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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Sean Sauer's picture

I've thought about buying a Sigma Art lens but I've spoken with other photographers who've told me calibration is a pain and sometimes they've even had to send it in for service. Is calibration a pain? Does the focus slip if you don't use the dock? Curious to know. Thanks!

Usman Dawood's picture

Some lenses do have issues when it comes to focusing and this could be because they're a third party manufacturer. I use software called Reikan Focal which is significantly better than the Sigma USB dock. I own the dock and it's just horrible to use.

John Adams's picture

Sigma has more glass in them. There is no other explanation. Even my Sigma prime 50mm for the e-mount has more elements than the GM lenses, I think.

The Sigma 40 1.4 and 70-200 2.8 Art were the last straw for me. These lenses are ridiculous, and at this point I'm more excited to see if Sony can make more compact, ultra-sharp primes like their new 24 1.4.

And to those who roll their eyes at the "it's too heavy!" complainers, know this: Some of us carry 2-3 bodies and 4-5 lenses up mountains and through the wilderness. So it's not a matter of lugging around just ONE D850 and 14 1.8 Art. It's a matter of, are you willing to lug THREE D850's, plus a 14 1.8 or 14-24 2.8, plus a 40 1.4 or a 24-70, plus an 85 1.4 or 70-200...? You get the idea. So yeah, I'm fine with my 1st camera that I lug into the wilderness being a full size DSLR and an exotic beast of a lens. But my 2nd/3rd/4th lens? Not gonna happen.

As such, I really wish Sigma would also explore in the direction that Tamron has gone, which is more modest f/1.8 primes with stabilization. They can keep making these ridiculously flawless ultra-fast "trophy" lenses, but I'd love to see more alternatives too.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I think you pretty much hit the nail on the head with the folks that roll their eyes at the "it's too heavy!" complainers.

Adam Palmer's picture

I don't mind carrying a little extra weight. I love sigma for their great price/performance ratio. The thing that surprised me about the new 40 is not how heavy it is but how expensive it came out at.

Adam Palmer's picture

I show up to a wedding and put my bag full of heavy lenses in a corner so the total weight of all my lenses isn't an issue.

Ooh, a bag full of lenses in the corner? Which wedding venues do you frequently shoot at? I think it's time for some wedding crashing... ;-)

Yeah, have fun with that. I keep all my main lenses on my person, pretty much at all times, all day long. I've had too many co-workers get their entire Pelican case of gear stolen when it was out of sight for only a couple of minutes.

Either way, I'm still not interested in hoisting just one Sigma 70-200 Art for 12-14+ hours a day, at some of the longer weddings I shoot. I'd rather have a lighter weight lens that still gets the job done, than a ridiculously sharp lens that can resolve megapixels I don't even need for weddings.

As sensors increase in resolution perhaps the Art series will be better appreciated.

Usman Dawood's picture

A sharp lens is still a sharp lens regardless of sensor resolution. This idea of perceptual megapixels is mostly nonsense. This is why if you compare let's say the 100mm macro from Canon to the 120mm macro from Hasselblad you'll notice very little difference in terms of detail captured even though the Hasselblad lens is rated up to 100mp and the Canon is only 21mp. Pmp is nonsense.

Had the same feeling lately.
I can see why some of Sigma lenses are monstrous (ie the 14 mm f/1.8 is simply UNIQUE, there is nothing else at 14mm that can do the same thing, especially for astrophotography), but others are just ridiculous for no apparent reason.
The 85mm is HUGE yet has poor LoCA correction compared to the Tamron 85 which is way lighter, stabilized and just a tad less sharp.
The 105 is just laughable for how impractical it is and yet it's not even an apochromatic lens (what are you using all that glass for then?).
The 40mm is also ridiculous.

I think Tamron is doing a great job with his f/1,8 VC lineup, they are not too expansive, stabilized and the optical quality is very good, sometimes exceeding that of Sigma Art lineup.

Jacques Cornell's picture

It's not just Sigma. Oddly, a lot of the forthcoming lenses for 35mm-format mirrorless look pretty monstrous.

75MP sensors and 8k are around the corner.

Sigma's brand equity has skyrocketed in recent years, now rivaling, even dethroning Zeiss. Sigma is making all the right moves.

I'd love a 40 Art for Xmas.

Usman Dawood's picture

Megapixels don’t make lenses more or less sharp. The resolution of the image remains perceptual megapixels are mostly nonsense.

Wow so much whining in one "article".... Why is this even worth posting????

Usman Dawood's picture

So much whining in one comment why was it even worth posting?

Martin Strauss's picture

yeah. we compare size of lenses with just one lense having their hood on ...

Usman Dawood's picture

Look again lol both have their hoods on.

I'm 65 years old and 190 lbs. I have never used my my D810 and Nikon 105 1.4 or 20-200, or 14-24 and thought about their weight. Weight bothers me in only one circumstance and that is when I'm on extended hikes back-packing. But for me, cameras are not that heavy even with the "heavier" pro lenses. I actually like a camera with a little weight. Shooting little point and shoot things just doesn't feel right to me. I keep thinking - "am I THAT much stronger than the average person?" I doubt it. But I'm pretty active so maybe I am? This weight thing has always confused me?? Perhaps what photographers today need is not a new camera, but an exercise plan.

Usman Dawood's picture

Prolonged use of heavy equipment is the issue. It saps morale. It’s not that equipment is too heavy at any given moment but when you’re shooting for most of the day it starts to become an issue. If morale is waning then it can affect the work you produce. It’s important to also consider the other people you work with.

Sure some photographers like to talk about how they can shoot 14 hours with super heavy equipment and still be fine. I prefer a more sensible outlook that considers the long term.

Back injuries are very common amongst photographers for a reason.

These points aren’t specifically directed against you, I’m just illustrating them.

I respect your thoughts, and you are certainly in the majority. My Nikon 810 with a Nikon 105 lens and L plate weight in at 4.7 lbs. I, and many of my friends often spend days afield with rifles that weigh 3 times that much and I've never heard any of them complain. And when I've spent a day shooting with my D810, I've never once, ever thought about the weight. Often it's either on a tripod, or hanging on my shoulder. But I just don't get the weight thing, except for when I fill a backpack up with several cameras and several lenses. Then I feel it. I still think too many photographers just need a good exercise plan. Especially when I see guys half my age complaining that their camera is too heavy. But again - You are definitely in the majority regards to camera weight. We're right now seeing droves giving up DSLR's to move to mirrorless. But Thom Hogan argues that believing mirrorless cameras are any lighter is a myth, by the time you add on a quality lens. Regarding the Art lenses, there are plenty of lighter alternatives. The Art line just seems to be directed towards guys that want image quality and are prepared to suffer the weight trade-off.

Usman Dawood's picture

The only point I disagree with you is about when you said how mirrorless being lighter is a myth. This I would say depends.

For example, the 24mm f1.4 GM. This is much lighter than any of the other comparable lenses from Canon, Nikon, and Sigma and when you compare them with a body then the differences are more noticeable.

Also, Sony does offer some incredible performing tiny lenses like the 28mm f2.0 a lens which is tiny and a brilliant performer. The Canon version is a full stop slower in aperture but is also heavier and worse when it comes to sharpness.

Or the 50mm f1.8, The Canon version is not anywhere near as good in terms of performance. For that kind of optical performance you need much larger lenses from Canon but with Sony, you don't.

The 85mm f1.8 is another lens for which there are no lenses from Canon or Nikon which offer similar quality.

A 5D Mark IV with an 85mm f1.8 is noticeably heavier than the Sony a7R III with the 85mm f1.8 and the Sony lens is significantly better in almost every regard. Same with the 55mm and the 28mm.

With the right small lenses that are available for Sony the weight differences are there and the performance is much better. Mirrorless from Sony can be about getting really high-quality performance in small tiny lenses, something Canon and Nikon DSLRs don't offer.

Having said that, this article was less about comparing Sigma lenses to mirrorless. In essences I'm saying that yes Sigma lenses are great, I buy them too but the new lenses from Sigma are getting a bit ridiculous even when compared to previous Sigma lenses. They're becoming impractical in size, weight, filter compatibility and all for a little extra sharpness that's difficult to discern in most cases.

To be fair I did also write a whole paragraph defending Sigma and why they do what they do. I just value practicality more than image quality. Diminishing returns and all of that :).

The sigma 28mm, 40mm were designed for the Cine line first and reverse engineered to still photography.

I know this because I am the first official Sigma Cine Pro. All future Sigma Cine specific focal lengths (perhaps a 16mm 32mm 65mm, etc) that they create for Cine, will be brought to the stills line as an option. It’s created specifically for the needs of cinematographers, and for us, size and weight are not as consequential. The majority of the line in the Cine line up are roughly equal in size.

The lens is optically amazing, and that’s what matters to us. I think it’s great that there is a FF F1.4 40mm(28mm soon) available to the photographers that choose to take advantage of the focal length. The size of the lenses, 105mm 135mm etc is a by product of maintaining the aperture, and optical quality with minimal sacrifices in the image while hittting the price point.

Usman Dawood's picture

OOooo, a 65mm you say...

f/1.4 pleaseeeeee

Any ideas what the T/stop is on the 40mm, please?

There is no official XYZ focal length is next. At least nothing they will share with me. But, we did discuss 28mm 40mm and 65mm, and the 28 and 40 magically appeared 18 months later.

All the Cine primes except for the 14mm and 135mm, ( and by extension the Art Stills lenses) are F1.4 / T1.5. Though I’ve heard from a tech, that almost all of them read a tiny bit faster wide open on the bench, but are consistent T2.0 and on.

Usman Dawood's picture

I wrote an article discussing why a 65mm f1.4 would be awesome and how Sigma are the best company to make it. I would be so very happy with that lens.

Lifting big bags of gear is no longer in my scope physically. Kit size does matter, to me! Older, smaller film bodies are getting another look! MFT; here I come!

Rod Bruno's picture

I agree with your main point. However, the title is misleading and should suit better your argument as : "Sigma Art Lenses Are Becoming Far Too Heavy".

Usman Dawood's picture

The title simply pushes you to ask a question which is then answered in the article.

“X is ridiculous”

“Why is it ridiculous”?

Article answers.

That’s not being misleading.

If a friend says to you “Man, toast is ridiculous”

You wouldn’t reply with “that’s misleading” you’d ask “why is toast ridiculous”?

frank nazario's picture

I LOVE SIGMA ART LENSES! and yes I shouted that... Quality of built, image quality, feel, design, form factor they are giving the other lens manufacturers a run for their money and everybody knows it.
If they are to heavy Go to the gym.
They occupy to much space ... Please.
Sometimes i wonder...
Right now this is a stellar option for the pro photographer that watches his budget too... Sigma rocks, the market knows it, their competition knows it and even the brand ambassadors know.

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