Photography / Hands-on Review

Field Test: Sigma 14mm f/1.8 + 24-70mm f/2.8 ART Lenses

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If you’re into wider-aperture wide-angle lenses that deliver ridiculously sharp image files (as I am) you’re precisely the person Sigma had in its crosshairs when the company whipped up its latest high-performance hotties—the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART and Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM ART -series lenses.

Photographs © Allan Weitz, 2017

As with all Sigma ART-series lenses, the new lenses are designed to go up against the best glass that Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, and other camera and lens manufacturers offer. These lenses are built well and they deliver sharp detail with excellent contrast and aberration control across the viewing field. And yes, Sigma’s been doing an excellent job in all respects.

Sigma ART-series lens barrels are made from metal alloy with external moving parts manufactured from “thermally stable composite material” (TSC), which is lightweight and resists thermal expansion and contraction. The lens mounts are made of brass, and the lenses are sealed to be dust- and splash-proof. As a tactile experience, Sigma’s ART-series lenses feel reassuringly solid and built for life on the road.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM lens

Both lenses contain a combination of ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion), SLD (Special Low Dispersion), and FLD (“F” Low Dispersion) lens elements, which together create extremely sharp, near distortion-free and aberration-free image files.

To keep flare and ghosting to a minimum, even when shooting directly into the sun or similarly bright light sources, Sigma Super Multi-Layer Coatings are employed on all lens surfaces. How does all this work in real life? Based on the pictures I captured with them, very well, thank you.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART lens

Though most people interpret the term “good bokeh” as meaning “shallow focus,” the traditional interpretation of the Japanese expression describes the characteristics of the out-of-focus highlights of a photograph. If the blurred specular highlights in the background and foreground are circular with gently feathered edges, which is the way the pupils in our eyes interpret them, it’s “good bokeh.” If they appear angular and/or jagged this is what’s described as “nervous bokeh,” which, as the name implies, is not as satisfying to our visual senses. For the record, the bokeh signature of both of these new Sigma ART-series lenses is quite nice.

The bokeh characteristics of Sigma’s newest ART-series lenses are simply stunning and, even at the widest apertures, whatever portions of the frame that remain in focus are tack sharp. (Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART @ f/1.8)

Both lenses are available in three lens mounts: Nikon F, Canon EF, and Sigma SA. At this point in time, there isn’t a Sony E-mount version of either of these lenses. In its stead, Sigma packages the Canon EF version of the lens and a Sigma MC-11 Canon EF-Sony E-mount adapter—the combination I used for this lens review.

From experience, I already knew the MC-11 adapter reduces the autofocus speed of the host lens. The response times are adequate, but I wouldn’t recommend this arrangement for sports or other fast-action imaging. According to Sigma, the autofocus response times of lenses with dedicated lens mounts (Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA) are notably quicker than the Sony version of these lenses. Not having used any of the dedicated version, we’ll have to take Sigma’s word for it.

Something I had trouble getting used to with both lenses was the location, width, and texture of the focus and zoom rings. Perhaps I might feel more familiar with them over time but, out of the box, I found myself breaking concentration in search of the ring more often than I’d prefer.

The Nikon version of both lenses incorporates electromagnetic diaphragm mechanisms similar to the mechanisms found in Nikon OEM lenses.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART Lens

It’s hard not to notice the size of Sigma’s fastest-in-it- class ultra-wide ART lens. Though physically about the same size as the 14mm f/2.8 alternatives from Canon, Sony, Rokinon, etc., the 1.33 stop advantage of the new Sigma lens adds more than a pound of additional weight, compared to the competition.

Having owned many large, heavy lenses over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate the plus sides of smaller, lighter camera gear. Personal appreciation for smaller and lighter gear aside, I quickly learned to appreciate the fine degree of sharp, selective focusing Sigma’s 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART lens afforded me.

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART lens at its closest focusing distance and...

The pictures this lens captures at f/1.8 are unlike anything I can possibly capture with a Voigtlander Super Wide-Heliar 15mm f/4.5 ultra-wide—a much smaller, lighter, and notably slower wide-angle lens I own and adore. What’s sharp in images captured with Sigma’s 14mm f/1.8 lens is very sharp, while everything in front of and behind the points of focus feather off to a most pleasing form of bokeh. Conversely, when stopped down to f/11 and smaller the depth-of-field seemingly goes on forever.

Unlike earlier-generation ultra-wide-angle lenses, these two lenses display little, if any, vignetting, color smearing, or other image-degrading attributes, especially toward the corners of the frame. From the earliest days of wide-angle photography, vignetting has been an issue. This no longer seems to be the case.

The Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA versions of this lens feature dedicated lens mounts. The Sony E mount version of this lens consists of the Canon EF version of the lens bundled with a Sigma MC-11 Canon EF-Sony E Lens Adapter, as I wrote above. If you go this route, make sure your MC-11 lens adapter is running on the latest firmware for optimal performance. Firmware updates are downloadable on the Sigma website.

A switch on the side of the lens barrel allows you to switch quickly between autofocus and manual focus with the flip of a side-mounted AF/M tab.

In a bid to optimize image quality by reducing chromatic aberrations and delivering sharp, evenly lit, corner-to-corner image quality, Sigma’s 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM contains three FLD elements, four SLD elements, and a large φ80mm precision-molded glass aspherical front lens element that practically jumps out at you.

Surprisingly, there was little in the way of obvious flare due to direct sun or bright specular light sources.

When used on a leveled camera, the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART lens is well corrected for architectural photography.

If you own a Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM, you’re inevitably going to want to use it on a tripod-mounted camera. Be warned: this lens is heavy and has a center of gravity that protrudes far from the lens mount. (A rotating lens collar would have been a nice touch.) To avoid damaging the baseplate of your camera, I suggest using a Benro LB200 Arca-Type Lens Bracket, Really Right Stuff Long Lens Y-Support Package with Dual QR Clamps, or similar lens support bracket between your camera and tripod head.

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM ART

There’s a reason 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom lenses are available from virtually every camera and lens manufacturer. They’re wide enough for shooting landscapes, architecture, and group portraits in tight quarters and long enough to capture flattering headshots. Street shooters love them. So do wedding photographers and an untold number of photo enthusiasts.

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM ART, which has an AoV range of 84.1° to 34.3°, focuses down to 1.21', accepts 82mm filters, and weighs 2.24 lb. It’s available in dedicated mounts for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA cameras. As with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM, the Sony E mount version of this lens consists of a Canon EF version bundled with a Sigma MC-11 Canon EF-Sony E Lens Adapter.

When shooting in low light, you have the option of switching on the lens’s optical stabilization system, which, according to Sigma, provides a four-stop advantage.

Overall, I found this lens to be an excellent performer across its entire focal range, both wide-open and stopped-down to smaller apertures. At wider apertures, there’s a nice separation between the sharper and blurrier portions of the frame, with rich color saturation. Despite its size, the lens balances well on a Sony A7R II, and would make for a productive one-lens solution for day tripping, travel, and almost any other genre of photography.

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 ART has similar specs (weight, length, and width) as its faster and wider 14mm sibling. If, as with the 14mm lens, you plan on using this lens on a tripod-mounted camera, consider adding a lens support between your camera and tripod head to reduce stress on the camera mount. Recommendations include the Benro LB200 Arca-Type Lens Bracket and Really Right Stuff Long Lens Y-Support Package with Dual QR Clamps.

Do you have any experiences with wider-aperture ultra-wide lenses? How about 24-70mm zooms? And what kind of photography do you use these lenses for? We’d love to hear from you.

23 Comments

Hi, i'm planing to use this lens on a Sony A7SII via mc-11 with a monopod for video shooting. It would be safe? do you guys think the lens mount will suffer? Adding a lens suport on the monopod would be messy. Please guys advise me a little on this. There is any type of tripod mount for the mc -11?

Thank u, greetings from Colombia.

24-70

i'm very disappointed with sigma .i wait almost more than 4 years for the 24-70(2,8 ) version Art and finally i pay so expensive for the 24-70(2,8) second generation.Now if i want to buy the Sigma  Art 24-70 ,i need to sal my Nikon and lost the money because the Sigma Art 24-70 ,arrived too late .Why Sigma take too much time to exit this new model .Im very disappointed 

Simple reason: a good product isn't made over night.

And I'm so disappointed I have to wait for Sigma to produce a 10mm to 100mm f.95 FF zoom. 

What does, "Really Stunning" Really mean? Some people are eaiser stunned than others.. What about comparisons between the Sigmas and equal specs lenses from Nikon and Canon and Sony and Leica... Huh?

Or, at least say: The Sigma is noticable better or about the same as the top lenses from .... Who?

Are they "Really Cool" or "Really Stunning" or "Really",  what?

Geoffrey,

I hear your angst but after rereading my text I couldn't find a single "really cool", "really stunning", or "really" anything else.

I will however make a point of avoiding these cliches moving forward.

Thanks for taking time to send us some feedback.

AW

Thanks, but I have no "Angst".

By the way, Sigma has been making lenses for Nikon, especially the longer teles, for years.

Zeiss and Leica lenes are not made in Germany but in Japan and the smaller Leicas are made by Panasonic in Thailand. Having said that, they are very good cameras/lenses, but why pay more for a Leica when I can buy the same as a Panasonic.

I just bought a Zeiss 21mm 2.8 Distagon ZF.2, for Nikon, non-AF.

It is a 31.5 on my D7100 and will be a real 21mm when I decide to buy a new D-850 or the next D-750 (D-760?).

Now I can only blame myself for anything out of focus, not the camera. My Zeiss says, Made in Japan, on the lens, but not in any Ads or in the brochure. There are all sorts of seals saying, "Zeiss Quality Seal/Guarentee, the only thing on the box is the added sticker by the importer or the store, with Made in Japan. That is the law in Germany, where I bought it.

I would like to see a test of Sigma's DOP-0, 14mm Equiv. 21. I think it is like getting a 21mm lens for $899 with a free camera. 

My advice to you is to test and report, not try to sell the camera/lens. Readers appriciate that since B&H sells everything anyway. I tell every friend planning a trip to NYC to stop by and buy.

My advice to you is stop being a rude prick. 

Hey Geoffrey,

This comment was completely unneccessary and for most of it I thought to myself, "what the hell is the relevence", until the very end where you give advice to B&H to STOP SELLING CAMERA EQUIPMENT AND REVIEW IT EVEN THOUGH THEY'RE A RETAILER (sales) AND THIS IS A REVIEW NOT A COMPARISON.  That being said 80% of your comment was "me me me look what I bought and listen to what I'm going to buy and what I know" which contectually made no sense as a response.  And actually "angst" is probably the apt description for your languange choice in your initial comment, whether you actually feel any or not.

You don't really say anything about the 24-70. Was there nothing to say or didn't you use it?

How does it compare to the Voigtlander 15mm?  (Obviously the Voigtlander can't stop down to 1.8 but am wondering how it compares to it in the same ranges

Hey Jon,

I own a Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Version III and in terms of image quality, the few 'apples & apples' shots I managed to capture were pretty equal in terms of sharpness, color, and contrast.

The big difference had to do with size & weight - the Sigma is about 3x the size and 4x the weight of the Voigtlander.

The sigma can capture pictures you can't replicate with the Voigtlander but you pay the price for those thin bands of selective focus in weight and mass.

AW

Dear Jon... Open up to 1.8, not stop down. I usually never open up any of my lenses...

The sharpest point edge to edge on all lenses is usually 2 stops from wide open. I always try for F7.1

to F8, sometimes to 6.1.

Finally i found someone using Sigma 14mm with MC-11 :)

i would like to ask about the corner sharpness with this combo, some people said that the corners lose A LOT of sharpness when using that Adapter, could you tell me please your personal experience with it?

Hey Nageh,

While I can tell you some images had sharper edge detail compared to others (and for varying reasons), I've not had an opportunity to use either the Canon or Nikon versions of this lens, so I can't offer you a fair comparison on edge sharpness.

Generally speaking I'm not too keen on this arrangement because any time you add a variable into the light path of a lens you open up all sorts of possibilities - including soft edges. You also have to keep in mind image quality varies between samples of all lenses, and if you should find yourself using quesionalble samples of the lens and the adapter you'll no doubt be dissapointed with your results.

The good news is that all of the Sigma Art-series lenses I've used to date have been exceptional.

AW

Thanks a lot!

i mean when you use Sigma 14mm with Sigma MC-11 at sony a7 body ... the corner became softer than using the lens at any canon body without adapter? 

some reviews recommend not using this lens with mc-11 due to corner sharpness issue

I would love to see a video breathing test of this lens!

Field test an astro lens with day light street photography is a bit like testing a portrait lens with f22 and landscape photography.

Hey Peter,

Sigma's 14mm f/1.8 ART lens is no doubt a terrific tool for astro photography. Unfortunately due to evening weather conditions and a tight time frame with these test lenses I wasn't able to capture any amazing startrails of photographs of the Milky Way. Don't shortchange this lens for daytime use. F/1.8 introduces a set of visual dynamics I've never been able to obtain with smaller-aperture ultra-wides. Other advantages include not having to stop down to f/11 for maximum resolving power (by f/4 this lens is already at the 'sweet spot'), easier manual focusing, and less of a need to jack up ISO sensitivities when shooting under low light. These reason's alone are enough to tolorate the size and weight of the lens.

And thanks for reaching out!

AW

And THE PRICE???

Geoffrey, again, what are you talking about?  This response has no context.  His my response to your comment: $1,599

A lens is a lens.  How you choose to use it is your own.  Yes the sales pitch from Sigma is aimed towards astro and landscape photographers, however that doesn't mean it's only made for that.  In fact this lens would be incredible for high res skate videos, artistically distorted portraits, or as a means to set a tone in an image by taking advantage of the optical effect it has.

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