While the new Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 seems like a wonderful chunk of glass for those who do not mind a 1.35 kg beast, Sigma has just released its new 20mm f/1.4 Art-series lens, which is a much wider lens, while being as fast as the Otus. In fact, Sigma claims this one to be another “world’s first” as far as the focal length and the aperture – the next fastest lens is the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G. With its MSRP of $899, the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 Art is only $100 more than Nikon’s excellent 20mm f/1.8G, so the big question is, is 2/3 of a stop worth the $100 premium Sigma is asking for? Well, the answer to that question is not so simple, because there is a lot more than just stops involved here. Sigma’s 20mm f/1.4 Art is completely different optically compared to the Nikon. First of all, we are dealing with a lens that has more superior optical glass inside, with 5 low-dispersion, two ultra low-dispersion and two aspherical lenses. One of those aspherical elements is particularly difficult to make, because it is a “double” aspherical lens with a large 59mm diameter. Essentially this element was the reason that Sigma was able to produce a 20mm f/1.4 – something no other manufacturer was able to achieve to date. So in a way, we can consider the Sigma 20mm f/1.4 to be in a different class of its own when compared to the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G. However, there is one major pitfall – due to the large element on the front of the lens, it cannot take any regular screw-on filters!
While another Sigma Art lens is welcome, lack of ability to take filters is the Sigma 20mm f/1.4’s Achilles heel! While many photographers don’t use filters and won’t particularly care, landscape and architecture photographers will surely consider this a deal breaker, as they rely on filters all the time. I personally would choose the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G over the Sigma for this reason alone, as I rely on filters all the time. One could argue that filters at such wide focal lengths are unnecessary, but I strongly disagree. Shoot a large waterfall at close proximity without a polarizing filter, or a seascape without an ND filter and you will see that your setup will be limiting. While I am sure such options as the Wonderpana will make adapters available soon, the idea of lugging a huge and heavy filter system is not very appealing to me.
Now one particular use for this lens would be astrophotography, but only if the lens can handle coma well. If it does, it will be a popular choice among astrophotographers. If it doesn’t, then the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G will be its fiercest enemy… Time will tell.
Official Press Release
Here is the official press release:
RONKONKOMA, NY – October 16, 2015 – Sigma Corporation of America, a leading DSLR lens and camera manufacturer, is setting new benchmarks for wide-angle image quality with the announcement of the newest Global Vision and market’s first full-frame 20mm F1.4 lens, the Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens. The lens will be on display at PhotoPlus International Conference + Expo in New York City from October 22-24. The lens will become available late November for the street price of $899, and will be available in Sigma, Canon and Nikon mounts.
This revolutionary prime lens is designed to bring out the full potential of ultra-high-megapixel DSLR cameras. With a focal length of 20mm and F1.4 aperture, this lens delivers outstanding large-aperture brightness and bokeh. Through decades of experience in lens design and Sigma Global Vision lens craftsmanship, the 20mm incorporates both “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) glass, and five Special Low Dispersion (SLD) glass in a design of 15 elements in 11 groups. The combination of advanced optics and optimized lens power distribution minimizes spherical aberration, axial chromatic aberration and field curvature, producing outstanding image quality. The wide angle and outstanding image quality make this lens great for seascape, cityscape, and astrophotography, as well as for photos in low light, indoor photography, portraits, and event and wedding photography.
“While many saw the development of a 20mm lens for today’s super-resolution DSLRs as challenging, Sigma approached it head-on utilizing our advanced manufacturing technologies to create the world’s first 20mm F1.4 ultra-wide-angle lens,” said Mark Amir-Hamzeh, president of Sigma Corporation of America. “This new lens is a result of years of experience by the company’s optical engineers in developing state-of-the-art lens designs and proven production knowledge, and high-precision craftsmanship by our factory team in Aizu, Japan.”
From the start of the design process, Sigma took steps to minimize flare and ghosting, and established an optical design that is resistant to strong incidental light sources such as backlight with its Super Multi-Layer Coating. As with all Sigma Global Vision lenses, the 20mm F1.4 lens incorporates the latest Sigma technology, including an optimized autofocus (AF) algorithm for smooth, fast, and accurate focusing. In addition, Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) compound material is used, which has a high affinity to metal parts, consistently performs well at extreme temperatures, and reduces the size and weight of the lens.
This lens is compatible with Sigma’s USB Dock, (sold separately) which allows photographers to update the lens’ firmware, adjust focus points and customize full-time manual focus over-ride function settings using Sigma’s Optimization Pro software. A new metal lens cap (LC907-02) is also available as a separate accessory for $23.
The Sigma 20mm F1.4 Art lens will also feature:
- A Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) that ensures a silent, high-speed AF function. Smoother AF is achieved when the this AF algorithm is optimized
- A nine-blade, rounded diaphragm creates an attractive blur to the out-of-focus areas of the image
- A brass bayonet mount of highly precise and durable construction to enhance mount’s strength and long-term wear resistance
- Specifications: Weight of 33.5 ounces; a diameter and length of 3.6 inches by 5.1 inches; a minimum aperture of F16; and angle of view (35mm) of 94.5°; minimum focusing distance of 10.9 inches; and a maximum magnification ratio of 1:7.1
Sigma fans can feel confident knowing that every 20mm lens that leaves Japan’s factory has been tested using Sigma’s own modulation transfer function (MTF) measuring system, “A1.” Other prime lenses in the Art line include: 24mm F1.4 DG HSM, 30mm F1.4 DC HSM, 35mm F1.4 DG HSM, and 50mm F1.4 DG HSM.
Recently, I have bought this lens on the advice of my friend. He has a solution for filter problem by cutting 2 parts (longest parts) of the hood, then we can use the filters 100x150mm we had before with 100mm system Holder Nisi V5.
I just got the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G, and I did try out the 20mm and 35mm Sigma. The Nikon has a rubber ring on it’s mount to stop water from leaking into your Nikon camera, you can also add filters which you can not do on the Sigma. That look of the Nikkor 20mm f/1.8G was just outstanding and it fit my landscape world perfectly.
Amazing lens! I have also reviewed this lens here:
Another Sigma 1.x lense that won’t focus in poor light…
It often amazes me that many reviews are not done in the field under challenging and actual light conditions. Just like the new series of 150-600 lenses that at mid-day in bright light work well but come evening or early morning the f/5-63 becomes an issue for focusing, shutter speed and need for higher ISO.
The falloff graph Sigma has posted for this lens does not bode well for astro work actually. It’s like 2 stops down at the edges. By the time you compensate for that the noise levels will be through the roof, and image stacking will have uneven results. I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but overall I think it’s a nice notch for Sigma. They’re still impressing.
That fall off at the edges is the difference in quality. When people rave about a lens and do comparisons it is usually at the center. No one considers edge to edge, or all the other values. In fact most just view output on an LCD screen as opposed to a hi-res and large print. I have heard some discount the quality values and just say, you’re paying the higher prices for market costs. When your lens leaks moisture into your camera because it lacks weather sealing, your savings just went out the door.
Coma is the #1 problem for these focal length lenses in general. A good test is to use high contrast light source like an LED light and see if coma appears when you aim off axis. If so you may have problems in the field with long exposures and off axis light sources.
I own the Nikon 20mm and I love this lens. It is crazy sharp, produces nice sun stars in back lit situations and it is small and lightweight. Not a single hear on my head would consider to ditch it for the Sigma version. If I would need to buy a 20 mm all over again, I would choose the Nikon again without a hesitation. It is a lens that provides a lot of value for the money.
Looking forward to seeing how coma on stars is with this lens wide open.
Well for me landscape equal Lee 100mm filter system so it might be a great performer but I won’t get it because it doesn’t work with it. I already have a 14mm rokinon and a 35mm sigma art. Between the nikon 20 and 24mm 1.8 g, which one would you choose for landscape to fill the gap I have?
Well, I do like to use ND and polarizers but on ultra-wide polarizers have an uneven distribution of the effect and as a result, you have “blue spots” in the image. I stoipped using polarizers on UW’s some time ago. I will miss the ND’s but again not so much. It is likely that anything developed for the lens like Wonderpanna would only require more parts and pieces to bring, lose or break. I use the Nikon 16-35 f/4. I also have the Nikon 14-24 which is an exceptional piece of work. But the 16-35 uses a 77 mm filters and ND that are can be used on so many other Nikon lenses including the 80-400. That ability alone is so import from an equipment stand point.
Why do need fast glass at all on an ultra-wide? I am using this lens to shoot landscape. I am on a tripod and using between f/7 and 8 to 11 and 16 (max). And if not always a long exposure. At 1.4 the DOF is very narrow and you would have to be careful in selecting the hyper-focal distance to get sharpness through out the frame.
The 9 rounded diaphragm blades should get you a nice bokeh. As for the construction, it is mostly plastic. Sigma indicates that the “composite” material holds up well to temperatures but plastic or composite never holds up well over time against metal/brass.
I am not sure what kinds of coatings Sigma is using but they can reduce aberration. flares, etc. I am familiar with Nikon’s coatings and trust them. I don’t know sigma well enough to make that comparison. I would have to wait for DxO to do analysis.
As for their focusing motor, I am not sure how well that performs but that is not so much a worry as when shooting wildlife or sports. This is a landscape lens while AF is important, sharpness, aberration and distortion is critical.
Thanks for the write up…
Hi Magic Cat,
I don’t really think this lens will work for you based on your needs. It won’t work for me either because I need to use polarizers.
That said, the Sigma lenses I’ve purchased over the past few years (18-35 1.8, 50mm 1.4 Art, 17-70 f2.8-4.0 C) and see little difference in focus speed or build quality vs Nikon equivalents. Nikon will hold its value better for resale, but for actual use, the Sigma’s are optically as good or better (example is 50mm art vs Nikon 1.4g), so for future purchases I now look at Sigma and Nikon as roughly equivalent and then choose based on which specific lens fits best.
Oops, meant Maghi Cat…