Well the first of my micro 4/3rds kit showed up today. I took delivery of a nice looking Sigma 30mm f/2.8. My initial setup that I am going with, I think I mentioned in an earlier post, is the Olympus OM-D E-M5, Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 and Sigma 30mm f/2.8. With no idea when the OM-D will ship, could be tomorrow, could be two weeks from now and no idea when the Pany 14mm is showing up (sitting in customs now, could be tomorrow, could be next week) I went ahead and ordered the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 from B&H. They have great customer service and since I live a measly two states away from their warehouse in NJ, their free/cheap UPS shipping is 90% of the time next day service.
This was sitting on my desk when I got home today. No the delivery guy isn’t a burglar, nor are we on a first name, “have a key just in case” basis. My lovely wife left it on my desk for me.
Such a tiny little box.
As a number of other reviews have mentioned, the lens comes in a typical lens box, includes various documentation and warranty card and the lens includes a halfway decent pouch and front and rear lens cap. Even though a number of reviews have mentioned it, I am very used to 35mm film lenses. This thing is pretty tiny, roughly the same size as my Zuiko 50mm f/1.4 and significantly lighter. Reviews have also mentioned when off the focusing element is loose and rattles around. If I hadn’t read that, it would have been a little alarming. It takes a little bit to really rattle it though, not that I plan on using it like a maraca. This initial review is of course using my wife’s E-PL1, I’ll be doing a lot more testing with the OM-D whenever it shows up as well as a full formal (as formal as I get) review then.
Focusing is much faster than the kit 14-42mm lens on the E-PL1. If I were to put a rough number on it, I’d say about 50% faster. It also focuses pretty much silently. Based solely on about 30 minutes of total usage, the aperture on the E-PL1 does click away if you are panning through scenes with pretty varying light levels as the camera attempts to stop down to keep from blowing the screen exposure. Not sure if this is something that can be adjusted on the OM-D or how to go about DoF preview on the E-PL1, but something I’ll need to look in to on the OM-D (especially DoF preview). Focus at first brush seems pretty darned accurate even in low light. None of the sample images/test images have been modified in anyway other than resizing. Exatly how they are out of the in camera JPEG engine (which could certainly use some improvement on the E-PL1, but 3 generations on and from descriptions the OM-D or even E-P3/E-PL3/E-PM1 are significantly better than the EP-1/E-PL1 were/are when it comes to higher ISOs).
The lens handles intense light reasonably. Here are three samples.
Sun near the top of the frame at f/5.6, some veiling rays and a single moderate sized light blob.
Sun in the corner almost out of frame and the light blob is nearly gone and the veiling rays are somewhat less.
Sun moderately out of frame, still hitting the front element big time and there is no visible flare, veiling or ghosting.
Somewhat more moderate lights fully in frame, again no flare issues (or haloing).
Sharpness is also very good, even wide open it is pretty good (the highish noise from the shadow areas of the E-PL1 doesn’t help the f/2.8 image quality, but still it looks pretty good).
Click on the images for full size, 12Mpixel images.
The only other thing of note I have to add at this point is, as some other reviewers have mentioned, startup times are relatively slow when connected to the E-PL1 at least. With the kit lens or a manual focus adapted lens it takes about 1 second to start up. With the Sigma 30mm on the camera it takes probably 2-3s to startup. Annoying, but not the end of the world. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed in a firmware update. It could be an issue of slow communication between the lens and the camera causing a start up delay, or maybe it is Sigmas unique? motor that takes a second to be powered up and stabalized that is delaying camera start up.
I plan on a full review with more test shots, maybe a test chart (who knows) and more opinions as well as sample images from the lens on the OM-D once that sucker (the OM-D) shows up in the next week or two. It’ll probably take me a couple of weeks after the new camera shows up to have enough experience with the lens to do the review once I am comfortable with my opinions on the lens.
One counter note to a couple of reviewers opinions on the focusing ring. The one on my lens rotates pretty smoothly and doesn’t require a whole lot of force. It is resonably damped and does take some effort to turn it. It does not easily bind. If you squish down on it, it will bind, but regular holding and rotation doesn’t cause the focus ring to bind. You have to grip harder than you, or at least I, would normally ever want to grip the lens barrel unless attempting to batter someone about the head with the camera body, gripping it solely by the lens. A small exageration maybe 🙂
A clarification on the focus ring grip and dampening. I used the lens some more this morning and a slight revision, if you do grip the focus ring “hard” it will bind, but again it takes a lot more force than what is required to grip the ring for manual focusing to cause it to bind. As for the force required to turn the focusing ring, I’d say it is somewhere between about 60-80% of the force required to turn the focus rings of most of my Zuiko OM lenses and it doesn’t feel notchy at all, just nice smooth turning. If you grip it about twice as hard is required to turn the focus ring you can get a little binding. I’d rate it as better than the kit lens in both aspects. Takes a bit more force to get the focus ring to bind and also is better damped than the kit lens focus ring (takes a little more force to turn, in a good way) and is nice and wide, unlike the piddly little focus ring on the kit lens.