Nikon has started making APS-C mirrorless cameras a few years back, and they are definitely worth considering. Their image quality is decent, the autofocus isn’t half bad, and they undoubtedly have their fans. But they lacked a decent selection of dedicated glass. That is finally changing.
Third-Party Saves the Day
I’ve used the Z fc for a few weeks before it was officially announced, and I seriously enjoy shooting with it. There was only one major flaw I saw that still hasn’t been fixed by Nikon. The APS-C dedicated lenses are still just available as basic zooms with tiny apertures. Sure, they are sharp and pretty fast to focus, but if you want to use a prime or anything brighter than f/3.5 you have to grab something among the full frame oriented S line of glass from Nikon which is a brilliant line of glass, but a bit too big and pricey for the average APS-C hobbyist. That is where Sigma comes in with its Contemporary line.
These three lenses aren’t anything we haven’t seen before. They have been on the market for the Sony E mount, as well as the Canon EOS M mount and MFT for years. Recently, they were even released for the Fujifilm X mount as well. And now we can finally enjoy the same glass on the Nikon Z mount. So, why would you buy any of these? And what benefits would they bring you over the Nikon native lenses?
Yeah, they are plastic on the outside. Sigma calls the material TSC, which stands for Thermally Stable Composite. This polycarbonate promises many benefits of metal without the added weight and cost. I haven’t had any issues with it, apart from the fact that you just look at the body of the lens in the wrong way and it scratches. Nothing major or clearly visible, just something to consider if you ever plan to sell the lens further.
There is a rubber gasket around the mounts indicating the lenses are weather-resistant, which would fit well since the Z fc as well as the Z 50 claim to be resistant to rain and dust. In the end, the lenses feel solid, well-built, and worth the money.
The widest and the largest of the bunch, but still nothing obnoxiously large nor heavy considering the f/1.4 aperture. The lens weighs a mere 420 grams and its length is 94 millimeters. The current APS-C sensors on the Nikon Z cameras offer a maximum resolution of a little over 20 megapixels, so the bar for sharpness is not particularly high for these lenses. However, the lens does deliver and keeps the image nicely detailed through the frame. Even the edges aren’t too bad, apart from one issue. The vignette is definitely there, but it’s nothing unfixable. It is most apparent when you shoot wide open. Stopping the aperture down makes the vignetting basically disappear.
Contrast is pleasing, as well as the out-of-focus areas. Chromatic aberrations aren’t too obvious, but they are present. Especially when the lens is aimed directly into a strong source of light with a significant contrast in the corners. Nothing hard to fix and I don’t think there were any lens profiles available to use at the time of me using the lens, so Lightroom might have not really known the lens yet.
The middle of the bunch, both in terms of focal length as well as size and weight. Coming in at 285 grams and 75 millimeters, it is compact and easy to carry every day as your main lens. The focal length is lovely to use, as it is neither too wide nor too narrow. The f/1.4 aperture can give you a decent separation as long as you are not too far from your subject.
This was probably my favorite lens of the three due to being a decent combination of low weight, nice size, universal focal length, and autofocus speed. I can imagine using this lens for general street photography or just as a travel lens for a vacation.
Optically, it behaved very similarly to the aforementioned 16mm down to the same vignetting characteristics. Nothing groundbreaking, but nothing shameful either, considering the rather friendly price tag.
A perfect focal length for a shy street photographer with lovely bokeh with a not-too-disappointing autofocus speed and truly compact dimensions. 295 grams and 70 millimetres. The width would be the smallest of the bunch if it wasn’t for the massive Nikon Z mount widening all of the lenses at the back to actually fit the bodies. The ledge at the end of each of the lenses looks a bit comical, but you barely notice it once the lens is mounted.
I truly enjoyed using this one. My favorite lens of all time is the Fujifilm XF 56 mm f/1.2 — the old version as well as the new WR one. And this Sigma does deliver. It renders the image nicely. The files are sharp and with great contrast, even in direct sunlight. Chromatic aberrations were nicely controlled but, just like the two lenses mentioned above, not eradicated.
All three of the lenses feature a nine-bladed rounded aperture, which delivers a pleasing bokeh. The next similarity is in the autofocus drive. That is provided using a stepping motor which is fairly silent and fast. It wasn’t the best in tracking subjects moving fast towards the camera, but it could have very much been the AF system in the camera and not the lens. One is not pulling the other down.
Not Bad, Not Expensive
If I was a Nikon Z 50, Z fc, or a Z 30 user, I would most definitely consider getting multiple of these for my work. The lenses offer decent image quality with manageable aberrations at a reasonable price. The build quality is definitely lacking behind the metal Nikon alternatives like the brilliant 35mm f/1.8 or the 50mm f/1.8, but the cost, the brighter aperture, and the size are worth the material downgrade. I’m curious as to whether Nikon is actually planning on releasing their own versions of decent DX-oriented glass or if they just plan on counting on either third-party makers doing it for them or hobbyists spending extra money on lenses they never really fully utilize. Are you considering any of these for your Nikon mirrorless?