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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230 Comments

Previous comments
Tom Reichner's picture

The title itself could be vastly improved. It looks like it was a title that was designed to get people to click on it out of curiosity, particularly because of the use of the word "ridiculous".

I would much prefer a boring title, that simply tells me what the ensuing article is about. Something like, "Weight and size of Sigma Art lenses causes me to rethink my lens choices".

I want titles that tell me what an article is about, not titles that are designed to trigger my curiosity. That is, indeed, the very epitome of clickbait. And clickbait is evil.

Usman Dawood's picture

I discuss exactly what the title says. I talk about which sigma lenses are ridiculous. I use that specific word in the article multiple times too especially when describing the 40mm because I really think it’s ridiculous.

It would be click bait if the article had little to nothing to do with the title.

The title simply leads you to question why and then you find out in the article.

Iain Stanley's picture

The number of comments on this thread is ridiculous!! I hope you get paid by the comment!!

Usman Dawood's picture

Haha I thought we did :P

Fritz Asuro's picture

Back then when I was at the early stages of my career as a photographer where I get 10 hours of gigs per week, size and weight wasn't an issue. But now I'm doing 84-100 hours a week, I do feel the toll of carrying all of it. I try to get lazy in terms of carrying lenses (one lens to rule them all and hopefully won't need others). I guess Sigma is just now opting for quality output without charging an arm and leg. Unfortunately, Innovation comes with costs.

Howling Basset's picture

Weight isn't an issue. I have the Sigma Art: 20mm F1.4, 35mm F1.4, 85mm F1.4 and 24-105 F4 ... 50 plus weddings a year #thebellsthebells #notredame #mrmodo :-)

Chad D's picture

Fstoppers articles are getting ridiculous :)

Usman Dawood's picture

You know you love it lol.

Chad D's picture

when i shot weddings (15 years worth) I got away from the big heavy glass and went to some primes like the 1.8 versions
I do think many chase this without solid reason for why

I do have two sigma art the 50 and the 135 they are insane optically and just Ok in focus so a good balance

I think its a bit like the early rush of mirrorless being smaller lighter and all the glass ends up being the same laws of physics they say :) hahahahahahahaha

Edgar Moskopp's picture

very well written article! me too I don't understand why the lenses have to be so ridiculously huge...

Daniel Godoy's picture

I own the Sigma 50 to 100 mm Cine Lens and I use it every single day on my RED it is an amazing lens in every way highly recommend it .

Gil Kreslavsky's picture

I got the 35mm Art and consistently struggled with focusing issues on 5d Mk3 .
Ended up selling it and I'm not even going close to Sigma anymore. Still shooting with the canon 135 and don't care that it is less sharp than the Sigma, it is just sharp enough and 600g lighter.
And yeah 40mm for 1.2kg .. are you kidding me? I'm a travel photographer, don't need useless hippos in my bag.

Iain Stanley's picture

This is a very common issue with Sigmas out of the factory. The focusing is easily fixed with a calibration dock - something I went through with my 50mm Art. It's a pain in the A$$ but easily fixed.

Gil Kreslavsky's picture

I have the dock, didn't help with the consistency. Anyways, no more Sigma's in the house

Iain Stanley's picture

Hmmm interesting. As long as you get what you like in the end....

Erpillar Bendy's picture

Some of them are way too big for me, especially when I need to carry multiple lenses.

Frank Hatcher's picture

Look at it from the business perspective. Sigma can produce lenses from 8mm-800mm and it's up to them to figure out how to set themselves apart from the competition. Not all lenses are going to be winners. A number of their lenses like the other major brands are "niche" lenses, a small percentage of photographers will buy them and the vast majority will not. How many of us own the Sigma 200-500 F/2.8? It's a great lens for marketing...to bring attention to the brand. Is the 40mm large... yes... is it heavy...yes...do you have to buy it ... no.

And that's the point to all of this... if it isn't a tool which you need in your tool bag... don't buy it. Sigma ...through sales/market demand will either stop making the lens or sell a ton of them. I'm glad Sigma is in the game... and coming out with "oddball" lenses like the 24-35mm... they are trying new things and seeing if the public will buy off on them. It also helps drive competition. Look at the Sig 14-24... $1K cheaper than the Nikon version... or the...albeit ... heavy and huge Sig 105 F/1.4 compared to the Nikon version, it's $600 less and appears to be on par or better than the Nikon.

I'm glad they have the Art series and have stepped up the quality of their products. Size and weight are a "non issue" IMO if you need the right tool for the job. Just my $.02

Hatch

calaveras grande's picture

I just wish they would make some Fuji X system lenses.
While Fuji makes great lenses that are not crazy expensive (like Canon's L series!) there are a few places I'd rather hop on to a Sigma. Such as with their wide aperture zooms.
It really seems like such an obvious market, and Sigma has lenses for all the other popular mounts, so it really must boil down to a personal feud between the companies.
I suggest a drunken karaoke with both management teams.

Usman Dawood's picture

Actually, I spoke with Sigma at length about this and they said it's simply because the Fuji market is too small to consider. They operate in two niche markets, high-end aps-c and medium format. They just don't have enough customers overall. Most of the money that Fuji make is actually form Instax.

They only recently started for Sony because their market segment grew enough for it to be feasible.

Chad D's picture

question when you spoke to them did you ever speak about them changing the mount ? I read on their site for a fee they can change mount on some of the glass ?

IMHO that would be a awesome article for here with some solid answers from them :) which lens models and what mounts to what mounts ?

Usman Dawood's picture

I didn’t discuss that with them but could have a word.

Krzysztof Kurzaj's picture

I was always under impression that the idea behind 40mm lenses was to provide a practical focal length between 35mm and 50mm with equally practical physical features so it could be easily acessible, portable and could serve a double duty covering for above mentioned focal lengths. Canon and Voigtlander are good examples. Even crappy AF Yongnuo followed the compact design concept. I guess what I'm trying to ask if there is really a need/market for such top performance behemoth with this focal length.

Charles Gaudreault's picture

You should lift more weights its good for your soul and body, then you would be able to hold your gear in your hands without complaining about the weight :)

Usman Dawood's picture

It’s not about lifting the equipment though is it. This is more an issue of prolonged use. Weight training doesn’t help with that really. Being bulky doesn’t mean you won’t get tired.

Mike M's picture

What is with the constant barrage of whiny articles about "wahh wahh sigma lenses are too big" lately? Its the 2nd one in a week.

If you don't want a huge lens, don't buy a lens thats freaking faster than f/2 40+mm, you complete potted plant. Or are you expecting Sigma to magically make a 100 gram 85mm f/1.4 lens?

If you want a lightweight lens for your mirrorless camera, buy an f/4 lens. I have an Olympus Pro f/4 and its great.

When I need fast focal ratio I turn to bigger faster lenses. Most of the ones I have are manual to keep the expense down, since at really fast ratios I will probably want to focus manually anyhow.

And why Sigma? It isn't like a Canon or Nikon f/1.4 or faster lens is going to be any lighter. I can only assume this website has is shorting Sigma stock or something. Maybe they refused to advertise for you, or someone else is paying you to run hit pieces.

Usman Dawood's picture

What’s with these whiny comments complaining about people having an opinion always with the "wah wah I disagree".

Mark Matthews's picture

Never understood why some photographers complain about cameras or lenses weighing several ounces heavier than others or even a pound or so heavier, because it makes their back hurt or it's uncomfortable to carry "a couple of pounds" of equipment around but yet most people are 20+ pounds (or more) overweight than they should be, but yet don't try to do anything to reduce that weight load..... LOL

Jason Levine's picture

Size, IQ, Price.

You can pick 2 of the 3 but rarely do lenses ever hit all 3.

Sigma lenses deliver high IQ lenses with reasonable prices at the expense of size.

If Sigma abandoned their mission statement they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.

Paolo Bugnone's picture

Well, Tamron f/1.8 VC hit the mark pretty damn close in all three categories, I'm actually surprised almost nobody is talking about such good lenses, I guess just because f/1.8 is not so interesting even tho most people either never actually use f/1.4 or do it when it's not needed...

Patrick Marcigliano's picture

The Tamron 85 f1.8 VC has been my workhorse for almost a year. Love that lens.

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