New Sigma Lenses

During Photokina 2012, Sigma announced three new rather exciting lenses – the fast 35mm f/1.4 prime lens, 17-70mm f/2.8-4 standard zoom for APS-C cameras and the still-unique 120-300mm f/2.8 telephoto zoom for sports and wildlife photographers. Two of the three seem to be mildly refreshed versions of their predecessors, but the 35mm f/1.4 has been highly anticipated and may prove to be very popular. Very recently, it’s price has been revealed and stands at a mere (in comparison with brand 35mm f/1.4’s) $899. Interestingly, it doesn’t feel right to say these new lenses will join Sigma’s lineup. In fact, it seems more like they are starting a new lineup, fresh. If you ever found yourself thinking Sigma was always about cheaply priced, cheaply built and cheaply performing lenses, well, they seem to have had an epiphany.

New Sigma Lenses

I will go ahead and say this – the new strategy Sigma is taking might as well make their products real and tempting alternatives to brand lenses even when money is of no concern.

1) Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Lens

Sigma 35mm f1.4 Lens

Until Tamron comes around, this lens is the only alternative to brand offering from Canon and Nikon. Carl Zeiss and Samyang offer manual focus alternatives, but they are much more specialized. As fun as it would be to use one of their lenses for street and landscape photography, taking manual focus lenses to a wedding, for example, might be a little too risky. If Sigma’s own 85mm f/1.4 is of any indication, the 35mm f/1.4 lens should be a very solid performer and will likely tempt many professional photographers. We at Photography Life are very intrigued by it and hope to get it for a review as soon as possible. At a recently revealed price of $899, it is also much less expensive than $1600 Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G (read the review) and the aging $1400 Canon 35mm f/1.4L, both of which are very capable.

The lens features Sigma’s own HSM ultrasonic focus motor and special glass elements to counter all kinds of chromatic aberration. It also has floating elements for high quality close-up photographs. Floating elements are usually present in macro lenses. What’s most interesting, however, is that you can buy a special USB port for the lens. This feature, when used with Sigma Optimization Pro software, will help you correct any AF inaccuracies of your lens copy. You will also be able to update lens firmware through it. Previous Sigma lenses have not always been reliable in AF department. The USB port should make buying this lens a much safer bet.

Sigma 35mm f1.4 MTF

Here are the official specifications:

  • Lens Construction: 13 elements in 11 groups
  • Aperture range: f/1.4-16
  • Filter size: 67mm
  • Angle of view (35mm equivalent): 63.4°
  • Minimum focusing distance: 30cm / 11.8in
  • Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 77mm x 94.0mm / 3.0in x 3.7in
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 1:5.2

You can pre-order the lens at B&H, our most trusted retailer, for $899: Nikon mount, Canon mount, Sony mount, Pentax mount, Sigma mount. Shipment is expected to start November 15th.

2) Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS Lens

Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Lens

If there’s one thing Sigma has always been good at, it’s making unique lenses. In case you find that 200-500 f/2.8 lens (available in different mounts, too) is a little too much for you, maybe the new (likely a mere cosmetic refresh of its predecessor) 120-300mm f/2.8 OS won’t be. This speedy telephoto lens combines aperture size of traditional exotic 300mm f/2.8 lenses with an added versatility of a zoom. Because of that, it will prove to be very suitable for sports and wildlife photography if optical, mechanical and AF performance is good enough. No other maker has anything close to this lens on offer. Prime lenses almost certainly offer better performance – those 300mm f/2.8 Canon and Nikon lenses are as good as they get – but for some photographers, Sigma performance might be more than adequate.

Other highlights include the usual HSM autofocus with full-time manual override and Sigma’s optical image stabilizer. Hopefully, it’s competitive with other stabilizer systems out there. The lens comes with a metal hood, a case and tripod ring and also has low dispersion glass elements to counter chromatic aberration. Weather sealing is present. There is a focus speed adjustment, as well as focus limiter.

Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 MTF

Here are the official specifications (appearance and specs are still subject to change):

  • Lens Construction: 23 elements in 18 groups
  • Aperture range: f/2.8-22
  • Filter size: 105mm
  • Angle of view (35mm equivalent): 20.4° – 8.2°
  • Minimum focusing distance: 150cm – 250cm / 59.1in – 98.4in
  • Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 124.4mm x 291mm / 4.8in x 11.5in
  • Blades: 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 1:8.1

Pricing is yet unknown. B&H has its predecessor in stock, however. It retails for $2999 with instant savings, which is less than twice the price of competing Canon and Nikon exotic primes. We can expect the price of this new 120-300mm f/2.8 OS lens to be around $3500 or even less. Time will tell, and we hope to get a copy for a review as soon as it’s out.

You can order the still very recent predecessor by following these links: Nikon mount, Canon mount.

3) Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 OS Lens

Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 Lens

This lens is meant for APS-C sensor cameras and combines practical zoom range with relatively fast aperture. If photography is no more than a hobby, it’s an interesting alternative for those standard 18-55mm kit zooms. Don’t expect it to be perfect, though. Heavy distortion, corner softness and some CA may be present. Still, it’s a standard zoom and perfect performance is unlikely to be expected of it – that’s missing the point. As usual, it comes with HSM autofocus and optical stabilizer. You will find a lens hood in the package, too. There are aspherical elements, as well as low dispertion lenses for CA control.

Here are the official specifications (appearance and specs are still subject to change):

  • Lens Construction: 16 elements in 14 groups
  • Minimum aperture: down to f/22
  • Filter size: 72mm
  • Angle of view (APS-C): 79.7° – 22.9°
  • Minimum focusing distance: 22cm
  • Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 79mm x 82mm / 3.1in x 3.2in
  • Blades: 7 (Rounded diaphragm)
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 1:2.9
  • Weight: 470g / 16.6oz.
Sigma 17-70mm f2.8-4 MTF

Similarly to Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 OS lens, the “new” lens is likely also no more than a cosmetic refresh of the older one, so you should expect it to cost the same or thereabout – $470. The current 17-70mm f/2.8-4 OS lens can be had from B&H for $419 (with instant savings): Nikon mount, Canon mount, Sony mount.

Sigma Global Vision Concept

First step towards the right direction for Sigma was the release of their highly popular 50mm f/1.4 EX lens. Having found its place in many photographers’ bags, this lens has a high price tag (higher than those of brand fast normal lenses), but also optical performance to back it up. It has a nippy focus, feels very solid in hand, and, during its lifespan, Sigma even got rid of their old lens finish. The old finish was very prone to gathering dust and then, if abused slightly, coming off completely. The new finish is much sleeker and more durable.

They didn’t stop with one fast lens, though. 85mm f/1.4 EX came out – it was an even bigger hit among professional photographers and a real leap for Sigma in terms of quality and performance. Ryan Brenizer, whose amazing panorama method we discussed, uses it in his most demanding jobs with confidence. I thought of replacing my 85mm f/1.4D lens with the Sigma, given that prices are very similar. This classic fast portrait prime lens is very sharp even wide open and has tough build quality. It, too, focuses faster (due to short focus ring travel path) than either Nikon’s 85mm f/1.4G or Canon’s 85mm f/1.2 II L, is much cheaper and makes a real alternative.

As if this wasn’t enough to show Sigma means business, they’ve stopped walking and started running. Sigma has announced a new strategy, a concept of a sort (quote):

Sigma is organizing all its interchangeable lenses into three product lines. Each line has its own clearly defined concept, and every lens we develop from now on will be assigned to one of these lines.

Our objective is not to impose a new way of categorizing equipment, but simply to clarify the approach we have taken in developing each new lens. Our hope is that these new product lines will help guide photographers, giving an overview of the type of image creation each lens was designed to support.

There are three categories:

  • C stands for Contemporary. Normal, versatile zoom lenses are likely to join this category: “Featuring the very latest technology, and combining optical performance with compactness, our high-performance Contemporary line covers a wide range of needs.” At this time, the refreshed and stabilized 17-70mm f/2.8-4 lens belongs here.
  • A stands for Art, and will include fast prime lenses ranging from wide-angle to moderate telephoto, as well as macro and fish-eye lenses: “Designed with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and abundant expressive power, our Art line delivers high-level artistic expression.” Currently, this category holds one lens – the newly announced 35mm f/1.4 fast prime. You can expect 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 lenses to join this category shortly (possibly with improvements).
  • S means, predictably, Sports, and will include fast telephoto lenses, both prime and zoom. “While offering sophisticated optical performance and expressiveness, our Sports line lenses deliver high action-capture performance, enabling photographers to get exactly the shots they want.” Currently, refreshed and unique 120-300mm f/2.8 OS lens is in this category. It is likely Sigma’s 70-200 f/2.8 OS will join it soon.

I must say – these new and refreshed lenses look very solid and inspire confidence. We are yet to see how they perform. We await the arrival of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lens most eagerly and will present you with a review as soon as we have enough field-experience with it.

Visit Sigma Global website if you’re interested in learning a bit more. Let’s hope they deliver as much as they promise.


  1. 1) Me
    November 8, 2012 at 6:40 am

    Seems odd, that the new Sigma comes with only a 1 year warranty. Don’t Sigma’s usually have 4 year warranty?? Seems strange to go backwards on perceived quality??

  2. 2) Mark
    November 8, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Hi Roman,
    Thanks for this artical, great to get some coverage of other lenses that could challenge the market and keep Nikon and Canon on their toes.
    I own few of Sigma lenses and the quality can be hit or miss, but on the main one I use (the 70-200mm f/2.8) is fantasic. The original version of the 120-300mm lens was very highly rated, the version with the 1st OS version seemed to have a few issues on some copies of the lenses but people who have a good copy are extatic over it – many claim it’s as virtually as good as the Nikon and Canon Primes, especially at half the price. I definately want one of these as I moved from a DX to a FX camera and want to re-create the focal length on the new camera, I hope that the quality of the latest version goes back to the original quality without the variations.

  3. 3) Jay
    November 8, 2012 at 8:04 am

    Do you plan on testing any of these lenses? Sorry if you stated that and I missed it. I have been really looking forward to this announcement and release, mainly for the 35mm f/1.4, and will be putting my order very soon. My 2 main workhorse lenses are the Sigma 50 and 85 f/1.4, and the majority of the pics that can be seen on all my websites are taken with one of these 2. The need for a wider lens has now come up and I was about to pull the trigger on the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 until I caught wind of the new Sigmas coming, so I held off. I have used the Nikon version a good amount, renting it several times for shoots and love the focal length, so if this Sigma is as good as the other two I have in my bag, the $800 price difference is enough for me to pull the trigger on it….even before I see any reviews.

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 3.1) Romanas Naryškin
      November 8, 2012 at 9:21 am

      Jay, we will test the 35mm f/1.4 for sure, and also hope to test that 120-300 zoom. Not sure about the 17-70 – our priority list is too long at the moment, there are somewhat more important lenses waiting.

      Thank you for reading!

      • 3.1.1) Kim
        November 8, 2012 at 9:03 pm

        Would you possibly test the 120-300 mm on the Nikon D800? It has turned out for me to be an amazing sports and wildlife camera with the Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8 VR II lens, unlike what many have said, and I would love to have a longer reach with a 300 mm lens. Thank you for your consideration.

  4. November 8, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Sounds very intriguing. Recently switched to the d800 (still have my trusty d7000) and been using the 35mm DX lens on it as a stop-gap measure until I can afford something better. Actually, it works pretty well for now. It covers the full frame, only the extreme corners show heavy vignetting, but at the 1.2x crop factor (or 5:4 aspect) vignetting is all but gone. On a side note, that 1.2x crop factor is rather useful as opposed to the 1.5. I considered the Nikon 35mm F1.4 too expensive, but this Sigma, if the bokeh is acceptable, will make my lenses-to-buy list.

  5. November 8, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I am always surprised that the full fram 12-24 is so overlooked in testing and reviews. While the original version was’t worth having due to its optics, the new version is excellent and at 12mm proivdes the widest field of view of any rectinlinear AF lens out there. There are simply shots that the 14-24 Nikon simply can’t get that this lens can and I find it is very sharp. An essential lens in my bag!

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 5.1) Romanas Naryškin
      November 8, 2012 at 9:23 am

      David, I wouldn’t go as far to say that ultra-wide angle is overlooked. It’s a very, very specialized piece of equipment, even more so than the already crazy 14-24 Nikkor, so it’s only natural it doesn’t receive as much attention.

      I’m sure it’s a good performer stopped down and makes a cracking lens for wide-angle landscapes.

  6. November 8, 2012 at 9:18 am

    And am I the only one intrigued by the AF Fine Tune USB/Software announcement? Just what it this all about? Alternative to FoCal and Tapes?

    “A newly developed USB dock, which will be sold separately and exclusively for new product lines, can be paired with new Sigma Optimization Pro software to update the lens firmware and adjust parameters, such as micro focus adjustment.”

    No other info I can find anwhere.

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 6.1) Romanas Naryškin
      November 8, 2012 at 9:25 am

      I’ve mentioned the USB, David – it’s a nice feature and is quite welcome. It virtually eliminates any kind of incompatibility some photographers were worried could occur between a third-party lens and the camera body. I was always a little skeptical about such fears, I must say.

      • 6.1.1) David Voss
        November 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm

        Indeed you did otherwise I wouldn’t have picked up on it!!! But on going to the Sigma website, I was surprised they have nothing at all about the software, photos of the base unit or anything. I am intrigued. FoCal and Tapes software both seem to be suffering teething pains as will be expected with early versions of anything but this concept of using computers to do the fine tuning is something I think has huge promise in the future. After trying the available options it strikes me that Nikon/Canon etc. will eventually have an automated procedure built into the cameras to calibrate fine tune at a matrix of different distances, focal lengths and apertures (three axis solutions) for each individual lens you put on the body. Right now we are limited to one single number (except Canon 5D MkIII which gives you two) and it’s up to you to decide whether to optiize for a particular setting or sunjectively evaluate a range of results to pick that number representing the best compromise across all three axes. Given the processor capability built into modern DSLR’s it would seem to be a short and easy jump to cook this into the firmware. Necessarily, as additional empiracle data was added to the matrix, the software will have to interpolate for missing data to smooth out the curves. Ever since AF Fine Tune came out, I have been impressed with how much more you can get from a body/lens combo from careful calibration. These CPU based solutions offer huge promise I predict we will see in the coming few iterations of DSLR.

  7. November 8, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    It’s nice to see some well considered coverage of Sigma’s new offerings here. Having been made a believer after borrowing the 85/1.4 for a wedding and getting one for myself, I also picked up the 12-24 (previous generation). The former is all I want and need in a fast 85mm prime, and sharp as anything I’ve ever used for studio portrait work at middle apertures, and the latter – despite its heavy vignetting and corner distortion – when stopped down past f/7.1 renders lovely images and rich skies that look like a polarizing filter was embedded in the glass.

    As a sports photographer I would dearly love to pick up the 120-300 f/2.8 OS lens, but these days the magazines hardly even pay anything and expect photographers to be satisfied with just a credit, so despite the attractive price in comparison to the N and C equivalents the price tag of $3500 is beyond what I can justify. Probably better to spend that same amount on a D800(E) and crop images taken with the trusty 70-200, knowing the resolution is plenty to get away with.

    On the other hand, knowing how nice the 85/1.4 is and assuming the 35/1.4 will be based on a similar design, it is a prime (pun intended) candidate for my toolkit and I’m looking forward to reading your review.

  8. 8) Luke
    November 9, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    35mm f1.4 is the full-frame lens, right?

    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 8.1) Romanas Naryškin
      November 10, 2012 at 4:58 am

      Yes, it is, Luke. :)

  9. 9) Mayank Manu
    November 11, 2012 at 9:56 am

    Hi Roman
    need you suggestion , i want a fast lens which can work for low light situation like theater. I have D5100, what you suggest for me , keeping in mind I will shift to FX in future, what you will suggest.

    angle of view is also very important to me , as some time I have capture the full stage view as well .

    i used my 50 mm and 18-105, both have their limitation due to which i loose most of the time good shots.


    • Profile photo of Romanas Naryškin 9.1) Romanas Naryškin
      November 14, 2012 at 8:56 am

      It all depends on your budget, Manu. :) On a full-frame camera, I would have a 24-70 and 70-200 with me if budget was of no concern and the situation demanded it (a serious job, for example). But there are of course alternatives.

      • 9.1.1) mayank
        November 14, 2012 at 9:14 am

        Dear Roman
        thanks for the suggestion , yes budget is concern as as this time i can afford any one of the situation, either switch to full frame ( what you will suggest D600 or 700) or buy a lens may be 24-120 f4 ( not sure about the credibility as no usage review available as of now for situation like for me ).

        i checked out the weight of 70- 200, its too bulk to carry in situation like theater where you are on move every time, how you rate 24-120 f4 on my d5100, not only it give me extra zoom + wide as well.

        please advise about the quick auto focus reliability in low light , that is prime for me.

        really looking forward to the help for the comment.

        need every one else to advise their views as i have to decide fast i have theater show to catch on 25 Nov.

        • mayank
          November 14, 2012 at 9:58 am

          also as per my opinion 24-120 would a multipurpose lens for every day use then.

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