It’s certainly well known that the Sigma Art line is beloved by many, and one of the great benefits of shooting with Sony is the ability to use most any lenses with adapters. As well as the adapters work, I could hardly contain my excitement when the Art line began to arrive in native Sony E-mount and today we’ll be going over the venerable 35mm f/1.4 Art.
My Own History With Sigma
I have shot with many Sigma lenses throughout the years on Nikon and Canon, and to be perfectly honest, I hated the pre-Art Sigma’s. I didn’t like the feel or the image quality. When the Art line was first introduced and began to get the incredible reviews it did, I certainly began to pay attention and ultimately the Art line unquestionably transformed Sigma’s reputation. Not only did the Art line perform incredibly well and completely crush the brand lenses such as the Canon 35L, but it also felt like a Zeiss in hand being heavy and extremely well built.
Sigma has definitely earned my trust with the entire Art line. So with that said, I’m excited to move on to the 35mm Art in a native mount for Sony mirrorless.
As mentioned and expected, the build quality is exactly the same as the Canon or Nikon mount Art lenses I’ve used in the past. It weighs in at 1.46 pounds and is fairly large, especially on the small Sony body and that doesn't bother me one bit.
I’d even go as far as to say that the size and weight makes me feel as if I’m using something high end even if that’s not quantifiable.
First, when the Sony E-mount line was announced, I did not know if the mechanics of the focusing were completely redesigned to work with mirrorless and the Eye AF or if it’s simply a mount conversion. There’s been talk of shooting Canon or Nikon mount lenses adapted to Sony possibly causing premature fatigue on the autofocus mechanism since it wasn’t designed for the way the Eye AF works. I cannot speak to that as I really don’t have the data to form a proper conclusion.
The AF performance on this lens seems to work extremely well and unlike when I shot Nikon, the autofocus worked great right out of the box. Obviously due to the nature of mirrorless, I had expected the autofocus to work well I just wasn't sure just quite how well.
I’m pleased to report that it works incredibly well. Even focusing on an eye works great considering the focal length of 35mm; I am usually a decent distance from the subject when shooting with a wider-angle lens to prevent excessive amounts of distortion, meaning the eye is generally small in relation to the frame.
In this model session, I was able to use this lens at a decent distance from the subject and easily nail focus right on her face. Before you think that it's a wide-angle lens and focusing is easy, at f/1.4 the lens still has to nail focus or it will show, and the 35mm Art delivered. I also found the contrast and colors to be excellent, so using this lens was a very good experience.
Typically bokeh isn’t something I usually spend too much time thinking about with wide-angle lenses, but depending on what and how you shoot it certainly is a thing and I do like the way this lens renders bokeh and falloff.
I have heard critics say the Art line is too clinical with the style of the bokeh, largely in part to all the elements of glass which correct flaws and defects such as chromatic abberation. I personally do not see anything unpleasing about the bokeh; I enjoy the rendering this lens produces.
It was almost entirely dark when I took this photo to test both the bokeh and the ability to focus in extreme low light. The focusing was very accurate, hardly ever missing focus. This scene with the contrast, bright light spots, and super darkness is a great indicator to me that I can use this lens in challenging situations and trust it.
The below regular portrait framing was easy to produce with the 35mm Art and I find the bokeh pleasing and the sharpness excellent. Obviously when shooting portraits with a 35mm lens, I don't put the subject in the far sides of the frame because of distortion. I can see myself using this lens extensively on regular portrait sessions to provide the 35mm field of view and still have the sharpness and bokeh that is my signature style.
Close Focusing and Focus Plane
I like the look this lens provides shooting closely. The first frame I took with it out of the box was just a quick snapshot of the desk and right away I could tell that I like the falloff and the lens is very sharp.
What I Liked
Image quality, first and foremost, is spectacular. We can all nitpick all the little things all day about lens hood design or lens weight, but at the end of the day what really matters is the image that was produced and this lens is first class in that department.
I actually like the weight and size being larger than most. It feels good in hand and even if it’s meaningless it gives me the impression of being high end with a great build quality.
What Could Be Improved
Autofocus speed for video could be faster, especially for pulls. This isn’t necessarily a negative thing for everyone of course, depending on what you will use the lens for. For any type of portraits, automotive, or most normal wide angle work, it’s definitely not an issue.
I really feel the Art line is the best overall choice for what I do. It’s senseless to pay the manufacturer brand almost double the price for the same or even a little less quality.
While the newer manufacturer lenses such as the Canon 35mm f/1.4L II for $1,649 or the Sony Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 for $1,598 are very good in quality as well, I see nothing gained from basically paying double the price, except for the name on the box. I strongly feel that you are in fact paying a premium for literally the name.
Personally I’d rather buy a 35mm Art and 50mm Art for close to the same money as just the Sony 35mm and have much more versatility and still have all the quality; maybe even higher quality.
For what I do, I can’t see a better option possible anywhere. The Sigma 35mm Art sits at the top of my list of choices. You can get the Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 Sony E-mount lens for $899 from B&H now.