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Lens Review: Sigma Classic Primes

Since their initial release in 2019, Sigma’s Classic Prime lenses have flown somewhat under the radar, so let’s take a look at what makes these special.

A New Kind of Vintage Look

Speaking generally, most cinema lenses fall into one of two main categories: modern, which are characterized by their consistency, sharpness, and ease of use - or vintage, which are loved for their idiosyncrasies, but can have certain drawbacks due to the restrictions of old technology. The common solution to bridge that gap is putting old glass in modern housings, such as the Canon K35’s and Leica R’s rehoused by TLS, or the Nikkor Primes by Zero Optik. 

These are of course great options for a wide range of projects, but what Sigma has brought to the table with their Classic Primes is something different. Until now, Sigma has been making lenses that are squarely in the “clean, sharp, modern” category, but now with the new Classic series, they dip their toes into the world of vintage-feeling glass. The Classic Primes feature a warm, lower-contrast look with soft bokeh and pronounced flares, all while retaining a high level of sharpness, and low levels of distortion and focus breathing. Sigma’s brand new coating is a big contributor to what creates this unique look, but it also has a lot to do with the fact that there are more non-coated elements in the Classics than any of their previous lenses.

Modern Tech Highlights

Sigma’s new lens coating isn’t only for the look though, it also yields consistent T-stop values across the set, T2.5 for all but the 14mm and 135mm, which are a T3.2. Also consistent across the set is the front diameter, as well as the spacing between the mount and the focus/iris rings for faster and easier lens swaps - not always the case when you’re going for the vintage look! The Classic line also incorporates the Cooke /i technology so you can easily capture lens metadata, a valuable feature if you are shooting a project with VFX. 

Some other common restrictions of vintage lenses include a limited number of available focal lengths, and image circle only big enough for Super 35. Sigma have generously offered up a massive lineup of 10 different focal lengths - 14, 20, 24, 28, 35, 40, 50, 85, 100, 135 - and a 43.3mm image circle, enough to cover full frame (and then some).