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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Eric Cathell's picture

I use the Reikan FoCal with the sigma dock.

Iain Stanley's picture

good to know. I can't say I'm disappointed in any way with the Sigma dock because it fixed my calibration issues but if I have any further problems down the line I'll remember this. Cheers

David Pavlich's picture

The inconsistent focus is a minor problem easily corrected. I know some that had no focusing problems with Sigma lenses. No doubt Sigma is making top notch lenses.

I was kind of hoping that Tamron would have followed up on the success of their 35 and 85 primes. I have the 35 and it is terrific, especially at that price point.

Iain Stanley's picture

yeah I'm a big fan of Tamron too. I have the 150-600 for shooting action sports and when I was exclusively using my 7d2 I had the 16-300 as my walkaround travel lens. Whilst not the top in any department, it's very good in most departments.

J Cortes's picture

It’s not that they struggle making small lenses . They problably don’t care to . If the lenses are too big for you don’t buy them . I think it’s good that Sigma offers the lenses for the Sony FE mount as it gives us options .

Usman Dawood's picture

I think they don't have the engineering skills or expertise like some other lens manufacturers and it does come down to the fact that they struggle with making their lenses smaller. Aspects like T/stops and vignetting speak volumes.

Pat McEntee's picture

Many years ago, there was a TV commercial for tires. It had three full size Mercedes Benz flying around these mountain roads, with cliffs on one side and sheer drops on the other. I discussed the commercial over lunch one day with our marketing manager and his answer stuck with me. I couldn't understand why they would have very expensive cars driving fast in the snow on dangerous roads. His answer was a simple "They aren't trying to sell you the tires, it is aimed at those who want them".

Sigma isn't trying to sell these lenses to those who put a higher value on light weight, small size, or low cost. If those attributes are all important, they aren't trying to sell you these lenses.

Usman Dawood's picture

There's a whole paragraph where I discuss that.

Timothy Hood's picture

It sounds like you're not using your Sigmas and you've lost that lovin' feeling for them. I will gladly take them off your hands for a good price.

Usman Dawood's picture

Nope, still need them I just don't use them as often as I did.

Dimitrios Markakis's picture

SIGMA is doing a pretty good job, specially with Art series. When I was young, with less financial capabilities, I used to use SIGMA lenses and I was satisfied. Now I can (purchase &) use only the camera's brand lenses, and I am not at all a "pro". We should be grateful to SIGMA (and TAMRON etc) for their efforts to improve their product line. They provide alternatives to many of us not to say that without their existence factory lenses were going to be more than 20% expensive.

Bryan Decker's picture

Completely agree. In general it looks like the lenses the Sigma's are compared to are consistently a much higher price. Providing high end results at a middle end budget is what propelled them, and the trade-off is weight and size. I am assuming that if they had to engineer their lenses to be smaller and maintain quality it would increase their price.

Crispin Blue's picture

I am for the affirmative. Ridiculous weight for an awkward length. How does anyone equate photography with macho posturing?

"I won't use a rig that weighs less than the wedding cake I'm shooting! Squeeze my biceps lesser photogs!".

I would pick 35 Canon L and crop if bothered but easily prefer a 50. Sold my 40 pancake because the output was flat next to a 50. Or Zeiss.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Quite a biased article, isn't it? The Canon 24/1.4 weighs 650g while the Sigma weighs a similar 665g. I doubt you'd feel the difference in your bag, but your bank account will thank you at almost half the price for the Sigma. And as far as I know, Canon does not have in their product line any 14/1.8 or 20/1.4. Need I go further? If you want to write articles like this, at least have the intellectual honesty of writing a full story.

Usman Dawood's picture

I said becoming meaning more recent. I didn't say all of Sigma lenses are such and such. It's literally there in black and white lol.

Joe Navas's picture

Is this for real? You are so very much bordering on clickbait territory here. You take multiple paragraphs to arrive at no hint of an actual conclusion or scientific tidbit regarding exactly why Sigma lenses are so large. You simply go on complaining about a company that has reordered the optical landscape and produced rather fantastic options for prime shooters with not only solid, workhorse design, but phenomenal image quality at a relatively affordable pricepoint.
I'm 5'7", 140 lbs., 48 years old and shoot forty 10-12 hour wedding days plus 100+ other shoots per year and I could give a rat's ass how much my gear weighs if it gets me the shot I want. While various ergonomic layouts regarding buttons and setup and what not may play a role in how I try to get things the way I want them, the weight or size of my gear makes little or no difference.
I shoot everything with two bodies and a Sigma Art lineup that includes 20, 35, 50, 105 and 135. When the 40mm finally arrives for Sony E mount, I'll likely ditch the 35 and the 50 (as much I love them both) and be fine and dandy with the one lens filling both roles (especially because I loved the 40mm perspective when I shot Canon and had that little pancake.)
I'm not one that decided to shoot Sony because of the size, but because they fulfill every requirement I could have in a system. I actually have grips on both just because it makes them tremendously better ergonomically, and that would hold true if I was shooting a Batis/Sony combo.
Anyway, my apologies for coming off so ranty, but this whole article just sort of screamed of a first-world problems. We have a great prime lens option here. If you don't like the fact that Sigma engineers arrived at a design that dictates that in order to achieve this particular level of quality by this particular manufacturer these lenses are larger, that's fine, but to dedicate an article to it and deem it a problem or surmise that those who like, don't care about or disapprove of the lens' size do so out of some sort of superficial psychological reason is just a bunch of really rather pointless thought that may have best been kept in your head, very much like this long, useless examination of it I've felt the need to scrawl here.
Let's bitch about actual relevant and inexplicable things like Sony charging $800 for a mediocre 35mm with 2.8 aperture, or why they also have an inability to make a decent 50mm f/1.8. Though I, likewise, put forth no scientific proof on any of that, it still seems to me a decidedly more worthy disgrace to mention, even perhaps at length (or not.)

Usman Dawood's picture

"but this whole article just sort of screamed of a first-world problems."

So??

What part of the photography industry isn't a first world issue?

Jeff McCollough's picture

People think that those who live in 1rst world countries don't count.

Tom Reichner's picture

And some tend to think that we are the only ones who count. I guess I kind of think that way myself, when it comes to macroeconomics. The people with lots of disposable income do tend to drive progress when it comes to luxury types of technologies, such as high-end camera gear. If it weren't for the prosperous first world people, we wouldn't have a lot of the cool stuff we have today.

Joe Navas's picture

My intent was to be analogous regarding finding fault in an embarrassment of riches, not a general commentary on photography's place in the world's economic/class structure. That said, I know of more than a few instances of photography not only being a pursuit in developing countries, but a vital part of development itself, though even that is rather off-topic. And I'm not really sure what the above comment by Jeff means, but rock on.

Aeris Kira's picture

When I think of Sigma trying to not compromise sharpness, I think of Otus lenses. They're not as sharp but they are slightly lighter/smaller (I think) & have AF ... but they are much more affordable. Then you get glass that excell is other specs but come in a small package like Leica lenses but the price sky rockets. When I look at Sigma in this way, suddenly their lenses aren't as ridiculous. Would I buy one? Maybe, but I prefer smaller lenses so I'm waiting for Sony to create more fast primes so I can compare.

Aeris Kira's picture

Here's my take on Sigma lenses: I love the images I get from these affordable lenses but I just wish their lenses were smaller.

I think that sums up your article too, no?

Usman Dawood's picture

yup pretty much haha, thanks for that.

Timothy Hood's picture

@Aeris, what you said, except add, "but not if they're going to be much more expensive."

Alex Yakimov's picture

40's extra kilo justifies shaving one in the gym.

Rex Larsen's picture

I suggest again the importance and benefit of skilled headline writers and editors.

Usman Dawood's picture

But you're here...

Alex Yakimov's picture

Redacted* Heavy great lens. (In comparison with other examples). Backbreaking exaggeration no more *-). Would be fun to know if it possesses same T-stop as cine counterpart.

Usman Dawood's picture

Not sure I’m very interested to know that though.

Alex Yakimov's picture

It's alright, pal. Thank you for an engaging​ post.

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