Dirty Thirty – my safety valve

On June 5, 2011 by DaniLew

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No matter where I go, what lenses I bring, which bag I use, or even if I carry a speedlight, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 goes with me.

But, but… why you may ask?

It’s my normal view.

Lots of photographers will tell you that your normal view with a full-frame camera is around 50mm.  Well, my normal view is more like 45mm and I have a Nikon D300 that has a smaller sensor (an APS-C sensor with a 1.5 magnification factor).  That’s just one of the reasons why I chose the Sigma 30mm over the standard 35mm lens.

It’s a prime lens.

‘Nuff said. But even better than that, it’s a light-sucking f/1.4 piece of fast glass.

Lit candles form a triangular shape inside a dark prayer room of Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC. - taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Sigma 30 f/1.4 lens

Lit candles form a triangular shape inside a dark prayer room of Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

Image above made with a Nikon D300 camera and Sigma 30 f/1.4 lens

This was in a small sanctuary on a side alcove where the only illumination in the room were the prayer candles.  This lens can practically see in the dark!

It’s got a memorable nickname.

The “Dirty Thirty”.  I don’t know who started the nickname but they were probably being facetious since Sigma is known to have sent out some lenses with serious focusing issues.  My lens had no issues.  Anyway, the nickname is catchy and cool and now entrenched in the vernacular of most photographers.

It’s smaller and lighter than most f/2.8 zoom lenses.

Right, my Tamron 17-50mm F/2.8 non-VC weighs about the same but its ½-inch taller than the Sigma 30mm.  Plus, the Sigma 30mm is solidly built, not lightweight plastic, and on my Nikon D300 it balances beautifully.

Clay peace pipe on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC. - taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Sigma 30 f/1.4 lens

Clay peace pipe on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

Image above made with a Nikon D300 camera and Sigma 30 f/1.4 lens

And because of its close focusing capabilities, shooting through glass is not a problem either.

It’s relatively inexpensive.

Yes, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 is cheaper but that lens came out several years too late… and it’s a loss of 2/3 stop.  On the other hand, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 came out just this past year and it’s 4X what I paid for my Sigma 30mm back in 2008.  Still, I’m not buying either one.

It’s good with a flash.

For functions and parties where the lighting is dim, I bring this lens and a flash for whenever I need the slow shutter speed to show the background environment and to stop movement at the same time.

It’s got bokeh.

And it’s like butter!

Chardonnay wine and Smoked Salmon Crepes with Yogurt Sauce are on the set menu as an appetizer in Restaurante Gauguin of Best Western Hotel Cantur on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands of Spain. - taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Sigma 30 f/1.4 lens

Chardonnay wine and Smoked Salmon Crepes with Yogurt Sauce are on the set menu as an appetizer in Restaurante Gauguin of Best Western Hotel Cantur on Gran Canaria, Canary Islands of Spain.

Image above made with a Nikon D300 camera and Sigma 30 f/1.4 lens

This was just a quick grab shot at dinner.  No flash, no set up, no worries.

It’s got corner sharpness.

Yes, really!  Despite what some professionals have written, it has pretty decent corner sharpness in the mid-aperture range.  Seriously though, I got this lens for the f/1.4 not to shoot landscapes.

It can go where a VR/IS lens can’t.

Vibration Reduction-VR/Image Stabilization-IS/Optical Stabilization-OS/Vibration Control-VC lenses are reported to give the user an extra 3-4 stops of camera-shake compensation.  That’s all grand and wonderful but in the real world when I’m leaning against something solid, I can handhold the Nikon 18-200 VR at 1/30 sec at 18mm and the image will be sharp.  However, I can regularly handhold the Sigma 30mm for 1/25 sec or less on the run and get similar sharp results.

Close-up of newborn baby girl sleeping on a person's shoulder. - taken with a Nikon D300 camera and Sigma 30 f/1.4 lens

Close-up of newborn baby girl sleeping on a person’s shoulder.

Image above made with a Nikon D300 camera and Sigma 30 f/1.4 lens

“If you could only have one lens…” or “If you’re on a deserted island, which lens would you…” seems to be the types of questions always asked of professional photographers.  I’m not a pro… yet but for me there are really only two choices from all the lenses I have used: the Nikon 18-200 VR for convenience and the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 as my safety valve.  My light in dark places.

6 Responses to “Dirty Thirty – my safety valve”

  • Excellent post, girl! I rarely use my dirty30 anymore since going full-frame but I can’t sell it. I might go back and get a little vacation DSLR though.

  • Reading your post makes me want to try a dirty30. Maybe Jane is still interested in selling hers! Seriously you have a beautiful site. I really enjoyed looking around.

    • Thank you, Phillip. I just checked out your site (you’ve got some gorgeous images there) and find myself wondering what you lack in a lens. Send me an email to discuss further if you like.

      Danielle

  • I love finding a blog with some non-pandering posts, quality information, and nice images.

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