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