I have recently purchased a new lens, and for the first time in my history I got a lens which is not from Olympus, but a third party lens maker for the Four Thirds standard, Sigma. I bought myself (a used unit, at an irresistible bargain) Sigma 30mm F1.4, and today was the day I took the lens out, mounted on my Olympus DSLR E-5, for a spin at my favourite street hunting spot, Pudu.
Please bear in mind this entry is not intended to be a review of any sort. This Sigma 30mm is a rather old lens, and many information on what this lens can or cannot do, and how it performs have been openly and abundantly discussed everywhere on photography forums and many useful review sites. I shall not add on to the already vast available information. Instead of worrying about the lens’ capabilities, I just brought the lens out and shoot. Like, really shoot, for my usual shutter therapy session. Lenses are not made to shoot test charts or for you to awe at its technical perfection. Lenses are made to work with your camera body to produce wonderful photography work!!! Now stop chimping and lets go out have some shutter action and fun.
All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Sigma 30mm F1.4
Breakfast: Hakka Noodles
Chinese New Year is coming
Cut and Stand
Smile in a market
Playing with fire
I have not used this lens extensive enough to give any useful comment, and to be honest this was my only time shooting with this lens, on a rather short morning session (less than two hours shooting time on the streets). Nonetheless, having used this lens so briefly, I can confirm many arguments and feedback from the online community are true indeed. Yes, the Sigma 30mm is very soft when it is being used wide open (at F1.4 to F2), and do not expect any Zuiko quality sharpness in any of my images displayed in this entry. Did the softness of the lens bother me? Coming from ever so sharp Zuiko lens history (that 50mm F2 macro can cut your eyes, I tell you), many people thought of the impossibility for me to live with anything less than Zuiko perfection. Yes, I was annoyed, and not too satisfied with the not so sharp images, but then there comes another question: why do ALL photographs have to be so sharp? Do we need to show so much detail in every single shot we produce? If you are shooting macro and want to reveal the tiniest details of the insect’s eye or the hair on its tiny legs, or that texture on the small flower petal, then yes, sharpness and fine resolution are of absolute priority. But I was on the street, even if you can capture the nose hair several meters away from the person, you can’t even see all those tiny details if you do not magnify the original image, and above that, you probably would not want too much details (skin imperfections, etc) in the first place.
No, it did not bother me that much when I shoot on the street with the 30mm lens. Oh the bokeh (background blur) when you shoot at wide open F1.4, is heavenly!! That itself is enough to make up for the absence of usual Olympus Zuiko absolute sharpness. The bokeh is so smooth and creamy, and pleasant to look at, allowing me to isolate my subjects in a crowded market place. I believe many people bought this lens, just because of the bokeh quality that it promises. And yes, as promised, this Sigma 30mm F1.4 successfully delivers the desired bokeh, with no disappointment I must add. Seriously, there really is not much choice out there, Olympus refusing to produce anything below F2 for their lenses; this Sigma is one of the only very rare choices out there for Olympus users to experience that creamy, dreamy bokeh.
Not only that, the 30mm is a good range to work with (though I personally prefer the 25mm), not being too far on the tele-end, and wide enough to capture a little bit of the background if you need to. I am not claiming whichever lens to be the perfect focal length for street shooting; you have got to choose which focal length that best works for your own shooting style. I have always been very comfortable shooting with my Olympus Zuiko 50mm F2 macro on the streets, and I treasure the ability to go at 100mm (on 35mm format equivalent). Having a 30mm on hand now, it does complement my shooting style very well, opening to a new, wider perspective, yet not being too wide. I like my shots to be tight, I like my shots to be compact, I do not like too many negative space, and I NEED some working distance between myself and my subjects. 30mm to 50mm are just nice, anything too wide or too far to the tele end would have been obtrusive to my usual shooting needs.
Now comes my complains.
I do find the autofocus to be very unreliable, and I am not kidding. The autofocus is fast, it is actually faster than the Olympus 50mm F2. However, even on the viewfinder I can see that the focusing was not doing its job accordingly, and failed to lock focus accurately even after the “beep” confirmation. This does not happen very frequent (probably 2-3 times out of 25 shots), but frequent enough to get on my nerves. Because of this issue, I have become less confident with my shooting, and I needed to take quite a handful of shots of the same subjects, just in case I did not hit pin point focus accuracy the first time I fired the shot. There were at least three encounters, when I tried to focus, the lens did not respond at all, even after I press the shutter button halfway numerous times. I turned the camera on and off, a few times, and the problem went away. I am not sure if this was an isolated incident, or my copy was a bad one, but I have never experienced such issue with many lenses I have used in the past.
Joy of meeting a Street Photographer
Labels on bottles
To be burned
Flowers on the road
I may jump into conclusions about the focusing, and I have not checked the lens for any backfocusing issues. However, I am fairly confident it has no backfocusing (or frontfocusing) because I did get high rate of accurately hit focus images, as shown in this entry. They appear soft, of course, because most of them were shot wide open at F1.4. I may be jumping into conclusions too fast, hence do allow me to use the lens more, and explore its characteristics, and know how to fully go around with it. So far, I am enjoying it immensely, just for the bokeh it produced alone. I never knew I would love bokeh so much before this lens.
Anyone used this lens before? Do share your experience!!