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Odd One Out, or f/4 And Be There
on June 14, 2015
Let me start by saying I own all three of Sigma's f/2.8 Art lenses for my Sony e-mount camera (19mm, 30mm, and 60mm), and this is the only one that regularly disappoints.
I don't know what it is about this lens. Manual focus (with focus peaking ON) always yields a softer-than desired image. At first, I blamed shutter speed, so I raised the ISO and let her rip. Then I blamed diffraction, so I stayed away from anything above f/8.
But now I realize, it's the lens.
The 19mm and the 60mm are always spot-on; manual mode, aperture priority, mode manual focus- it's all good. The 30mm, however, is good with auto mode- and that's about it. I bought it because the reviews were all so positive, and I wanted a 50mm or so equivalent (my camera has a crop factor of 1.5) for walking around Chicago or whatever. I have found this lens to be finicky to the point of madness, and so have essentially stopped using it. At this point, I would rather use the 19mm (28mm equivalent) and crop the image, but at some point I'm just going to break down and get the Sony lens.
Is it worth it for the price? Sure. The closest comparable lens is $200+ more than this (Sony 35mm). It's a decent "auto" lens. Let the camera choose with this one, or it will probably fail to perform to expectations. But if I could go back, I would skip this lens altogether in favor of Sony's offering.
I decided to give this lens one more shot, and took a somewhat more methodical approach to it's use. What i've found is that the lens is indeed sharp- up to about f/5 or so. Perhaps it's a combination of factors, including the size of the a6000's sensor, but diffraction sets in at fairly wide apertures, so "f/8 and be there" does not apply to this lens, at least on a crop-sensor. Perhaps results would be better on a full-frame camera, but let's be honest- anyone who buys a Sony a7r ii or something is probably going to spring for a Zeiss or a Sony lens.
After revisiting this lens, I have opted to keep it rather than spring for the Sony or Zeiss equivalents, mostly because both of those are backordered for up to 6 weeks at this time, and both cost almost as much (or more) than the camera body I would be attaching them to. I just have to remind myself, "f/4 and be there."