Sigma Art Lenses Are Becoming Far Too Ridiculous

Sigma Art Lenses Are Becoming Far Too Ridiculous

The Sigma 40mm f/1.4 Art is such a ridiculous lens. Whenever I've thought about 40mm lenses I thought about the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens. I'm sure many of us have owned one of these lenses; it's actually pretty good. The tiny form factor, relatively fast autofocus speeds, and great image quality. Obviously, this lens was just too small for Sigma.

As a company, Sigma is known for producing somewhat irregular or relatively unique lenses. They're not afraid of making huge heavy lenses with super wide apertures. Lenses like the 14mm f/1.8 Art, and fast aperture zoom lenses like the 24-35mm f/2.0 Art and my favorite APS-C lens, the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art. All of these lenses have one thing in common, they're huge. The latest addition to Sigmas lineup is the 40mm f/1.4 Art lens. This one really takes the cake. I'm not even sure how they've managed to make this mid-range focal lens into the behemoth that is it. I mean it weighs more than the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art

How is that even possible? 

Sigma Struggles to Make Small Lenses

Ok, so, the above subheading may be a little provocative but, at least it's not clickbait right? Here's the thing though, if you compare almost any Sigma art lens to any other manufacturer, Sigma is generally significantly larger and heavier. Take the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens for instance. The Nikon version is an incredible lens with both super sharp results wide open and beautiful bokeh. Sure, the Sigma 105 f/1.4 Art is better when it comes to optical performance but it's only really noticeable on test charts. The weight and size differences are very real and very noticeable. The Sigma is heavy even when it comes to medium format lenses. The 105mm from Sigma is about as heavy as the Schnieder Kreuznach 150mm LS f/2.8 and actually has a larger filter thread size. The weird thing is that even with the much larger front element, vignetting isn't much better when compared to the Nikon lens. Aside from being slightly sharper, why is the Sigma lens so ridiculously huge? 

Another lens that comes to mind is the 85mm f/1.4 Art. Compare that to some of the other alternatives available from Canon and Sony you'll see a similar pattern. Sharpness wide open is slightly better but other than that it doesn't offer any significant advantages. Even with the huge size and massive front element, the lens still has a pretty poor T-stop rating at T/1.8. That's the same T-stop values as the Sony 85mm f/1.8 Batis. I should mention the fact that the vignetting is noticeably better than the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM even if the T-stop isn't. I guess for this lens the front element is helping. 

More recently Sigma released their 40mm f/1.4 Art lens. A recent review from Kai Wong demonstrates just how huge and almost unwieldy this lens actually is. I get that it is a super sharp lens, even when compared to high-end performers like the Canon 35mm f/1.4 II. This lens might even be the sharpest lens Sigma has ever produced and that's really saying something. Although, at 1.2kg it's such an impractical, ridiculous lens that I wonder why anyone would actually want it. This is especially evident when you consider the significantly smaller and lighter alternatives like almost any 35mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.4 lenses. 

The point I'm trying to make is that for one reason or another Sigma seems to struggle when it comes to producing fast aperture lenses that aren't beyond practicalities. Sigma seems to love having a huge front element in their lenses. In my discussions with Sigma, they explained how the larger front element helps to prevent vignetting. I could be wrong here but surely, using a camera profile would be far more efficient, wouldn't it? Even with the same focal lengths compared to other manufacturers, Sigma prioritizes sharpness over everything else. This includes important aspects such as T-stop values and the weight/size of their lenses balloons to a point where it's just silly.

I've Stopped Shooting With My Sigma Lenses

For the last year, I haven't used any of my Sigma lenses for any professional work. Aside from a few comparisons I've done where I needed to shoot with them, I haven't even used them for any of my personal work. This isn't intentional by any means it's just that I'm reluctant to use my Art lenses for any work I have.

They take up too much space in the bag, they weigh far too much and comparatively speaking they don't offer that much better quality compared to some other lenses I have. Lenses like the Batis 85mm or the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 which are tiny in comparison and offer fantastic image quality unless you're being super pedantic about the finer details. I honestly care more about my back than having slightly better image quality that no one will actually notice. Why would I want to suffer so much for so little? Speaking of image quality, looking at the images below, is there really that much of a difference in sharpness? One was with the Batis 85mm and the other with the Sigma 85mm Art on the Sony a7R III, both were shot wide open. 

The difference in size is significant

When I first bought lenses like the Sigma 85mm Art, I actually boasted about how huge it was. The feeling I had was almost like "yes this is what professional use" which is obviously nonsense. Having a huge lens with a massive front element is somewhat pleasing for the ego, some could describe it as overcompensating. Ultimately, I find that I don't use my Sigma lenses as much as some other lenses I now own and it's purely because Art lenses are mostly impractical. 

In Defense Of Sigma

My assumptions are that Sigma uses large optics because that's probably one of the most effective ways to produce super sharp high-resolution lenses. It would seem as though smaller optics may not be able to produce the same level of detail for a number of reasons. It may go to explain why so many medium format lenses are so much better optically speaking and Sigma is using that method to produce full frame lenses. There's obviously a large market of photographers who want very high-quality lenses and don't mind the extra weight and size. If you need the absolute best in quality, then you may have to compromise in areas of practicality.

Unfortunately, there isn't a perfect option and Sigma now caters to a certain section of the market that tends to appreciate quality over some practicalities. This is also one of the reasons I won't be selling my Sigma Art lenses anytime soon because there are instances where I need that level of quality. It's rare but I like the idea that I can offer then when required. Sigma has produced some incredible lenses and I'm honestly a huge fan. Being a fan, however, doesn't mean I won't point out some of the aspects I dislike or consider to be rather ridiculous. The 40mm f/1.4 Art is definitely a ridiculous lens and right now I'm struggling to understand how it could ever be a popular option. 

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Usman Dawood's picture

Sigma’s renaissance didn’t occur with lenses as large as the 105mm f1.4 or the 40mm. This is why I said they’re becoming ridiculous. Not that they are or have always been. There’s a difference which may be subtle but implications are significant.

Also if everyone agreed then this would have been a pointless article.

Christopher Smoot's picture

"this would have been a pointless article."

At least we agree on something.

Usman Dawood's picture

Keywords being "would have".

Jason Levine's picture

this, also I would pick optics and size but within reason on the price.

JetCity Ninja's picture

it's all about priorities and compromises.

compromises must be made to make light bend within a specific form factor. sigma has stated, repeatedly i may add, that their "art" series is designed to limit compromises, prioritizing image quality above all else. they're also committing to this without compromising cost.

yes, limiting the materials will help reduce cost; using a smaller front element and outer shell size will reduce costs, but engineering and design of the elements is where the real costs are at for any lens. using a tested method versus designing a new way of achieving a similar result is more cost effective, though at the cost of size and weight. resin elements are able to bend light more efficiently and weigh less, but are optically inferior compared to glass. trying to design around the IQ issues of resin increases the development and manufacturing cost, reducing value compared to just using glass despite the weight penalty.

also add longevity to the value equation. as resolution increases, more and more lenses become less capable of performing at the minimum standard required for newer sensors. sigma's art lenses are built to perform not just on today's sensors, but for those 50-100mp sensors on the horizon. case in point, the limited number of lenses canon recommended for use with their 5DS and 5DSR, as many of their lenses aren't capable of resolving correctly at that high a resolution. despite the lower cost, it ensures you won't have to replace your sigma art lenses with the next generation of high resolution camera bodies.

small size/weight, high image quality, or low cost: you can only have 2. sigma art series clearly chose IQ and low cost, compromising size. most others choose size and cost, compromising IQ to get the other 2.

like anything, there's a proper time and place. not every situation demands the resolving power of an Art series lens. most people, pro and hobbyist alike, don't need the level of sharpness sigma's art lenses provide... but when you do, at least it's there. if your budget is more limited and you don't like the extra weight, there's always tamron.

Rifki Syahputra's picture

big & heavy is a feature, not a defect...they say

Frank Feng's picture

I thought 1.5KG RF 28-70L is ridiculous, but after seeing the 1.2 kg Sigma, I think otherwise.

Usman Dawood's picture

40mm had me like WHAAAA

Robert Escue's picture

I learned over 30 years ago that a one f stop increase in the size of a lens increases the size of the lens by a factor of four. I own a Sigma ART 50-100 which I used with my Nikon D500's and found that combination to be the sharpest thing I ever used. And that is saying a lot since I have been shooting for 40 years. I have no problem with the weight and the photos are incredible.

Not too long ago I rented the 105 mm f/1.4 to see what all the buzz was about. On my D500 it was tack sharp and I shot an event mostly at f/1.4 to see what it could do. It was big and somewhat heavy, but not that much more than my 50-100 or my 70-200 Nikkor or my Tamron 15-30. Yes, there is the problem of the 105 not fitting in my Domke bag. If I owned one I would make the accommodation for it.

Sigma has to be doing something that is different than Nikon, Canon or Sony to produce lenses of this quality and size. I like where they are going even if the lenses are "big".

Brian Schmittgens's picture

If I were still shooting weddings/events and on-location stuff I have to backpack to, weight would absolutely be a concern for me. These days, I shoot like 95% of my stuff in studio on a tripod, so I couldn't care less about how big or heavy a lens or camera body is.

Usman Dawood's picture

Oh, yea absolutely. For studio, weight means very little.

Errick Jackson's picture

I actually found myself agreeing with this article quite a bit. And I'm a big fan of Sigma. I've had the 35mm and 85mm Art lenses for a little while now and while I adore the images they create, they are somewhat boring in their rendering. I've had a craving lately for the Nikon variants (28/1.4, 58/1.4, 105/1.4) which, while not as blood-drawingly sharp, are easily sharp enough and have such beautiful, inviting rendering. The slightly less weight would be welcome as well.

Jairo Melara's picture

You gotta hit the gym bro

Usman Dawood's picture

I do hahaha but I don't want to be so huge that I can't throw a quick jab.

Tom Reichner's picture

I have a much bigger Sigma lens than any of the ones you mentioned - the Sigma 300-800mm f5.6. I couldn't care less how big or heavy it is. It has the focal length range and the sharp optics that I need for what I do. I am not a big or strong guy - rather, I'm 50 years old, pot-bellied, out of shape, have a herniated disk and a torn rotator cuff in my left shoulder and chronic tendonitus in my left forearm. Yet I can get the big Sigma zoom anywhere I want it to be.

When people are crybabies about a lens weighing 4 pounds instead of 3 pounds, or 3 pounds instead of 2 pounds, I cannot understand their mindset.

Plumbers don't complain about the weight of their pipewrenches, yet they must wield them all day long to get their job done. Likewise with carpenters and their circular saws. And yet somehow, many photographers seem to think that they are some kind of exception, and that their tools must be super lightweight. I don't get that - we are tradesmen working our trade, just like every other line of manual labor on the planet. We aren't somehow entitled to lighter and more comfortable tools and working conditions than everybody else who has to pick up their tools and do a job.

Get over the entitlement attitude and be willing to pick up the tool and do the job like the rest of the world does. Sheesh!

Usman Dawood's picture

Your mentality works directly against progress. I don't think you understand how entitlement works lol.

I'm one of their customers as in I spend my money with them if X. Describing what X to them is beneficial for both parties. You're not the only market of photographers that exist; you seem to assume everyone should think and work like you.

Also, I review products and work with Sigma, they quite literally ask me for my thoughts on their products lol.

Tom Reichner's picture

No, Usman, my mentality DOES NOT work against progress. My mentality is to go get the job done, period! You go and get your job done whether the lens is heavy or not. Just do it and don't complain about the things that must be overcome. That attitude is all about progress - progressing in the face of the challenges, whatever they may be.

If one takes a moment to think about this objectively, a 3 or 4 pound lens really isn't much of an obstacle to overcome, is it?

I took my 13 pound Sigma lens on a flight to Barrow Alaska as a carry on. 13 pound lens, 4 pound camera, 4 pound tripod, and 3 pound gimbal head. Then I trudged all around the soggy tundra with it for 8 days, 16 to 18 hours a day, because the sun never goes down there in June. And really, that was nothing - it pales pathetically when compared to the explorers and pioneers who traversed continents in order to establish civilizations and build nations.

If someone allows a 3 or 4 pound 50mm lens to stop them from doing what they want to do .... well, that is actually the attitude that works agains progress, is it not?

Usman Dawood's picture

Progress from a technological standpoint or innovation. Your mentality assumes you should just be happy and whatever you have that's what you should use if it's big don't complain or have opposing ideas just do the job and shut up about it. Saying anything otherwise means you feel entitled.

You might be fine with carrying tonnes of equipment but that doesn't I should be too. I've sourced other equipment in place of the heavy stuff I previously had. I didn't even tell Sigma what they should do I simply pointed out how things are getting a little ridiculous now that some of their lenses are heavier than many medium format lenses.

I have an opinion that differs from yours so I have an entitlement attitude. You seem pretty entitled to your thoughts and then suggest that I shouldn't have mine.

Also at no point did I say I'm not going to do the work cause of big lenses I actually said I decided to use other tools. Where are you getting this not doing the job point from? You're just making up things and then arguing against it.

Tom Reichner's picture

Oh, the Sigma lenses you talk about in your article aren't heavy or big. They're just little things that aren't any bigger than a yummy sandwich and they don't weight any more than a fifth of fine scotch whiskey.

I think some people base their camera gear preferences on what is comfortable - what is easy - instead of basing them on what is do-able.

Usman Dawood's picture

What is comfortable and easy is a major part of doable what are you on about??

Tom Reichner's picture

"What are you on about" sounds dismissive and disrespectful to me. Let's debate things in an intelligent, respectful manner.

Usman Dawood's picture

Oh, stop it haha.

"When people are crybabies about a lens weighing 4 pounds instead of 3 pounds, or 3 pounds instead of 2 pounds, I cannot understand their mindset"

"Get over the entitlement attitude and be willing to pick up the tool and do the job like the rest of the world does. Sheesh!"

Come on lol.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Properties like "heavy" or "big" are completely meaningless without context. Nothing is objectively big on its own. It can only be "objectively big" with context. The context of Usman's article compares Sigma lenses to competing lenses by other competitors. Within the context of THAT comparison, Sigma Art lenses are both objectively heavy and objectively big.

The question at hand has never once been whether they are too big to be useful or used at all. The discussion is whether their larger size is enough of a downside to set them aside in favor of a smaller competing lens.

Not to put words in Usman's mouth but I guarantee that if his only option was a lens twice as heavy as a Sigma Art that he would use that lens and deliver the best quality images that he can with that lens. The question isn't one of whether the lens is "do-able" or not. He is a professional, he will do what it takes to get the job done. The discussion, however, is whether Sigma Art's larger size is too much of a compromise when a photographer looks to decide if they are the best tool for the job or not.

This is ultimately opinion but if a photographer has to show up to a shoot with fewer lens options because Sigma Art took up too much space in the bag that is objectively putting the photographer at a disadvantage compared to a photographer who chose smaller lenses. There is nothing lazy about that. Your ability to carry gear is always finite. Sometimes that ceiling is far beyond any need you may have, other times that ceiling is a constriction that forces you to make constant compromises. Thus the choice is very individual based on your needs.

It seems your goal and position is to presume that Usman is lazy (and to make sure the world knows it) and that by stating Sigma Art lenses are too large that he is revealing that laziness. However, that is not the case. His job as a reviewer is to rationally evaluate whether a given tool is the best tool for the job and make recommendations accordingly. Size is a critical factor for some and an irrelevant factor to others. This is an editorial review explaining why it is a relevant factor for him. His reasons are all valid.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Portability doesn't have near the impact on someone like a plumber as it does a photographer. No one asks a plumber to fly halfway around the world to fix a pipe or climb a mountain with all of his gear. Rather, a plumber can show up with a truck full of all the gear that might be needed for the job and be pretty confident that in virtually all cases that he can drive right to the door of the place he is working.

In contrast, a photographer has to contend with airline limitations and the maximum reasonable weight that can be brought to a given location. If a lens is twice as heavy and large as it needs to be, in many cases it means that a compromise needs to be made. In contrast, if a pipe wrench is a bit too big, the plumber won't have to leave other tools at home to accommodate.

That said, tool manufacturers also look to shed size and weight when they can, particularly power tools are smaller now than say 30 years ago. Manufacturers have moved away from heavy use of steel, iron, and wood to lighter aluminum and rugged plastic when practical. It is harder to shrink construction tools because of physical size requirements of the task and the need to industrially rugged.

Tom Reichner's picture

You make some good, insightful points. Your opinion stands in opposition to mine, but the points you bring up are certainly valid.

Pete Oliver's picture

I don't get why you have written this story this way. Your title, designed to catch readers attention, has no relevance to your article, you state the title is not click bait, which, by design, it is.

You attack Sigma and their ability to design camera lenses yet describe the high performance of their product, you run a sub title in defence of Sigma, then go on to say you have not used their products for over a year, all while attacking their latest product.

If the design, feel, performance, size, weight or function of Sigma products don't suit you needs or likes, just don't buy them.

Usman Dawood's picture

I talk about how sigma lenses are becoming ridiculous and then discuss why I think they're becoming ridiculous in the article. Clickbait suggest the title has nothing to do with the article which is not true in this case is it?

Also where I said at least it's not clickbait was for a subheading. It literally isn't clickbait because you can't click the subheading it's not a link.

Also, in general, I discuss companies for whom I'm already a customer. How else do you build experience enough to talk about something? Don't like don't buy it? It's not that black and white is it? I didn't say I don't like them enough to not buy them I get the feeling you just skim read the article.

Come on man.... some nuance

David Pavlich's picture

Early models of the 35 and 50 Art had some QC problems. My son had both and had to send the 35 back twice because the barrel kept loosening up. Same with the 50 (sent back once). A friend of his, another wedding shooter, had the same experience with his first 50.

That problem has been cleared up, but my son ended up selling both. My experience wasn't the same, but what I did find is that both that I have and had, I have a 100-400 and had a 50, needed to be micro adjusted to get the focus correct. I didn't have that problem with the Canon lenses I've owned nor a 35 f1.8 Tamron.

Still, if my photo piggy bank were flush, I'd certainly have their 135.

Iain Stanley's picture

I bought the USB dock for calibrating the Art 50mm and it worked a charm. My 50mm is spot on crystal clear now. Lord knows why their QC out of factory is so randomly bad

Usman Dawood's picture

Hey have you tried Reikan Focal? I used that one all my lenses including the Sigma ones and I find it works WAY better than the Sigma dock.

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