Sigma 65mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary: A Fine Balance
With the Sigma 65mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary, ‘well-crafted’ is a word that immediately springs to mind. K Madhavan Pillai puts it to the test.
Sigma is now among the rare companies that manufactures entirely in Japan. But more than this, it develops lenses that catches the gaps and widens the wedges, so to speak. Launched a couple of months ago, the 65mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary belongs to Sigma’s new I (for ‘Identity’, ‘Iconic’, and ‘Instinctive’) series, meant for discerning mirrorless camera users with an eye for performance, who want premium compact primes. These lenses are in Sony E and Leica / Panasonic / Sigma L mounts.
With a lens of this nature, design and construction takes centerstage, becoming more of a feature… but more on this, and this specific focal length in ‘Handling’. The Sigma 65mm is composed of 12 elements in 9 groups, with 1 SLD glass and 2 aspherical lenses. It has a 9-blade rounded diaphragm. It is compatible with the various AF modes of E and L mount cameras, and has a silent AF system with a stepping motor. The knurled metal MF ring is coupled electronically. Focusing is internal, with no extension or rotation of the front element.
The minimum focus distance of 55cm or 21.7in, with a reasonably good magnification of 1:6.8. There is no stabilisation. A knurled aperture ring (also metal) with marked, one-third stop increments has an A (auto) position for aperture control via the camera, including with manual or aperture-priority. There is an AF/MF switch by the side.
The lens comes with a metal hood and a two lens caps, one of which attaches magnetically. At 62mm, the filter diameter is uncommon, and filters can be expensive.
To go with the smaller sizes of mirrorless cameras, the 65mm is compact, all-metal, and robust. It is remarkably designed, and its metal components are beautifully milled. In the hand, it feels positively luxuriant. In appearance, and with a traditional aperture ring (that can’t be declicked), it looks more classic than ‘Contemporary’. While it is not overtly mentioned that the entire lens is weathersealed, there is a gasket at the mount, protecting camera and lens from dust and splashes. The magnetic lens cap is new and interesting, but it is usable only without the hood. The hood deserves special mention. Also made of metal, this series of lenses have the best designed hoods I have seen in a long time.
The 65mm provides a field of view of 36.80 (diagonal), which is significantly narrower than that of 470 of a 50mm lens. It is more a ‘tele-normal’ rather than a true portrait lens by definition. Yet, while the 65mm f/2 will not give you the critically narrow DOF of the 85mm f/1.4, it can get very nicely shallow, akin to a 50mm at f/1.4. I personally found this lens to be a superb companion for still life, with its smaller angle of view and noticeably more pronounced compression of field from foreground to background over the 50mm. On APS-C bodies, it takes on a useful role as a portrait lens, with a focal length of 100mm.
The Sigma 65mm shows excellent optical characteristics, with good sharpness across the frame from f/2, that becomes superlative from f/4 to f/8, and remains good till f/16. There is a slight but visible, and easily corrected, pincushion distortion, and extremely well controlled fringing. Out of focus highlights, blurs and bokeh at larger apertures are extremely well rendered, with beautiful gradations and no granularity. AF was satisfyingly quick and responsive.
Priced at Rs 60,500, some would want to consider the significantly lower priced 50mm f/1.8 or equivalently priced 85mm f/1.8 options. However, for a combination of its appeal, luxuriant handling, ergonomics, and focal length advantages, combined with excellent optics, the Sigma 65mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary is an extremely tough act to beat. Well done, Sigma!
This article originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of Better Photography.
65mm f/2, silent stepped AF, aperture ring, uncommon 62mm filter diameter, no IS
Exemplary sharpness, fast AF, no aberrations, easily corrected pincushion distortion
All-metal build, gasketed brass mount
Compact, luxuriant feel, superbly milled
|Warranty & Support
Two year warranty, good service
|VALUE FOR MONEY||4.5/5|
|Who should buy it?||Advanced portraitists and still life photographers with L or E mount full frame cameras.|
|Why?||Well-designed, with excellent ergonomics on mirrorless bodies, this lens is sturdy, fast, and very sharp.|