The Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary is exactly what the L mount system needs to attract new users to the platform.
It seems like everyone is making small, affordable primes right now. Tamron recently released a line of small inexpensive E mount primes. Sony also joined in by releasing an affordable line of G series primes. Sigma also decided to throw its hat into the ring with their new I series primes.
While 35mm f/2 DG DN lens is available for Sony’s E mount (see our review here), it’s the L mount that sorely needs small affordable primes. Sigma recently sent me the Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary to review. Let’s talk about it.
- Small and light
- Incredible build quality
- Excellent optics
- Rapid focus, although there’s some pulsing in continuous focus modes (Panasonic cameras)
- It’s affordable
- The lens is only weather-sealed at the mount
- The magnetic hood is nice, but it’s impossible to remove with the hood on
- No option to de-click the aperture dial
Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary — Technical Specifications
I have to say that I have a soft spot for 35mm lenses. I think they are one of the most, if not the most versatile prime lenses out there. The normal focal length is still wide enough to shoot land and cityscapes, it’s great for environmental portraits, regular portraits, food photography, event photography, street photography and more.
35mm lenses are usually small, fast to focus, have fast apertures, and produce sharp images. If I’m heading out for the day on a photo walk, you’ll usually find me shooting with a 35mm prime. They are always in my bag when I shoot events as well. Let’s look at the specs of this one.
- 10 elements in 9 groups
- 9 rounded aperture blades
- Minimum focusing distance of 10.6-inches
- Aperture range from f/2-22
- 58mm filters
- Splash and dust resistant
- 0.71lbs or 325 grams
- For Sony E and L Mounts
Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN — Handling and build quality
The Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN feels fantastic in the hand. This Contemporary lens feels like a premium offering. In fact, it feels nicer than some Art series lenses I’ve used, and most other lenses in this price range. The build quality is exceptional. The lens is weather-sealed at the mount, though I wish there were seals throughout the barrel.
The manual focusing ring turns smoothly, and the aperture ring clicks into place positively. It’s worth noting that the aperture ring cannot be de-clicked, which will not please videographers. The only other control on the lens which switches between manual and autofocus feels great too. The lens also comes with two lens caps. One standard lens cap and a magnetic one.
The metal, magnetic cap feels really nice and it does work well. Once attached to the lens it feels secure. However, when you have the metal lens hood attached to the lens, the magnetic hood can’t be removed without first removing the hood. You also cannot use the magnetic cap if you have a filter in place. Overall, the Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN feels great in the hand and it feels perfectly matched to the Panasonic Lumix S5 I used it on.
It’s the first L mount lens that brought a genuine smile to my face
That’s the honest truth. I know, I have a thing for 35mm lenses. Still, even if I didn’t, this lens would have sparked the same reaction. Slap it onto your camera, remove the lens cap and you’re ready to go. There’s no learning curve with a lens like this. It’s just fun right out of the gate.
If you’re not a fan of changing the aperture via the aperture dial, you can set it to A and then adjust the aperture with the camera body. Manually focusing this lens is a piece of cake to thanks to the smooth focusing ring.
The lens doesn’t feature image stabilization, but with the IBIS in the Panasonic Lumix S5, I had no issues hand holding this lens down to 1/5s. It’s small and light, so light in fact, that you’ll just forget it’s there.
It’s a no-fuss, easy-to-use lens that’s happy to be pointed at anything. Street? no problem. Events? A piece of cake! Portraits? No worries. Food photography, documentary work, low-light photography? Bring it on. This lens just eats them up.
Autofocus isn’t bad either, but beware of the breathing
I used the Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN with the Panasonic Lumix S5 and it has performed very well. This lens uses stepping motors. Still, autofocus is swift and accurate in both single and continuous focus modes, and both good and low light. Focusing from near to far happens rapidly.
The lens also works with the human face and eye detection as well as animal focusing in Panasonic camera bodies. This lens is pretty impressive when it comes to close focusing too. With a minimum focusing distance of 10.6 inches, you can get quite creative.
There are some issues when it comes to using continuous autofocus. You’ll see pulsing, though this happens with most lenses on Panasonic cameras thanks to the contrast-detect autofocus system. It can be a little disconcerting, but you’ll rarely get an out-of-focus image. This should not be an issue when used with cameras that have phase and contrast-detect autofocus systems.
The Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN does suffer from a fair amount of focus breathing, though. Keep this in mind if you want to use this lens for video work. You can see how bad the focus breathing is in this video.
Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN — Optical performance
Image quality is what it all comes down to and I have to say that the Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN seriously impresses. I used this lens in a variety of situations and it never let me down.
When shooting wide open at f/2 you’re going to get images that are razor-sharp in the center. When you look at the corners you’ll see a little softness. At f/2 you’ll also see a slight vignette. However, stop down to f/2.8 and the corners become much sharper and brighter. All vignetting disappears by f/5.6. The lens remains sharp down to f/14, then diffraction kicks in at f/16.
Colors, distortions and bokeh
Everyone has been crying foul because of the maximum aperture of f/2. Well, this decision from Sigma comes down to compromises. The smaller aperture has meant that Sigma could keep both size and weight down, and that’s great. The L mount needs smaller lenses. Don’t let the maximum aperture of f/2 fool you though. It’s more than enough for most.
Honestly, lenses with a focal length of 35mm have never meant to be bokeh monsters. Can this lens produce bokeh? Yes, of course, and it’s quite nice actually. In fact, when you focus at the closest focusing distance of 10.6 inches you can obliterate the background.
When it comes to the colors the Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN renders, I think most will be very happy with the results. The lens doesn’t produce overly saturated colors like many Sigma lenses have in the past. Colors are quite natural, with only a slight hint of warm tones coming through.
Chromatic aberrations are well controlled too. That’s not to say that there aren’t any — there are — but you really have to look for them. Besides, they can easily be removed during editing.
There is some barrel distortion, but again, it can easily be fixed. If you leave in-camera corrections on, the camera will take care of all of this for you. If you turn them off, you can still fix the distortion during post if you have shot in RAW format.
Flares and ghosting are controlled pretty well. Shooting into the sun will cause a small amount of ghosting and flaring, but the lens hood does help cut this down. Overall, I have no complaints about this lens and its optical performance. It’s a solid all-rounder.
Is it worth your time and money?
So, is the Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary worth the price Sigma is asking for it? I think so. When you consider the premium build quality along with the autofocus performance for stills, and the overall image quality, under $650 isn’t a bad price at all. The choice to buy this for Sony E mount cameras will be harder due to so many 35mm lens choices on the market for that mount. However, L mount users don’t have such luxuries.
With the next closest 35mm in price being the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG DN Art at $899, then the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 at $1,499, followed by the incredibly expensive Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron, which costs $5,195. The Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN is a no-brainer for L mount users who want a light, sharp lens that won’t let them down. If you buy it, you’ll have the same smile on your face that I had on mine.
Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary
The Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary is a lens that has been sorely needed for L mount cameras. There’s finally an option that won’t break the bank, and that doesn’t compromise on performance at all. This lens delivers superb optical performance in a sleek retro-styled body that will delight whoever uses it. The only downside is that it’s only sealed at the mount. For the price, though, this is one heck of a lens.