Home L-Mount Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens for L-Mount: First impressions

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens for L-Mount: First impressions

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Last month Sigma announced three lenses with L-mount under the new Alliance between Leica, Panasonic and Sigma which was born at Photokina last year. There has been great anticipation of Sigma’s well-regarded Art lenses but it came as something of a surprise that the first batch of lenses, announced last month, consists of two Arts and one lens from the less-expensive Contemporary range.

The unexpected “cheap” lens turned out to be the compact 45mm Sigma f/2.8 DG DN.

The Sigma f/2.8 45mm perfectly complements Leica’s hefty SL

Reasonable price

For me, this was one of the most interesting newcomers. It’s not that fast, but it is tiny — especially for a full-frame lens with such a large mount — and tips the scales at a mere 215g. It would attract on these statistics alone, but when you take into account the reasonable price (£550/€569) it is something of a must-have for anyone owning an L-mount full-frame camera, whether Leica SL or Panasonic S1/R. It is even compact enough to complement the Leica CL or TL2 with no difficulty.

A 45mm prime is a neat ’twixt n’ between focal length. It’s a great angle for street and general photography and, to some extent, it solves the inevitable juggling of options whether to pack a 35mm or 50mm optic. I know there’s not much in it between 45mm and 50mm, but psychologically it definitely helps in the decision making.

Leica (and Minolta) made a play of this mid-angle back in the seventies with the original CL. The “standard” lens for this camera was the Leitz Summicron-C 40mm f/2 and many enthusiasts really took to this focal length. Incidentally, there was a short 400-unit production of a slower 40mm, the Leitz Elmarit-C f/2.8.

Contemporary

And that brings us neatly back to the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary. It’s a tad longer than the CL’s stock lens, but still occupying that satisfying middle ground between 35mm and 50mm. And with that in mind, and at that price, it’s worth a punt. I was one of the first in the queue and I’ve had the Sigma bolted to my SL for the past couple of weeks. These are my very first impressions, but I can say from the outset that I am impressed by the performance and value for money.

First, in handling terms, this is a featherweight addition to the bulky SL, just 41g heavier than an f/2.8 Elmarit-M and substantially lighter than the 35mm or 50mm Summicrons. And let’s not even mention the size and weight of the native Leica SL lenses.

Solid workmanship

The relationship between the solid workmanship and balance on the one hand and the pleasantly light weight on the other is the most overwhelming impression when using this lens. On the SL, the Sigma fits in well and also, on the much lighter CL, it is still very well balanced and in no way looks out of place.

I was immediately impressed with the finish of the Sigma lens. The black-anodised, scratch resistant metal body is finely executed and the controls are extremely smooth and precise. The laser engraved and white in-filled graphics are superb and I appreciate the raised marker point for blind insertion of the lens into the camera bayonet.

There is no play in the focus ring and the aperture ring features 1/3-stop detents which are precise and firm. The mere fact that there IS an aperture ring will please SL and Panasonic owners who like to have an instant overview of settings without having to check the control window on the top plate. And, as another bonus, the body is dust and splash proof.

The chrome-finished brass bayonet fits the camera precisely and is a very snug fit, no lateral movement that I could detect. The lens comes with a reversible all-metal hood.

  • Images below demonstrate the quick and accurate and reliable autofocus. Click on individual frames to see full size.

Performance

Autofocus is very fast, locking on without back or front focus and is virtually silent in operation.

Optical performance is exceptional, especially when bearing in mind that this lens is not one of Sigma’s premium offerings and is supplied at a price that belies its quality and results.

There is very good and uniform sharpness over the entire field of view, even in the corners at the widest aperture. A very slight softness can be detected in extreme close-up shots. Stopped down one or two clicks, sharpness is excellent at all distances. In my view, the sharpness is absolutely Leica lens level. The useful close focus (down to 24cm) permits a magnification of 1:4 without accessories.

As far as I can detect there is virtually no visible vignetting, whether at wide or narrower aperture. I also detect no chromatic aberration. Both these aspects have surprised me because, frankly, this is often where lower-priced lenses show their inferiority to premium lenses such as those from Leica and, indeed, Sigma’s own Art range.

Bokeh is not a primary consideration with an f/2.8 lens. The bokeh merchants are happy to pay the premium for their Summiluxes or, even, Noctiluxes in an effort to achieve razor-sharp subject separation. Yet the bokeh on this lens is actually very good as you will see from the example photos.

Astonishing

A final thought to ponder as you see the images from this lens. Leica’s 35mm APO-Summicron-SL is undoubtedly a great lens, one of the finest ever produced by the company. This excellence brings both a weight penalty (720g) and a cost penalty (around £4,000/€4,000).

I find it astonishing that a lens at this price level can so nearly approach in image quality the best Leica optics. Normally I am extremely faithful to Leica and, as a professional, use almost exclusively the native lenses on all my Leicas (M10, SL and CL). This 45mm Sigma is a notable exception.

No way would I suggest that the humble Sigma f/2.8 will equal this Leica masterpiece. But sensible buyers have to weigh the pros and cons. There’s a weight penalty to be paid if you buy the Leica lens, that’s a certainty. On the other hand, you will expect better performance, to compensate for lugging around such a beast. The big question is whether or not that ultimate excellence is worth ten times the price. Only you can decide, but the Sigma is looking more attractive by the minute.

Oh, and did I say that the Sigma has an aperture ring? You won’t find that on a native SL lens.

All images in this article are copyright of Thomas A. Berger.

You can find Thomas A.Berger at Die Berger Designer

12 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent review, Thomas. The new alliance seems to be bringing lots of interesting stuff to light and cheaper lenses, especially ones as good as this, will expand the opportunities for Leica and Panasonic. I was tempted to buy a used SL when the prices dropped recently but I was put off by the price of SL lenses. Wherever you start, it’s a massive investment and I couldn’t justify the cost. Now, however, a used SL and a couple of these cheaper Sigma lenses could make a lot of sense. Nice photos and a great story. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for all the detail, makes good reading. Have you looked at the 7Artisans lenses for the M by any chance? I’ve been tempted by that new 75mm which was reviewed on Macfilos last week.

  3. Thanks for the review Thomas. The Sigma lens seems to be a good balance between the Leica lens and the 7Artisans regarding quality and price.

  4. I just wish this was an art lens… There’s a part of me that would rather save my money now, and wait to see what comes down the Sigma line.. which I understand they are going to make APSC models in 2020 (I’m a CL owner).

    If this lens stepped further into the 1.x territory, I’d snap it right up. But as it sits for a little more I can have a Voigtlander F1.1 in a similar focal rang – I give up auto focus in exchange for the wider end.

    I’m very excited though to see what sigma does in the near future. I’m also keen to see images from the upcoming Sigma FP

    • I have made this comment before Jay. The use of M lenses and a converter makes the CL a great carry anywhere travel camera. The absence of AF is regarded by some, particularly those who like the manual style of photography as a “good thing”.

      To my mind, a similar set of lenses, with shorter focal lengths and standard L mount would be a good seller. I know that as I get older, I find that the EVF has some advantages over the OVF. They are less subject to that oft reported flare, they are unlikely to go out of adjustment quite so easily, depth of field and the actual frame are viewable in realtime. The provided electronic focussing aids are useful, however, it is straightforward to operate such a camera in zone focus.

      Obviously this is not a substitute for a proper M camera, but for some of us, it has great practical value. And anyway, M cameras, have a place to put film and no place to put a battery.

        • My apologies Mike, perhaps I should have included the “h” in my comment. The comment was addressed to “Jay H”, who in his comment immediately above mine, talks about some wider L Mount manual focus primes, aimed at the APS-C user.

          • Yes I saw that but Jay’s comment was in a post about the CL firmware update, not the Sigma lens. I know it can get w but confusing.

  5. Thanks for your review. It is nice to see a compact L-mount lens. The emphasis on releasing f/1.4 or faster glass by most manufacturers neglects buyers wanting reasonable price options or more compact high quality F/2 or f/2.8 options. L-mount needs more compact options that are full frame. When I go out I pick one fast lens or isolation options and the rest are slower so I can enjoy the outing.

  6. Excellent review, mate. Thank you.

    This is precisely the type of lens the system needs – smaller and wider, more handy. It’s a far more versatile and tempting mount to buy into if not all the lenses are heavy and expensive.

  7. Great to see your review.
    I have ordered mine and will receive it on Wednesday.
    This is exactly what I have been looking for and after waiting for the Leica 35 SL for 3 months this will do perfectly .
    Nice to have a light autofocus good for a all rounder carry lens.

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