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Sigma 30mm F1.4 EX DC HSM

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Review Date: Aug 14, 2009 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: Bokeh, contrast, low light performance
Cons:
Chromatic aberration, build tolerances (tight lens barrel = friction and AF issues)

Whether on a day trip or vacation and no matter how many lenses I carry, this lens is always part of my kit. I use it on a 40D and find that as a general purpose and/or low-light prime on APS-C it cannot be beaten. Its unique focal length is just right and the pictures it delivers always have a unique quality to them, regardless of the amount of light available. CA's can be visible and the edges get very soft at wide open apertures but the lens more than compensates for these shortcomings in other areas. This lens really does some fantastic magic with back-lit subjects and delivers superb colors and contrast and the creamiest bokeh ever. Sometimes when I'm stuck in a photographic rut, I'll leave this on and let this lens take me out of it.

I had some focusing troubles with my copy of this lens for a long time until I traced the problem to a too-tight fitting lens barrel. Having found out through the use of MF that it was not an optical problem I eventually (carefully!!!) put a little PTFE lube on the outside of the lens barrel using a cotton bud (the barrel moves in and out a few mm but never touches the UV filter) and this reduced the friction enough to solve the problem. This minor application of PTFE lube also reduced the slight scraping noise the lens barrel sometimes makes and AF is now tack on. I'm glad I endured and didn't swap it for a different lens alltogether because I surely considered it many times.

I would give it a 10 but the lens loses 1 point to the lens barrel friction problem and 1 point to CA's that can be visible in high contrast situations. Considering price, performance and creative potential however, this lens is a jewel.

Finally, consider getting a precision matte focusing screen for use with this and other bright lenses. I just put an EF-S screen in my 40D and found out immediately that it is vital to check DOF and correct focus with lenses f/2.8 and faster, something that will surely add to the enjoyment of my L-zooms and of course this litte 30 mm.