If the new 35mm F1.4 DG HSM lens is anything to go by, Sigma are definitely raising their game with the recent introduction of their three new lens ranges (Art, Sports and Contemporary). The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is a fast and tack-sharp lens that exhibits low chromatic aberrations and very little barrel distortion. Vignetting at wide-open apertures is the only real optical issue of note, something that other fast lenses also suffer from, and stopping down to F/4 solves the problem altogether.
Sigma’s produced an excellent lens in the 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG HSM, with comparatively great performance at the ƒ/1.4 aperture setting, where the lens will no doubt be used for the majority of the time. There’s a lot to like here: great results for sharpness, low chromatic aberration, and low distortion. There is some significant corner shading when used wide open, but coupled with the corner softness at the same aperture settings this contributes to an interesting look and subject isolation. If you’re looking for corner-to-corner image sharpness you’ll need to stop down. The Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 is definitely priced to compete, and designed to perform.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens is an impressively sharp lens – with very sharp center and mid image circle results even at a wide open f/1.4 aperture. Full frame f/1.4 peripheral image circle results are still quite good, but softer than the center results. Results are slightly sharper at f/2, but the clearing vignetting is the biggest difference noticed by stopping down. Don’t expect center-of-the-frame image quality to noticeably improve by stopping down beyond f/2. Corners slowly improve until becoming very impressively sharp at f/5.6.
About image quality:
The impressiveness of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens’ image quality becomes most apparent when comparing the results to the other great 35mm lenses. I have not used a lens of any focal length (Canon, Nikon, Zeiss, …) that delivered better/sharper image quality at f/1.4. This comparison of course includes the also-impressive Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZE Lens and the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM Lens.
While it is not perfect, I’m finding the Sigma 35 to perform close to the Canon 35 L in AF accuracy. A somewhat consistent and quite noticeable front focus problem on both of my 5D Mark III bodies required AFMA to correct. You may want to capture multiple images in situations with especially shallow DOF – which will be closer to MFD (Minimum Focus Distance). Note that the focus-and-recompose technique can begin to fail as shallower DOF is achieved.
I think that the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens is my new favorite Sigma lens. Perhaps the “A” plate on the barrel represents this lens’ report card grade average, showing that it has brains to go along with the great looks.
There is much more in The Digital Picture‘s review, lot’s of details, so be sure not to miss it.
Everything about this lens feels super solid. I’ve had other staffers hold it and proclaim that it feels like an entirely metal lens. When putting a Zeiss lens right next to it though, it is clear that this lens’s exterior is not made of metal. However, if you squeeze the lens, it feels even more solid than previous optics made by Sigma.
So far, I’m still quite head over heels for the lens. The wide open and stopped down performance is really quite good and it’s made me reach for my 5D Mk II much more than I used to. In many ways, its breathed new life into the camera.
The build quality so far is stellar and is the way it feels in my hands. And for the price, I really can’t see anyone going wrong with this lens.
The price is one of the big points of this lens, at $900 it is ways cheaper than the equivalent brand lenses.
It’s remarkably sharp, even wide open, outperforming not only its Canon, Nikon and Sony equivalents, but also the far more expensive Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 in lab tests. Chromatic aberration is also impressively well controlled (both lateral and longitudinal), distortion is low and vignetting more-or-less typical for its class. The rendition of out-of-focus regions is generally quite attractive, although complex backgrounds can end up looking rather ‘fussy’. The overall result, though, is a lens that delivers fine-looking images with the minimum of fuss, shot after shot.
It appears as if Sigma made a definitely outstanding lens. Quoting DPreview:
Every now and then we come across a camera or lens that hits a sweet spot of image quality, usability and price that makes it an easy recommendation. The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is just such a beast – it manages the impressive trick of being substantially cheaper than the camera manufacturers’ equivalents while matching or beating them optically. If you’re after a top quality fast prime at this focal length it should be right at the top of your short list, and it easily earns our top award.
Finally, ephotozine (also with sample images) reviewed the Sigma:
Even at f/1.4, sharpness in the centre portion of the frame is excellent, although as you might expect at such a fast maximum aperture, sharpness towards the edges of the frame falls away to just below good levels. This is still very good performance for a lens of this type. Stopping the lens down improves sharpness across the frame with clarity towards the edges of the frame reaching very good levels by f/2. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved at apertures between f/4 and f/5.6 where the clarity achieved in the centre is outstanding, and sharpness is excellent towards the edges of the frame.
Lensrental’s Roger Cicala wrote a very positive review about the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens. According to R. Cicala Sigma had some serious quality control issues in the past, issues that now appear to be solved. Quoting:
[…] this lens is built solidly. It really feels more like a Zeiss 35mm than a Canon or Nikon. Sigma says there’s a lot of metal in there, and at 1.4 pounds I believe them. On the other hand, that makes it several ounces heavier than either the Canon or Nikon, but about the same amount lighter than the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4.
It feels solid, too. The manual focusing ring is smooth and accurate, although I found it a bit stiff. Not problem stiff, but certainly not move-it-with-a-fingertip. Autofocus speed was reasonably quick, about on a par with the Canon 35mm. More importantly to me, AF accuracy was good, too, even when we darkened the room down to the point where many Sigma lenses start hunting.
The lens is disassembled and analyzed. An interesting review definitely worth to be read.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM for Canon mount is currently in stock at B&H for $899 (click here).
B&H has the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Lens for Canon mount in stock and ready to ship for $899 (click here). This lens can connect to a computer via USB to adjust AF and upload firmware updates. Limited stock available.