This is the fifth Sigma I series lens review to hit this site. Expected and ever more apparent is that these lenses (and reviews) have many similarities. With still one more lens from this series sitting on my desk awaiting evaluation, I am thankful that these lens models are all superbly built and optically high-performing.
The Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary is a "Premium Compact Prime" lens for mirrorless cameras. I series lenses are designed for "photographers who value the experience of taking a picture just as much as the quality of the results." [Sigma]
Characteristics of the lenses in this series include small size, light weight, and affordable price. Also consistent with lenses in this series are precision metal build quality and excellent image quality, with a useful focal length completing the very attractive Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens package.
When selecting the ideal lens for a particular use, the focal length is always a primary consideration. The focal length determines the angle of view, which determines the subject distance required for the desired framing, and the distance from the subject determines the perspective.
65mm is an interesting focal length choice for a prime lens. In the site's database of 507 mirrorless and DSLR lenses, there is only one other 65mm prime lens, and that lens is the unique Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Macro Lens. Thus, if you need the 65mm focal length covered by a prime lens, the Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens is your only choice at review time.
Of course, one must ask why there have been no other standard 65mm prime lenses prior to this one. Other lens manufacturers have a considerable number of options in their line-ups, but to date, none have opted to release a 65mm lens. Still, this is a useful focal length, and it fits nicely in the I series prime lens focal length increments.
Here is the 65mm angle of view in context with the popular surrounding focal lengths.
The Tamron 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD Lens produced the following focal length comparison:
As expected, we see 65mm providing a noticeably narrower angle of view than 50mm and a slightly wider view than 70mm.
For photography and videography, long standard lenses are frequently used for fashion, portraiture, weddings, documentary, street, lifestyle, sports, architecture, commercial, general-purpose needs, and general studio photography applications, including product photography. As you likely noted, many good applications for this lens include people as subjects. A 65mm lens used (on a full-frame body) is too wide for tightly framed headshot portraits (a too-close perspective is required), but 65mm is an excellent choice for wider portrait framing.
APS-C sensor format cameras utilize a smaller portion of the image circle, and that means a scene is framed more tightly. The Sony 1.5x angle of view multiplier utilizes an angle of view similar to 97.5mm on a full-frame camera. This angle of view favors portrait and product photography.
The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, and the more light the lens can allow to reach the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0) increases or decreases the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a substantial factor).
For a 65mm prime lens, f/2 is a moderately wide aperture. Many lens manufacturers offer 50 and 85mm lenses with an f/1.2 or f/1.4 aperture, but few zoom lenses open to f/2 at 65mm.
Use the wide aperture to enable action (subject and camera) stopping shutter speeds in very low light levels, along with low ISO settings for reduced noise. A 65mm f/2 lens can often be handheld indoors under average ambient light without image stabilization or ultra-high ISO settings.
Another advantage of a wide aperture lens is the background blur it can create. F/2 with a close subject creates a shallow DOF that draws the viewer's eye to the in-focus subject. Especially with a long standard focal length, the relatively wide f/2 aperture aids greatly in that regard.
Here is a full-stop aperture comparison.
There is a nice amount of blur in the widest angle examples. Compare the aperture of your fastest 24mm lens with the f/2 result to see the background blur benefit that f/2 would bring to your kit. The f/2 example above illustrates the maximum blur this lens can create.
Here is one more example illustrating the maximum blur this lens can create.
The advantages of a lens with a narrow max aperture are the smaller size, lighter weight, and lower cost associated with smaller lens elements. Despite the wide f/2 aperture, this lens retains those advantages.
This lens features a gear-like, 1/3-stop clicked aperture ring that enables a manually-selected aperture. The camera controls the aperture setting with the ring in the A (Auto) position. All other settings electronically force the aperture to the chosen opening.
Aside from a slightly more complicated design, I find inadvertent aperture changes the primary disadvantage of an aperture ring. Incorporating a lock for this ring would eliminate that issue, and learning not to grasp the aperture ring when mounting the camera reduces the problem.
The Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens is not optically stabilized. Fortunately, Sony takes care of that omission with Steady Shot or IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) in their mirrorless cameras. In addition to reducing camera shake, the stabilized imaging sensor provides a still viewfinder image, enabling careful composition. Sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.
With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be accessed to enable or disable IBIS, a slight impediment to working quickly, going from tripod to handholding, for example.
Is the Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens sharp? That might be the first question you want to be answered, and for a good reason. If the results are not sharp, you will not likely be interested in using the lens.
Fortunately, this lens provides the right answer to that question. With a wide-open aperture, images are sharp from the center into the periphery of the frame. Stopping down brings about a slight improvement, but none is needed.
The resolution chart is merciless on image quality, so let's take the testing outdoors, next looking at a series of center-of-the-frame 100% resolution crop examples. These images were captured in RAW format using a Sony Alpha 1 and processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.
These results look very nice.
Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme top left corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.
Often, subjects are not placed in the center of a composition. Moving farther out on the image circle, where light rays are refracted to a stronger angle than in the center, lenses typically show decreased sharpness. This lens shows a very gradual decline, with corners looking quite good.
This lens does not exhibit focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA). Many modern lenses automatically correct for focus shift, though the slight angle of view effects from focus breathing (more later) can appear.
When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings. The about 2 stops of shading in the corners of f/2 images is relatively mild. A one stop narrower aperture produces 1 stop brighter corners. At f/4, just 0.5 stops of corner shading remain, and no further reduction is realized at narrower apertures.
APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the just-over 1/2 stop of corner shading showing at f/2 will seldom be recognized.
One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern shown in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.
Lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration) refers to the unequal magnification of all colors in the spectrum. Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.
With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better to avoid this aberration in the first place.
Color misalignment can be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a worst-case example. The image below is a 100% crop from the extreme top left corner of a Sony Alpha 1 frame showing diagonal black and white lines.
There is only slight color separation showing here.
A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.
In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.
The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects.
At f/2, the color separation is quite strong. By f/4, the results appear considerably improved, and more improvement is dialed in at f/5.6.
Bright light reflecting off lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes interesting, usually destructive visual artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare in an image are variable, dependant on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings.
On this lens, Sigma utilizes Super Multi-Layer Coating to aid in flare reduction. Additionally, the moderately low 12-element count is helpful in this regard. This lens produced only minor flare effects at narrow apertures, those most susceptible to flaring, in our standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test. This is excellent performance.
Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes very challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can be quite destructive to image quality. High flare resistance is a welcomed trait of this lens.
Two lens aberrations are particularly evident in images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). This aberration can produce stars appearing to have wings. Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.
The image below is a 100% crop taken from the top-left corner of a Sony a1 image captured at f/2.
Those stars show a bit of X-pattern stretching.
This lens has pincushion distortion that is relatively strong, especially for a prime lens. Expect straight lines in the periphery to be rendered as curves.
Most modern lenses have correction profiles available (including in-camera), and distortion can easily be removed using these. Still, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level as some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions reduced.
As seen earlier in the review, it is easy to illustrate the amount of blur a lens can create, and long standard docal length lenses are quite capable in this regard. Due to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes, assessing the bokeh quality is considerably more challenging. Here are some f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples, along with an f/2 sample.
The first example shows defocused highlights appearing normal with a smooth fill. The second two examples show full images reduced in size and looking very nice.
The f/2 result showns an anomaly. I noticed that this lens produces a harsh long-distance blur when focused at a mid-distance.
Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round, and that is the shape we're looking at here.
The corner shape truncation seen here is mild. As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.
A 9-blade count diaphragm will create 18 point sunstars from point light sources captured with a narrow aperture. In general, the more a lens diaphragm is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. Wide aperture lenses tend to have an advantage in this regard, but this lens produces rather ugly stars, as illustrated below.
The example above was captured at f/16.
The design of this lens includes 12 lens elements in 9 groups, with one SLD element (to correct axial chromatic aberration) and two Aspherical elements (to correct spherical and comatic aberration, and astigmatism).
Overall, the Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary proves itself a sharp lens with strong flare resistance and mild vignetting. Detractors include strong barrel distortion, poor sunstar shapes, strong color blur at wide apertures, and sometimes poor f/2 bokeh.
Driven by a stepping motor, the Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens auto-focuses with OK speed. The focusing is internal and very quiet, with only a light "shhhhh" heard during AF.
With adequate contrast on the subject, this lens focuses in extremely dark environments — considerably darker than I can navigate in. As usual, the focusing speed is significantly slower in low light.
Unless one is primarily using manual focus, a lens's autofocus accuracy is very important for realizing the ultimate image quality a lens can produce, and this lens has performed well in this regard.
FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) mode with the shutter release half-pressed or the AF-ON button pressed.
Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens produces a big change in subject size through full extent focus distance adjustment.
The Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens features a gear-like metal ribbed focus ring. Located immediately behind the lens hood, the focus ring is easy to find, and it has sufficient size.
Overall, this lens provides a high-quality manual focus experience, with an ideal rotational resistance, smooth movement, no play, and, when turned slowly, a slow rate of adjustment that facilitates precise manual focusing. As hinted, this focus ring has a variable adjustment rate based on the rotation speed. A full extent focus distance change requires 840° of rotation when turning the focus ring slowly. Turn the ring fast, and only 300° of rotation does the same. The rotation speed difference required to switch to the faster rate is significant enough to avoid inadvertent rate changes.
With a minimum focus distance of 21.7" (550mm), this lens has a useful, though unremarkable, 0.15x maximum magnification spec.
|Sigma 20mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens||8.7"||(220mm)||0.15x|
|Sigma 24mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens||9.6"||(245mm)||0.15x|
|Sigma 24mm F3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens||4.3"||(108mm)||0.50x|
|Sigma 35mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens||10.6"||(270mm)||0.18x|
|Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens||9.4"||(240mm)||0.25x|
|Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens||21.7"||(550mm)||0.15x|
|Sigma 90mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens||19.7"||(500mm)||0.20x|
|Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens||19.7"||(500mm)||0.14x|
A subject measuring approximately 8.2 x 5.5" (208 x 139mm) fills a full-frame imaging sensor at this lens's minimum focus distance.
The USPS love stamps shared above have an image area that measures 1.05 x 0.77" (26.67 x 19.558mm), and the overall individual stamp size is 1.19 x 0.91" (30.226 x 23.114mm). The pincushion discussed earlier is made obvious by this composition.
Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to noticeably decrease and increase those respective numbers. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. As of review time, Sigma does not publish extension tube specs or manufacture these items, but third-party Sony-compatible extension tubes are available.
This lens is not compatible with Sigma teleconverters.
"All I series lenses have an all-metal construction. The precision-cut aluminum parts not only give the barrel a sleek, stylish finish, but provide superb durability that improves the quality of the entire product. Metal materials are also used in internal structures that slide with the operation ring for added robustness. These high-precision components crafted with SIGMA's cutting-edge metalworking technology are also used in SIGMA's cine lens line-up for professional cinematographers and provide a tactile, ergonomic feel that make the lens a pleasure to use. The cover ring between the focus ring and the aperture ring has hairline processing that is also used for the rear cylinder of the Art line. This covering functions as a finger hold when attaching or detaching the lens." [Sigma]
Interesting is that Sigma refers to this product line as the "I series", while the product name and lens graphics bear no mention of this designation. Regardless, Sigma's description is accurate. This is a well-built lens.
While many current lens designs feature smooth lens barrels, this one goes in the opposite direction, featuring gear-like ribs standing out on the focus and aperture rings, and the cold, solid feel of metal is built in. The look and feel are very different from many other lenses, but this is a great look and feel in its own way.
I appreciate that Sigma continues to provide an AF/MF switch on the compact I series lenses. With a relatively small space available for an AF/MF switch, Sigma logically opted to rotate the conventional switch direction by 90°, allowing a relatively large switch to fit nicely into the compact design. The AF/MF switch clicks assuredly into position, with a white background showing when the switch is in the AF position.
From a weather sealing perspective, Sigma states, "Mount with dust- and splash-proof structure." There is a gasket seal on the mount of this lens, but the "Mount with" part leaves us wondering about the rest of this lens's sealing.
Sigma I series lenses are compatible with in-camera lens aberration corrections when used on cameras supporting this feature.
The Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary is a compact lens and, despite the metal construction, it is relatively light. Technically, with no other 65mm prime lens available, this lens is the smallest and lightest in its class (of one).
|Model||Weight oz(g)||Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)||Filter||Year|
|Sigma 20mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens||13.1||(370)||2.8 x 2.9||(70.0 x 72.4)||62||2022|
|Sigma 24mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens||12.9||(365)||2.8 x 2.8||(70.0 x 72.0)||62||2021|
|Sigma 24mm F3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens||7.9||(225)||2.5 x 2.0||(64.0 x 50.8)||55||2020|
|Sigma 35mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens||11.5||(325)||2.8 x 2.7||(70.0 x 67.4)||58||2020|
|Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens||7.6||(215)||2.5 x 1.8||(64.0 x 46.2)||55||2019|
|Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens||14.3||(405)||2.8 x 3.0||(72.0 x 76.7)||62||2020|
|Sigma 90mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens||10.4||(295)||2.5 x 2.4||(64.0 x 59.7)||55||2021|
|Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens||9.9||(281)||2.5 x 2.8||(64.4 x 70.5)||49||2013|
For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.
Here is a visual comparison of the Sigma I series Contemporary compact prime lenses:
Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:
Sigma 24mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 24mm F3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 35mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens
Sigma 90mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens
The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.
Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens to other lenses.
A small lens gets narrow filter threads, and this lens's 62mm thread diameter is very small. Small filters are convenient to pack and inexpensive to purchase. The 62mm filter size is not especially popular, but notable is that Sigma uses the same thread size in the Sigma 24mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens I series lens.
The Sigma LH656-01 lens hood is included in the box. Designed to match the lens body, this round hood has a solid, ribbed (inside and out) metal construction. Hoods built for prime lenses, vs. zoom lenses, can be tuned to a single focal length's angle of view, and this hood provides good protection from bright flare-inducing light and from impact.
Sigma does not include a case in the box with this lens, but finding a case should not be challenging. Consider a Lowepro Lens Case or
Along with Sigma's standard (nice) center- and side-pinch lens cap, this lens ships with a very nice aluminum magnetic cap. Snapping into place (with no filter installed), the magnetic cap is easy to install, and it stays firmly in place.
Unfortunately, there is no provision to grip the center of the cap, and with inadequate space provided inside the hood to grasp the cap's edges, the hood must be removed to get the cap off. That was enough of a disadvantage for me to put the metal cap back in the box. If you leave your hood in the box (not recommended), you'll love the magnetic lens cap. The optional Sigma CH-11 Magnetic Cap Holder provides a simple method of attaching the lens cap to a camera bag, etc., via a carabiner.
Sigma's name has become synonymous with good value, and Sigma's I series lenses continue that legacy. This lens is an outstanding performer, is strongly constructed, incorporates a great design, and is very affordable.
The "DN" in the name indicates that this lens was designed for short flange mirrorless cameras. The Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens is available in Sony E-mount, compatible with both full-frame and APS-C sensor format models, and is also available in Leica L-mount.
"Made in Japan" craftsmanship. "Every single lens undergoes SIGMA's proprietary MTF measuring system 'A1'". Sigma provides a 1-year limited warranty, and Sigma USA provides a limited 3-year warranty extension.
The reviewed Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens was online-retail sourced.
With no other normal 65mm prime lenses available, I'll select the lens that seems to be the nearest match, the Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens. Pointing out an advantage directly from the product name, the 1/3 stop wider aperture opening is a Sony lens advantage.
In the image quality comparison equalized at f/2, the Sigma lens has a very slight advantage. The Sony lens has far less geometric distortion.
The Sigma lens is shown with and without its hood between the Sony lens above. The Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens vs. Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lens comparison shows the Sony lens smaller and lighter. The Sony lens has smaller filter threads, 49mm vs. 62mm, and a considerably higher price.
Use the site's comparison tools to create additional comparisons.
Sigma I series lenses are similar, and so are their summaries. If you are looking for a small, light, well-built, affordable lens that has a wide aperture, performs well, and covers the 65mm focal length, the Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens has your name on it.
This compact lens features metal interior and exterior construction, creating a solid build quality and increasing the fun factor for use. The 65mm focal length ensures plenty of opportunities for use, which increases the value of the lens.
The Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary is a sharp lens with strong flare resistance and mild vignetting. Optical downsides include strong barrel distortion, poor sunstar shapes, strong color blur at wide apertures, and sometimes poor f/2 bokeh.
The price is very attractive for the overall quality and features of the Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary Lens.
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