56mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary Impression
SIGMA has recently announced the development of the new “SIGMA 56mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary” at Photokina 2018 in Cologne, Germany. When I received this lens, I got a little cynical and asked myself. “When was the last time I shot with a brand-new SIGMA lens which is lightweight and compact?” On APS-C cameras, it is a mid-telephoto lens equivalent to 85mm on 35mm format. The maximum diameter is 66.5mm and the length is 59.5mm. And, it weighs only 280g. It is extremely light and compact for a F1.4 mid-telephoto lens. The balance (in terms of weight and appearance) is great on SONY a7/a9 cameras and it really looks “capable.” Compared to other two autofocus fixed-focal DC DN Contemporary lenses, the “16mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary” and the “30mm F1.4 DC DN | Contemporary,” it is much lighter than the 16mm and slightly heavier than the 30mm.
Nowadays, we choose cameras according to time, place, and occasion just like when we choose clothes and accessories. One of the choices is a sub-system that does not seem out of place and helps you relax and enjoy shooting. This system is now complete with the F1.4 trio equivalent to 24mm, 45mm, and 85mm. My sub-system needs no more lenses because it must be kept simple to be “sub.” Of course, once you try this lens, you will quickly realize that it is too good to be in the sub position.
I know that the standard usage of a mid-telephoto lens is portrait photography, but I was not inclined to hire a model because this is a lens for casual shooting. As a professional photographer, I hardly ever photograph my family. However, I gathered up the courage to ask my daughter to be the model and she accepted it right away! I had even prepared some comebacks in case she would refuse. What an easy victory. She was surprisingly natural while shooting (though I shot as quickly as possible because she could get cranky if it took too long) and I thought it is wonderful to be young.
I know this sounds crazy, but frankly, you can use your favorite focal length, whenever and whatever you shoot. As long as you shoot in that manner, photography is always exciting as a hobby. The advantage in using a mid-telephoto lens is its distinctive ability to “create a central player.” Its shallow depth of field, which is incredibly thin with this lens, helps me to tidy up composition and isolate the central player from backseat players. In order to focus right on things around the minimum focus distance handheld, you may want to start from practicing how to breathe. Yet, thanks to the lightweight (the good weight balance together with the body, to be more precise), even 1/8s is a safe shutter speed for handheld shooting and the sharp focal peak deserves special mentioning.
Angle of View for Exclusion
Like everyone else, I usually pick a 35mm or 28mm for street photography. With this 85mm equivalent lens, I tried a small experiment. Even though I use this mid-telephoto lens, I sticked to the distance I use with these wide-angle lenses. Quite naturally, the image in the viewfinder looks very different from what I expected. And, it is pretty interesting because it makes me realize how “explanatory” my photography has been. However, this is more than welcome and I leave it to viewers to imagine things outside the frame.
Finally, I took a night walk to shoot night scenes so I can learn the real power of the F1.4. Perhaps surprisingly, night scenes often reveal lens clarity. Unlike some lenses whose clarity drops down significantly on night scenes (many slower lenses outperform in regard to this point, though), the clarity of this lens is stunning. Another wonderful thing about this lens is there is no loss of 3D quality even on the images of long-distance views. This lens offers so much more than the common criterion “F1.4.” I must apologize that I called it a “sub” lens in the beginning. To me, whether it is compatible with full-frame cameras or not is not a big deal. Instead, I want a lens that takes fascinating pictures like this one does.