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Review: Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN (Sony NEX)

by Jamiya Wilson on 06/14/2013

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Sigma has taken great strides over the past couple of years to become a serious player in the third-party lens space. If you’d asked someone years ago about purchasing Sigma they probably would have told you “approach with caution” or some other quip. With those uncertain years behind them, Sigma is crafting a new reputation. I recently took their new 60mm f/2.8 DN out for a spin with the Sony NEX-6. Judging from the stellar reviews some of their lenses have received recently I was super excited. Does the streak of great lenses from Sigma continue?

JamiyaWilson_ThePhoblographer_Sigma60mm_2Pros and Cons

Pros

- Fast and quiet focusing
- Lightweight
- Low price

Cons

- Smooth, slippery finish
- Questionable build quality

 

Gear Used

For this review, I used the Sigma 60 mm f/2.8 DN with the Sony Alpha NEX-6

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo Video Listing

Performance
Focal Length 60 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 90 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Sony (E Mount for NEX)
Format Compatibility Sony NEX (APS-C)
Minimum Focus Distance 19.7″ (50.04 cm)
Magnification 0.14x
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:7.2
Diaphragm Blades 7
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 46 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.40 x 2.20″ (61 x 56 mm)

Ergonomics

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When I first took the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN out of the box, I was really shocked at how small and light it was; more so the weight than the actual dimensions of the lens itself. It is light for a telephoto lens (when considering the equivalent focal length.) However, the smooth finish was the first thing I noticed and was a bit bothersome from the beginning. I’m uncertain how sure of a grip one would have if doing a quick lens change in certain weather conditions. I’d think the lens would be prone to slip out of your hand a time or two if you’re not careful.

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The focusing ring is smooth as butter and even in both autofocus and manual modes, you’d be hard pressed to hear any sounds coming from the lens.

Build Quality

This is a tricky area because on one hand I really like the build quality, but there are some shortcomings. Let’s focus on the good first. The Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN looks great. It’s very modern in its design, with minimalism being its strong point.  My girlfriend noted that it looked like someone just stuck a lens inside of a soda can. This was a compliment mind you. It’s just a quirky looking lens that’s very unassuming. This version came in silver but it is also available in a matte black finish as well. If you do opt for the silver finish, just know it seems everything around it will reflect off it.

Unfortunately, there are some downsides. While aesthetically pleasing, it feels cheaply made. Everything just feels plasticky and when you hold the lens, then turn it upside down and right side up, the lens elements inside knocks back and forth against the inner walls due to the floating element. That isn’t really the most reassuring of sounds especially for something as delicate as a lens. The lens hood is plastic as well and you may think I’m joking, but it actually feels more rugged than the lens itself. I wish they’d put more into the build of the lens, but of course that would have driven the price up.

Autofocus

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Now this is one of Sigma 60mm’s strong suits. Autofocus is blazingly fast and quiet to boot. From taking street portraits which allowed me to take my time to walking down the street and shooting from the hip, the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN kept up quite well. Focusing was accurate for the most part, but not as consistent as I would have liked. I found myself either very pleased or disappointed with pictures in Lightroom. Even if the camera says you have the focus nailed, I found several shots were either a tad soft or either missed slightly. However, when it hits, it hits and I was generally pleased with the results.

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If you’re a numbers person, I’d wager it has about a 7 out of 10 hit rate for AF. And even in dimmer locations like inside a coffee shop, the autofocus was able to keep up. I can’t recall the lens hunting on any occasion. If you want a fast focusing telephoto lens for street photography or events this one fits the bill quite nicely.

Ease of Use

This lens is really a no frills sort of lens from a mechanical standpoint. Put it on your camera and go. With the focal length being equivalent to 90mm in 35mm format, I did find myself having to zoom out with my feet quite a bit. I hardly ever found myself wanting to get closer as this range fit most my needs quite nicely. This lens would be perfect for portraits and relatively slow moving objects. If you have plans of using it to photograph your children or pets, it’ll handle that just fine. If combined with the right camera body, I would even recommend it for sports photography. That’s no knock to the NEX-6, but I would like to see the Sigma on another camera to see if it could handle sports. For now, I’ll reserve judgement.

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One of the better uses for it would definitely be street photography. Or in this case, “stalker photography”. I was surprised at how easy it was to photograph people without their knowledge due to the range I had. And being such a discrete lens, I didn’t get any odd stares like when I bring out my DSLR gear. Street photographers, this just may be the lens you’ve been waiting for.

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Image Quality

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Most will purchase the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN for its range, but image quality is another area it does well in. I’d say the image quality wasn’t stellar, but competent. Colors were accurate, but not vibrant. Bokeh quality was good, but nothing to make you jump out of your seat about. It didn’t have a unique “look” like a Zeiss. Just a decent lens, with good image quality. Although the lens is moderately fast at f/2.8, I found I like my shots a lot better stopped down. Shooting wide open just didn’t result in any “wow” type images and the bokeh was kind meh.

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Like I said, competent. It will take great pictures, but just know you may have to do a little post work to really make them pop.

Sharpness

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Wide open images were a tad soft. But once you stop down past f/3.5 the lens really starts to show up. I had absolutely no complaints once I started shooting at f/4 and higher. So if you’re the type who likes to shoot wide open, you may need to apply a bit of sharpness in post.

Distortion

Surprisingly, I saw very little distortion with this lens. Although it’s a portrait lens, I would feel quite comfortable shooting architecture and landscapes with it.

Color Fringing

There was some minor color fringing when shot wide open, but once I stopped down around f/3.2 it virtually disappeared.

Sample Images

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Conclusions

Looks like Sigma has done it again. Overall, the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN turned out to be a great lens, especially considering the price. It’s a budget-friendly lens for those looking to shoot at longer focusing distances but don’t want to splurge on any of the more expensive options available. For the Sony E-Mount a good prime lens in this focal length is hard to find outside of zooms, so for now this may be your best option. Just know the build quality isn’t the best and sharpness may need to be improved in post.  However, that doesn’t prevent me from recommending it. Portrait, street, and event photographers will love it and I could see myself using it for my studio work.  If you’re looking for a great telephoto in the Sony E-Mount, then this is the one you’ve been waiting for.

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