The Odd One. Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Review

The Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is a classically popular focal length with cinema but a bit odd with still photography.

Even after two calls with my Sigma rep talking about the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary, I still don’t totally understand it. It’s a weird focal length, which I genuinely love. I think it’s great that Sigma is trying brave things. It’s also incredibly sharp and has stellar image quality. But using this lens isn’t the easiest. Every time I think I’m going to use it like a 50mm, I need to adjust. And every time I think to use it like a 75mm, I had to step forward a bit. This is in an odd spot. But believe it or not, the best place the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary belongs is on a camera with a tripod.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

The Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary lens is around $699 and delivers clinically sterile image quality in a cinematic focal length. It lacks full weather sealing, and the autofocus is a bit hit or miss. But, if you get past all that, you’ll enjoy what is possible from this very sharp lens. Oh, it’s got some really nice bokeh too!

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Sigma is trying something different.
  • Outstanding image quality. This is like Art lens level of good quality.
  • Small
  • Metal body
  • Pretty affordable at around $699
  • I like the I-series lenses, and their aperture rings are lovely. They feel like Leica lenses!

Cons

  • What the heck, Sigma? Start fully weather sealing your lenses.
  • Odd focal length
  • Inconsistent autofocus

What’s Innovative?

Very little is innovative about the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary aside from the focal length. It’s meant for full-frame mirrorless cameras. 

Gear Used

We tested the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary with the Panasonic S5, Panasonic S1, and the Leica SL2s. 

Tech Specs

These specs are taken from our original news post.

  • 12 elements in 9 groups
  • STM autofocus motor
  • 9 aperture blades
  • 21.7-inch close focusing
  • 62mm front filter thread
  • 14.3 oz. That’s around the weight of an American football.
  • $699 price point

Ergonomics

The Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary has a 62mm filter thread. That’s tiny. And in fact, the overall lens isn’t that large either.

Somehow, Sigma packed a whole lot into a small body. There’s an aperture ring near the mount. (This is a clicked ring, and there’s no de-click option.) Around the ring is a switch for manual or autofocus. And towards the front is the small focusing ring. It’s grooved, so you can use a focusing tab with it if you wish.

Overall, it looks and feels like a Leica M lens.

Build Quality

The Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is said to have some weather sealing at the mount. In fact, we asked Sigma America to check on that with Japan. While there is a bit of sealing at the mount, they don’t recommend using it in a lot of rain for a long time. You’ll probably be okay with a little bit of it. As the Reviews Team and I have all experienced, though, this depends on your camera. 

Weather sealing and durability aside, the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is all metal. In fact, it feels a lot like a modern, autofocus, Leica M-mount lens. And that’s wonderful! It also means it will be a tad cold to grip in freezing weather. Still, this lens is built very solid. 

Ease of Use

The Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is a lens with an aperture ring. Automatically, there’s a whole generation of photographers that won’t know what to do with themselves. But for the more seasoned and marinated among us, we’ll be just fine. There’s always the “A” mode on the lens to reassure you that you’re not going crazy. But it lacks the lock that Sigma’s Art series lenses have. 

Also, note that this doesn’t have a focusing distance scale. So if you want to zone focus with this lens, just forget about it.

Autofocus

Here’s where this review gets a bit weird. Sigma has always blamed its autofocus on other manufacturers. Yet even with its own cameras, the autofocus just isn’t that great. We decided that we’d be really investigative with autofocus.

First off, we tested this lens on L-mount. Every other website out there will probably test it on E Mount. So you can go to them and read their findings. Or go watch what someone that isn’t paid to do reviews talk about it instead. But we’re building a sizeable stable of L mount camera and lens reviews. 

With that said, the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary was mounted to the Panasonic S1, Panasonic S5, and Leica SL2s. All of them had their latest firmware updates. By far, the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary was the fastest on the Panasonic S5. The Panasonic S1 was behind that. And the Leica SL2s even a bit behind the S1. But you probably wouldn’t notice it unless you’re trained to do so. We tested this lens with the camera choosing where to focus, with Face detection, and with manual point selection. In good lighting outdoors, the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary had very few problems. But face and eye detection weren’t always perfect. In low lighting, things got more difficult.

We’re in a pandemic, and I, like many of you, shoot a lot indoors. I tend to do time-lapses of myself cooking. So I often leave the camera to figure out where to autofocus on a scene. Unfortunately, the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary missed its focusing around 13% of the time. That means that I’d rate the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary to have an 87% hit rate. Even more odd is the fact that Panasonic will often say that Sigma is in focus. But in fact, it really isn’t. I reported on this problem initially in my Panasonic S5 review. And it persists with Sigma and Leica lenses. 

Leica and Sigma both don’t comment on issues like this. Trust me, I’ve asked. But Panasonic says that it’s because of the motors being used. I’m inclined to listen to Panasonic vs. nothing being said at all. As a journalist, we have to find an answer. And Panasonic’s answer makes sense.

Image Quality

The Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary saves itself when it comes to image quality. Sigma says that this focal length is popular with cinema shooters. But instead, it’s a very clinical sharpness that is exhibited. I used the lens a bit with Prism FX lens filters to get more of that cinematic look. But overall, the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is still a bit odd. It’s very sterile, but it’s targeted to those who want a cinematic look. 

Bokeh

Of the various I-series lenses, the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary has the best bokeh. It’s creamy for sure! And it’s also really nice when focusing up close. Indeed, this is the most cinematic part of the lens’s look for me. I’m sure that other photographers would feel the same way. I suggest using it with a beautiful color profile that really inspires you. I’m watching Servant on Apple TV+ right now, and I can imagine it being used for that show.

Color Rendition

The colors from the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary aren’t anything too spectacular or unique. In my opinion, it’s nothing to write sonnets about. And you’ll probably end up doing your own toning in post-production.

Lens Character

Again, there really isn’t much character to this lens to speak of. The little haze you see in this image is because it was freezing outside. But otherwise, it’s very well controlled. We didn’t see issues with fringing, distortion, or other chromatic aberrations. Again, the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is basically on the same level as an Art lens.

Sharpness

Here’s where the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is at its best. This lens is incredibly sharp. In fact, it would be Sigma’s sharpest contemporary lens. And I’ve got mixed feelings about that. Sigma could’ve dialed the contrast back and made it seem less sharp. But they kept it in there.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • It feels like a Leica.
  • Sigma is trying new things, and that’s very important.
  • Pretty affordable at around $699.
  • Nice image quality

Dislikes

  • The song and dance about why Sigma’s lenses don’t focus as well as others are getting old.
  • Sigma went all-in on sharpness for a lens that’s supposed to be popular with filmmakers. And it’s very sterile.
  • Needs full weather sealing.

By all means, you can say that the Sigma 65mm f2 is a fantastic and nearly perfect lens. And we’d almost agree with you. This is a lens that’s targeted at anyone and everyone. It’s built off the idea that cinematographers use the 65mm focal length a lot. So the image quality should be very cinematic. But Sigma decided to instead make it very sterile. It’s clinically sharp. And yes, you can add all of the other stuff in post-production. But lots of us creators are so sick of staring at computer screens right now. Overall, I think that the Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is an odd contender in the market. It can’t be compared to anything else. And that’s excellent for Sigma. If you’re into the clinical look, then grab this lens and go create something. But if you want character, go look on eBay for some vintage glass instead. 

The Sigma 65mm f2 DG DN Contemporary earns four out of five stars. Want one? They’re around $699.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.