There is no current lens maker more prolific than Sigma. The company transformed its entire methodology when it introduced the Global Vision series and kicked up production. Focusing on stills lenses, Sigma has continued to impress with a flood of new releases each year and, with each announcement, seemingly better than the last. Now that Sigma has effectively mastered its stills game, the only sensible next step was the cinema market. After going hands-on with the three latest cine lenses in the FF High Speed Prime Line—the 28mm, 40mm, and 105mm—the manufacturer seems to have nailed it here, as well.
Cinema Quality, (Relatively) Affordable Prices
Sigma has always made a splash by coming out with excellent lenses at more affordable prices. In the cine market this still holds true, if you consider the prices relative to other cine-quality glass—they cost a bit more than their stills-friendly counterparts. Even still, the Sigma cinema primes are outstanding in their build and optics—and they follow cinema standards so professionals can easily adopt them.
Ten lenses make up Sigma’s current FF High Speed Prime Line and, besides the 14mm and 135mm at either end, all of them sport a transmission of T1.5. This is fast, especially for relatively affordable cine lenses. If I were to make a comparison to the popular Zeiss CP.3 Compact Prime series, those are both more expensive and they commonly are T2.1. Sigma has huge appeal with this ultra-fast aperture.
Getting back to the build and design, Sigma did things right. All the cine lenses are standardized with 95mm front diameters, which is almost universal for accessories such as matte boxes. They feel solid in the hand, with metal exterior, dust- and splash-proof construction that matches their high-end Sports-series stills lenses, and laser engravings for all critical information. In addition to the engraving, the focal length and a couple of other markings use luminous paint to distinguish them easily in dim lighting. Fully luminous versions are available too, adding this paint to all markings on the lens, including the focus and aperture rings.
These gears are in standardized positions, regardless of the overall length differences between the lenses. This means if you swap out a lens during a shoot, your follow focus and other accessories don’t need to be repositioned. These gears also feature a standard 0.8M pitch and has stoppers that are designed to muffle sounds. For focusing, these offer 180º rotation, meaning extra precision and, for iris pulls, you have a linear ring. It makes the system very usable and feels great in the hand or with a follow focus system.
One last thing to talk about here are the different mount options. We received PL versions, making them ideal for several high-end cinema cameras or adapting to other systems. You can also pick them up in Canon EF and Sony E versions if you want to focus on a specific system. Sigma offers a Mount Conversion Service, enabling you to convert from EF to Sony E-mount and vice-versa; the PL mount however, is not interchangeable. Additionally, all the lenses come with a tripod foot so you can better manage the weight of the lens.
This is where things matter. Sigma makes a bold claim that these lenses are suitable for 6K and 8K resolution and this is actually easy to believe. The cinema lenses are based on Sigma’s stills lens designs and, having tested those lenses, I can confidently say they hold up even to 40 or 50 megapixels. This exceeds the resolutions needed for 6K and 8K, so you can trust that it’ll work for your cinema system. Still, even with so many matching features, each lens has its own unique specs and quirks.
Among the most interesting and appealing is the 40mm. This is brand new to both the stills and cine lineups, and early reports say it may be Sigma’s best lens yet. As a full-frame lens, this provides us with a great perspective, arguably one that is more natural than the standard 50mm. This lens is also bigger than the 35mm and 50mm lenses. A trend in lens design has been optical perfection at any cost. One of those costs is size and while this 40mm is a little bigger than you might hope, the optics more than make up for it. This thing is impressively sharp. Bokeh is also nice. Is it going to give you as unique a look as a set of Cooke primes? Probably not, but it is clean and nobody should be complaining about that.
Heading a bit wider, with the 28mm, you have another high-performing lens. Being wider, it does show a little bit of distortion at the very edges, with the center being very well controlled. No surprises there. If you intend to use this with Super35 systems, you don’t even have to worry about it. At the edges, there is a very slight sharpness falloff, but it is gradual and not something many would even notice. Stopping down even a little corrects most of this, too, making it a very nice 28mm. At the telephoto end is the 105mm. I feel like there isn’t much to say that isn’t going to be repetitive since it is at least as good as the others. It’s a solid lens and a 105mm with a T1.5 is fast. Distortion is practically non-existent and it is very sharp. Bokeh on this lens is nice, with the telephoto lens giving it a great look. Working on close-ups is a perfect use for this lens.
Shared among every lens in the lineup is color rendering. A matching look is critical to a good lens set and makes everything easier. DPs can choose lenses based on how they look and switch focal lengths without needing to consider other factors. Colorists and editors can then go in and apply a standard correction to everything without needing individual tweaks for each shot. It makes everything go faster.
For sample footage and a deeper look at these lenses in use with a Canon C700FF, be sure to check out the video below.
These lenses are nice additions to their FF prime lineup, filling it in and bringing it up to an even 10, from 14mm to 135mm. Have you ever considered Sigma for your cinema needs? How about for photo? Make sure to drop us a line in the Comments section, below, with your thoughts and experiences with these, or related lenses, and how you use them in your kit.