In recent months, several high-quality, bright lenses with a fixed focus have appeared, like the Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 and the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4. But what if you want to have a more compact, lighter and less expensive (under 500 euro) lens? Then the choice is very limited and the Sigma 30 mm 1:1.4 DC HSM Art in particular shows up. This bright standard lens for APS-C cameras provides a field of view similar to that of a 45 mm lens on an FX or full-frame camera. The ART addition indicates that a lens belongs in the upper segment. The advantage of such a bright lens is not so much working under low-light conditions, but the limited depth of field that you can achieve. Especially users who also film love it.
A standard lens with a large aperture is ideal for low-light photography. We tested the lens in combination with a Nikon D7100 and made use for the practice shots of a D3300 and a D800. This shot was taken with a Nikon D3300.
The Sigma 30 mm 1.4 lens looks very professional and tight. As part of the Sigma Global Vision, every single lens is tested (on the Sigma A1 MTF system) in order to guarantee the quality of the Sigma Art lenses. It comes in a nice bag and with a lens hood. Although this is a lens from the ART-series, we noticed that this designation is not used on the lens itself; there is a silver 'A' applied.
The base is plastic, about which Sigma remarks that use is made of a special composite with low thermal expansion. Through the use of composite material, the lens weighs very little, and it prevents back focus/front focus problems with temperature fluctuation.
Sigma has developed special software (SIGMA Optimization Pro), with which the lens firmware is updated and the AF can be optimized. To connect the lens with your computer, you need a USB dock, which you can buy as an accessory for a reasonable price from Sigma.
From the excerpt shown here, it is clear that there's a complicated optical system with 10 lenses in 7 groups. There is internal focus; the lens does not become shorter or longer when focusing and the front lens remains still. Of course, there is a built-in focus engine. There is no image stabilization, there is a focus ring and (a rarity nowadays!) a distance scale.
The vignetting is very limited: at maximum aperture about half a stop; at the smaller apertures, the vignetting is negligible. That's a very good performance. This lens gives bokeh enthusiasts with a DX camera a bokeh that can't be distinguished from a shot made with an FX camera, while the vignetting is considerably less than in pictures made with an FX camera. You might argue that it is easier to expose a small sensor evenly than an FX sensor, but this lens is also a lot smaller than a bright lens for an FX sensor.
Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 Art @ 1/80 sec, f/11 on the Nikon D3300.The subject is a crane track at an abandoned shipyard in Dordrecht.
Some lenses with a fixed focal length excel in the absence of distortion. With this Sigma, there is still some room for improvement: 1% distortion is not directly something to worry about but still clearly visible, for example, architectural photography or landscapes with a low (or high) horizon.
Flare we could not find. Even with the sun in frame, the picture quality was good. The Super Multi-Layer Coating does its job well. In the pictures taken in practice we used the included lens hood as much as possible.
The resolution and chromatic aberration of this lens are sufficient to good, but not groundbreaking. The center sharpness at maximum aperture is already high and is maximum at f/4. The sharpness in the corners and at the edges is clearly less at maximum aperture than at f/4. On this point, the Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 Art clearly loses to the Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 Art and the Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8. But as counterpoint, the Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 is much less expensive and is more compact.
The shot below is made with 1/3200 sec at f/4, ISO 200. Good detail reproduction, no vignetting. The Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 Art has an aperture that is made of 9 rounded lamellae, resulting in a nice bokeh and nice "sun stars" if you are shooting a bright light source at a small aperture.
Conclusion Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 Art test with Nikon D7100
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, where you have all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score will give you for this lens/camera combination test: "What you see is what you get".
testcamera's: Nikon D7100, D3300 & D800
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera as a RAW file. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
Bright standard lens with a fixed focal point for a DX camera
Reasonably well priced for a lens with this brightness
Optical qualities good, but not as exceptionally good as the Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 Art or the Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 Art
The Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 ART lens is beautifully designed and well built, and has a reasonably good price-to-quality ratio.
Anyone who has an FX camera can choose from a wide variety of bright standard lenses with a fixed focal length of 50 mm. If you like to shoot with a bright lens (< f/1.8) with the same field of view, which fits well with what you see with the naked eye, then the choice is much smaller. For the most critical user, both Sigma and Nikon have a 35 mm f/1.4 lens that scores better, but is more expensive. Nikon has no 30 mm lens, but a 35 mm f/1.8 that is less bright and thereby slightly cheaper. The Sigma 30 mm f/1.4 Art is a fun, universally applicable lens with a fixed focal point for the bokeh lover/amateur photographer with a DX camera, which until now had no affordable bright (f/1.4) standard lenses.
Author: Jop Steenhof de Jong
Photography has been a hobby of mine for many years. For me, it's about the joy of creating. I like to find and share knowledge in depth topics again. After years of having fun with contributions made to the Dutch magazine "Camera Magazine", I test now with at least as much pleasure for CameraStuffReview.