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LENS REVIEW - SIGMA 35MM F1.4 DG HSM - NIKON MOUNT

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South Jersey wedding photographer Jay Cassario blog. Writer for SLR Lounge and Shotkit.com. 

LENS REVIEW - SIGMA 35MM F1.4 DG HSM - NIKON MOUNT

Jay Cassario

INTRO

At Photokina 2012, Sigma announced three new lenses in a reorganization of its lens lineup, consisting of three new catagories...Contemporary, Sports, and Art. The first of these new lenses to be released is the Sigma 35mm  F1.4 DG HSM lens, which falls in the new Art catagory. These new lenses are designed as high-quality alternatives to the camera manufacturers' equivalents at a substantially lower cost, almost half. In the past, Sigma had done a decent job at this, although with some noticeable flaws. Some of their lenses gave up sharpness, had focus issues, or had bad chromatic aberation. This first lens from Sigma's new line-up not only meets the bar...but raises it.

DxOMark

"It is clear that Sigma has done something very special with the 35mm f1.4 DG HSM A, they have produced a lens that performs better than Canon’s own 35mm lenses and better than a Carl Zeiss 35mm f1.4. When an independent manufacturer’s lenses can do this, it must make the customers think carefully about their buying decisions. It is also good to see a manufacturer recognize the demand for optics that provide pleasing bokeh and to address this specifically."

THE BODY

It comes in Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma and Sony versions; my review is done with the Nikon version, specifically the D800E and the D800. A small silver inlay on the barrel denotes that the 35mm F1.4 is part of Sigma's new 'Art' line of lenses. It's attractive and clean looking with a nice matte finish, unlike the old Sigma lenses with that paint-like coating that would flake off. It's easily the best looking lens in the Sigma line-up. But, its not only pleasing to the eyes, the most pleasing physical attribute to this lens is it's all-metal barrel that is evident from the moment you first pick it up. It gives it a nice and heavy feel, not too heavy, but just enough to make you realize this is a professional lens...and not plastic. 

The filter thread is 67mm, and due to the lens's internal focus design it doesn't rotate on focusing. The one and only real surprise is that there is no rubber seal around the mount, unlike the more expensive Canon and Nikon equivalents. A generous 31mm-wide ridged grip covers most of the underside of the barrel, and provides awesome handling when changing lenses.The focus ring has a 25mm-wide ridged rubber grip, and rotates nice and smoothly 90 degrees clockwise, and it doesn't rotate on autofocus. The lens has a basic distance scale, with depth-of-field indicators for the minimum aperture of F16 only, and is calibrated for use on full-frame cameras. On the side of the barrel is a nice large focus mode switch, that has a white inlay that is visible behind it when set to AF. 

The bayonet-mount hood comes standard, and clicks nice and firmly into place on the front of the lens...when it clicks into place you know it, it is a solid mount, much more firm than any Nikon brand hood I own. It's made from thick plastic, and features ribbed moldings on the inside to minimize reflections of any stray light into the lens. Sigma has even added a nice little ribbed grip to make it easier to twist on and off. 

Lens-9.jpg

THE GUTS

On the inside, the guts of this little gem are made up of a 13 element, 11 group construction that is the most complex in its class. Sigma explains that there are 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. This allows the minimization of an array of aberrations including both longitudinal and lateral chromatic aberration, astigmatism, and field curvature. Well done Sigma. 

PROs

- Very attractive looking

- Nice weight. 

- All metal barrel, not plastic

- Fast, silent, and accurate autofocus

- Pleasing and non-distracting bokeh

- Excellent Sunstars

- Little to no chromatic aberration

CONs

- No weather sealing

- Doesn't make unicorns appear 

 

SHARPNESS SAMPLES

The Below Image Was Shot At F1.4

F1.4

ISO 1600

1/125

100% CROP


The Below Image Was Shot At F2.8

F2.8

ISO1600

1/125

100% CROP - Center Sharpness

EDGE SHARPNESS

Shot @ F1.4

100% CROP - Upper Left Corner

Shot @ F2.8

100% CROP - Upper Left Corner

BOKEH SAMPLES

THE EXPERIENCE

I've had this lens for a few weeks now and have shot over 1000 frames with it, keeping it attatched to my D800E since taking it out of the box. I've shot a maternity session with it, a baby session with it, a family session, and a lot of personal work including our family Christmas vacation which I posted a blog to earlier. Before the 35mm, I had been using the Sigma 50mm as my main lens...I don't plan on putting the 50mm back on anytime soon. I absolutely love the 35mm focal length, and when I need something closer I will reach for the 85mm. I had the funds set aside for the Nikon 35mm F1.4 so price wasn't an issue when deciding between the two, and this was the easiest choice I've had to make when faced with a decision like this.

This lens is no joke, and whether you shoot Nikon or Canon, I don't think you should hesitate on purchasing this lens. If you own the Nikon or Canon version already...sell it. The Sigma is sharper, has less flaws, has the same if not more pleasing bokeh...and its almost half the cost. I had thought initially that if this lens had flaws there would be no hiding when being shot on the 36mp D800E. Instead, it helped it shine. 

Its sharp. Its the sharpest lens I own, and I own one of Nikon's sharpest, the 24-70mm F2.8. Chromatic aberration and fringing that has seemed to haunt Sigma lenses in the past...its simply not there. There is none. If anything it makes my other lenses fringing more noticeable now. Bokeh is awesome and no matter what review you read that says otherwise, take a look at my sample images and you can decide for yourself. I know all of this sounds too good to be true....its not. I have other Sigma lenses that I use, mainly the 50mm F1.4 and the 85mm1.4, and they both have their strong points, but they both have flaws. They both have bad chromatic aberration and fringing as well as focusing issues that I have to fix in-camera. The 35mm F1.4 is honestly in a different league. If your on the fence right now...don't be. Do yourself a favor and trust me on this one.

Here are a handful of shots that I've taken with it. If you are still undecided leave a comment, I will help answer any questions you have. Thanks for reading. Have a good New Year!

Shot @ F1.4

Shot @ F1.4

Shot @ F1.4

Shot at F1.4

Shot at F2.8