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Sigma 35mm f1.4 DC HSM Lens Review

Sigma 35mm f1.4 DC HSM Lens Review

Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM

Sigma Corporation, a family owned and operated company producing a wide range of lenses, cameras and flashes, announced in late 2012 their new global vision. One of the highlights from this was the restructuring of the Sigma lens line-up into 3 new product categories "Art", "Sports" and "Contemporary" as well as the launch of new lenses in each.

With the development and implementation of a new quality control, inspection and measurement systems for the lenses, as well as an updated and modernised finish and presentation of their products, the new line up of lenses from Sigma promised to be better than ever... and so far we haven’t been disappointed!

Released in late 2012, the 35mm f1.4 DC HSM from Sigma quickly established itself as the flagship of Sigma's "Art series" of lenses.

sigma 35mm lens

From an aesthetics point of view the 35mm Sigma really shines. With its seek and modern brushed metal finish, soft-touch rubberised focus ring, and solid quality feel, it put a smile on my face as soon as I opened the box.

The first thing that you'll notice when you have this lens in your hand is just how solid it feels. It’s reassuringly weighty without feeling heavy (although at 665 grams it is slightly heavier than the 35mm f1.4 from both Canon and Nikon), and the smooth curves and muted finish give it an overall feeling of reliability and quality. As with other lenses from Sigma, the 35mm f1.4 DC HSM comes standard with a soft padded pouch, a centre-and-side-pinch lens cap, and a lens hood. There's no need to purchase these as separate accessories.

The lens can be bought fitted with many different camera mounts including Sigma, Pentax, Canon, Nikon, and Sony - so you should be able to find it available for just about every major DSLR on the market. We tested it out on a Canon EOS 5D MK III.

Optically this lens is a real gem. Corner-to-corner sharpness is excellent - even at the maximum aperture of f1.4, the images produced by this lens remain sharp and clear, and this only improves when stopped down. The 35mm f1.4 focuses quickly and accurately, and is virtually silent when doing so. Immediately after taking a few test shots with it I was impressed with just how sharp and contrasty the images were.

As with most large aperture lenses, vignetting is noticeable and pronounced at f1.4, but disappears quickly when stopped down and is barely noticeable from f2. Personally I don’t mind vignetting at larger apertures, as coupled with the impressive minimum focus distance of 30cm, and the narrow depth of field and creamy bokeh from the 9 blade f1.4 aperture, they really help to separate a subject from a busy background.

Michael

Unlike the 35mm f1.4 from Nikon, the sigma isn’t weather sealed, so you’ll want to think twice or take additional precautions when shooting in rainy or very dusty environments as these conditions could cause damage to the lens. The Canon isn’t weather sealed either, which is surprising considering how much more expensive then the Sigma it is.

The filter size is a reasonably small 67mm so they shouldn’t be too expensive. If like me you already own a good set of larger filters then purchasing a step-up ring will allow you to use your existing filters on this lens too.

Another thing that I really like about the Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM, is its overall size. I find that the lens isn’t obtrusive at all, even when fitted with the lens hood its relatively compact, fits in the hand nicely and the focus ring is easy to manipulate. It balances out a regular sized DSLR camera without a battery grip very nicely. I like this because it helps to keep the weight down, especially if you are shooting with it for many hours like at a wedding.

The general purpose 35mm focal length is very usable, and which I personally prefer to 50mm as it allows for capturing a wider perspective while not exaggerating personal features like noses and feet too much.

Angus

A big deciding point for many people when looking for a 35mm f1.4 lens will be the price. The Sigma is priced very aggressively, and at the time of writing can be purchased for as little as $730. Compare this to the Nikon at over $1600, and the Canon at over $1000 (Australian retail prices) and you’ll see that the Sigma is exceptionally good value.

From my point of view, the old shortcomings of this lens is its lack of weather sealing, but considering that it’s priced many  hundreds of dollars less than its canon equivalent (and over a thousand dollars less than the Nikon) it’s still by far the better buy and I doubt that anyone would be disappointed by the Sigma.

One thing that needs to be mentioned about lenses from Sigma or any other third-party manufacturer is this: Canon, Nikon, Sony, etc don’t release the codes and electronic communications standards between their camera bodies and lenses, and as such manufacturers such as Sigma have to reverse-engineer and “guess” a lot of it. For this reason, stable communication between the camera and lens cannot be guaranteed, particularly with newer camera bodies that have not yet been released or developed.  Having said that, I have owned several Sigma lenses over the years, and never once have experienced any communications or AF issues. In another effort to counter this, Sigma also offers a USB dock for their new series of lenses, to allow the photographer to make adjustments and update the firmware in the future if they wish, or need to.

 

Girl and dog

I’ve used many sigma lenses over the years, including several of their previous EX or “professional” grade lenses. I can safely say that this new 35mm is without a doubt my favourite Sigma lens to date, and I’m eager to see what else they have in store for us in the future.

Nice work Sigma :-)

 

Features / specifications:

  • 665 grams
  • 9 blade aperture
  • HSM autofocus motor
  • 67mm filter thread
  • Compatible with USB dock

Pros:

  • Large f1.4 aperture
  • Optically excellent, and very sharp
  • Solid construction and a very stylish design
  • Silent and smooth HSM focusing
  • Ships with all accessories such as centre-pinch lens cap, hood, and a soft case
  • Very reasonably priced

Cons:

  • No weather sealing