Around a decade ago Sigma disrupted the high end of 35mm photography by introducing the first genuinely affordable premium prime lenses, putting its new f1.4 35mm and then 50mm and 85mmn ‘Art’ lenses up against the Canon and Nikon full-frame options.
Finally, photographers had an alternative to the the camera makers’ fast primes. At between one-third and one-half of the price!
Until then, the Japanese-based third-party lensmakers had concentrated on the bottom and middle of the market, concentrating mainly on zooms, and leaving the high end to the camera makers or, to cater for the Porsche-driving orthodontist/photo enthusiast, Carl Zeiss.
The just-announced Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN ‘Art’ replaces that ground-breaking original 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art from 2012, and Sigma says its been ‘redesigned from the ground up specifically for mirrorless cameras.’ As with all Sigma lenses, it is manufactured in Sigma’s only factory, in Aizu in Japan.
New features include ‘ ultra-fast AF’, a de-clickable and lockable aperture ring and a customizable AFL button. Sigma describes its new lens as ‘the new gold standard in wide-aperture 35mm primes’ – yet it’s retail price remains just a fraction of the (so far) Sony and Panasonic equivalents.
The new Sigma 35mm f1.4 lens is still hefty, but is slightly smaller and lighter than the original, which admittedly was a big unit.
Exceptional optical performance
The lens incorporates 15 elements in 11 groups. With two Special Low Dispersion (SLD) elements, an Extraordinary Low Dispersion (ELD) element, an ‘F’ Low Dispersion (FLD) element and two aspherical elements, and as well as other high-performance glass, the lens’ advanced optical construction minimises all types of aberration including axial chromatic aberration (which can’t be corrected in-camera).
In spite of its wide f1.4 aperture the lens controls sagittal coma flare extremely well even when wide open, according to Sigma, stopping bright points of light from flaring out near the edges of the frame. This will be particularly appealing to night sky photographers.
With 11 rounded diaphragm blades, the lens displays smooth, round bokeh so that out-of-focus areas are not distracting. It also performs very well in backlit conditions thanks to anti-ghosting and anti-flare technology.
Fast and quiet AF in a compact body
The focusing mechanism in the new 35mm features a stepping motor which controls a focusing lens group composed of a single, lightweight element, which means AF is responsive and quiet, and is able to keep track of moving objects effectively. Manual focusing is smooth and precise, but with the right amount of resistance for film-makers. The lens has a focus mode switch on the body.
An aperture ring allows aperture to be controlled via the lens, or when set to Auto, using the camera. An aperture lock switch on the lens body allows the aperture ring to be locked in Auto so that it’s not accidentally knocked during shooting. The aperture ring can be de-clicked, allowing users to seamlessly adjust exposure – especially useful for video. Also on the lens barrel is a focus mode switch and an AFL button, which can be customized from within the camera menu (depending on the model).
A petal type lens hood has a lock mechanism that keeps it attached securely to the lens, and its rubberized grip makes it quick and easy to attach and remove.
The body is dust and splash proof, with sealing around buttons and along joins between constituent parts, and there’s a rubber gasket around the mount. There’s also a water and oil repellent coating applied to the front element.
Thus far it’s available in the Sony E-Mount and the Panasonic/Leica/Sigma L-Mount at a local price of $1298. It will be available in May. The earlier 35mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens carries an RRP of $999 in all full-frame mounts.