WARNING: Photo heavy at the end
Right off the bat, this is not a review of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens for Nikon F-Mount, since this is an older lens and that it is no longer being manufactured as the EX lenses have been usurped with the Art lenses of Sigma. You may still find this in eBay, or anything of the like, as pre-loved or even new old stock. So with that, you can just check other reviews from yesteryear elsewhere. This is just my experience with this lens since I first got it and how it is still part of my gear to this day – seven years later.
Around October 2010 is when I first gotten my Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. I shot a lot with this setup along with a Yong Nuo YN465 that I got around a few months after. Like in my previous blog post, I said to improve your skills with the gear you have at that time before even thinking of improving you gear. And at September 10, 2011, I then added the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM to partner my standard zoom kit lens to further improve my skills.
I never bought another lens, heck even flash, and that of a camera body until 2017. So from 2011-2017, I have the Nikon D5000, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM, and Yong Nuo YN465, as my primary gear. Of course, I have tripods, flash triggers, sling straps, etc., but those were my primary gear whenever there was an even or if I traveled.
I decided to get a prime lens as one of my first ever upgrades since the fix focal length will help me think about my shot; it forces me to frame better and actually use my legs and not just rely on zooming in on the subject. On top of that, I force myself not to crop my shots as much as possible (with exceptions of course), so this really forces me to think about my composition with a prime lens.
I was looking at a AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G prime lens, but I always like looking at the long game, in spite of not wanting to upgrade or buy more gear immediately without first improving myself, since it is nice to dream and have a goal to shoot for, I wanted to have my own version of a trinity of lenses (plus a prime) from the same manufacturer, because my obsessive compulsive personality disorder will its ugly head. However, the AF-S Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.8G ED, the AF-S Nikkor 24–70mm f/2.8G ED, and the AF-S Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8G ED VR II are way to expensive to even think of having them as goal for me back then, and well, they are still too expensive especially for a hobbyist like myself that does photography for fun and not as a profession. Thus, I needed to look at third party lenses.
I stumbled into the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM from the guys at DigitalRev TV back in 2011 (I believe this is one of the very 1st videos I watch of Kai, Lok, and Alamby, and immediately became a fan of DRTV to the point that when they all eventually left, I still follow them in their social sites and in their own YouTube channels). Performance wise, may not be the best of the primes at that year, but something about it that I fell in love with, and of course, the price may be more than that of the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, though if I look at the long game and collect my other lenses from the same make, then Sigma will, in the long run, be cheaper than the Nikkor lenses. And thus, I took the chance and my mother bought me the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM to learn from and eventually be the centerpiece of my version of trinity lenses from Sigma (that I was able to complete in 2017, but as a prime lens, standard zoom lens, and a telephoto lens… still looking out for the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM wideangle to really be a part of the trinity and the prime now being the extra lens).
The moment I got it in my hands and placed it on my Nikon D5000, I knew I will have an amazing time with this lens, learning from it, and eventually improving with it. Like I said earlier, I got a prime since it will force me to think about my shots, make use of my legs; having it with a f/1.4 aperture, I can get those amazing bokeh (yes, I was all about the bokeh when I first got it, but “grew up” and learned when to shoot at a larger apeture and when not to for the sake of the composition), and with it being wide open, I can have better low light shots. Still quite sharp at wide open and focuses fast as you can imagine with a prime lens. So I was really enamored with Sigma and will definitely use this prime lens as the center piece of my trinity of Sigma lenses when the time comes (and that would be 6 years later).
As time went on, life took over for the most part, so I was at a point where I wasn’t really shooting photos regularly or at all. I even forgot my usual Lightroom workflow. Neglect did set in and it come be seen by the wear it got through the years. Not so much as dents, but more of faded logos and such, and the finish lost a bit of its luster. Performance wise, it mostly back focuses at wide open and can be quite soft nowadays at wide open (though since getting the D7200 with AF fine tune, it is sharp at wide open, but even back then with the D5000, I rarely shoot wide open due to the narrow depth of field that still introduces more soft shots or miss-focus; I mostly shoot with f/2.8 with this lens and go as high as f/2 since getting it at 2011, with rare times shooting at f/1.4 even when it was really sharp then), but shooting at f/2 or f/2.8 still is quite sharp with lovely bokeh. I might have it calibrated sometime in the future, but with my current D7200, the AF fine tune did help with its sharpness at wide open.
Around 2017, I finally got a new lens in the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (for future Formula 1 races, since the earlier that year, I was saddened I didn’t have a fast telephoto lens to photograph the cars during the Singapore Grand Prix; as with my other posts where I mentioned Formula 1, I like to remind people I am a F1 fanatic since 1996), which along with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, were part of my dream lenses to complete my version of the trinity of lenses with my Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM (again, I’d like to point out “my own version of trinity”, since the trinity is usually a wide angle lens, a standard zoom lens, and a telephoto zoom lens. Basically to cover most focal lengths. But my version is the 30mm prime, the 17-50mm standard zoom, and the 50-150mm telephoto zoom… hoping to finally get a wide angle in the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM). Even though I got new lens, I wasn’t really enthralled with photography like I used to. I was happy, and it looks great beside my 30mm, but I was still not back to where I used to be as an hobbyist in photography… I wasn’t as passionate.
It wasn’t until I went to Hong Kong with my sister in 2017 that I also met up with one of my closest friends. She showed me around Hong Kong at night, and street photography being my favorite genre of photography when I was really passionate, I took one photo of her that made me fall in love with photography all over again. And it was shot with my trusty Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM.
Note that the shot is not sharp at all even if I did shoot at f/3.3, but my other settings could have been better, but remember, I was really not into photography at a certain phase (around 2015-early 2017), I wasn’t as passionate, and didn’t care to remember any of my techniques. With that said, even if this shot could have better, there was something about this shot that made me want to return to photography; learn my techniques again and improve on them; get new gear, since at this time, I know that I have outgrown my D5000, albeit not remembering my old techniques; remember my Lightroom workflow and such.
It was a simple photo, could have been better technique wise, but it made me fall in love with photography again, and it was shot with Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM, showing that it can still get me excited.
Seven years later, nearing eight years, the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM is still my go-to lens for anything even if I already have the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM as my standard zoom lens. On travels or whatnot, I bring both the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM and Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, with the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM when I know I will use it like last October 2018 for Japan and the Formula 1 race. But the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM will always be part of my gear. And at times, my only lens I take with me.
Is it because it out performs my other lenses? No (except the kit lens of course). Apart from the sentimental value because my mother bought it for me and it is my first lens upgrade, not to mention the MANY memories I’ve taken with it, but the fact that I am so familiar with its performance (and its deteriorating sharpness/rear focusing problem), I’m so familiar with its focal length (45mm equivalent since I use crop sensor bodies…), and I feel at home with it.
In time, I will have it calibrated so it can be sharp again at f/1.4 and and have less rear focusing (both partly fixed with D7200’s AF fine tune), but either way, this will still be my favorite lens, even if it never out performed out primes back in its day, and especially today.
Do I recommend this for you? No. There are better primes out there now for F-mount, either for crop sensor or full frame, and with the advent of Z-mount, in time, other F-mount lenses will also lower down in price.
Will I ever let this go? NO. Like above, no matter how other primes in the market can outperform this, it is the sentimental value and memories that makes me hold on to this hard. And that is not to say that this is an awful lens for photos. I can still take amazing shots with this! As I will demonstrate with my favorite shots through the years of using this lens.
Seven years later… still my go-to… still making memories… and technically, the one that started it all.
Now let’s look back seven years ago to my earlier shots to my more recent shots with the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM; how I improved (if I really did improve; also the evolution of my watermarks lol), and why this lens is still my favorite that I own. Just my favorite shots I’ve taken with the lens (not absolutely all! That would be a nightmare to share… but I will still like my Flickr photostream so you can see all my other shots with this lens and my other lenses, on the D5000 or D7200, etc).
Note most shots were taken with the D5000, but by 2018 I have switched to a D7200 (I will make a future post as to why I opted for the D7200 over the D7500).
With that… I still love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM for seven years and counting. And here’s to more years and memories!
‘Til next time! PEACE!!
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