I’ve been a big fan of Sigma’s Contemporary lens lineup for a while. So much so that I went out and bought the 35mm f/2 Contemporary after I reviewed it. So when I had the chance to review the 90mm f/2.8 Contemporary, I jumped at the chance.

But after spending a few weeks with the lens, I found myself scratching my head. Sure, the lens offers some great optics and is super small. It’s a great lens for beginners. But in a market with several lenses with similar focal lengths, I found myself asking … why?

Pros

  • Compact and light
  • Excellent sharpness
  • Fast autofocus
  • Partially weather sealed

Cons

  • No option to de-click the aperture dial
  • Magnetic hood is slick, but isn’t realistic with a lens hood
  • Affordable, but other lenses beat it

Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary — Technical specifications

Photo by Kris Kinsey

All technical specifications for the Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary have been taken from the B&H website:

  • Design: 11 elements in 10 groups
  • Angle of view: 27°
  • Aperture range: f/2.8–f/22
  • Min focusing distance: 1.6′ / 50 cm
  • Filter size: 55mm
  • Dimensions (diameter x length): 2.5 x 2.4″ / 64 x 59.7 mm
  • Weight: 10.4 oz / 295 g
  • Image stabilization: No

Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary — Ergonomics and build quality

If you’ve used a Sigma Contemporary lens in the past, the 90mm will feel right at home. It’s small and compact, making it perfect as a walk-around or travel lens. The all-metal body is impressive (though, it’ll definitely get cold in the winter!) and it’s a fun lens to use.

The aperture ring works well, and I found that it was a bit tighter than my 35mm, meaning it didn’t turn automatically when in a bag (which can result in an interesting surprise when you don’t realize that). It can’t be de-clicked, which is the biggest downside, especially for videographers.

Outside of that, you’ll find yourself with two lens cap — a standard plastic one, and a magnetic metal one. I love the idea of the magnetic metal cap, however, it’s virtually impossible to use when you have a lens hood on. It’s just not practical. So for me, I left it in the box, and stuck with the standard cap.

Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary — In the field

Sigma has always provided a great, reliable experience with using their E-mount lenses, and the 90mm Contemporary is no different. I used it to photograph some friends outside of their new house. Then I took it downtown at night with a friend, for a photowalk.

Finally, I brought it downtown to capture some nighttime art installations, in order to focus on autofocus and bokeh performance.

I tested the lens on both an a7 IV and a1 camera.

Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary — Autofocus performance

If there’s one place I was most impressed with the Sigma 90mm Contemporary, it was with its autofocusing capabilities. It was able to capture action well, including a squirmy infant being thrown up into the air and caught by his parents.

But at night is where it really impressed me. I took it out to the World of Winter Festival, which is held each winter in my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI. There’s several art installations here. The lens was able to grab on to the subjects with ease, even with contrasting elements that other lenses might have given priority to. As people moved throughout the scene, it kept its focus, and worked marvelously with Sony’s Eye AF capabilities.

Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary — Image quality

Sigma continues to shine with its image quality. The 90mm Contemporary is a sharp beast of a lens, with some effective bokeh and virtually no chromatic aberration, ghosting or flaring. With its tack-sharp optics and great autofocus performance, this lens gives pro-grade results without a steep price.

However, it still has some flaws that you should be aware of. I was surprised to see some distortion, and pretty strong vignetting, for instance. But the other characteristics this lens holds makes up for any negative aspects related to image quality, in my mind.

Distortion control and vignetting

Out of the box, there is some distortion present with the Sigma 90mm Contemporary. But that’s easily fixed, by enabling profile corrections in Lightroom Classic.

The lens also offers some pretty heavy vignetting in the corners. While that can be removed, it’s something to take note of. As someone who typically puts a vignette on their images anyway, it didn’t really bother me.

Sharpness

This lens is razor sharp, and can give a nice fall off when shooting wide-open at f/2.8. In the photo above of the camera being held, you can really see how sharp the main subject of the image is, with the background giving off a very soft depth. This helps to exaggerate the sharpness some, but in a good way, and really lets you draw in the viewer to what you want them to focus on.

Bokeh

The Sigma 90mm Contemporary produces bokeh fairly well, but there’s a lot of catseye shapes present. Not the end of the world, but if you’re all about that bokeh, this might not be the lens for you. It does offer a nice, soft depth of field though, similar to other Sigma Contemporary lenses. So your subjects should pop rather well.

Color rendition

Like most Sigma lenses, the colors do tend to lean a bit warmer. In certain situations, this can help the color balance with Sony cameras, which tend to be a bit green.

Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary is great … but why f/2.8?

Now back to what I had mentioned at the start of this review. Throughout my testing with this lens, I often found myself asking, “why?”

While there aren’t many 90mm lenses for Sony E-mount (other than the Sony 90mm Macro f/2.8), there are a plethora of 85mm lenses. And the Sigma 90mm Contemporary really doesn’t do anything to show off against those.

Take the Sony 85mm f/1.8, for example. This lens is probably the closest in terms of size and price. But it offers an aperture of f/1.8, which is really nice for portraits.

So why would you buy the Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary? Well, it beats the Sony 85mm f/1.8 on focusing. It’s super sharp, and has more accurate colors. But those are the only real advantages that I can see … and they’re minimal differences at best. If you’re an L-mount shooter, this might be a lens I’d look at more.

Personally, I think Sigma should have invested into a 90mm f/2, to match some of its other Contemporary lenses. It would have been a lot more appealing, especially in a completely saturated focal range for Sony lenses. That’s what I was hoping and waiting for, and to have a 90mm f/2.8 … well, it’s kind of a letdown.

Sigma 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens for Sony E

The Sony E-mount 90mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens from Sigma is a short-telephoto prime with impressive optical performance. It is well-suited for portraiture and selective everyday shooting and offers a fast f/2.8 aperture for controlling depth of field and working in less-than-ideal light.