angle adaptor which makes it a 12mm lens), along with a Nikon 24-85mm and 70-300mm zooms.
My real favourites, however, are the Zeiss ZM 35mm f2 and 50mm f1.5 lenses, which I use with a helicoid M-mount adaptor (that allows me to get closer than the 0.7m limits on the ZM lenses).
I recently read your fairly favourable review of the Sigma 30mm 2.8 EX DN lens and your musings on the 19mm version of the same lens.
Having recently put aside some money to treat myself to the new Zeiss ZM lens mentioned before Photokina, but seeing as there was no mention of the actual lens they promised, let alone a release date other than sometime in 2013, I decided to purchase the aforementioned 19mm and 30mm Sigma lenses (based on your recommendation).
What follows are my initial thoughts / reviews of these two lenses, in relation to one another, the other lenses available for the NEX system, and as part of an overall ‘set’ of lenses.
(Please do not take any of this as a criticism of your review – I’m not unhappy with my purchase (who could be at the price) – it’s just my opinion of the lenses in question based on my usual reviewing criteria and I thought you may be interested in my thoughts, particularly until you can get your hands on the 19mm Sigma lens).
I hope you enjoy the following and please feel free to publish it on your blog if you think it would be of benefit to others considering buying these lenses.
I ordered the lenses from http://www.DigitalRev.com in Hong Kong and they arrived at my door just four days later (bless DHL for working weekends and quickly expediting my delivery).
FIT & FINISH
The lenses are small and light – a little too light, if I’m honest : both lenses weighs in at just under 5oz (140g).
Size wise they are a little smaller than the ‘official’ Sony lenses. This works quite nicely on a compact system such as the NEX, so well done Sigma for keeping the size down, although they aren’t quite pancake lenses.
The 19mm is 1.8 inches (45.72mm) long whereas the 30mm is 1.5 inches (38.09mm).
The extra .3 inches on the 19mm lens seems to be mostly taken up by the (supplied) lens-hood mount (the 30mm doesn’t come with a lens hood, so has no such mount).
The 19mm hood snaps in by way of a firm bayonet fitting and seems to do a good job of adding a good amount of shade to the front lens element from all sides.
Materials-wise, both lenses are constructed of plastic and look and feel a little cheap.
The E-mounts themselves appear to be made of chromed plastic and I believe could become damaged over time.
The lenses felt a little stiff when attaching them to the camera. This may be a sign of quality machining, but if the mounts are plastic, this may well loosen up in no time – we’ll have to see.
As you mentioned with the 30mm, the lenses ‘rattle’ when you shake them, and even when mounted on the camera and whilst recording video I can hear something inside the lens ‘clicking’. My guess would be this is the ‘linear auto focus mechanism’ that Sigma refers to on their website, but it is also there when the camera is set to manual focus, so I’m not sure what it going on.
Either way it is distracting whilst shooting video.
The front caps are plastic pinch-type affairs and unlike the Zeiss ZM caps they work quite well.
So much so that I’m tempted to order a spare one to replace the front cap on my Zeiss ZM50 1.5.
The back caps are plastic and feel a little fragile. With continued use I could see them breaking.
Again, we’ll have to wait and see.
The alignment markings on the lens (both for attaching to the NEX body and the for the 19mm lens hood) are difficult to see in all but the best light, being small off-white dots.
Both lenses come supplied with small zip-top pouches. These are a great addition to such a budget lens, but if I was being really picky they could be greatly improved by adding a belt loop at the back, and replacing the zip with a velcro flip-over top. That way, you could carry these lenses (or any similar sized rangefinder lens) with you for easy deployment in the field.
The focus rings on both lenses are particularly sensitive, with the slightest touch automatically engaging manual focus assist (if enabled).
That said, there is considerable servo lag when focussing, meaning you can rotate the ring more than 180 degrees when racking focus from foreground to background subject (particularly unfriendly when shooting video).
Add to that the fly-by-wire infinity focus rings common to the NEX lenses means the whole manual focus pulling experience is a rather sloppy affair.
As you mentioned the Auto Focus is not much better, being slow and sloppy (not always finding it’s target, especially in low light situations).
Both lenses suffer from noticeable barrel distortion during live preview but this seems to be corrected – slightly – by the in-built lens correction software (but not to the same extent as the native Sony lenses).
Both lenses vignette quite heavily at 2.8 and 4, but this disappears by 5.6.
Both lenses, but the 19mm in particular, suffer from chromatic aberration when shooting at 2.8 or 4, but this is well controlled by the lens correction software and is gone by 5.6.
They both seem to suffer with flare, but only when shooting directly into a light, but it doesn’t makes for an unpleasant lens flare, especially when stopped down.
The 7-bladed iris makes for quite attractive bokeh (out of focus background details)
COMPARISONS AND CONCLUSIONS
So, how do they compare to the existing Sony lenses and how do they work as part of a system ?
As we all know, the weak point in the NEX arsenal is the lenses, or rather lack thereof.
For starters, we had the kit zoom (18-55mm 3.5-5.6) and the 16mm 2.8.
This is improving with time. We now have the Zeiss 24mm 1.8, the (upcoming) Sony 35mm 1.8, and the Sony 50mm 1.8. There is also the Sony 30mm 3.5 Macro.
The 19mm Sigma lens is 2/3 of a stop faster than the 19mm part of the 18-55mm kit zoom, and seems to benefit from the shading (vignetting), chromatic aberration and distortion lens compensation software on the NEX (albeit to a lesser degree than the Sony lenses).
Optically it seems a little better in terms of performance compared to the zoom and so wins the battle compared to this lens, although is not as versatile as it is a fixed focal length lens.
Compared to the Sony 16mm 2.8 lens, the Sigma 19mm is a little longer (in terms of focal length) and considerably longer (in terms of physical dimensions – it’s more than double the length of the pancake lens), but is the same speed.
On this basis I would be tempted to stick with the Sony 16mm Pancake for prime lens fans, due to it’s size and also the fact that you can transform it into a 12mm 2.8 lens with the addition of the Sony VCL-ECU1 wide angle adaptor.
The 30mm Sigma is the same focal length, but 2/3 of a stop faster than the Sony 30mm Macro and a full stop faster than the 30mm section of the 18-55mm kit lens, whilst managing to be approximately 2/3rds of the size of the Sony lenses.
It still manages a close focus of 0.3m (versus the 0.1m of the Macro), so could be used for most close focus requirements (in all honesty the best macros are in the region of 100mm, so I’m not sure what Sony were thinking when they released the 30mm Macro).
The Sigma wins out on both of these lenses and is cheaper than either, so for fixed focal length lenses the Sigma 30mm is the clear winner.
That said, it is 1 and 1/3rd stops slower than the soon to be released Sony 35mm 1.8, albeit half the price and 2/3rds the size, but I would be tempted to wait for the 35mm Sony to arrive rather than rushing to buy the Sigma lens.
HOW DO THEY WORK AS A SET ?
Both the 19mm and 30mm Sigma lenses represent strange focal lengths (equating to 28.5mm and 45mm lenses on full frame 35mm cameras).
On this basis they are neither wide enough or long enough to represent a good set of lenses on their own, nor do they sit particularly well within the existing or expected NEX range of lenses.
Cheap as chips
Smaller than other E-mount lenses (more in keeping with a compact system such as the NEX)
Comes with a nice FREE pouch (although this could be improved)
Native E-mount lenses – no need for an adaptor
Look and feel cheap
Sensitive focus rings, but with a long focus throw
Slow and sloppy auto focus
Likely to become loose / damaged over time
Suffer from vignetting, distortion and chromatic aberrations (although this is partly controlled by the in-built Lens Compensation Software on the NEX cameras)
Strange Focal Lengths (19mm and 30mm rather than 18mm and 35mm)
F 2.8 is not a fast lens speed
I own the Sigma 19mm and use it on a Nex5n. I can also state that I am impressed by its image quality and like this lens. The only trouble I have is that it would not let me take any panorama so far, my nex5n just keeps telling me “Move the camera in a straight line…”. Does anybody else have similar problems, and perhaps a solution?
How can something be considered “mediocre yet not bad at all” ? That defies logic – at least in the English language. If something is “mediocre” it is VERY bad indeed, just like if something is “superb” it is more than just “good”. Very confusing !
Al, Check a dictionary before you lecture people on the meaning of words.
Steve, I just bought both sigmas based on this review, thanks.
Also love that 30mm on the NEX 7. Works way better on that body than the 35mm summicron asph, which does not match the sensor well (magenta corners), and it is lighter and no bigger, when you compute the ‘cron’s adapter. Curious how the size compares with the coming Sony f1.8 and the also coming Zeiss 32mm f1.8. Nice to have all those choices but right now, that Sigma is king.
Finally.. something affordable in good value lens range for Nex
thanks for the real world review, Steve…
Steve – great write up and subsequent comments. Placed my order today and look forwards to trying the lens on my NEX. Thanks.
Just a word about Sigma. In my Nikon days, I had the two main pro wide zooms. For DX, the 17-55mm 2.8 and, for full frame, the 24-70 2.8 with the Nano coatings (I just like to type that.) But my favorite wide zoom and just one of my favorite lenses of all time was this 18-50 Sigma 2.8. I actually miss those days so much and looking at these pictures really takes me back. Sounds nuts, but there it is. I think THAT Sigma, and maybe from the looks of things, THIS Sigma prime, they just have this ‘artsy’ rendering. Like no other lenses. Anyway.
Sigma. Now bringing Lomo-like image quality to your nex-7.
I have had several Sigma lenses. While they were all sharp, they all had trouble focusing in low light.
Have any of you tried this lens in low light?
could you take pizza pix at pizzeria bianco?
I have a 5N and have been eyeing this lens for a while now. I played with one at Hunt photo, but bought an RX100 instead that day. I’m wondering if anyone can speak to the image quality of this lens versus that of the new DP2. I know that the sensor technology is entirely different, but does that use the same or similar glass? I keep finding myself thinking about the DP2, but it seems to be impossible to find a store in the area that has one that I can try.
Although I opted for a m43 solution purely based on its size (and looks, I must admit I am a sucker for retro looks), I have always found this camera very very intriguing. My main worry was the lack of lenses (I hate the current E-Mount lineup) since I don’t like to rely on mount adapters so this lens is a welcome addition.
Who knows? Maybe better lenses will come in the future and I will get one of these.
The Sony/Zeiss 24, Sony 50/1.8, Sigma 19 and Sigma 30 are all very good on NEX, and the upcoming 35/1.8 and 10-18/4 should also be very good. Most of the NEX lens gaps have been filled, these days. Next year, the mid tele prime comes, as well as the new Zeiss 12, 32 and 50 Macro.
Don’t forget the standered G lens coming next year
Thank you for the great review. Are these lenses similar to the ones used on DP1 and DP2 Merrill ?
Not so sure..thanks for reading!
I have notice that really good lenses nowdays often have very tiny frontglas, just a spot in my opinion. It´s feels very akward to spend a lot of money to a well designed camera like the OM-D or X-pro1 who is retrodesigned and then put a lens with 90% plastic front.
A good lens in my opinion should have a big frontglas to look serious.
Thats just a subjective opinion, but thats whats camera often is about, feeling.
Big front glass? Are you looking to take good pictures or to just look ‘pro’?
This is the downfall to modern day photography, where many people seem to think expensive = IQ. I’m actually glad that Sigma has been able to produce one of the highest resolving lenses for only $99.
Steve, does the Sigma give you any of that 3-D pop?
thank you very much
i have a minolta md 28mm 2.8 on my nex3 and the 42mm fov is great
i will by the sigma
Has anyone else noticed how nice the manual focus ring on the Sigma lens feels? I bought the 19mm/f2.8 for the OMD EM5 and ended up changing my presets to utilize manual focus more because of it.
I ended up using this for three of the four shots in the gallery linked to below on my first full day outing with the new lens.
It doesn’t seem as natural to use the focus ring on either the kit zoom or the Oly 45mm/f1.8.
BTW, thanks Steve for your website – your review and consistently practical perspective on photography convinced me to buy the OMD (my first non-film interchangeable lens camera!).
Just received my 30mm this morning. I’ve been waiting to pic one up for a while and finally ordered late last week and a £100 (about $160)and its a great performer at any price! Yes the body is plastic, but it’s definitely solid once fitted onto my NEX-7. I’m looking forward to give it a good runout this weekend.
While I give Sigma credit for producing a 199 lens with almost the best resolution figures possible on a NEX-7, I don’t really like its character (and there hardly is any). But then again, I bought the 24mm CZ only ‘cos of the character, so for 199 it’s a great lens and most people will be happy with it.
I was interested to buy it, can you tell me how the manual focus is?
The manual focus is smooth and very easy to use.
Can you use it on the Fuji X-Pro 1? I am not really amazed. I am sure Sigma is a good lens maker. Making lens with small diameter elemnts is not that hard. Let say you but a Canon or Nikon Full Frame 24/36 MP camera and have little for a lens. A 50/60 Macro f2.8 are all mostly sharp, note their small elements. Slower lens can be great buys. In Leica look at 24mm f1.4, the slow f3.8 that they make is low cost and is a much sharper. Slow lens can be real a deal.
The important thing to understand is not whether a lens is easy or hard to make but rather that the lens is actually MADE. We are lucky the lens is even made. Back in the day 2.8 was considered extremely fast. If the old timers can use 2.8, why cant this generation? I’ve seen enough f1.4 photos with the subject surrounded by blurry backgrounds to make me vomit. Blurry backgrounds do not make a great photo, never has, never will.if it did, we should all get F 0.89 lenses. Bresson once said that that “sharpness is a bourgeois.” We can now add bokeh and background blur to that as well. Many do nothing but people look for the sharpest, the best bokeh, the best background blury photo. How about looking for a good photo that has some artistic merrit? LOL
The fact that this fantastic lens is made is enough to amaze me.Price has no bearing on how good or not a lens is, neither is if a lens is easily made or not. The old famous saying everyone’s heard of is that ” the best things in life are the simplest things” Those lenses on disposable cameras and lomo cameras are very easily made, but they’re prety much crap. Conversely, there are a dime a dozen large element, hard to make, large aperture lenses that aren’t very good at all.
Maybe it’s a psychological thing, some people can’t or won’t allow themselves to believe that something that is not expensive and easier to make can actually be great. Many of us have been taught or indirectly persuaded that expensive must be better, it has to be better.Alot fo people love to eat salad, but how hard is it to make salad or steak? LOL.
I’m no yet totally convince on the x1pro. Fuji has no track record of IL rangefinders. The camera lens is centered, leaving less room for the right hand, the left side has alot of realistate but having nothing on it except the view finder and Af select button. From the front it looks crooked and everything is sloping and sliding from the top right to the bottom left. The xe-1 does correct the design aethestics but they then put the hotshoe off centered from the lens! How are people supposed to use OVF’s now? LOL. The Af is not very fast as well and the camera is a little too big on the rangefinder side of looks.Being retro is fine, but Fuji needs to ask Nikon or Canon on how to desing a rangefinder styled camera, after all Canon and Nikon made great rangefinders…..over 50 years ago! Hahaha!
Correcting lens with small surface area is not has hard as with large. Canon makes a pancake lens, 40mm f2.8.A low cost lens that is super. An old camera I can turn to is the Rolli., you buy it with a f2.8 Planar, f3.5 Schiender Xeonar or f3.5 Planar. The first was the fastest and last two, were slower. The Xeonar was a liitle sharper then the f2.8 Planar and the f3.5 Planar a little sharper then the Xeonar. For people that know old Hassi, the 100mm f3.5 Planar was a God lens, the f3.5 80mm on the Rolli was the same basic lens. One of reasons for this was it was a slower lens with low surface area, easyer to make close to perfect. I take nothing from Sigma. It just that some time slower lens of the same FL are better. Again the old Canon F2.8 135mm was a good lens, but for, back when $79, you would by f3.5 135mm Canon and again have a near God lens It has a low cost. All Canon did was make the lens with good QA. As for Fuji, it was called the X-Pan. An panorama 35mm RF camera made for Hasselblad. The other RFs were 6X9. Also Fuji made SLR 6X9. It was one best studio cameras of it’s time. There are alot of good makers of photographic equipment out there.
Unfortunately no not as of right now. They are only for E mounts & M4/3. The XF range is quite limited right now because there just weren’t that many XPro 1 cameras sold. That will all probably change though with the advent of the XE-1. Zeiss has announced they will be releasing lenses for the X mount in the coming year. They will be pricey though but it will be interesting to see how they stack up against XF lenses, which I consider second only to Leica.
Have had this lens for 2 days now on my 5N… I don’t know, but it never looked ‘cheap’ on the 5N. Black body, black lens — just perfect. I now have a truly beautiful and compact NEX combo. 🙂
hi steve, if the lens compare to the pana lumix 20mm f1.7, which may have sharper image … ?
The Sigma is sharper than the 20mm in my experience. Then again, I am using the Sigma on the Sony, not Micro 4/3.
To much emphasize on price. This simply is an excellent lens, irrespective of price. And it’s a great match for the NEX 7 sensor.
Price is half the surprise because it’s hard for many to imagine that a quality lens costs just 199. Almost all camera companies won’t even give you a bag of peanuts for 199. Let’s hope sigma makes more lenses that have the same ‘image quality’ this one produces.
Agreed. This one costs about as much as a Leica body cap;)
I’m glad I didn’t go with NEX when choosing a mirrorless camera…if the sharpest lenses of the bunch are two cheap Sigma lenses! Pretty lame.
Thats a plus in my book. $199 lens that surpasses many way more expensive lenses. Only a positive the way I see it.
How does this lens compare to the new kit lens, and the new 35mm (if Sony brought you it when they last visited you)?
Look at Ashwin big rollin’! =o]
Looks like a nice lens – and the price is definitely right!
However, I’m so very, very impressed with the great job Sony did on their 50 f1.8, that I’m going to save my pennies and go with the upcoming Sony 35 f1.8 with OSS. I know it’s over twice the price of the Sigma, but if it’s anything like the 50mm, it’s going to be one amazing lens and worth the price to me!
Sony is touting the edge performance of the 35/1.8 OSS in their literature, and it looks like a slightly similar, telecentric design to the Sigma, so I’m hoping it’ll be good, too.
Here’s my theory
X3 Foveon 15×3 is so demanding of lenses, slightest weakness shown up, Sigma have had to up their design for every current production lens.
Thus all other cameras benefit … veil lifting 🙂
Was never a fan of Sigma lenses in the past but the 19mm converted me. The sharpness at open aperture was an eye opener compared with the softness of the Sony lenses.. I have no problem with using either in conjunction with lightroom. Takes the NEX 7 from good to really, really good. I had the Zeiss lens originally with the Sony zoomsi, sold it and the 18-55mm and never looked back.
I bought both the Sigma 30 and 19 mm lenses as soon as they came out for use on my NEX-7 and I think your review understates their quality. I honestly don’t know how the image quality of the 30mm could be better. It is tack sharp from corner to corner at f2.8 and I simply can’t see any improvement in quality when you stop down past f3.5. Distortion is almost non-existent and any vignetting is very easily fixed in Lightroom. The 19mm has a bit more distortion as would be expected and it is probably sharpest at f5.6 but it is also a remarkable lens. Sure f1.8 would be nice but these are great lenses regardless of price. I wish Sigma would come out with a full range of E-mount lenses with comparable quality. They would put Sony and Zeiss to shame.
Many of your images have a retro look with a red overcast. Is it the way the Sigma renders?
love the doll steve…
Great photos. Are you testing the 18.5 mm f/1.8 for the J1/V1 as well?
Having just bought this for my G3, very happy to see your ebullient review and lovely photos!
yeah the sigma 30 for micro 43 is absolutely amazing! love to see your take on the sigma for micro 43, youll be blown away
For me,The Sigma 30mm lens seems to produce similar images to ones I see of famous BW photos in a book. It’s sharp and has a consistent “uniformity” to the images it produces. It’s sharp enough but not too sharp to lose all charm. So the critiscism of NEX lens by many are true, especialy if a 199 dollar Sigma lens does a better job. It’ also has a nice “smooth” look across the image plane.
Sigma makes some excellent lenses, and this appears to be one of them, even at its low price. The standard Sony lenses are cheap, too, and perform like typical cheap lenses. It would be nice if they were better, but Sony needed inexpensive lenses to offer their typical users, people who would never buy a lens that cost more than the camera. Now they have an established line with enthusiast credentials and customers who will pay for better lenses. Sony does seem to be responding. A little competition helps, too.
Expensive lens does not garantee that they will be better and this cheap Sigma lens proves that. The “enthusiasts” have become so out of touch with what a good lens is or is not that manufacturers just keep making sharper and sharper lenses on demand but the character of a lens or the ” look” or “glow” or what have you is destroyed. There more resolution a lens has, something else has to give way. Lenses have different color rendition, contrast and character. Much lke why the old Minolta lenses were popular was because of the certain Minolta character it produced. Sharpness is not everything, for me it’s the least important aspect of a lens because even third party primes from the 80’s were more than good enough. alot of folks cant seem think to judge quality requires magnifying glass. Tack sharp lenses and the pictures they make bore me…. YAWN.
correction ‘” alot of folks seem to think that to judge a lens you need a magnifying glass”
I also have an OM-D E-M5 and Sigma 30mm and will shortly be trading it it on my PL25 fund. Or more like, to refund my PL25 purchase, as that lens is sitting at home right now waiting for me. I really like the Sigma 30mm. It is very sharp, at least on my E-M5 it is extremely fast to focus and completely silent (I have no issues with autofocus in video with it on my E-M5), so maybe a difference between Sony and m4/3 mount lenses? Or maybe just how the two cameras perform AF functions?
In the end I just desired something with a little more light gathering, but more importantly a different focal length. I dislike the Panasonic 20mm and have the (soon to be old) Olympus 17mm f/2.8. The jump from 17 to 30mm is a bit too much and I tend to find that 30mm is just a little long in a lot of circumstances.
Coming from an OM-1 and my typical kit of 24/2.8, 35/2.8, 50/1.4 and 85/2 I thought I’d be able to go with 14/2.5, 20/1.7, 30/2.8 and 45/1.8. The 20 didn’t pan out for me personally I just desired something a little faster and a little more “normal” focal length. So it looks like I am recreating my old line up in digital as I have the 17/2.8 (might be replaced with the upcoming 17/1.8), the 25/1.4, 45/1.8 (okay, close enough to an 85/2) and hopefully this spring the 12/2, though I’ll keep the Pansonic 14/2.5 as it is cheap, a wonderful performer and great for when I want to have a tiny single lens carry around kit.
I think, at least on m4/3, the Sigma 30mm is more a question of, can the slightly longer than normal focal length work for your photography or not. If it can, it is an amazing lens at the price.
The Sigma 30 on the NEX-7 must be one of the biggest IQ bang for the bucks out there. It’s like shooting a mini-medium format, although obviously without the super shallow DOF.
Steve, you may be surprised that lensrentals.com did an imatest test of the Sigma 30 and Leica 50 Summilux M, and the Sigma was sharper on the NEX-7 at f2.8, and they were about the same at f4! Incredible deal.
p.s. many of us in the forums call this Sigma the “Sigmarit” 30. 🙂
Does not surprise me one bit that it’s sharper than the Summilux, when I first started using the Sigma I had to go back and check the exif again to make sure I wasn’t dreaming that some shots were taken using f/2.8. Sharp, sharp, sharp!
Agree with Steve completely (Nice review too!) about the AF speed though, that combined with the NEX-7’s poorish AF focus can get in the way tbh. I try to get around that by using only the central focus point on the camera and pre focusing as much as possible.
If that bothers you any then the Sony 35mm may be worth waiting for instead but other than that you simply cannot go wrong. My only minor gripe with Sigma & this lens is that it comes with a lovely Sigma sturdy zip case (as does the 19mm also) but unlike the 19mm the 30mm does not come with a lens hood. Why Sigma, why???
Can’t wait to add the 19mm to my lens collection. Bravo Sigma! 🙂
Build quality aside, and it is not tacky, by the way, this little gem seriously embarrasses some venerable, and expensive glass. Pop over to LensRentals and see their Imatest results. OK, resolution alone isn’t the whole story when judging a lens’s performance, but anybody buying this is very unlikely to feel short-changed.
I use mine on a 5N and am delighted with it. I suspect for 4/3rds users, though, the crop factor of 60mm equivalent is not as useful as 45mm on an APS-C sensor.
JUST PURCHASED (rather ordered) an 19 mm so will review asap.
Kindly check out my Hasselblad shots, on Radical rooney. com. but I find my Nex 7 more amenable and convenient. Great Blog, Steve. See my new book “A Year on the Streets” is publicised in your Site. ! Also got a SLR magic .95 for low light. Will post shots in near future. Thanks again. RAD
Thankl you Steve !
I’ve tried 19mm (paired with OM-D) too and if not the above mentioned delay I’d already bought it. Anyone knows if it can be solved one way or another? Since I often meet my subjects on my way I am a bit afraid that I’ll curse this little gem too often not being able to get it on at the right time. Sold Pana 20mm for the same reason and too slow focusing.
I have the same exact combo, and absolutely love it! It stays on my NEX-7 pretty much all the time, and only take it off for low light candid shots with my trusty Canon FD 50mm f/1.4 S.S.C. or the SEL55210 for when I need more reach.
Currently have the 19mm (OM-D) and *had* the 30mm- but traded it in to fund PanyLeica 25mm.
The 30 was a *great* lens on the EP-3.. and I find the 19mm equally as sharp with the OM-D.
Here’s a shot with the 30mm and EP-3:
Got this lens last week hav’nt really had much chance to test it out fully yet, but on my G2 with the few test shots I have taken so far I have not been disapointed,the one thing I have noticed is there is a slight delay in the wake up time of turning the camera on to the camera detecting the lens, around 2 seconds which to me is not a deal breaker as I brought this lens in the UK for £138.00, the 19mm is also being sold at the same price and that also comes with a lens hood, the bottom line is for the money this is a great little lens, and for anyone on a budget.
Well I use both the 19mm and the 30mm on my OM-D with stunning results. I think the 19mm is better than my Panasonic 20mm (far better bokeh & colors rendition), it is one of my favorite lens so far – I only wish it could be as compact as the 30mm.
he 30mm is on par with the 19mm, a really amazing lens – and not only because it is cheap but because it is so sharp and crisp. I’ve had a lot of bad experiences with badly calibrated Sigma lenses on my 5D, but those two tiny gems made me forgot my prejudices.
been using sigma 19mm f/2.8 Oly E-PL3 combo for a couple of months. very good value for money. fast AF, sharp image and nice bokeh too. like to own the 30mm too as portrait lens.
Why didn’t you buy the Lumix 20mm f/1.7?
i read somewhere that the sigma 30mm render bettter skin tone than oly 45mm f/1.8, together with 19mm, a very versatile pairing., and at about the price of the lumix 20mm.
Same here. Love it’s color rendering on the Pen, it’s tack sharp and AF is instant. One of the few lenses that can keep up with my kids. Same for the 19mm.
Great review Steve. With hesitation, I bought this lens right when it came out. I was regretting getting the nex7 over the xp1 but this lens changed my mind. The IQ + cost is darn awesome.
FIRST! I have the 19mm and so far I have zero complaints. I have only taken it out with me once. There is a PRO to the cheap quality of the lens…it’s light as hell, And on a Nex7…it EASILY fits in my big overcoat pocket. That’s a hell of a lot of camera to be so weightless and in my coat pocket.
the 19mm honestly, saved my Nex7 from being sold….
3rd actually 🙁
As you’ve said many times in your review, THIS is a lens you should buy if you’re looking for a normal lens in E-Mount. Period. Has a very good rendering and an amazing sharpness, regardless of the price.
And about the 19/2,8 version of the “Sigmarit”, it’s ALMOST as good as the 30/2,8. I own both and feel that 30/2,8 is JUST a bit better. I don’t like the angle of view it provides though, never been a fan of 28mm equiv. lenses.
My question is (this is on the EM-5 Oly body)…
If I already have the Pana 12-35 f/2.8 will this prime 30 f/2.8 really be that much any sharper than my 12-35 at 30?
If you have the 12-35 you will not need this lens 🙂
I need to use a lens for very close objects, ie; 50cm, the object size is almost 5mm x 5mm, I wonder if I use this SIGMA 30mm F2.8 will the target be magnified or shrink on the screen?
I need it to be magnified, do you have any suggestion for that.
Thanking you in advance for your help.