Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM "Art"

Conclusion

Over the course of the past several pages, we've taken an in-depth look at the optical and mechanical performance of this compelling fast normal prime lens from Sigma.

The Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM is a much more compact alternative to the Sigma 35mm F1.4, and it is also more affordable at just $499.  We therefore find it to be a more suitable choice for APS-C users, as it is, after all, designed exclusively for APS-C cameras.

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Optically, the Sigma 30mm isn't quite an all-star lens like the larger and more expensive 35mm F1.4, but it comes close: it's incredibly sharp and it delivers fantastic bokeh.  It also handles very well and is appropriately-sized for APS-C cameras.  So, we wouldn't for a moment hesitate to recommend this lens to anyone looking for a fast normal prime if not for its poor autofocus performance.  This issue seems to be specific to the Pentax version of the lens.  Assuming a firmware update would improve autofocus performance, the soon-to-be-released USB dock for Pentax can be used to apply lens firmware updates which would otherwise require professional servicing.

But if you can live with the sluggish autofocus, or if you plan on helping the lens out by making manual focus adjustments when needed, then the optical performance that this lens delivers is hard to beat at a price point of just $499.  Otherwise, we recommend that you consider the Sigma 35mm F1.4 instead, as it is even better optically and does not suffer from any autofocus issues.

Value

The Sigma 30mm is an exceptional value considering that it's a modern F1.4 autofocus lens.  The table below compares it to other options that you might consider.  All prices are US MSRP as of April, 2014:

Lens
Price
Bottom Line Comparison
Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM "Art" $499 (this lens)
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM "Art" $899

+Superior optically and better HSM AF
-Considerably larger

Pentax-FA 31mm F1.8 Limited $1299 +More compact and superior optically
-Considerably more expensive, slower
Pentax-DA 35mm F2.4 $181

+Much more affordable
-Slower aperture and inferior build quality

Pentax-DA 35mm F2.8 Macro Limited $749 +More compact and superior optically
-Slower aperture and long focus throw
Rokinon 35mm F1.4 $429 +Comparable optically
-Manual focus and considerably larger

Pros

  • Fast F1.4 maximum aperture
  • Convenient focal length on APS-C
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Excellent center sharpness
  • Compact and easy to hold
  • Minimal vignetting at F2 and above
  • Resistant to flare and ghosting
  • 4-year warranty (USA)
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • More distortion that we'd like to see in a premium prime
  • Purple fringing near edges/corners
  • Low contrast wide-open
  • Somewhat heavy given its size
  • Average corner sharpness
  • Not weather-sealed
  • Sluggish autofocus

Rating

Bokeh, weather sealing, ergonomics, and a low price are the strong points of this lens.  As is clear in our scoring below, the 30mm's overall rating really took a hit because of its sluggish autofocus.  It also lost some marks for its fringing, distortion, and lack of weather sealing. 

Build Quality 
 8
Sharpness 
 9
Bokeh 
 10
Aberrations 
 7
Distortions 
 8
Handling 
 9
Autofocus 
 6
Value 
 10
Overall 
 8.4 (Very Good)

Should we learn more about the autofocus issue from Sigma, we will redo our tests and update the ratings accordingly.

The Bottom Line

The Sigma 30mm F1.4 "Art" is currently the most affordable F1.4 standard prime with autofocus for Pentax.  If you're looking for a sharp fast prime lens for close-ups, low-light, and everyday photos, and don't want to spend a fortune, then the Sigma 30mm is right for you.  It's also a good choice for users who prioritize compactness but still want the fast F1.4 aperture.

On the other hand, if you're looking for optical perfection and reliable autofocus, we recommend the Sigma 35mm F1.4 "Art" or the Pentax 31mm F1.8 Limited instead.  The latter lenses do not suffer from as much distortion or chromatic aberration as the 30mm.

Where to Buy

The Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM is available through authorized Sigma retailers worldwide.  If you live in the US, support us by getting your copy at B&H Photo, and enjoy free shipping and hassle-free returns!

Click here to order your copy of the Sigma 30mm.

If you'd like to post your own review of this lens, you can do so in our lens database.

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