I’ve always been hesitant on lenses that are specifically called out as being geared toward non-pros. Take Sigma’s latest Contemporary lenses, for example. These compact lenses are marketed toward the everyday user, and they’re priced to be approachable to the masses.
So when I was offered the chance to review the Sigma 35mm f/2 Contemporary lens for my Sony a7 III, I didn’t exactly have high expectations. But the first time I picked it up … I was very surprised. Not only did the Sigma 35mm exceed my expectations for this type of lens — it exceeded my expectations for any lens at this focal length.
Being someone who had just purchased the Sony 35mm f/1.8 lens, I thought there was no way that the Sigma would beat this native lens by Sony. I was wrong. And now I’m very strongly considering doing a trade for the Sigma lens. It’s a prime example of how third-parties can improve upon native lenses and really knock it out of the park. Between its gorgeous bokeh, compact footprint and autofocus capabilities, the Sigma 35mm f/2 Contemporary is an absolute joy to use.
Beautiful bokeh, stunning image quality
The first few times I used the Sigma 35mm f/2, I was just exploring the world around me. I drove out to Grand Haven, MI and scoured a local park and beach for some review-worthy photographs.
Throughout this, I noticed a couple things. First and foremost, the bokeh is absolutely amazing. It produces circular bokeh in the background without a lot of effort. I noticed this not only while taking low angle beach photographs, but also when focusing on a single element in the park. It looks really, really nice, providing a look that I couldn’t get with my Sony 35mm f/1.8 (no matter how hard I tried).
Secondly, the focusing system is really nice. It’s fast, accurate and just works as you expected. I rarely had a missed shot. Compared to the Sony 35mm f/1.8, I found the Sigma to be a little more reliable. The only downside here is it has a minimum focus distance of 10.6 inches, compared to 8.7 inches on the Sony.
- Aperture: f/2-22
- Minimum focus distance: 10.6 inches
- Optical design: 10 elements in 9 groups
- Diaphragm blades: 9, rounded
- Image stabilization: No
- Weather sealing: Partial
- Filter size: 58mm
- Dimensions: 2.8 x 2.7 inches
- Weight: 11.5 ounces
Does it work for jobs?
For me, the real test was whether or not I could see myself using this for my photo jobs. While I’m primarily a corporate event photographer, I also photograph environmental portraits. Recently I shot a feature that highlighted healthcare heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic. And one of the lenses I relied on for this was the Sigma 35mm f/2.
While I didn’t want quite as shallow of a depth of field, the higher aperture worked flawlessly. Even without the beautiful bokeh at an aperture like f/5.6, I still got a nice separation between my subject and the background.
The photos just had a certain look to them, and this really worked with this magazine feature quite well.
Outside of environmental portraits, I can see this lens working great for things like street photography, low-light photography during events, weddings and more. It’s a very versatile lens, at a focal length that I really, really enjoy using.
A few things I’d like to see
While the Sigma 35mm f/2 is a very nice lens, there’s a few things I would have liked to see. First, the aperture ring. Personally I’ve never really been a fan of these, but I know videographers who swear by them. Because I don’t use aperture rings, I set them to “A” and they stay that way.
But with the 35mm f/2, the aperture ring would rotate on its own when being transported in my backpack. It’s not as tight of a lock on the “A” as I’ve experienced with other lenses like this.
In addition, the aperture ring isn’t declickable, which is a big con for videographers. Sony’s recent prime lens trio (that competes closely with Sigma) offers this, meaning that videographers can have silent operation.
The only other thing? While the 35mm f/2 does have some weather sealing on the mount side, it’s not fully weather-sealed. Still, given its price point, to have any weather sealing is a plus here.
Should you buy it?
I think of the Sigma 35mm f/2 Contemporary like the little brother of the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 lens. Both lenses have gorgeous bokeh and supreme image quality. The f/2 version loses some of the pro features, but as I’ve shown, they aren’t totally necessary.
Compared to the Sony 35mm f/1.8, the Sigma 35mm f/2 certainly holds its own. The Sigma just has a certain look to it, and I have to say that I really, really like that look.
If you’re looking for a compact 35mm lens, the Sigma 35mm f/2 Contemporary is certainly worth considering.
Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary Lens for Sony E
An inherently flexible focal length, the Sony E-mount 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary Lens from Sigma is a sleek wide-angle prime pairing a bright design with a portable form factor. The standard wide field of view is useful for a broad array of subject types, including landscape, street, and reportage shooting, and the f/2 maximum aperture excels in challenging lighting and enables greater control over depth of field. In terms of the optical design, three aspherical elements and one SLD element are used to minimize a variety of aberrations and distortion for sharp and accurate rendering. Also, a Super Multi-Layer Coating helps to control ghosting and flare for improved color fidelity and contrast.