A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine lent me his Sigma 30mm f2.8 Micro 4/3 for a tryout. He was under the impression that this was a more than decent product after a couple of months of use on his Panasonic GF3. Nonetheless he wanted the opinion of somebody who was more deeply into the Micro Four/Thirds system than he is.
Everybody has his own ways to "test" a lens and/or a camera. Unsurprisingly, I use the building in front of my office window. Don't worry: I will not inflict those trivial and dull images on PhotoGraphia readers. All the more so because of their unscientific and totally subjective shooting procedure and comparison method. Suffice it to say that I was quite impressed by the performance of Sigma's unexpensive and unpretentious product. So much so that I immediately wanted to take some real-world photographs with it.
So I mounted the lens on my Olympus OM-D body and went out for a bicycle ride. First stop, the MAXXI Museum. Designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the Museum of Art of the XXI century in Rome is one of my favorite subjects, with its sensuous curvy raw-concrete surfaces and light although imposing volumes. Moreover it stands only a few minutes from where I live.
The Sigma 30mm doesn't sport the glamorous looks of the Digital Zuiko lineup, nor the rugged feeling of their Panasonic cousins. As I said it's an unexpensive lens, and it looks like one. In a cool and pleasant way though. The oddest thing is its rattle. Yes, when unmounted, or mounted on a switched off camera body, it sounds as if something was broken and loose inside it and, literally, rattles. All this funny noise stops as soon as the camera is switched on. Then one can appreciate what an unusual 60mm equivalent prime can do. Personally, I find it very useful whenever I deal with large details of huge buildings. When I have a zoom lens I set it on focals between 50mm and 80mm equivalent quite often. Therefore I disagree with those who find the Sigma 30mm "too unusual". Of course its Sony NEX version crops to a more standard 45mm equivalent, but with the tradeoff of making the lens less suitable for portrait use, and a little less sharp near the edges, I think.
Back home, after downloading the SD card in my computer, I have been pleasantly surprised by Sigma 30mm's quality. Center is sharp, corners are just a little softer, light falloff is very moderate wide open and disappears with a couple of stops. The only annoying issue is lateral chromatic aberration, which requires a little tweaking in ACR or PTLens (or whatever software you use) in contrasty scenes. Color rendition is in the natural side, and contrast increases the perceived resolution.
At the end of the day, can the Sigma 30mm be compared to, say, the Panasonic Leica Summilux 25mm? Definitely not. This lens does not belong to the Micro 4/3 "holy trinity" (Panny 25mm, Zuiko 45mm and Zuiko 75mm). To my eye it can be put in the same range of Olympus' Zuiko 12mm. Whithout the all-metal construction, of course, and the clever manual-focus ring-switch. But for the price (especially after Sigma's announcement of its cosmetically upgraded version) it's one of the best buys currently available on the Micro 4/3 market place. Moreover it comes with an included bayonet lens hood and a beautifully made lens pouch.
Mmm, I just realized that my system leaks a ～35mm equivalent. And Sigma makes a 19mm too...