I’ve been wanting a vintage lens to have some fun with without breaking the bank. I did a lot of research and found the Sigma 28mm f/2.8 Mini Wide II on eBay for $40. This lens is probably the best bang for your buck you can get in this price range. Its available on nearly all camera mounts, made in Japan, all metal construction and the focus is buttery smooth.
Keep in mind that this is a manual lens, no auto-focus, no cpu, no electronically controlled aperture. This is all manual baby. Some cameras let you setup non-cpu lens data like my D610 to allow color matrix metering and support for i-TTL flashes.
I think its a good first vintage lens to see if vintage lenses on digital is something you want to get into. I used this lens on a full frame DSLR (Nikon D610) and I was surprised by the results at first and then quickly realized this lens cannot be used for landscapes or anything focused at infinity.
While the center sharpness of the lens is where is shines, the corners are terrible and I don’t mean the extreme corners, I mean once you start looking away from the center it becomes softer and softer and the chromatic aberration is just awful. The lens just can’t handle the high resolution sensors these days. But what do you expect from a $40 lens that has been around since the 70s? On film you probably didn’t even notice. I know some might say “oh that’s just pixel peeping” but when you can see it on your camera’s LCD monitor, you know its bad!
Still, its an awesome little lens and it has a ton of character which makes for rather interesting photos…if you can look pass the awful chromatic aberration that is.
It focuses quite close too, almost 1:4 macro magnification! Which I thought was actually quite impressive and bokeh is quite pleasing, I think anyways.
Take a look at some the shots I’ve taken with the lens and the Nikon D610.
I wish I had more pictures to share but I really don’t. It was really difficult to get good usable shots with this lens. You can see a common theme in the pictures, everything is toward the middle of the frame and that’s because if its not toward the center it was soft and fuzzy. On a good note, distortion was surprisingly well controlled.
If you have a micro four thirds camera, and want to get a cheap lens…I think this Sigma lens would perform better because you are only using the center part of the lens. But honestly before looking at this lens, I’d take a hard look at Nikon’s Series E lenses instead.
Like I said, this is a $40 lens and in a way, it performs as such. But you have to remember the point of getting these vintage manual lenses is to be more creative. Having a manual lens makes you slow down and think more when composing your shot and I definitely learned a thing or two from using this lens.