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Sigma Answers Your Questions About the New Lenses & Business

Sigma Answers Your Questions About the New Lenses & Business

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
Jaron Schneider's picture

Jaron Schneider is an Fstoppers Contributor and an internationally published writer and cinematographer from San Francisco, California. His clients include Maurice Lacroix, HD Supply, SmugMug, the USAF Thunderbirds and a host of industry professionals.

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Sigma is kicking ass and taking names. I wouldn't be surprised if in the next 5 years Sigma surpasses Canon and Nikon in IQ vs. price. 

I hope so. Canon needs a competitor to give them a wake up call with their new pricing and lens offering. 

I believe with the latest lenses such as the new 85mm f1.4 and from what I've seen of this 35mm f/1.4 I think Sigma has already surpassed Canon and Nikon in terms of IQ for the price. As far as absolute IQ is concerned that's up to debate and I'm sure varies from sample to sample. I would have no issues buying Sigma over Canon/Nikon unless I absolutely needed features like weather sealing etc.

You do realize that "weather sealing" is only a rubber gasket at the lens mount right? You want weather sealing? Here you go. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=469774&is...

One of my non-weather sealed lenses I had took a beating in the rain and at a few gigs (beer flying everywhere) so I'm not concerned by that.

Also comparing this lens to the Canon 35mm f2.0 IS isn't relevant to me, IS isn't that useful on these type of lenses, you shoot at f1.4-f4 most of the time, if you're not then I should be questioning why I bought such a fast lens to start with? I'd rather like to see some comparisons between the Nikon 35mm f1.4 AF-S and the Canon 35mm f1.4 L. If the Sigma is as good as it seems I'm saving up to get one a.s.a.p. 

My concerns at this moment:
- Corner/Edge sharpness
- Focus accuracy and consistency
- Bokeh (I think I saw a bit of "onion rings" in one of the sample shots)

If these are fine it's "all good" ;)!

You can always tell the newbie photographers because every time a lens is released without VR/IS they cry about it. Learn proper camera holding technique and stop using live view at arms length and you won't NEED stabilisation.

@ J Dennis LMAO

I wouldn't take a free lens from Sigma, totally inferior glass. it's like Canon, and Nikon sends sigma their defective glass, I HATE SIGMA LENSES, they are no good

sorry but if you believe what you wrote you are a m*r*n... a typical clueless internet troll..... just check a few sigma lens reviews.

the glass is no problem.. the AF is.

And in the two recent lenses I have tested (180mm macro and 50-150mm) the AF has been awesome. 

Indeed. AF is great on my D300s/D600 and 85 1.4... Hoping that the 35 1.4 is even better.

I've used quite a few of them,they are pretty good,just that sample variation is even more of an issue than with canonnikon.. so choose them carefully.. these new ones are well worth a look..

 Sorry no Moron, but i can;t imagine why would anyone with say a Nikon D800 and Canon Mark III like I do invest in inferior Glass. Third party glass is just that "third party glass" I stay totally away, my photography is a very serious thing.

 Why would you invest in an inferior camera like the D800 or 5D3 when you could get a D4 or a 1DX?

Probably because they get the job done really well.

I've been using a Sigma 17-70mm as my "main" lens for years, and while it's not perfect (what lens is?), it has been fine. In fact, in its sweet spot, it's sharper than my Canon EF 70-200mm IS L (MK1).

".....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....."

unfortunately that doesn´t help a bit on the common sigma issues.

the issues are not so much the LENS OPTICS.... but the AUTOFOCUS SYSTEM.
i had a few sigma lenses that had great optics but a bad front/backfocus or just focus inconsistency problems on my canon cameras. 

how will they check that the lens works well with a NIKON or CANON when using their OWN A1 system to meassure the OPTICS. i tell you.... they can not this way!!

i really hope that they get their new lenses to work fine with the AF systems from canon and nikon.

With the USB docking feature to adjust micro focusing on the new Sigma lenses I think the front focusing and back focusing issues should no longer be of any concern. Maybe I've just had really good luck but I've had 4 or 5 Tamron/Sigma lenses and haven't had front/back focusing issues.

Sigma is to Canon what Hyundai is to Honda and Toyota...and Hyundai is now kicking ass...watch out Canon! 

I gave up reading after a while - there was too much in the way of buzzwords.

Thank you for asking about weather sealing. A bit bummed that it's not :( I really wanted to like this beautiful lens but weather sealing is important to me. Looks like I've gotta save my pennies and get the Canon :(

Uhm, you do realize that the 35 f2 IS and the 35L do not have weather sealing? 

no he doesn´t...... but i guess he likes to write something negativ without having much of a clue.. like so many on the internet.

It's a myth that all L lenses are weather sealed.

exactly.  Not all L Lenses have weather sealing but some people are clueless to that.

B&H -> 899dollars => +/- 700 euros

"Sigma Benelux states a recommended price of 950 Euro"

Thank you, Sigma.
From Europe.

For €150 more via Ebay you can have the Canon L...I'd stick with the Canon. I know 4 people who have bought the 50mm 1.4 from Sigma and all needed to be sent to Sigma to get them calibrated so take this QC jargon with a pinch of salt.

And I know more then 10 people who have ordered lenses from Ebay and they don't work properly. I'll stick with sigma.

 Sure, everybody knows that Canon and Nikon build "special lenses" that doesn't work properly especially for ebay sellers. That's why they're cheaper. O.O

the Canon 50L has focusing issues as much as the sigma so that doesnt say much there.  I've had both and can say that the Sigma 50 once calibrated is a sweet lens.

My concern has to do with Sigma's utter lack of a good professional repair service, like NPS (which I've been a member of for decades(yeah, I know lately it's been pretty bad)). I would invest in Sigma glass if 1) they increased the focus speed (I know it is more complicated since they are engineering a standard lens to work with multiple camera manufactures bodies), and 2) a decent return time on repairs. I've used many Sigma lens in the past and been satisfied but not overwhelmed.

I have nothing but good stuff to say about sigma and there support in the uk anyway.

My flash got snapped of my pentax, for £10 they had sent me the replacement part the next day..  a year later and my flash died with Error msg on the lcd.  Even without a receipt they replaced the flash for me within a week.

Pentax on the other hand told me I'd have to pay for a sensor replacement for stuck pixels in video mode (even though its a firmware bug.. as switching from liveview to video actives the pixel mapping and removes them). 

That's impressive, their lens support is so bad, I've heard 3-6 months.

Now get them to explain to us their price on the 90mm macro that came out... 
I'd love to read this!! haha