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Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM review

December 2012 | By Andy Westlake


At Photokina 2012, Sigma announced a reorganization of its lens lineup into three categories - 'Contemporary' covering lightweight, flexible zooms, 'Sports' for larger telephoto lenses, and 'Art' for a wide range of optics aimed at serious photographers, including ultra-wideangles, macros and fast primes. At the same time the company announced three new lenses, one in each class, with the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM as the first release in the Art category. It's designed as a high-quality alternative to the camera manufacturers' equivalents at a substantially lower cost; even at its ca. £800 / $900 launch price, it's a tempting proposition compared to Canon, Nikon and Sony's offerings, which all sell for upwards of £1000 / $1300.

Despite this, the Sigma gives up nothing in terms of ambition when it comes to optical design. Its 13 element, 11 group construction is the most complex in its class, and includes no fewer than four elements made from Super-Low Dispersion (SLD) glass, along with one formed from fluorite-like 'F' Low Dispersion (FLD) glass, and two aspheric elements. According to Sigma this allows the minimization of an array of aberrations including both longitudinal and lateral chromatic aberration, astigmatism, and field curvature.

The lens also incorporates an ultrasonic-type HyperSonic Motor for fast, quiet autofocus with full-time manual override. This drives a floating inner focus system, that's designed to maintain high image quality at all subject distances. The aperture diaphragm uses nine curved blades for the attractive rendition of background blur, and Super-Multi-Layer Coating is employed to minimise flare and ghosting. As the icing on the cake, Sigma says each lens will be individually inspected before leaving the factory, using a measuring system based on its own high-resolution Foveon sensor.

This clearly all adds up to an impressive-sounding package. But make no mistake the Sigma is up against very strong competition, with the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G, and Sony 35mm F1.4 G all very highly regarded within their respective lineups. This type of lens is a significant investment too, and mainly bought by professionals or serious amateurs demanding excellent image quality and flawless operation. Let's see if the Sigma can deliver on these requirements.

Headline features

  • 35mm focal length
  • Fast F1.4 maximum aperture; F16 minimum
  • Hypersonic Motor (HSM) focusing with full-time manual override
  • 0.3m closest focus, offering 0.19x magnification
  • Available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony mounts

Angle of view

The pictures below illustrate the angle of view on full frame and APS-C. On full frame the 35mm offers a moderate wideangle; on APS-C it behaves as a slightly long 'normal' lens.

Full frame 1.6x APS-C (56mm equivalent)

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM specifications

 Price  • $900 (US)
 • £800 (UK)
 Date introduced  September 2012
 Maximum format size  35mm full frame
 Focal length  35mm
 35mm equivalent focal length
 • 52.5mm (1.5x APS-C / DX)
 • 56mm (1.6x Canon APS-C)
 Diagonal Angle of view  • 63º (full frame)
 • 44º (APS-C)
 Maximum aperture  F1.4
 Minimum aperture  F16
 Lens Construction  • 13 elements / 11 groups
 • 4 SLD glass element
 • 1 FLD glass element
 • 2 aspherical elements
 Number of diaphragm blades  9, rounded
 Minimum focus  0.3m
 Maximum magnification  0.19x
 AF motor type  • Ring-type Hypersonic Motor
 • Full-time manual focus
 Focus method  Internal
 Image stabilization  • No
 Filter thread  • 67mm
 • Does not rotate on focus
 Supplied accessories*  • Front and rear caps
 • Petal-type Hood LH730-03
 • Soft lens case
 Weight  665 g (23.5 oz)
 Dimensions 77 mm diameter x 94 mm length
(3.0 x 3.7 in)
 Lens Mount Canon, Nikon, Pentax (KAF3), Sigma, Sony

* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area


This lens review uses DxOMark data thanks to a partnership between dpreview.com and DxO Labs (read more about DxOMark and our partnership with DxO Labs). DxOMark is the trusted industry standard for independent image quality measurements and ratings. DxOMark has established this reputation with its rigorous hardware testing, industry-grade laboratory tools, and database of thousands of camera, lens and mobile test results. Full test results for this lens can be found at www.dxomark.com.

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

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This article is Copyright 2012 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 13
Springfield81
By Springfield81 (6 months ago)

I bought this lens last year after agonising over the choice btween it and the Canon 35 1.4L. Glad I did. I have used it extensively on both 5D MkII and 5D MkIII with no problems. It is exceptionally sharp and has excellent build quality. In use it feels good the focus ring being smooth and well damped. The auto focus is quick and when I did my normal check to see if the lens had either back or front focus error, I found it had neither irrespective of which camera it was fitted to. The only downside is that it does not have the weather sealing of the Canon L lens but this is a minor point as far as I am concerned.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
WolfyWho
By WolfyWho (7 months ago)

I've been contemplating purchasing this lens for some time because of it's quality and great price of $899. I'm glad I waited because I got in on an Amazon.com Lightning Deal the other day and purchased it for only $699. WOW!

0 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (6 months ago)

That's a great deal. I paid full price and even then it's worth every penny.

2 upvotes
gregvett
By gregvett (1 month ago)

What is an Amazon lightning deal???? thanks... Greg

0 upvotes
munro harrap
By munro harrap (7 months ago)

"The focus ring is nicely damped and operates smoothly. It rotates in "Canon" style, however, which is the exact opposite of how the focus ring works on Nikkor lenses. If you're used to the Nikon way of manual focusing, the Sigma lens may be a challenge for your muscle memory. And you'll also have to remember that the focus assist in the viewfinder assumes a Nikon lens and consequently suggest the wrong direction of focus ring movement."

This is from the Photozone review, and yes, it makes a crucial difference.If you make a lens for a camera it has to relate to the requirements of that camera system, so Nikon users buy Sigma at their peril, unfortunately, because we are definitely missing out on suitable machinery. There's the new 24-105mm F4 Art, as well as the 35mm F1.4 and the 18-35mm F1.8 (very useful if you have a D7100 that gets noisy at 400 and above.)

0 upvotes
Cemal
By Cemal (8 months ago)

I bought one of these lenses to photograph ballet performance/practice/rehearsal sessions in dimly lit theatrical settings. Focusing was frustratingly slow, after each attempt to use it I ended up switching to my Canon 24-105 which had no problems whatsoever focusing. My camera is Canon 5D M3. I really wanted to like this lens, but alas I ended up returning to the retailer after several days of tries.

0 upvotes
Stealthy Ninja
By Stealthy Ninja (10 months ago)

I bought one of these just after hearing Roger Cicala say he was surprised how good it was... it was just out, so I was taking a little bit of a risk (it was this or the Canon 35 1.4L). I'm so happy I took that risk. This lens is my favourite lens I've owned.

2 upvotes
VINAPIX
By VINAPIX (10 months ago)

I was deciding between the Nikon and the Sigma. Talk to a friend and he said "If you really want the Nikon, buy his Nikon 35mm 1.4g and he will buy the Sigma."

Went out and bought the lens and I am so happy.

2 upvotes
VINAPIX
By VINAPIX (10 months ago)

Just bought one last week. All I can say is WOW. The sharpest lens I own. Tested from 2 ft to infinity. Left & right outer focus points - Flawless!

3 upvotes
dpreviewg
By dpreviewg (10 months ago)

i've read of focus issues for the sigma 35mm 1.4 on the newer canon full frames on amazon reviews.

Comment edited 54 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Stealthy Ninja
By Stealthy Ninja (10 months ago)

No problems on my 1Dx.

3 upvotes
Apewithacamera
By Apewithacamera (11 months ago)

I just bought one! :)

0 upvotes
fakuryu
By fakuryu (11 months ago)

Probably and currently the best 35mm in the market and not one single comment

2 upvotes
Total comments: 13