Crispy Quality. Sigma 35mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Review

The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is an odd but good lens.

Even as I type this review up, I’m still not totally sure how I feel about the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary lens. It’s an easy lens to appreciate. Sigma is giving us options we’ve needed for years. They now offer three 35mm lenses to customers. And at the same time, they’re eliminating a big need for the 35mm f1.4 Art lens. The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is small. It also has a solid metal body. Best of all, it’s got a little bit of weather sealing at the mount. But at the same time, I wish Sigma had gone even further with this lens, but it’s nearly perfect so far.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Solid metal body
  • Weather sealing at the mount
  • Nice aperture ring
  • Sharp
  • Around $639

Cons

  • I wish it were fully weather-sealed

What’s Innovative?

The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is part of the I series of Sigma lenses. As part of the company’s contemporary lineup, it’s not at all innovative. There are tons of 35mm f2 lenses on the market. And they’re all very good. But nothing really makes the Sigma stand out. Sony has a 35mm f1.8 with full weather sealing. Canon has a 35mm f1.8 with image stabilization and no weather sealing. Of course, Sigma isn’t making Rf mount glass yet. Nikon has a 35mm f1.8 that’s arguably about on par, but Sigma doesn’t support the Z mount. Tamron has a 35mm f2.8 with full weather sealing but at a full stop slower. And Leica has a 35mm f2 with a more innovative lens design but at more than 5x the price. 

Frankly, the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is a wrench with audible clicks amongst a sea of tools. I’m speaking as a complete shill for the tactile experience. But even I’m scratching my head on this one. It’s doing nothing special.

Gear Used

We tested the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary with the Leica SL2 and the Panasonic S5.

Tech Specs

These specs are summarized from our news post:

  • 10 elements in 9 groups
  • STM autofocus motor
  • 9 aperture blades
  • 10.6-inch close focusing
  • 58mm front filter thread
  • 11.5 oz. That’s around as heavy as a basketball.
  • $639 price point

Ergonomics

The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is a beautiful lens. Honestly, this is the kind of design that I’d expect from Leica. But instead, it’s a Sigma. The exterior is made of metal, and it’s all black on the outside.

Key to the design, it has an aperture ring right around the center. In front of that is a manual focus ring. All of these, once again, are made of metal.

The aperture ring is a clicked one. Unlike the Art series lenses, these can’t be de-clicked.

On the side, you’ll find the only control: a focusing switch.

The front of the lens also bears a 58mm filter thread.

Build Quality

Doing our build quality tests makes us run into several issues. The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary touts weather sealing. So when we do our tests, we run the ideas by the manufacturers. Every now and again, reps will tell us things like, “It’ll be fine.” Realistically speaking, yes. But we tend to hold manufacturers to their claims. So we had Sigma America get word from Japan about this. We got the following message back:

“Hi Chris:

Confirmed with the home office that the I series lenses are splash and dust sealed at the mount. I would not recommend prolonged use in significant precipitation.”

And there you go, folks. Keep the lens away from splashes and such. Personally speaking, if you’re shooting some food blog content and a splash hits the lens, it will be fine. But I wouldn’t take it out into the rain.

This is part of why the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is such an oddity. A lens built this well on the outside should have the same inside. There should be weather sealing throughout. Instead, you’re just getting this cold metal shell. Some folks might like that. But personally, everything should be held to weather sealing claims. And everything should be weather sealed.

Ease of Use

The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is a pretty simple lens to use. Slap it onto your camera, point, focus, and shoot! That’s it. Perhaps the most advanced thing is the aperture ring: there are lots of folks out there who don’t know how to use one. As long as you lock it to the A-mode, then you’ll be fine. But it could come out of place in your camera bag. Check it every time you start working with it.

Autofocus

Sigma has told us many times that the autofocus is dependent on the camera manufacturer. The more they tell me this, the more I can’t get behind that statement. Sigma is literally an L mount partner. And I tested this lens on the L mount. It’s a bit faster than the Leica 35mm f2 Summicron SL that costs over $5,000. But it’s not always accurate. Further, it’s faster on Panasonic bodies than Leica bodies. In fact, the difference is vast as of late January 2021. At the same time, it probably can’t keep up with many other 35mm lenses on the market. 

Within Sigma’s own lineup of 35mm lenses, though, it’s the fastest of the bunch. It runs circles around both the 35mm f1.4 Art and the 35mm f1.2 Art lenses. That’s honestly not saying much, though. A 35mm lens is for capturing candid moments and general shooting. But the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary feels like it’s in an odd place. Specifically, it feels like a lens that should’ve been released years ago in terms of autofocus.

Image Quality

Overall, the image quality is a saving grace of the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary. I’d argue that it’s better than their own 35mm f1.4 Art lens. It’s incredibly sharp, the bokeh is alright at best, and there aren’t any problems. At the same time, it feels incredibly sterile. Shooting with this lens is very predictable, and it’s tough to get excited about it.

Bokeh

The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary doesn’t have the most striking bokeh. It’s hard to expect that from most f2 lenses. But here’s a comparison of the Sigma vs. the Leica.

The top photo is from Leica, and the bottom is Sigma. They’re not apples to apples for sure. But something about the Leica bokeh is much more pleasing. They’re both not the best when it comes to the bokeh. However, with the right light, they can do a good job.

Color Rendition

Color from the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is different based on the camera used. But overall, the colors are very vivid and quite lovely. If anything, I describe them as having a slight chrome effect. I think that lots of photographers will love this. But most importantly, I think that non-professional photographers will adore this look.

Chromatic Aberration

There is none. Let’s move on.

Sharpness

Where the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary really shines is with sharpness. In my eyes, this is actually even sharper than the 35mm f1.4 Art lens. However, we’ve still used sharper 35mm lenses. 

Extra Image Samples

Used with a Prism FX Lens Filter
This shot was done as a long exposure. We moved the camera prematurely. It’s still a fun shot!

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Sharp images
  • Weather sealing at the mount
  • Fairly affordable price

Dislikes

  • It doesn’t really stand out from anything on the market.

The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is an alright lens. It’s hard for me to get excited about something that’s not incredibly special. But if it’s your first 35mm lens, it’s a heck of an option. It’s fantastic for professional-grade work that doesn’t require rough and tumble. In controlled environments, the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary will really shine. However, the autofocus needs improvements. It could really use weather sealing. And there are a few other good options on the market if you’re using E mount. Overall, the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary is in kind of an awkward place. If it’s bundled as a kit lens with the Sigma FP, then that’s fine. Otherwise, there’s no reason to give it another look. 

The Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary receives three out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for the latest pricing.

Chris Gampat

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