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Old Aug 9, 2008, 8:41 PM   #1
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Hi! You know how it goes... you have pretty much all you strictly need as camera gear, but you find yourself with a bit of pocket money and a desire to stretch your skills, so...

I bought a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 for my E3 to try my hand a low light and small DOF shots. I knew in advance that this would be technically difficult, but am finding it challenging enough to be a little depressing. I'm hoping you people have some hints, or at least words of encouragement.

I'm not expecting super-sharp f/1.4 shots, or even shots in focus over the whole frame. However, I feel disappointed that I get so few shots with anything in focus at all.

Low light focussing is definitely hit and miss. Perhaps some textures are just easier to focus on than others. Regardless, my hit rate with manual focus (judged by eye through the viewfinder) far exceeds my hit rate with autofocus under fluro lighting at night. My hit rate for indoor night time available light portrait shots has been very low, with almost none of them focussed on the eyes (or much of anything, it seems).

Focussing on small foreground items seems impossible too. I've just done some daylight outdoor tests with a small leafy bush as a subject. I set "small" AF sensitivity and selected just the centre sensor. Then I pointed the centre sensor at a small cluster of leaves in the foreground that appear somewhat larger than the central square (but much smaller than the enclosing circle) and AF targets the background of the circle! Manual focussing in this situation works properly.

Frustrated, I printed a focussing test page, set up my tripod, and went at it. This test shows autofocus working normally, within tolerance. This suggests that the lens is not grossly defective, or is perhaps even in top-flight condition. If all I needed to shoot were test charts, I think I'd be OK.

So, my question to those of you with this lens (or the Leica 25mm f/1.4), how do you control this beast? I'll keep trying, but getting bucked off the horse so many times is tiring!
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Old Aug 10, 2008, 4:52 AM   #2
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Well, having tried this lens this past week I find below f/2 the lens starts getting softer.

As well, Sigma has quality control issues with their lenses, so start with seeing if your lens is working properly in good light. If not, then take the lens in to the Sigma outlet for calibration.

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Old Aug 10, 2008, 6:18 AM   #3
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Low light manual focus:sometimes i use a flashlight. a pretty powerful maglite.

the leica is pretty sharp w/o & af works well.
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Old Aug 11, 2008, 6:23 AM   #4
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I do not own this lens but did do some research on it a whille ago since i thought about getting one.

Not sure if this will help, but John Foster wrote quite a detailed test report on the Sigma 30mm f1.4 that included some problems he ran into when testing this lens..


Also, not sure if you've visited the FourThirds forum but the members post user reviews on various lenses. Here is a link to a post on the 30mm f1.4 with quite a few entry's'



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Old Aug 11, 2008, 9:41 AM   #5
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This has been pretty widely reported and discussed on forums for some time now.

It is not unusual for a Sigma 30 f1.4 or 150 Macro to have autofocus problems right out of the box. The issue is sloppy quality assurance at the factory. Just send it to Sigma to have it properly calibrated and put an end to the frustartion.
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Old Aug 12, 2008, 11:29 PM   #6
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Thanks for those links, Zig! And thanks for the tips everyone.

I'm not yet willing to blame the lens for my difficulties, especially when it passes the focus chart test. In fact, I duplicated my "foreground leaves on a bush" experiment with my 12-60 and found the same focuses-on-the-background problem. Conclusion: spot focus is larger than I thought it was on my E3. Even with "sensitivity: small" set.

One of the posts in the link Zig provided is from a chap who limits his shots with this lens to 1/80s and faster, to avoid movement problems. I checked and I'm trying to push way harder than that. Sometimes down to 1/4s. Oops. Maybe I'm just expecting too much.

I'm still getting inconsistent focussing from either the E3 or this lens, but it will be some time before I can confidently blame my E3, the Sigma, or simply my technique. I'll have to try it at f/2.8 and f/4 vs my 12-60. On the other hand, I've just taken a bunch of shots with my 50-200 + EC20 at 400mm 1/100s and they are all in focus...
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