Monday, May 14, 2018

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI Lens Review


I already have a great 300mm f/4 lens, so why did I get this one?  Good question readers!  The newest Nikon 300mm f/4E PF lens is a fantastic creation.  Much sharper than I could imagine, focus' fast.

What I cannot do with it is adapt it to my mirrorless cameras and I could never get this lens as cheap as I can the 300/4.5 AI.


You'd think a legacy 300mm lens would be heavy.  To the 300/4.5AI's credit, it has a noticeable weight to it, but it is not something that is off putting, even on a mirrorless camera.  It did originally come with a removable tripod collar.  Hopefully if you find one of these in a store, the lens collar will still be with it.  I was lucky enough to find one with the tripod collar.

The aperture ring is what you have come to expect with a Nikon of this age.  Positive clicks by the numbers.

The focus ring is smooth, but does have quite a long throw to it.  I noticed it can be a bit picky to get precise sometimes, however, this is an old, used lens so I'm not sure if that is just a symptom of use/abuse or if that is the way it was from new.

Image Quality

Many reports that this lens is a decent performer wide open.  Stopped down, as with most lenses it is supposed to really start shining.   Do those statements from others hold true?

On the Nikon Df:
1/500, f/4.5, ISO 100

1/500, f/4.5, ISO 100

1/1000, f/8, ISO 450

1/320, f/4.5, ISO 1800

1/320, f/4.5, ISO 2200

1/320, f/4.5, ISO 1250


Manual focus and pretty decent.  Not the best I've ever used with the Nikon 180/2.8 ED AIS and 105/2.5 besting it in feel.  It was a little bit of a struggle at times trying to balance the weight with my left hand and also turning the focus ring.

Bottom Line

For the $50 I nabbed this for I can't really complain too much.  With my Olympus Micro Four Thirds kit, you have very few options at the longer end. A handful of 300mm zooms that are not very fast (f/5.6-6.7) and the ones that are fast like the Olympus 300mm f/4 prime are $2500+ USD.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing the IQ of the Olympus to this legacy Nikon.  But this is a decent way of getting that 600mm field of view for not a lot of money if you don't mind having to manual focus.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN For Micro Four Thirds

Image © SigmaPhoto


We've reviewed the Sigma 60mm f/1.8 for Micro Four Thirds before and had good things to say about it.  IQ, size and price making it a quality consideration for someone looking for a 60mm focal length (120mm field of view).

Now, we look at another Sigma.  Highly regarded in most places, again for many of the same reasons as the Sigma 60mm.  This new review, though has a much faster aperture, wide open it is an f/1.4 - the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN with Micro Four Thirds mount is the subject of this review.

Is it as good as the chatter would have us believe?  Let's journey together and find out if this third party lens we got direct from Sigma as a refurb for $259 is worth keeping!


The field of view (FOV) on this lens is 60mm on a 135 size sensor camera.  This falls within a competitive range of lenses both OEM and third party.  There are plenty of 20 through 35mm lenses out there for people to choose.

Upon unboxing, I found that the lens was a bit bigger than you'll see lenses like the Panasonic 25/1.7 or Olympus 25/1.8 and even the ZhongYi Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95 has a smaller footprint.  It does have a little more weight to it than the above mentioned OEM 25mm, but it is much lighter than the Mitakon 25/0.95.  The Mitakon is 100% metal construction, where the Sigma uses a metal mount with plastics in the construction of the body.

The focus ring is dampened and feels good when you turn it, and this is a focus by wire lens, so power is needed to get it to focus.  There is also no hard stops at minimum focus or at infinity.  The lens also has no focus scale on it.

The front element is 52mm, which is common standard filter thread.

A lens hood is supplied with the lens.

The physical size of the lens is because it was designed around APS-C size sensors.  This can be a benefit to m43 cameras as the "sweet spot" of the lens fits squarely to the m43 sensor.

The lens may seem a little big on smaller m43 bodies, but it feels right at home on a PEN-F or an EM5.2 or larger body. 

Image Quality

No surprises here if this is not your first review of this lens.  Even at f/1.4, this lens delivers the goods!  Sharp wide open and 100% usable for most anything.

I find that Sigma lenses have a unique rendering that I find pleasing when using their lenses on mirrorless cameras.  A bit more contrast and a nice bokeh than some other lenses.

I had wanted this lens to replace the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens I bought and as far as I can tell it will be able to do so.

Yes, the focal length and field of view are different, but if I really need a 25mm, I can utilize the Mitakon Speedmaster 25mm f/0.95 in it's place when I need very low light performance. Otherwise, I can pull out the Panasonic 12-32/3.5-5.6 or the Panasonic 12-35/2.8 when a zoom makes more sense.

Images taken in JPG mode with the Olympus PEN-F

1/1250, f/2.8, ISO 200

1/5000, f/1.4, ISO 200

1/60, f/1.4, ISO 400

1/5000, f/2.8, ISO 200

1/5000, f/4, ISO 200


My history with Sigma lenses was severely tainted in DSLR land.   I've had poor luck with them in focus and function, even as recently as a short foray with the Sigma 12-35/1.8 on the Nikon D500.  This combo had severe focus issues with anything outside the middle focus point.

When we come to using Sigma's lenses with Micro Four Thirds mirrorless and have had nothing but great results in IQ, function and focus.

1/60, f/1.4, ISO 200

1/60, f/1.4, ISO 640

1/20, f/1.4, ISO 320

AF speed is excellent in S-AF. While not at the same near instantaneous speed as an OEM Olympus prime lens, it is not very far behind.  I do not use my current m43 cameras for C-AF, so cannot comment on those performance benchmarks.

I've not had an issue with missed focus with this lens, even at f/1.4.

1/250, f/2.5, ISO 200

Bottom Line

So, what is the deal with getting this lens when I already have a lot of other lenses in the same focal length/FOV range?  Yes, I have the Mitakon Speedmaster 25/0.95, but it is an all manual lens.  I did have the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7, but never really bonded with it.  It takes excellent images, for sure....but I was intrigued by the images I was seeing, the other reviews I've read about the Sigma 30/1.4.

The Panasonic 25/1.7 has gone up for sale and I'll be keeping the Sigma 30mm.