WHAT THE ART?
Welcome to my Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 lens review. For you guys who are not followers of Sigma, this is an art series lens – Sort of like Nikon’s gold ring lens, and Canon’s red ring lens. For those of you who are not familiar with the gold and red rings… this is basically a top of the cream lens.
So the 35mm lens is a versatile one. Generally used in landscape, portrait, and even street photography. The Sigma art series has been highly anticipated for their performance and affordable price tag. Will the Sigma 35mm live up to the expectations?
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE
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Feels solid in hand, weather resistant.
Excellent optical quality.
Buttery smooth auto-focus and focus ring.
Serious performance at half the price of other 35mm lens.
Good for landscape, portrait and street.
A good lens to add to your collection.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE SPECS AND WORTHY CONTENDERS
I should probably put it this way – Sigma built this lens to challenge Nikon’s 35mm f/1.4 G and Canon’s 35mm f/1.4 L II. Both of which, are amazing lens… and sadly that I don’t own. But here’s how they compare side by side (prices in USD, approximate as of Jun 2017).
|Filter Size (mm)||67||72||67|
|Elements||10 elements in 7 groups
|14 elements in 11 groups
2 pressed aspheric
|13 elements in 11 groups
|Optics||Super Integrated Coating (SIC)
Special Low Dispersion
|Close Focus||30 cm||28 cm||30 cm|
|Angle of View||63° Diagonal (Full Frame)||63° Diagonal (Full Frame)||63.4° Diagonal (Full Frame)|
|Min/Max Aperture||1.4 / 16||1.4 / 22||1.4 / 16|
The rest is pretty much the same – 9 rounded diaphragm blades, a diagonal angle of view of 63° on Full Frame and 44° on Crop.
Canon really went cannon with their lens, and squeezed in a lot of expensive glass. Nikon… seems to be overpricing with a lack of glass, and Sigma looks like some sort of scam with their ridiculous price.
BUILD & QUALITY
When I first saw this lens from a friend who got it, my impression was – Plastic. Cheap Sigma Plastic. It almost looks like a toothpick if you put it beside the hulk Canon 35mm f/1.4 L II. Does not look impressive, and this is probably going to be just another average usable lens.
I really wasn’t too excited for the Sigma lens, knowing that it will be nothing like an expensive Carl Zeiss lens. But after taking a couple of shots with it, things changed quickly. The “cheap plastic lens”, at half the price of Nikon and Canon, produced stunningly beautiful photos.
- Sharpness – check.
- Ghosting, chromatic aberration – virtually non-existent.
- Contrast and colors – nice.
- Bokeh – check.
- Auto-focus – Smooth, fast, and accurate.
This is amazing. This is not some cheap plastic lens, but a plastic fantastic lens. While it may not be the perfect 35mm lens, I can easily crown it as “one of the best lens” with this kind of price and quality.
This is one lens that has more plastic than metal. But nonetheless, it is light and feels solid in hand. Also being a prime lens, it does not have a zoom ring and focusing is done internally. Nothing on the outside moves, and it has very little moving parts. This lens is going to last long mechanically… and it is made in Japan. If it matters to you.
I won’t say that the Sigma is built like a tank, but it is definitely rugged and not going to fall apart with a few knocks. The only thing for the keen outdoor photographers to take note is – this lens is weather resistant, not weather sealed. It can take a few drops of rain, but not a downpour.
I have been using the Sigma 35mm for over a year with my Nikon D800E now, and the AF is buttery smooth. The manual focus ring is smooth as well. It does not “get stuck” nor requires you to do extreme finger yoga. I have also used this lens on Nikon D500, D750 and D4 – all of them does not seem to have any issue either.
But as Nikon and Canon have not released a developer’s kit for third party lens manufacturers, the compatibility and auto-focus may be a hit-or-miss for future cameras. Also as I have read from other online reviews and feedback – This lens is not quite backwards compatible. It confuses some of the Nikon F series camera, and may potentially damage your older film cameras.
SECTION C : OPTICS & GALLERY
So how does the Sigma Art fare optically? Here are a few sample photos from the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art, taken with my Nikon D800E. You decide for yourself if these are gold or no. Click on an image to visit my Flickr account, where you can view the full size image.
At f/2.8, it still maintains the creamy bokeh, and seems to hit the sweet spot.
When stopped down to f/3.5, I personally think the bokeh is starting to “break”. Bokeh lovers, you might want to keep it between f/1.4 and f/2.8 for this lens.
At f/5.6, you decide…
While some people may say that the 35mm art is not a “dedicated landscape lens”, I say that it still does very well at f/11.
Even at f/14, I am surprised that this lens is still performing well.
I absolutely love this lens to bits and really have nothing much to complain about it. Sure thing that the Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 lens is not on par with lenses like Zeiss Otus, but it is still an overall excellent performer with a good build and excellent optical quality. If there is anything to pick on, I think weather sealing will be a nice addition.
Don’t be fooled by the plastic. Sigma has put in some seriously good glass and engineering into the 35mm. Given the price for this lens, this is easily a no-brainer good buy. In fact, I will even recommend this lens over the Nikon / Canon counterpart. Sigma has really created an affordable amazing lens, Nikon and Canon – buck up or prepare to get hurt real bad.
- Solid construct, can probably survive a hard knock or two.
- Buttery smooth auto-focus (I have not experienced any issues on my Nikon DSLR till date)
- Excellent optics.
- Half the price of Nikon and Canon 35mm counterpart. Amazing value for money.
- Weather resistant, but not weather sealed. Keep this lens away from heavy rain and splashes.
- Suffers from a tad bit of distortion. Not a major pain, and probably unnoticeable.