If you've been paying attention to Sigma over the past five months, you know that they have been producing better and higher quality lenses than ever before. I personally have been extremely impressed with the pro-level glass that Sigma is producing, with few complaints during testing. Recently, their new lens lineup has piqued a significant amount of interest from you readers, so we took a few minutes to sit down with Sigma and pose some of your burning questions regarding their new lenses, the business, and what we can expect in the future.
Fstoppers: Sigma has made a concerted effort to increase the quality of its glass in 2012. What has led to the shift in product design mentality?
Sigma: Sigma believes that the main focus of a lens should be the quality of glass and the technology within the lens. The glass used in the past 10 years has been of the highest quality and continues to be, and that is something that will never change.
Fstoppers: Have there been any internal changes in the engineering and development side of Sigma (in terms of talent) that has allowed Sigma to make higher quality lenses?
Sigma: It is not necessarily new talent, but the Sigma factory in Aizu uses an on-site decision-making team paired with a vertically integrated production system, which allows for a higher degree of communication between the entire team. This self-sustaining communication framework enables feedback to go up and down the production chain easier and promotes innovative product design, production efficiency, and productivity. For more detail please visit Sigma’s Global Vision site.
Fstoppers: Of the three upcoming lenses, the 35mm is the only without Optical Stabilization. Why?
Sigma: As a first product from the “Art” line, we put our first priority to achieve the best optical performance among the 35mm F1.4 lens group. We believe that we have executed the mission.
Fstoppers: In looking at the closest competitor in the Canon world, Canon's new 35mm f/2 has 10 elements in 8 groups, while the Sigma lens 13 elements in 11 groups. How big of a difference will those three additional elements make, and where were they placed to make the biggest impact?
Sigma: Depending on the design concept, the lens construction varies as well as other specifications. By incorporating FLD glass lens and SLD glass lenses, the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM has actualized the utmost level of color compensation and also, the best power distribution is achieved by this lens construction. It results in a very clear image from the focusing point to the peripheral areas. You can count on this feature in any scene, but especially in the out-of-focus areas, it shows great difference from conventional models. Usually it reveals some color aberration when the bokeh effects in peripheral areas have contrast, but due to the minimized color aberration, this lens can offer superior optimum resolution even in peripheral areas.
Also, concerning our lens and the new one from Canon, there is a huge difference in the lens design and its performance, although the number of aperture value may “look” close. A lens of F1.4 is by far more complicated to design and produce when it’s compared with that of F2. It should not be regarded as same class lens.
Fstoppers: What is the difference between a low dispersion (FLD) element and the special low dispersion (SLD) glass lenses used in the lens, and why are they important?
Sigma: To achieve the color aberration compensation at the utmost, FLD glass is essential, as its performance is equal to fluorite. (Refer to the answer provided above, plus the images below).
Fstoppers: How did the thermally stable composite increase the life of the lens? How many years do you anticipate the lens lasting in comparison to Sigma lenses in the past?
Sigma: The new material "TSC (Thermally Stable Composite)", which has little contractility especially in temperature changes, as well as maintaining firmness, is incorporated into the lens barrel. Compared to Polycarbonate which is generally used, TSC has higher elasticity by approximately 25%. Since thermal shrinkage is low, it has high affinity to metal parts which contributes to high quality product manufacturing. It also allows other parts such as the zoom ring and scaling to be smaller.
When it's compared to the previous plastic composite, it's far better and durable.
Fstoppers: What about the Sigma Optimization Pro software can help the average photographer, and what can they do to make the best use of this new feature?
Sigma: Sigma Optimization Pro was created to further push the idea of a customized camera system. One built and adjusted to the way a certain photographer shoots, and it also allows the user to update the firmware in the lens.
Fstoppers: This might not be that unusual, but how does Sigma feel about putting out a lens priced higher than the most recently released Canon equivalent, the 35mm f/2?
Sigma: We’d like to draw your attention to two facts on this matter.
1. There is a world of difference between the lens quality of F1.4 and that of F2.
2. In comparison with Canon’s 35/F1.4 lens, our pricing is much cheaper, nearly by half. Sigma has been and will always try to deliver the best quality products. This is our mission. We never compromise the quality, but do everything not to add any unnecessary costs on the product.
Fstoppers: I of course have to ask: sell me this lens. Why should I buy this lens over the Canon version?
Sigma: The new Sigma 35mm 1.4 DG HSM is an all-in-all beautiful lens. Its new matte finish and design are sleek and feel great in hand. There is no other lens of its specifications within the same price range. With a large 1.4 aperture, Hyper Sonic Motor, Thermally Stable Composite material, and FLD Glass elements, the Sigma 35mm 1.4 DG HSM is truly one of a kind.
Fstoppers: An Fstoppers reader asked via Twitter: "I would like to know a bit more specific how they attack their quality management problems. I know they have a new testing procedure but it´s somewhat unclear what exactly will change and how that affects the Sigma typical issues in the past."
Sigma: As part of the Sigma Global Vision, every single lens manufactured in the new Art, Sports, and Contemporary lines will be measured and tested with our proprietary A1 MTF testing. Based around the super-high resolution 46 Megapixel Merrill Generation Foveon Sensor, this enables the detection of high frequency information that is not necessarily possible with a Color Filter Array. Since the Foveon sensor is APS-C format, several test images are made to cover the entire DG (full-frame) image circle. This ensures that every single lens manufactured will be up to the standards and demands of the most critical of photographers, and their cameras.
Fstoppers: Another readers asks: "How much is this lens in Europe (Netherlands)?"
Sigma: Sigma Benelux states a recommended price of 950 Euro
Fstoppers: Several readers wanted to know: "Is the 35mm weather sealed on Canon weather sealed bodies?"
Sigma: No, the only lenses that are weather-sealed are in the Sports category.
Fstoppers: Another question we got from readers is, "What is the difference from the old 30 1.4?"
Sigma: The new 35mm 1.4 DG HSM differs from the 30mm in a few ways.
- The new 35mm 1.4 uses not only SLD glass elements but also FLD, which is equal to fluorite in terms of optical performance, while the 30mm 1.4 uses SLD and ELD elements.
- The 35mm 1.4 is designed for full frame cameras while the 30mm is for APS-C only.
- The 35mm 1.4 uses a floating internal focusing system, which increases optical performance when shooting subjects closer you.
- The 35mm 1.4 uses Thermally Stable Composite, a premium lens material that increases the quality of the lens.
- Rounded 9-blade diaphragm creates a smoother bokeh effect.
- USB dock compatibility allows for micro tuning and firmware updates