Nothing Special Here. Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary Review

The Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens is to lenses what Nikon is to cameras these days.

“Why would I buy this?” is the question I kept asking myself. The Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary is quite a headscratcher. For the Sony E mount, there are better weather-sealed and cheaper 24mm lenses. For the Leica L mount, there isn’t much competition at all. However, that’s also one of the most ruggedly built systems. Yet somehow, the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary isn’t up to par. Luckily, the image quality is outstanding. Either way, this lens is still one that will raise eyebrows.

Too Long, Didn’t Read.

The Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary is a good lens. Overall, it’s not a bad product. Indeed, no one makes a bad product these days. But there’s nothing special about it that would make me reach for it. For L mount, it’s your only affordable wide-angle option at the moment. For the Sony E mount, you’ve got Tamron’s 24mm f2.8. Below is a quick informal comparison between the Tamron and the Sigma. The Sigma photo is below, and the Tamron is above. These weren’t even shot in similar conditions. Even if you pixel peeped, you probably wouldn’t see much difference. And Tamron offers full weather sealing.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • The nice metal builds quality.
  • Small!
  • Sharp images
  • Nice colors
  • Weather sealing at the mount only.
  • It’s very light!
  • Probably the fastest autofocusing Sigma lens we’ve used.

Cons

  • Weather sealing only at the mount. Sigma really needs to change this.
  • $549 isn’t an awful price. But compared to the Tamron, it’s quite expensive.

Gear Used

We tested the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary on the Panasonic S5. Some shots were done with the Flashpoint R2 flash.

Tech Specs

These specs are pulled from our original news post.

  • 10 elements in 8 groups
  • STM autofocus motor
  • 7 aperture blades
  • 4.3-inch close focusing
  • 1:2 magnification
  • 55mm filter thread
  • 7.9 oz for L mount and 8.1 oz for E mount. That’s about as heavy as a hampster or 2/3rd of a can of soup.
  • $549 price point

Innovations

The Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary isn’t doing anything particularly innovative. For the Sony E mount, it’s not the first 24mm prime lens offered. It’s in this odd spot between being both the low-end and mid-tier option. On the L mount side, it’s the first affordable 24mm lens they’ve got. Still, the contemporary lineup of lenses from Sigma has an Art-level of image quality. Yet they still feel like the bastard children of a company that proudly touts the Made in Japan moniker.

Ergonomics

The Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary is a small lens with a metal build. It’s so small that the front filter thread is a 55mm sized thread. Of course, the lens is also far smaller without the lens hood attached to it.

Here’s a top-down look at the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary. You’ll notice two rings. The front ring is for manual focusing. It’s knurled to give you extra grip. Behind that is an aperture ring. You can set that to the “A” mode and forget about it if you’d like.

Both rings are tiny. That’s because this lens overall is incredibly small. As stated, it sometimes seems like the lens hood is just as large.

The only control on the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary is this one little switch for autofocus and manual focus. Luckily, it’s in a spot where you won’t accidentally hit it either.

Build Quality

The Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary isn’t weather sealed. In fact, we asked our reps at Sigma USA to check with the home office. They confirmed that there’s only sealing at the mount. Some folks like to say that if you use it in the rain, it’ll be fine. But we as reviewers can’t responsibly say that. 

With that said, the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary is built incredibly well. It’s part of the I-series. And these lenses feel like modern interpretations of Leica M mount lenses. The exterior is metal. For years we’ve wanted more metal lenses with weather sealing. When you hold it in your hand, it’ll feel well balanced with the S5. If you have larger paws, you’ll probably end up cupping part of the lens hood too. 

The Contemporary line has always confused me. All of Sigma’s lenses have “Art quality.” By that, we mean that they’re clinically great! But the build tends to vary. In this case, I’m disappointed. 

Ease of Use

Luckily, this lens is pretty simple to use. Slap it onto your camera, point, focus and shoot. It’s just that easy. This lens doesn’t have a zone focusing guide. However, I really feel it should. With that said, there’s a switch to turn it from autofocus to manual focus in a pinch. It’s a fun lens to use overall. And what’s really nice is that you don’t have to worry about that focusing switch being thrown out of place.

Autofocus

Let’s start this off by talking about the autofocus of the L mount alliance. Leica, Sigma, and Panasonic lenses all focus at different speeds on each others’ bodies. Everything tends to focus fastest on Panasonic’s cameras. And the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary is no exception to this rule. It’s the fastest focusing Sigma Contemporary lens I’ve tested. With that said, be attentive to your settings. Face Detection should be switched to continuous or single as needed. In that way, it works very much like an old-school system rather than just delivering tracking and face detection.

Either way, it’s very effective. Part of this has to do with the laws of physics. The wider a lens is, the faster it can focus.

In terms of Webcam use, it focused incredibly fast on me when using the Panasonic S5. So I really have nothing to complain about here. 

Sigma’s autofocus, however, has always bugged me. On Sony’s cameras, they lag behind Tamron. And for that, they’ll blame Sony. The same goes for Canon DSLRs and Micro Four Thirds. But on their own mount, the Leica L mount, they’ve never commented on why their lenses are slow. Instead, Panasonic has given us a hint. All the cameras and lenses are sharing the same algorithms and communications. But they’re all using different motors. 

On Sigma’s own cameras, the autofocus is just plain awful. Earlier episodes of our Pro Camera Reviews show have shown us this. Even our audience cringed. After nearly a decade of the Global Vision program, I think that Sigma just needs to get it together. But they’re trying their best for sure!

Thankfully, Sigma can rely on Panasonic here. The Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary is pretty good on the S5. Simultaneously, the system just isn’t as smart as Sony’s or Canon’s in object detection and tracking–birds and humans aside.

Image Quality

Here’s where I always have the most fun with Sigma’s lenses. For the record, all of their Contemporary lenses Art lens quality. The differences have to do with the size, weight, and lack of weather sealing. And overall, the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary has solid image quality. But again, I don’t think that it’s doing anything particularly special. On the E mount side, Sigma is squaring off against Tamron. And without pixel peeping, they’re sort of losing the race.

Bokeh

This is a 24mm f3.5 lens. It can focus fairly close. But overall, it’s surely not winning any awards for bokeh. The bokeh produced is hazier than it is creamy. I’m personally not impressed with this aspect of the lens. 

Color Rendition

The colors from the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary are what really get me. Combined with the Panasonic vivid color profile, you’ll get beautiful, rich colors. Sigma nailed it here for sure!

Lens Character

Unfortunately, Sigma also engineered all the life and soul out of this lens. The distortion is very manageable and barely noticeable. There’s no fringing. But they’re also not much discerning this lens from the rest of them out there.

Sharpness

For the record, this image had editing done to it. But there are very basic adjustments done, if anything. We used high-speed sync and the Flashpoint R2 flash to get this look. It’s nice, for sure! And we’d totally recommend the Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary for environmental portraits.

Extra Image Samples

The Phoblographer takes its ethics incredibly seriously. The following image samples have been split into edited and unedited. You can make a decision for yourself based on these photos.

Edited

Unedited

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Metal body

Dislikes 

  • Step up the weather sealing, Sigma
  • No real reason to get one if you’re a Sony user

As I was writing this article, I was showing quotes off to the site’s staff. I’m very torn here. There’s no agenda against Sigma at all. But I’m sick of seeing lenses that aren’t weather-sealed fully. If that were the case, I’d probably justify the price. But let’s take a deeper dive here. 

On the Sony E mount, the biggest competition is the Tamron 24mm f2.8. Tamron wins for cost, weather sealing, autofocus speed, and comparable image quality. It’s not even a contest. I’d buy the Tamron lens. It’s larger but not all that large on the grand scale. It’s plastic, but it’s also weather sealed. I can’t complain when the lens is doing all it can to protect Sony’s sensors.

On the L mount is where this gets more prime time. The only 24mm lens on the system. More will come for sure. But the autofocus can be tough to use despite it also performing much better than it did previously. I’ve been falling more and more in love with the L mount. However, there’s also the build quality issue. L mount cameras are mostly tough as nails. So too should the lenses. It’s like spending a lot of money on a high-end phone only to go buy your headphones at Dollar Dan’s. Or it’s like buying high-end whiskey only to drink it out of the red Solo cups you used in college. It just doesn’t make sense.

The image quality is overall pretty solid. I wish that Sigma had made this lens have a faster aperture. But we’re not getting that. It could’ve given us much nicer bokeh. It’s also quite small. If you plan on never leaving your home again, go get this lens. But if you’re going out into the wilds with it, expect some dust to hit your Sony camera’s sensor.

The Sigma 24mm f3.5 DG DN Contemporary receives three out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for the latest prices.

Chris Gampat

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