Canon L Versus Sigma Art Lenses: Which Are Right for You?

Canon's L lenses are considered some of the best out there by many professionals, but they are also on the more expensive side of things. On the other hand, Sigma's Art lenses typically come in at about half the price of their Canon equivalents, making them an intriguing alternative for many shooters. How do they compare to their Canon counterparts? This great video takes a look at a few common focal lengths to answer that question.

Coming to you from the crew over at Mango Street, this helpful video comparison takes at Canon L lenses versus Sigma Art lenses. Sigma's Art lenses often meet or even exceed the image quality seen in equivalent Canon lenses, but of course, that is not the only factor in choosing a lens. Most often discussed is the reliability of their autofocus. This has been a bit of a mixed bag for me: for example, the 14mm f/1.8 Art gave me lots of issues, but on the other hand, the 105mm f/1.4 Art performs flawlessly. Generally, the newer the lens, the better its autofocus seems to be. And if you are someone who does not need spot-on autofocus, the Art series is all the more appealing. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Ive had a mixed bag of Art and L glass for few years, and the biggest thing I have noticed ss that the Sigmas do not seem as fast as the canon at the same apertures. I realize that aperture is not the same as T stops and therefore will have variation, but as I have gone back and forth between lenses in my bag, the canon's have always been about a half stop brighter at the same aperture rating. Also the the canon coatings seem to shift yellow while the sigmas have slight blue shift.

I thought the Canon lenses were slightly sharper and cooler in color than the Sigmas, both can be adjusted to a degree when you shoot and in post. Only you can decide what's more important to you and considering your budget.

Many of the most recent Canon lenses are similar in sharpness to the SIgmas but otherwise I've found many of the Art series to be exceptional.

Who doesn’t need “spot-on autofocus?”

Anyone who generally works with manual focus — landscape photographers, astro, etc.

I have yet to have an 'L' lens that needs to be micro adjusted. I've had 2 Art lenses at one time or another and both needed micro adjustments. I currently have a Sigma 100-400 that needed a substantial adjustment at 400mm. But, once adjusted, they were quite good. Not as fast to focus, but quite reliable.

My issue with the Art series had always been their coatings. I shoot in backlit environments quite often, and this is where the Sigmas really struggle. Flaring is really ugly and non-symmetrical, making it distracting. I'd put Rokinon above Sigma, but below the L-series. No point in paying more for Sigma than Rokinon IMO.

Question: Have you done anything with Rokinon's autofocus lenses? I'm an admitted 'I don't like manual focus' lazy person. :-)

Would have been nice if they could have got a an in focus image to use as the example for the 85mm sigma. Blaming the missed focus on the lens seemed a little disingenuous (even though they admitted it might be user error afterwards). I mean who hasn't missed focus when shooting a moving subject that's wearing glasses? It's totally understandable - I just would have checked while the camera was still set up and tried to get another shot in focus to make it a more useful comparison.

To my eyes there was no significant difference in sharpness between the two makes but I was surprised to see the degree of color difference between the two. The Canon glass really seemed to have better tonal separation and contrast. It's not a huge degree of difference but I think it's something that adds up when you are building a portfolio and shooting in different lighting conditions. If you are looking to buy lenses that you think will serve you for years to come it's probably worth investing in the better glass but if you are just looking to start shooting asap and have some budget limitations the sigmas will definitely get the job done.

same old problem.. what makes the difference, if you need it for working, is the repairing service, i tried Sigma and they kept a lens for 40 days for a lens "rail", Canon repaired more or less in 2/3 days (and I'm lucky that i don't have to ship it to another city)

“... for example, the 14mm f/1.8 Art gave me lots of issues, but on the other hand, the 105mm f/1.4 Art performs flawlessly.”

This might be a dumb question, but was the lens’ firmware up to date? I bought a Sigma 50/1.4 Art EF that was still running the original release firmware and AF was straight garbage; slow, nervous and would often give up after struggling. Updating to the latest firmware turned it into a champ. Granted, it didn’t focus as fast as a Canon equivalent on a Canon body, but the performance delta before and after was hugely noticeable.

That's not a dumb question! But yes, the firmware was up to date.

I only categorize it as “dumb” considering the audience, as it’s something I assumed you’d have done but figured I’d ask to be sure anyways, based on my personal experience with Sigma firmware performance. But thanks for not taking the flame-bait. :D

Just curious, how do you know the firmware was up to date?It looks like the video was produced by someone else.

I’m talking about my personal experience with the lenses, not the video.

If you need good contrast and color rendition, weather sealing, more reliable lenses, lighter lenses, much better zooms and superior auto-focus then the answer is Canon L or Nikon gold ring series.

If all you care about is ultimate sharpness in the corners, well controlled chromatic aberrations and better prices, than Sigma is the better choice.