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

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Usman Dawood's picture

How does going to the gym fix Sigma lenses being unwieldy and heavy?

“If I go to the gym I won’t need a tripod collar on the 105mm f1.4” lol.

Seriously??

Matthias Dengler's picture

Probably you'd love Fuji ;)

Alex Yakimov's picture

The article is quite a hit. Straight to the bullseye or I must say Godzillaeye.

marcgabor's picture

These Sigma lenses are just not for me. I personally love the look of a compact but sturdy lens mounted to the front of a bulky gripped pro body. My tiny Nikon 35mm f/2 AF-D practically lives on my D750 and I've never once felt like I've been held back by image quality or lack of f-stops. If I need something to be critically sharp with no distortion I pull out the 60mm macro. I understand that some people may have needs that I don't but for the rest of us smaller lenses just make more sense. One place where these crazy sharp lenses DO make a difference though is video. For some reason I can't really tell that big a difference from one lens to another when shooting stills but when shooting video all of a lenses strengths and weaknesses will come to light.

Chris Charles's picture

Is 1.2kg ridiculous? I guess Usman doesn't do any wildlife photography.

Usman Dawood's picture

For a 40mm.

Which 40mm do you use for wildlife?

Paul Jay's picture

Stupid and short sighted. Delete it.

Usman Dawood's picture

I can’t delete your comment. Sorry.

Paul Jay's picture

You are the best professional whiner and know-nothing out there. If I ever need to learn how to complain about stuff I have no idea about I will read your stupid, uniformed and ridiculous opinions.

Usman Dawood's picture

Thank you for spending your time on my article it really does help.

Fred Teifeld's picture

Too big? Wah wah wah, cry me a river. Apparently you've got little to say about some of the Canon "L" series lenses like the 85mm f1.2 which is a legendary lens (I'm a Nikon shooter, just to offer some perspective.) and HUGE.

Yes, sometimes the weight gets a little cumbersome but as my clients pay me for my best work, I will go to all necessary lengths to get the shot(s). I have the Sigma Art 50, 135 and 14-24. I will eventually buy the 85 Art as well.

Even when I travel, I have two bodies and at least 5 lenses in my load out. I don't care about the weight- I want that shot and I'm willing to go to all necessary (and sane) lengths to get it. and at 55, the weight doesn't bother me a bit.

Usman Dawood's picture

What are you talking about. The Canon 85mm f1.2 is lighter and smaller than the Sigma 85mm art.

I hope the weight never bothers you but I would recommend you play it a little smarter.

Fred Teifeld's picture

The weight never bothers me. Whatever it takes to get the best quality image is they way I go. My clients don't accept excuses, and neither do I.

Jacques Cornell's picture

This is part of the reason why I selected a Sony 85/1.8 instead of a Sigma 85/1.4 for my new a7R2. I just wish Sony would make similarly good, compact and affordable 35/1.8 and 24/1.8 lenses to go with it. Why these weren't the first three lenses made for the a7 series is beyond me.

Usman Dawood's picture

I completely agree. A 24mm f1.8 would be perfect for me.

Richard Golonka's picture

what? if you want a small lens buy a small lens. If you wan the best lens buy the best lens, but its going to be large. I only shoot primes. People are fine with carrying around a somewhat large all in one zoom that is typically almost bigger than this prime. For me, I get more out of a prime than I do out of a zoom and its smaller, and its amazing. I dont have fun shooting zooms, too many options. I like the creative restriction of a prime lens.

Whats not to like?

Usman Dawood's picture

"If you wan the best lens buy the best lens, but its going to be large"

That's not really true is it. Larger doesn't mean better. Also I'm kind of pointing at the fact that maybe Sigma struggles with efficient engineering.

The Canon 85mm f1.4 is an incredible performer and it's noticeably lighter and smaller. Sure you might say the Sigma is ever so slightly sharper but then the Canon has IS.

Roland Ayala's picture

Thank goodness for the Sigma Art lenses. Yes, they're big and heavy, but they provide outstanding optical performance (by modern standards) at an affordable price, with the trade-off being size and weight.

I agree that there are times when they're too big and heavy (like when going for a hike or casual shooting around town), but there are also plenty of cases where size and weight are not an issue and I want the best possible image quality. This article mentions the Nikon 105/1.4, which was one of my favorite lenses before switching to L-mount system. While much lighter and compact that the behemoth Sigma 105/1.4, I like the results I get with the Sigma better.

I don't know the first thing about lens design and construction, but I speculate that by ignoring size and weight constraints, Sigma is freed-up to deliver the best optical performance and the lowest possible cost. I'm good with that and know when I'm getting into when I consider a Sigma Art lens -- before even reading the spec sheet.

josh harding's picture

I shoot more video than photo, but I love the weight of the lenses. Most of the art series lack I.S but you pair that with a camera that has good in body stabilization and you can pull off quite a lot shooting handheld. In most grab & go situations I don't need to bring a gimbal