I was searching for a new camera and a good – not too expensive – alround lens to start and to shoot in most situations, from landscapes to portraits. And i wanted to shoot fullframe. My decsicion fell on the Nikon D800. Now i had to find a lens which can handle the 36 MP sensor of that outstanding camera. A friend told me, that he shoots every pic on the D800 with a monopod to get those huge amount of pixels sharp. So i wanted a fast lens (f/1.4) to solve that problem. I have to admid, that the following reviews enticed me to make my decision.
Let’s start with the optics. 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.
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.
Sigma has stated previously that it was upping its game with new pro-level lens designs and the new 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM is not only on a par with OEM lenses optically it surpasses them in most areas, especially in both acutance and resolution. It’s lens that’s designed not only for the very best of today’s sensors but it appears well suited to handle the demands of the next generation of high-resolution imaging chips. The lens sets a new benchmark for optical performance for a retro-focus lens in this focal length and it’s a feat that’s even more remarkable given the price is well-below that of any of the big name brands.
I wont’t do any lab tests here, i only want to show my experience with the lens after one month of use. Yes and also quite important, i didn’t get any money from Sigma or Nikon to write these lines.
Specifications and built quality:
It’s the first lens of the new “art”-series from Sigma. I got mine for 900€ from a dealer in Vienna. The build quality is just great, it’s a very solid lens. Otherwise it’s quite heavy (907g) and big, not like the 50mm fixed focal lenght lenses. There’s nothing to complain about the built quality of the lens. It has a hypersonic-motor for autofocusing, it’s not weathersealed and has a filter diameter of 67mm. It has no optical image stabilisation.
If you decide to get a D600 with this lens, forget it, you will need a shutter speed of 1/8000 more often you can imagine, and the D600 with a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 can not keep up with this lens wide open. Or you use a neutral density filter at conditions with much light.
I found a lot of posts and reviews in the web about the autofocus malfunction of the D800 and also of the Sigma 35 f/1.4, so the first test with this combo was quite gripping. To my relief everything worked fine here, autofocus is fast, silent and very accurate. Focusing at f/1.4 and the shallow depth of field is quite competitve, especially for moving objects. But this is also the case at other comparable lenses. It needed no focus calibration on my D800.
Sharpness and pixel peeping
It’s just extremly sharp. And it’s also extremly sharp wide open at f/1.4, with a decrease in sharpness to the edges. At f/2.8 it has it’s sharpness maximum, in the center and in the corners. But you can watch the graphs at the DPREVIEW review…
And here is one of my first test shots with the new gear:
The sharpness here at f/3.2 is just brutal, it’s nearly too sharp:
f/1.4 and bokeh
Yes there ist quite a vignetting going on here on a fullframe cam, but if you shoot RAW and use Adobe Lightroom with the new camera raw you can use the lens profile and eleminate all of it, so it’s not really a major theme .
Landscape pictures and pictures in original size
On my flickr account you can find Landscape pictures and also the photographs from above and zoom in to 100% in original size if you want to do some further pixel peeping. I don’t post them here because most of them are postprocessed in Photoshop and i only want to post the pics (nearly) out of the cam here (if you can say out of the cam to raw images). The only threatment here is the vignette removal described under vignetting.