This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM prime lens that was announced at one of the largest photo shows in the industry, at Photokina in Germany on September 17, 2012 for Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony mounts. The announcement came on the same day with Sigma’s new restructuring of its lens lineup, with three new categories that would differentiate different types of lenses: “Contemporary” for small and lightweight consumer lenses, “Art” for professional zoom and prime lenses and “Sports” for long lenses targeted at sport and wildlife photography. Being a professional-level lens targeted at a variety of photography needs, including portraiture, landscapes and travel, the 35mm f/1.4 is the first Sigma lens that falls into the “Art” category.
Thanks to its large aperture of f/1.4, the lens is not only great for low-light photography, but it also can effectively isolate subjects from the background due to shallow depth of field, beautifully rendering background highlights, also known as “bokeh“. Unlike cheaper cropped-sensor lenses, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is designed to work on both APS-C / DX and full-frame / FX sensors. The lens rivals other fast 35mm primes from Nikon, Canon and Sony, and unlike the branded versions that are in the $1500 range price-wise, the Sigma is actually the cheapest of the group at $899 MSRP.
In the past, Sigma lenses were mostly regarded as “second grade” when compared to the big brands. This had to do with a number of factors, one of which was poor quality control that resulted in a lot of variance. During the recent years, Sigma has taken steps to not only tighten its quality assurance processes, but it has also been spending a lot of resources on R&D. This resulted in new optical designs like Sigma 200-500mm f/2.8 APO EX DG and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM that have no equivalents on the market. In fact, the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 was world’s first fast aperture DSLR zoom lens. In addition, starting from the new line of lenses, Sigma is now allowing photographers to update firmware on lenses and adjust lens parameters such as focus, which again, no other manufacturer currently offers. Typically, when there is a heavy back/front focus deviation, you have to send the lens to the manufacturer.
Is the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 better than other Nikon 35mm primes? How does it perform wide open and when stopped down? How does it handle? In this review, I will do my best to answer these and other questions and will show you samples from the lens, with comparisons against the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G, Samyang 35mm f/1.4 and Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 lenses.
1) Lens Specifications
- Designed for use with full frame and APS-C sensor digital cameras
- Designed with SLD and FLD glass elements, which are equal to fluorite to help correct both axial and chromatic aberrations
- HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) ensures a quiet & high-speed autofocus
- 9 blade diaphragm creates a pleasant out-of-focus effect on backgrounds
- Compatible with the Sigma USB dock and Optimization Pro software to adjust and fine tune focusing parameters
- Mount Type: Sigma, Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax
- Focal Length: 35mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Lens Construction: 13 Elements in 11 Groups
- Angle of View: 63.4º
- Number of Diaphragm Blades: 9
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 30cm/11.8in
- Filter Size: 67mm
- Maximum Magnification: 1:5.2
- Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 77x94mm/3×3.7in
- Weight: 665g/23.5oz.
- A lens hood, front & rear lens caps and carrying case are included with the lens