28mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art Impression
It is hardly unexpected that SIGMA has released the new 28mm F1.4 Art line lens. However, it is certainly uncommon that a single manufacturer has such an extensive lineup of fixed-focal high-speed lenses, and this makes me a little worried about the sales of this quite enthusiastic lineup, even though I, as a tester, know about SIGMA more than general users do. The history of photography began as a means to preserve what people witness. In other words, it is a record. If we want to go further to express ourselves, we want various kinds of eyes, or lenses. Whenever I communicate with SIGMA staff, I feel they are captivated by optical technology and photography. This lens is another example of their passion to provide photographers every possibility and the joy of photography. So, I am always excited to test their products. This lens is surprisingly compact for lens construction and the angle of view of the 28mm focal length corresponds to the field of view when we take a glance. If you step forward by one or two steps from that point, you get the angle of view of the 50mm, which is easy to compose. That is to say, though I could be misleading, the 28mm field of view resembles our “unintended vision” and this is why most smartphones have 28mm-equivalent lenses. Yet, to be unintended is not easy in terms of expression. I was excited to learn what this lens would offer to handle this difficulty.
Few lenses can be as captivating as this one is.
First of all, I am fascinated by the beautiful bokeh, which is extremely natural in the foreground and the background. The amount of bokeh is realized by this focal length even at wide open and it works to create the unique feeling of depth. Residual aberration is almost unnoticeable and resolution is pretty high at wide open. Clarity is extremely high as well just like with other Art line lenses and it is obviously realized by high fundamental capturing ability. So, if the air is humid, it captures the humidity. In other words, the rendition has no ambiguity. I am also impressed by the rich color reproduction. While no one would argue that optical technology has improved in the digital age, few lenses can be as “captivating” as this one is, particularly for someone who is constantly using many lenses until becoming almost “frigid.” Here is my instant subjective impression. I want this lens unconditionally.
The first situation for testing was wide-angle portraits. Most portraits shot with the 28mm lens have background in addition to the subject. However, the volume of bokeh realized by F1.4 helps the subject to pop out and it is always interesting to see this phenomenon. With ordinary 28mm lenses, you want to be careful about how the bokeh taste turns out, as they cannot blur away everything in the background or foreground like telephoto lenses do. Also, you would hope the perspective to be natural for portrait photography. With this lens, you will not have to worry about these issues at all. Actually, this lens is so powerful that I want to keep using it even though I am not good at wide-angle portraits.
After arriving at the location, I looked up to the sky. As we expect from early winter, the air was clear and the temperature was not too cold. The sky is completely defocused at wide open despite the distance to the subject. The great gap between the defocused sky and the detailed focal plane realistically reproduced the refreshing air of the location. Even though I used the sky as horizontal wallpaper, light fall-off is surprisingly low around the corners. There are some, but the amount is just right to be savory complimenting the subject. If you need to eliminate it for landscapes, just stop down about two stops from wide open, though you would seldom need to do so.
The model is Shun Tominaga. He is an up-and-coming pianist who has lived in Portugal, Spain, and Germany. He has won many prizes in numbers of international competitions since high school (in Spain). His areas of activity are expanding – he has recently performed on stage with Goro Inagaki. (Official website)
Ancient Kyoto in drizzling rain
My theme for testing this lens was a trip to Kyoto in early winter that was becoming colder with every rainfall. There are three reasons for choosing this city. First, the angle of view of the 28mm focal length seemed to be convenient to capture the streets of Kyoto. Second, the speed of F1.4 is compelling for low light scenes. Third, I expected that its linear tone reproduction would serve to capture the delicate air of the ancient capital. The results? Everything went just as planned.
Traditional Japanese architecture is not separated from outdoors unlike the modern one is. So on a rainy day, you feel humidity indoors. This symbolizes Japanese ethnicity that is close to nature. The lens has a good contrast, but wonderfully expressed the layers of the atmosphere as well. Though it was humid inside and outside, this image realistically expresses the air that is somewhat dehumidified around the veranda.
I could also keep the horizontal and vertical lines straight, but did not on purpose. It is definitely interesting to look things in an old temple paying attention to the lines and faces. Just by switching your frame of reference, you can find something new. The rendition of the Kimono is absolutely delicate.
The volume of bokeh is large in the foreground and the background even while focusing on people as subjects. The Suirokaku Aqueduct has been carrying water from Lake Biwa since the Meiji Period.
The focal plane is paper-thin around the minimum focus distance. The 28mm focal length can include the surrounding scenes and yet you get this bokeh.
For everyday shooting
The last situation for testing was everyday situation where we want to take casual shots. You cannot get this image quality with a smartphone even though it has a 28mm-equivalent lens. This is the very reason we use cameras. This lens will make your photography even more enjoyable.
Inexpressibly profound rendition beyond performance
I need to speak no more about the performance of the Art line lenses. Even to someone who has tested number of lenses, this lens provides something beyond the optimized performance or specifications. For the engineers, it could be something impossible to verbalize and share. Yet, I believe it is the thing that people who are obsessed with making things genuinely pursue. I may sound too simplistic as a tester, but here is my conclusion – this lens has an “aura.”