Less than a year since the announcement of the Leica-Sigma-Panasonic L-Mount Alliance and the map of available lenses has expanded dramatically. Apart from Panasonic’s introductory trio of lenses, Sigma has now entered the fray with three initial offerings. They comprise two premium Art lenses and the very interesting “Contemporary” f/2.8 45mm which Thomas Berger reviewed here on Macfilos a couple of weeks ago.
The three Sigmas are now with UK dealers and our friends at Red Dot Cameras in London have taken their first deliveries. I called in this morning to buy the 45mm which, based on Thomas’s findings, appears to have the makings of an ideal general-purpose lens for all L-Mount cameras. it will find a home on both the CL and the Panasonic S1.
At £550 it is something of a bargain for both SL/S1/R owners as well as for CL and T/TL/2 users. On the APS-C camera has a useful 68mm angle of view and you still get your full 24MP image. It is, however, using the centre portion of the optic, which is fine. Full-frame SL lenses perform really well on the CL as you will have seen from Jonathan Slack’s review of the new Leica APO-Summicron-SL 50mm lens.
There are other reasons to prefer this lens to native TL or SL lenses. The first is size and weight. It is relatively small and very light at 230g. Used on the mighty Panasonic S1, this lightweight lens brings the rig down to manageable proportions.
But perhaps more useful is the aperture ring, something that is missing from all Leica’s SL and TL lenses. Some of us, old Luddites that we are, actually prefer a physical ring to adjust and to view for quickly checking the settings.
This aperture ring comes into its own on the CL when in the camera is in lockdown mode, which I use most of the time to avoid inadvertent button presses. Unlike with TL lenses, you still have full control over aperture-priority exposure with the Sigma 45mm. It is a feature that will help sell the Sigma lenses and will be welcomed by many photographers who do not like having to rely on a screen to set aperture.
The 45mm is, therefore, a sensible buy even for CL and TL owners since it is of a similar size to native TL lenses, has that useful aperture ring and is under one-third of the price of the (admittedly much faster) 35mm Summilux-TL. Even the 23mm Summicron-TL (which, incidentally, is a similar size to the Sigma 45mm) costs over twice as much. Of course, price is not everything. But I am quietly confident that this lens will perform well enough.
The other two lenses in the current Sigma lineup, also available from Red Dot and other dealers, belong to the premium Art range. They have been around in other mount formats for some time and have had excellent reviews. They are not small, nor light. They compare more accurately with Leica and Panasonic’s fast primes.
The attraction of these lenses lies in the price/performance ratio. Take the 35mm Sigma Art f/1.4, for instance. It is faster than the Leica APO-Summicron-SL 35mm but costs only £1,500 compared with the Leica’s £3,900. That’s a lot of dosh by any standards. Of course, the Leica lens is considered to be the best, but you are paying a significant premium for that extra nth image quality. I suspect many owners of L-Mount cameras will take the risk and give the Sigmas a whirl.
Over the next few months, more L-Mount Sigma lenses will become available. The f/2.8 45mm is the only lens from the Contemporary range, however. The panel to the right shows the full road map for the initial programme of 13 lenses.
The price factor is important when it comes to the popularity of used cameras, such as the SL. Prices have dropped, bringing them into a price range that could attract new converts to Leica. But if you buy a cheaper camera, SL lenses are still a major additional cost — certainly any SL lens, even used, would cost more than the camera body. So the Sigma lenses fill a gap and, I think, will help popularise the entire L-Mount system.
As Jonathan Slack mentioned in his 50mm APO-Summicron review, at one time he did fear for the future of the L-Mount. But the coming of the Alliance and the injection of this large range of new lenses changes all that.
It is now a system to be reckoned with, not just at Leica prices but as a genuine alternative to other full-frame camera systems on the market.