If you’re wondering if I am still alive, well…I am. Though this pesky winter is starting to test my limits .
Anyhow, I have long wanted to add to my lens reviews but never got around to doing so. When Gentec contacted me to see if I was interested to give the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM a spin, well I jumped on the occasion. First, I had a trip to Cuba and Habana lined up the following week. Second, I had heard so much positive about that lens I wanted to see it for myself. All the stars seemed to line up for it to happen. So, without further ado, my thoughts on this little (spoiler alert) gem.
Da bottom line
For those of you in a hurry: Sigma knocked this one out of the park. Those of you who know me, either personally or via twitter, know that I’ve been raving non-stop about how amazing my Sigma 85 f/1.4 is. While it’s hard to believe, the new 35 may be even better! From sheer sharpness, to construction, the lens screams high-end pro gear.
The first thing you notice when you unbox this little baby, is that it doesn’t look like your regular Sigma lens. In fact Sigma, built this one from the ground up, starting the whole process from scratch. What you get is a gorgeous lens with a bit of a retro feel. Most of the body of the lens is made of metal, with only a few plastic parts. The focus ring is nice and smooth. This one has “big leagues” written all over it.
Optically the lens contains 13 elements in 11 groups and 9 aperture blades. At 665g (about 1.5lbs) it isn’t too heavy, but has enough weight to balance very nicely (both on our D800s and our venerable D90). Internal focusing ensures the focal length of the lens remains constant at all focus settings and the front lens does not rotate during focusing. The lens features HSM, making it therefore fully compatible with all current Nikon DSLRs, including the entry-level DX models. The AF is really stealthy: it is so fast and silent that I did a few double takes on several occasions thinking the lens hadn’t focused yet, when in fact it had!
Well, what can I say… this lens is a stud…you may think I am gushing because I am Sigma sponsored, but truly this lens is a formidable performer and you’d be hard pressed to find a single negative review on the net. It is sharp as tack pretty much wide open (I’ve seen a review where it outperformed its Zeiss, Canon and Nikon counterparts in MTF charts). Sharpness peaks at about f/4-f/5.6 on the D800, but it is pretty outstanding already around f/2. The one thing that I immediately noticed with it is the colour rendition and contrast. It is something that is very difficult to explain or quantify, but certain lenses just have an intangible factor that pleases the eye. This one definitely does. On our trip we took the Sigma 12-24 which I usually liked for its contrast and colour rendition, and right out of camera you could tell the 35mm was leaps and bounds better!
Like every lens in its category, especially at such wide apertures, the lens displays significant vignetting wide open (about 2 stops according to my histogram), which is tapers down at f/2 and becomes barely noticeable at f/4-f/5.6. Again, like its brethren you can see some chromatic aberration, but nothing that can’t be fixed in post-processing. The lens is quite spectacularly resistant to flare (I basically had to shoot straight into the sun to see any signs of flare).
The bokeh is very nice and smooth. The 9-blade aperture makes for nicely rounded specular highlights. When used right, the background fades into sweet out-of-focuseness (what???! is that even a word?) very smoothly.
Superb build quality and good looks
Great sharpness and optical performance even wide open
Lightning fast and silent AF
Great colour rendition and contrast
Did I mention the price? At about half the price of the Nikon 35 f/1.4, it’s hard to argue its value.
I had to really look long and hard for any faults and can’t find any serious ones…The redesigned lens cap looks great but is a bit hard to snap on properly…yeah, that’s about it for me…Oh and the model I was
given loaned had to be returned. Unfortunately.