The arrival on the Macfilos desk of the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 lens has come as something of a revelation. Unlike all other full-frame L lenses we’ve seen so far, this is a tiny peach of an optic. We’ve written about it twice, once with Thomas Berger’s initial review and again when I picked up my copy from Red Dot Cameras last month.
I didn’t have time to try out the Sigma before leaving for the week in Mallorca, but I lost no time taking it for a spin at the first opportunity, last Sunday. This turned out to be at the America Car Day at Brooklands Museum. I bolted it to the Panasonic Lumix S1, the “cheap” entry to L-Mount full-
The outing gave me the chance to examine
Yet even this causes only a mild raising of eyebrows, and solely the eyebrows of M-lens owners, many of whom can be stuck in their ways, believing that the widest aperture slot should always be to the left.
With its precise one-third click stops and smooth movement, the aperture ring perfectly complements the equally smooth focus ring. The clichés aren’t half bad either. The metal hood is a masterpiece and has a very quick and clean fixing mechanism. It can be reversed quickly to add protection to the lens and reduce the length by 30mm.
And, let’s not forget that it does have an aperture ring, which is more than you can hope for on any of Leica’s SL or TL offerings. To my traditional eye, popular prejudice runs to physical aperture rings instead of
Autofocus with the S1 is extremely fast and probably the fastest I have experienced in a lens of this type. I have not tried it in low-light conditions, so far, but in daylight it is certainly up there among the fasts.
But this lens is small, similar to a 23mm Leica Summicron-TL, and weighs only 235g (or 280g with the hood attached). It contrasts sharply with other 50mm prime lenses for L-Alliance bodies.
The lack of stabilisation helps keep down the size and weight — we can’t have everything — but this is if minor concern when it is used with well-stabilises bodies such as the S1.
Lenses such as the Summilux-SL 50mm, for instance, are much bigger and more expensive. That lens costs £4,080, a nearly eight times that of the little Sigma. It is also five times as heavy and über-bulky with it. The question is, do you really need it?
Of course, the Summilux is much faster and has been perfected to within an inch of its life. It’s almost certainly a better lens in absolute terms. Most of these pictures here were taken between f/5.6-f/8 and the sharpness is impressive. At the widest aperture of
But the point is that the tiny Sigma is nearly as good for general photography (except in the speed) and it is so much more convenient and handleable. For my money, I’ll forgo the faster aperture and the extra honing to perfection and settle for a £549 f/2.8 compromise.
Even if you can afford the more professional lenses, the little Sigma has great attractions because it is so small and light.
I’m definitely sold on the Sigma 45mm. But while it is a perfect physical match for the CL, for instance, it cries out for a smaller full-frame body, perhaps one as compact as the original Sony A7.
That said, I’m using it on the Lumix S1 and the combined weight of 1.25Kg makes it quite a comfortable rig. The good handling of the S1, helped by that well-shaped and substantial grip, creates a formidable team for general photography.
Is it too much to hope for a smaller full-frame L-mount body? Leica’s forthcoming SL will be another heavyweight, vying as it will with the Panasonic S1R. Both the S1 and S1R are hefty beasts, more suited to the massive fast primes and zooms that we have become used to with the SL system.
At the launch of the S1/R, Panasonic did say that this professional body would be just the first step into the full-frame system. A future smaller body was implied and we can hope that it will come sooner rather than later.
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You have only to pick up the Leica CL to see what is possible. It uses the same lens mount, of course. Imagine a slightly larger CL with a full-frame sensor. Fantasy? Or the future?
Leica should be working on such a beast because I think it would sell well. Everyone acknowledges that the SL and the new Panasonics are fearsomely competent tools, especially when paired with those massive lenses, but many prospective owners are put off by the size of the overall system. This happened to me. I had the SL and 24-90mm twice, but eventually sold them because I found them too heavy.
I now have the S1, which has a similarly bulky body, but the haptics
The tiny Sigma 45mm is a full-frame lens that will appeal to former M-system fans. Attached to a smaller body, it could show the way for a lightweight full-frame system to compete directly with APS-C. Many people who are now ready to move to the larger sensor tend to be put off by the size of the lenses.
Contemporary but good
The 45mm belongs to Sigma’s “Contemporary” range which I always assumed to be more of a budget offering. But I can detect no shortcomings in quality. The Art lenses, Sigma’s premium range, are faster and said to be of higher quality. However, this is reflected in the size of the lenses themselves; in some cases, they can outdo Leica for size.
But the 45mm swaps outright speed for a compromise of f/2.8 in a smaller enclosure. I think it works really well and, so far, I have been impressed with the results as well as with the built-quality and handling. The point is that it is good enough, it will not disappoint and it is affordable.
The L-Mount system is on the move and, I hope, will expand rapidly with more bodies as well as lenses. Already, within less than a year, the lens selection compares well with other systems in terms of scope and quality. We just need some smaller lenses bodies for who want good-enough rather than perfection.
Perhaps Sigma will oblige sooner than Panasonic or Leica but, ultimately a move to more compact bodies, subject to the ever-present problem of coping with overheating, will be the answer.
Meanwhile, the Sigma f/2.8 45mm has just become my go-to prime for the L system. Owners of SLs really should seriously consider this lens. For its build-quality, performance and overall satisfaction, it’s snip at £549 when compared with its fatter and faster brethren.