Da 35

If you’re wondering if I am still alive, well…I am. Though this pesky winter is starting to test my limits :) .

Havana old classic red chevrolet

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.

Cuba Cardenas old derelict ceiling and beautiful colours

Da lens

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!

Cuban man walking in colourful street of Habana, Cuba

Da performance

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!

beautiful girl on white sand beach and ocean view

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.

colourful wall in derelict market of Cardenas, Cuba


Superb build quality and good looks

Great sharpness and optical performance even wide open

Lightning fast and silent AF

Great colour rendition and contrast

Beautiful bokeh

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.

beautiful woman in the colorful streets of Habana, Cuba

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Top 10 of 2012

Wow…what a year it has been! Insane would be an understatement…

As I mentioned in this same post a year ago, 2012 promised to be a year of massive change for me personally and professionally. And boy, it didn’t disappoint! So, shortly after getting married at the end of 2011, Amanda and I worked tirelessly to launch our joint commercial photography venture: doublespace photography. This meant that we set out to migrate from our own individual styles to combine them into a single creative vision. It also meant developing a brand new common portfolio that departed quite radically from what I had accustomed you to. So now, instead of being a predominantly landscape photographer, we have grown into a more complete package and have further developed our portraiture and architectural skills…which means that this year’s top 10 will display some of that departure. The selection this year, features some of my solo work along with work developed with my partner in crime Amanda…so without further ado, the top 10.

In the meantime I want to thank you for your continued support throughout the years and wish you all a fabulous 2013!


Oh, and did I mention my new travel ebook at Craft & Vision? Please do me a favour and check it out :)

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New Ebook: A Sense of Place

I am really excited to finally be able to share this with you: my first ever ebook “A Sense of Place” is now available at the Craft & Vision library!

I hate to toot my own horn, so I will be very short: In essence, I’ve put here just about everything I know about travel photography, how I see, how I work and how you can use those teachings both on your travels and at home. I’ve tried to keep sarcasm to a minimal level, but still managed to slip in my usual Younesisms, which you have come to love (or hate :D ). The ebook is sprinkled with photographs from my place of birth, Morocco and packs a healthy dose of assignments to get you to think differently about your surroundings and to make the most of them.

I encourage you all to head over to Craft & Vision and get the ebook. For the first five days only, use the promotional code PLACE4 when you checkout and pay only $4 OR use the code PLACE20 to get 20% off when you buy 5+ PDF eBooks. These codes expire at 11:59pm (PST) December 22, 2012.

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Loggin’ times

Back to Bow lake, a few minutes before sunrise…

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A river was born

Not my typical fare, as I am more of of a golden hour type of guy. Sometimes, though, the scene just screams to be captured in all its glory. Some sweet late afternoon light, sweeping views and mountains as far as they eye can see…This is the place of birth of the Bow River.

Looks much better larger

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