45mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary Impression
50mm is the most common focal length for a “standard lens.” It is considered to be ideal for capturing everyday scenes because it best corresponds to the perspective of the human eye. However, it sometimes feels too long to capture the cityscape naturally. I also think of the 35mm, but it is “too short for a belt, too long for a sleeve tie.” After all, I return to the 50mm worrying about the extra length. When I was asked to test this 45mm F2.8 lens, I was most delighted with the 5mm shortness, putting the optical performance aside. The difference of 5mm sounds small, but it makes a big difference in photography. The additional information brought by the 5mm shortness enhances the depth in images and the slight wideness makes me feel light. The location was Kyoto city. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and I walked as my mood dictated.
Facades of the main streets
This shot taken on the main street shows the flexibility of the 45mm focal length. The difference of 5mm is more significant than I expected. I did not have to step back taking a semi-crouching position to use the slightly wider perspective. Shooting is fun because I do not have to think too much about the composition. I am also impressed by the color reproduction which expresses the gradation of the pink color of the cherry blossoms. The focal peak is sharp enough, though it has an elegant softness under the slight backlight situation like this.
The streets of Kyoto follow a grid pattern composed by crossing straight roads. Similarly, the historical architectures along the roads are framed by delicate straight lines. Perhaps, it is this beauty weaved by the straight lines that realizes the sophistication of the cityscape of Kyoto city. The 45mm F2.8 DG DN | Contemporary captures straight lines just as they are. The low distortion throughout the frame is reassuring and I can always use geometric patterns in composition. As a professional photographer, I take the uniform image quality to the corners for granted. And when a lens provides it at wide open, I have more trust in it.
Shot at wide open. The tiles and framework look very sharp and have good contrast. Vignetting is almost negligible.
So far, I learned that this lens has a nice softness at wide open, while it also has high basic performance. This is a kind of lens that becomes more fun to shoot as I use it.
After understanding the basic character of this lens, I walked into the back-alleys to shoot more attentively. These alleys are incredibly quiet even though they are just a step away from the crowded sightseeing spots. When shooting an alley with the 45mm, I would use vertical composition in order to express the depth of the location. The motorbike on the focal plane has great detail. The perfect bokeh expresses the distance to the background without becoming lousy and helps the main subject to pop out. The lens perfectly replicated the atmosphere of the location. This image solidified my impression of this lens: I want to carry it all the time.
Japanese and Western. Organic and inorganic. Natural and artificial. The harmony between these extremes is also the main component of Kyoto. Sharpness dramatically increases by stopping it down by just one stop. I can almost feel the hardness, asperity, and even the coldness of the stones. The deep color reproduction expresses the vitality of the camellia flowers even though they are dying.
These tasteful antiques at a classical cafe along the alley were perfect subjects for this lens because the 45mm focal length helped me frame the atmosphere without stepping back. With the F2.8 speed, I did not have to increase the sensitivity too much. The rich color reproduction communicates the noble air of the location.
According to SIGMA, this lens has good background bokeh and low level of vignetting. It is true that this back bokeh looks rich and expressive like an oil-painting and it adds to the profoundness of the image. The focal peak is sharp at wide open, but again it has some sweet softness. The well-controlled vignetting gives me confidence to shoot at wide open. This lens has a great power of expression.
Craftsmanship approved by craftsmen
I visited a picture frame factory in the neighborhood city, Uji. The lens expresses the beauty of the frames lit by the diffused backlight. Axial chromatic aberration is effectively corrected. The tonal reproduction and contrast are just excellent.
While I was shooting a young craftsman on duty, he spoke to me,
“It looks stylish and seems to be robustly constructed.”
I was surprised. I know this lens is very well-made. I can instantly feel its robustness because the barrel and even the hood is made of metal. The deep knurling of the focus ring and the hood not only helps gripping but also gives the sophisticated impression in design. Though this craftsmanship would surely appeal to photographers, it also did to someone who does not do photography.
Yet, it makes sense that a craftsman, the master of professional tools, reacted to the craftsmanship of this lens. It took no time for him to value the design and build quality of the product. There seems to be something in common that experts appreciate, regardless of area of expertise.
Mr. H, the veteran craftsman, also likes taking photography and I ended up visiting his house. He kept playing with the lens saying, “I love the feel of the focus ring” and enjoyed making tinkling sounds by snapping the metal hood. These days, it is hard to find a lens that attracts photographers just by its appearance and feel. The stylish kitchen room, by the way, was designed by himself who is holding the blueprint.
It is just my conjecture, but I believe that SIGMA had developed this lens with a good sense of fun. Touching the high quality finish is a joy. The operation is solid and pleasant. The design is compact and stylish. The expression is so powerful even at the wide end. And, the combination of the exquisite 45mm focal length and the fast enough F2.8 brightness is perfect. This attractive lens meets all the requirements to be a regular lens. Mr. H says, “Pictures are perfected only after they are framed.” Here is my free translation.The best optical element is perfected with the best finish and design.