My review is very subjective. I will describe how I came to choose this model, and what advantages / disadvantages I see for myself. After all, the choice of optics is always a subjective process, what suits one person may not suit another. There is no universal recipe, because with purchase any the model has to make compromises on certain parameters.
For a long time I decided to buy this lens. This was preceded by weeks of reading reviews and comments, watching video reviews, comparing all sorts of parameters for similar models, etc.
Why 35mm 1.4?
Recently I have been shooting exclusively with fixes. Canon 24-70 2.8L I rarely use Canon 70-200 4L sold. Why is it better to shoot with fixes, I already wrote in this material... My primary lenses before buying this Sigma were Canon EF 28 f1.8 USM и Canon EF 85 f1.8 USM... This is a very handy set - you can remove almost anything with them. They are both lightweight, compact and easy to use in all respects. In principle, you can and can get by with them. But you always want something more. Namely, aperture and sharpness at a short focal length.
Canon 28mm 1.8 Is a relatively good lens. It gives pleasant colors, shoots more or less sharply starting at f2.0 (I think f1.8 is inoperative on it). And its main advantage is that it is small and lightweight. Initially I bought it for travel, but then I liked it and, as a result, stopped carrying a heavy 24-70.
One could have stopped at this, but f1.4 was haunted. For little money you can buy Canon 50mm 1.4, but it was about the wide-angle upgrade. The Canon 24 1.4L and Canon 35 1.4L models are intimidating for their price. But it's not only that. I am not a supporter of the idea of photographing people at 24mm (and photographing people is my priority). The 35mm focal length is very convenient for working with people (in full frame). This is wide enough for indoor shooting, but at 35mm there is no distortion in the corners that is felt at 28mm or 24mm. If you are shooting a group of people at something wider than 35mm, the citizens in the corners of the frame will clearly not be happy with their elongated faces. At the same time, 35mm is much more versatile than 50mm. And it works great with 85mm.
The new model from Sigma has earned excellent fame in almost all the reviews I've read. Having overcame the rejection of optics from a third-party brand, I decided to purchase the Sigma AF 35mm F1.4 DG HSM.
Nice package. This applies to all lenses from Sigma. Lens hood and a convenient case that can be hung on a belt - it pleases, although not critical.
Immediately felt its weight of 665g and considerable dimensions. More on these shortcomings later.
After taking a few test shots, I was convinced of its incredible sharpness. You can shoot with this lens at any aperture, the frame will be sharp throughout the field. The slight drop in corner sharpness at f1.4 is almost imperceptible. When shooting at f1.4, vignetting is very noticeable. I would call the autofocus speed average. My subjective feeling is that any Canon USM lens (from those that I had to hold in my hands) focuses faster. But I do not consider this a disadvantage. Because the speed is quite decent, and at a wide angle it is not as critical as on TVs. In general, these were the first sensations.
About the benefits. What is the thrill?
It is clear that such a lens is purchased for something special. It is not bad to shoot with a covered aperture, you can use any more or less decent zoom. The super-fast prime is purchased for shooting at open apertures. And here we are talking about hips... This, I think, is why it is worth buying such a lens. In one of the reviews, I saw a comparison of bokeh on Sigma 35 1.4 with a watercolor drawing. And I completely agree with that.
portrait on Sigma 35mm 1.4
This lens does not just blur the background, it draws.
You can (carefully) shoot full-height and half-length portraits with this lens (you shouldn't get closer). The background here is harder to work with than 85mm. But the bokeh, again, is incredible.
Shooting in low light conditions. The difference between f2.8 and f1.8 is very noticeable. Although the difference between f1.8 and f1.4 is no longer the same. Each stop or even half of the exposure in low-light photography has a significant impact on the shooting result. A minimal light source is enough and you will already get sharp images with good midtones.
the comparison shows that sigma gives a slightly sharper picture at the same settings
In terms of grayscale, even when shooting at covered apertures, ultra-fast lenses provide more detail in dark areas than darker lenses with the same exposure settings.
Back to the topic of sharpness. This lens is sharp from open aperture. The f1.4 aperture on this lens is fully operational. The picture quality is excellent. I find it unreasonable to buy a 1.4 aperture lens, which ultimately cannot be used due to a soapy picture and a lack of sharpness in the frame (which applies to Canon 50mm f1.4). My opinion: you need to either buy a lens that will fully work at this aperture, or buy something simpler without pretending to such aperture. In the case of Sigma 35 1.4, there is no compromise in terms of quality. You can shoot as you like, without thinking about working / non-working apertures.
About the disadvantages.
Now I will write about the shortcomings that I see for myself in the Sigma AF 35mm F1.4 DG HSM model. It - weight, dimensions and vignetting.
665 grams is quite noticeable. After Canon 28 1.8 weighing 310 grams, this lens feels good in the hand. When buying fixes, you expect lightness and compactness from them. But on the other hand, if you want maximum aperture and maximum quality, you need to make compromises in other aspects. The lighter the lens, the better. It is obvious. In terms of weight and dimensions, this Sigma does not offer advantages over a multifunctional Canon 24-70 f2.8L, and if you take an expensive second version, even more so.
Canon 24-70 2.8, 28 1.8 and Sigma 35 1.4 in size comparison
Here, the same as with weight - for the sake of quality, you need to compromise. Once upon a time, I enjoyed carrying around with large lenses. It seemed like it looked cool (it probably is). But there are 2 significant drawbacks to a large lens:
- a big lens needs a big bag. Which is inconvenient when traveling and when changing optics.
- the large lens attracts a lot of attention. It's more pleasant to work unnoticed.
It's not about the presence of vignetting, but about the possibility of correcting it. Reviews on this topic often write: Lightroom can still be fixed. I disagree with this approach. I want the photos to be as high quality as possible without processing on a computer. This is especially true when shooting reportage with different lenses for several hours. As a result of such work, there are under 1000 shots with different settings at different apertures. I don't see it expedient to do selective vignetting correction for such a volume of photos.
If I use Canon lenses, I have the option to turn on peripheral illumination correction in the camera itself (Canon 5D Mark II) and forget about vignetting as such. The camera corrects everything automatically. If I want to add artistry and highlight the subject in the center, the function can be turned off. In the case of Sigma, there is no such flexibility. Canon firmware does not support third party manufacturers. And the darkening at the edges of the frame at f1.4 is quite significant here. By the way, this is also relevant when shooting video... After all, removing vignetting on video is more problematic.
This can be dealt with by overexposing the frame. At +1 EV, vignetting becomes subtle. But I still consider this a disadvantage compared to native Canon models.
Service for comparing sharpness and micro-contrast on different lenses:
At the very beginning, I already wrote, the choice of lens is a subjective matter. It all depends on what or who you want to shoot, where you want to photograph and what to do with those photographs.
What can you do with this lens?
- First, you can wear it and not take it off. You can shoot with it anywhere. Despite the fact that this is a fix, it is very functional. 35mm lets you shoot indoors, outdoors, outdoors - anywhere. This focal length does not limit you as much as 24mm or 135mm.
- Secondly, you can shoot anyone and anything on it. You can - a landscape, you can - portraits (half-length, not closer). Thanks to the 1.4 aperture, the background can be well blurred.
- Third, you can shoot different shots. Get closer or further and you will have different angles. Unlike a wider angle, here you can painlessly approach closer, without fear that there will be significant blockages in the corners of the frame. And at the same time, it's wide enough to capture the entire scene you want.
In other words, this is a stock lens for a full frame. On a 35mm crop, it's still narrow. I bought it as a standard lens for photography weddings... It needs both artistry and functionality, which it does an excellent job.
What is this lens not very suitable for?
- Travels. When traveling, you can get by with a less bright lens. For example, Canon 28 f2.8 or Canon 40mm f2.8. They are lightweight, compact, inexpensive, and at the same time provide high-quality and sharp images.
- Exceptionally portrait photography. The Canon 85 f1.8 and Canon 135 f2 are ideal here.
- Exceptional landscape photography. Better something wider like 24m or 16-35. And the aperture for landscape photography is not so important.
- Macro. It's still a wide angle lens. A minimum focusing distance of 30cm allows you to shoot up close. But this is not a complete macro.
- Work with pulsed light. The f1.4 aperture will simply be unclaimed. There is no point in the aperture for which it is bought.
Of course, there are no completely universal lenses. The model should be chosen depending on the purpose and location of the shooting. The Sigma AF 35mm F1.4 DG HSM lens is very good in many ways, and if you understand what you might need it for, I highly recommend it.
At the moment I have sold the Sigma 35 1.4 ART and am the proud owner of a Canon EF 35 f2 IS USM. Why so, I wrote in this article.
Date of writing - January 2014
Update from the future 2020. On Canon mirrorless cameras, autofocus works perfectly, as does vignetting correction. But I still don't like Sigma Art's dimensions, color rendition and bokeh.
Also watch my video reviews of other Sigma ART lenses: