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Hands On: Sigma 19mm F2.8 and 30mm F2.8 Lenses for Micro Four Thirds

by Chris Gampat on 04/08/2012

Around CES 2012, Sigma announced their 19mm f2.8 and 30mm f2.8 EX DN lenses for Micro Four Thirds and Sony NEX. As the first third party company to create autofocus lenses for the mirrorless camera segment, fanboys on both sides were ecstatic about the fact that their systems both grew. On Micro Four Thirds cameras, they both amount to 38mm and 60mm respectively.

I’ve had them for around two hours now as I write this post, but I’ve held off on publishing until I shot the Pillow Fight in NYC recently.

Gear Used

Tech Specs

Listings both borrowed from B&H Photo’s Website

30mm f2.8

Performance
Focal Length 30 mm
Comparable Four Thirds and Micro 4/3 Focal Length: 60 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Micro Four Thirds
Format Compatibility Micro Four Thirds
Angle of View 39.6°
Minimum Focus Distance 11.81″ (30.00 cm)
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:8.1
Groups/Elements 7/5
Diaphragm Blades 7
Features
Autofocus Yes
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 46 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.39 x 1.52″ (60.6 x 38.6 mm)
Weight 4.76 oz (135 g)

19mm f2.8

Performance
Focal Length 19 mm
Comparable Four Thirds and Micro 4/3 Focal Length: 38 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Micro Four Thirds
Format Compatibility Micro Four Thirds
Angle of View 73.5°
Minimum Focus Distance 7.87″ (20 cm)
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:7.4
Groups/Elements 6/8
Diaphragm Blades 7
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 46 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.4 x 1.8″ (6.10 x 4.57 cm)
Weight 4.9 oz (139 g)

Demo Video

Ergonomics

Here’s something you should know about both lenses: they’re both not extremely small and won’t make your camera super pocketable. But they’re not extremely large either and instead feel very balanced on the camera body. The 19mm f2.8 even includes a lens hood.

They both feature large manual focusing rings and no distance or depth of field scale. In practice, that’s a bit of a bummer for street photographers who love to manual focus. For the Sony NEX crowd though, your cameras have peaking for focusing; so it won’t be as bad for you.

Here is the 30mm f2.8 right next to the Olympus 17mm f2.8 pancake lens. For reference, both the 30mm and 19mm are about the same size. But they aren’t pancakes!

Something I can’t get over it just how great these lenses feel and look on the cameras. Sigma put quite a bit of thought into them and it shows.

No matter what the size of your camera is, these lenses will have an excellent feel to them when you’re walking around shooting.

Focusing

Focusing for the most part is fairly snappy, but not as fast as Olympus’s MSC lenses. However, there were some issues with the 30mm f2.8. On either one of my camera bodies, I would sometimes focus, not be happy with what I got, and then try to refocus. When this processed repeated itself to around three times, it would freeze the lens and the camera would not take a photo until maybe around 20 seconds afterward.

The only way around this problem was to physically take the lens off and shake it around. Indeed, I even heard the elements inside moving around. As an extended note, the issue seemed to have been gone when I got home as I tried it and gave the lens quite the focusing stress test on both cameras later on.

I didn’t experience this problem with the 19mm f2.8 and I’m willing to consider the fact that the lens may have taken a bump in the pillow fight, but I highly doubt it. I protected the cameras very well. If anything, it’s my glasses that took the bump as I almost lost them.

The image above is out of focus but I’m posting it anyway. Why? Because I love the shot and the expression on her face is priceless. Sometimes creating a photo isn’t about 100% critical sharpness, but more about capturing a moment and composing it correctly.

But this does bring up a good point: at times the lenses seemed to have focusing issues in terms of accuracy. This is only a preliminary test though and the lenses need to go through more thorough usage.

Image Samples

The lenses generally perform much better on the EPM1 than they do on the EP2 and that’s because of the faster focusing system built into the newer cameras.

To boot, they also look like the lenses we’ve all been waiting for in terms of construction and looks.

First Impressions

So far, I’ve been impressed with the lenses. I haven’t shot much with them so far though but that will change; and there will be multiple posts updating how the lenses perform. At the moment, I love the build quality of the lenses and their image quality when they accurately focus in on the subject. But the slower start-up speed combined with the focusing issues I encountered may perhaps stop these lenses from winning my Editor’s Choice award.

It could very well mean that I’m doing something wrong though: Sigma’s primes are really quite good.

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