Conclusion - Pros

  • Superb optics that beat anything else in its class
  • Impressive flare resistance
  • Fast, silent, and accurate autofocus
  • Excellent build quality
  • Very competitive price

Conclusion - Cons

  • Slightly fussy rendition of out-of-focus backgrounds under some conditions
  • No weather sealing

Overall conclusion

Sigma has produced some really fine lenses over the past few years, including the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM (which we liked a lot when we reviewed it in 2008) and the 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM. But the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM may possibly be its best yet. In fact it's one of those rare lenses for which finding any fault seems almost churlish, so good is its overall performance.

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. Chromatic aberration is also impressively well controlled (both lateral and longitudinal), distortion is low and vignetting more-or-less typical for its class. The rendition of out-of-focus regions is generally quite attractive, although complex backgrounds can end up looking rather 'fussy'. The overall result, though, is a lens that delivers fine-looking images with the minimum of fuss, shot after shot.

There's nothing to complain about with regards to handling either. Focusing is fast, silent and positive, and we've found our Canon-mount test sample to be very accurate too (although this being an F1.4 prime, you've got to take great care over where you place your focus point). The manual focus ring is smooth and precise, and allows the focus position to be adjusted after autofocus. Several small-but-useful touches, such as a ridged grip on the underside of the barrel, and even a redesigned, unusually-positive centre-pinch front cap, all add to the usability. Sigma has clearly put a lot of thought into every aspect of the lens's design.

Equally, it's difficult to find fault with the build quality, which feels reassuringly solid. But one point to note is that Sigma doesn't describe the lens as weather-sealed, unlike its more expensive Nikon counterpart. So if this is particularly important to you, then the Sigma may not be the best choice. The aren't many other obvious reasons not to buy it (although Canon users who value image stabilisation over outright speed, perhaps for video work, should also consider the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM).

The Final Word

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 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
Category: Normal Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Autofocus
Ergonomics and Handling
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is a truly excellent lens, that performs as well in the field as its superb lab test results suggest. With fast silent focusing and solid build, its lower price makes it a compelling alternative to the camera manufacturers' equivalents if you don't need weather-sealing.
Good for
Photographers looking for a top-notch, fast 35mm autofocus prime without breaking the bank.
Not so good for
Anyone who shoots a lot in damp or dusty conditions.
89%
Overall score

Want to make sure you don't miss out on any future reviews?
Sign up for our free weekly newsletter!

Enter the 'Third Party Lens Talk' Discussion Forum

Recommended links

Samples Gallery

There are 25 images in the review samples gallery and 19 images in the preview samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM review samples

25 images • Posted on Dec 21, 2012 • View album
Sample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photo

Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Preview Samples

23 images • Posted on Dec 4, 2012 • View album
Sample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photo