Hey, this photo is © Alin Chiriac

Review: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art

April 17, 2016 Review

For the most of you, this is Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG Art, but I have decided to name mine “the little monster”.

Hello everyone! My name is Alin Chiriac and this is going to be my personal review that will smash any bad thing you know about this lens and change it in such a positive way. Here you’ll see some samples that will make you want this so badly, you will want to steal it from me.

Did you get excited yet? Well you should! I want to explain you something and then I’m going to talk about how wonderful this lens is:

The point of this review is not making a list with the basic specifications (but it’s still gonna be something). I am sure that you are not interested to hear more of what this can do and actually see with your own eyes. You have here plenty of pictures indoor and outdoor that will may help you decide if you want this, if you need it or if you are going to put it in your bag.

Sharp test! Sigma 35mm ART at f/1.4 100% Crop.

Let’s just start by saying I was amazed. Even taking it out of the box, it became clear that this lens represents a new step up for Sigma. It is gorgeous, has a good shape and it’s a pleasure to use. Obviously it isn’t tiny, since no full-frame f/1.4 lens can also be small and do a good job.

For me, this is the lens I use 80% of the time, even if it’s about going out with my friends or a family trip, or sometimes to an event.

As you can see the example in the following picture, it is a really sharp lens. Very decent at f/1.4 but is going to be sharper as you lower the aperture. When you spend lots of money buying a 1.4 lens, I know that you actually want to shoot at f/1.4! Feel free to do that, no one will stop you. I’m just looking at my pictures to have that extra sharpness. That’s how I like it.

The autofocus on my Nikon D800 is pretty fast for a prime lens, but it’s not the fastest. Still… it’s really freaking me out with its precisely focus almost every time “9/10”. Someone will eventually use this for filming, and when it is going to happen, they will be pleased by the benefits of HSM system (Hyper Sonic Motor). It’s a new type of motor used in some of Sigma’s newer lenses for virtually silent autofocus function and a quick response.

I also like that the Sigma lens is Internal focusing (IF), as you’d expect from a high-end prime, so it doesn’t rotate or change its length when you focus. Those 9 circular aperture blades give it a pleasing bokeh, and because of its state-of-the-art coatings you don’t have to worry about lens flare anymore.

The build quality is pretty luxurious. Being made of metal you know it’s gonna take a few serious knocks before it may break. Some of the people who reviewed this, always said “it feels solid”…Well I say, it is! Mine had been through so much, no human being could have resisted, without having broken legs or at least a heart attack. I am very serious.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon vignetting test.

Sometimes those vignetting are not as scary as you may think. It’s true that they are some at wide open, but in my opinion they create an enjoyable effect that once and again is needed. You can easily correct them in photoshop or lightroom if you don’t like it.

It’s an impressive lens, in a very useful focal length especially for event photographers. At just $899.00 on Amazon these days, it will bring a big smile on your face and you are going to be more creative than ever. (having mine makes me know what I am talking about, so please trust me on this). It’s a little pricey, but shallow depth of field paired with sharp in-focus areas is a wonderful combination.

A few years ago, when Sigma released for the first time the 35mm f/1.4 DG Art, they had some issues with its focus. What do you have to understand is that this was a problem long time ago, the error was fixed and the new models came out on stores. Don’t be scared that you are going to be the one who is gonna get the wrong copy. I am sure they do not even exist on the market anymore and if they do, sent them back to the Store! They should make a full refund. If you are just thinking to buy this lens then go for it! Don’t let these things I just said dissapoint you. It is a really good product and in my opinion shouldn’t be missing from your bag.

Take a look at these photos! Just think what you can do with this “little monster”. I am so proud of Sigma!

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/200, @f/1.4

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/160, @f/1.4

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/160, @f/1.4

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/2500, @f/1.6

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/1600, @f/1.6

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/1600, @f/1.6

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/1600, @f/1.6

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/1600, @f/1.6

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/1600, @f/1.6

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 100, 1/2000, @f/1.6

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 160, 1/1600, @f/1.6

Outdoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for Nikon.

Nikon D4s, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG ART: ISO 160, 1/1600, @f/1.6

That’s enough with portraits! But can you shoot with this lens at parties, weddings or any other type of events? If not that, what else? I have already used mine to this lebanese club that I’m working at and is truly amazing. Mounted on a FX camera the 35mm is wide enough to catch bigger groups and wouldn’t make you feel awkward by getting too close to the subject like 24mm for example.

Having this on makes me feel really powerful, like I could do everything I want. Do you know why? Because every photo I’m taking, it is a hell of a shot. The camera sees a clean white balance, great contrasts, beautiful colors and all because of this lens. You wouldn’t trust me if I tell you that these are not retouched pictures. Take your time to analyze them and meanwhile I am going to keep quiet.

NOTE: The following images are taken with a Nikon D800, ISO 2500, 1/125, @f/2.8

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.

I have heard a lot of rumors that this lens does not focus in the low light situations, as it should. In order to prove that you shouldn’t trust all those bad reviews on internet, I will post a few photos with these gorgeous dancers. Please take a look how accurate the focus is, allowing the fact that these girls are moving pretty fast back and forth, left or right.

Indoor portrait with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART for events.

Sigma-35mm-1.4-ART-11

And what kind of a review would this be without having an unboxing video in it? But, since I am too lazy to make it myself, I looked up on the internet trying to find something good enough, with the idea not to waste your time. I really hope all my reviews will help you from now on. If any questions appear, please don’t hesitate and leave me a comment in the box below. I will gladly answer.

Update: I am telling you guys! Since I bought this lens I use it like my shower “everyday” 😀 It is awesome, does everything I want without problems. By the way, every portrait you will see in my Night Club gallery is made with the 35mm f/1.4 sigma. Enjoy!

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15 comments

  1. I also used this lens for a while and notice an uncomfortable distortion.

    In photo #8 (a girl leans her back onto the wall and look at the camera), the line on the wall run from top-left to bottom-right; while the lines on the doors run from bottom-left to top-right. I suppose they should be parallel (toward to the same direction).

    Similar to photo #10 (with a half of elevator door): the door on the right and the wall on the left should be parallel; but in photo, they go toward different directions.

    It’s said that Sigma 35 1.4 Art is distortion-free, how come this happens.

    1. OK we need to define terms. Distortion as the term applies to camera lenses relates to the shape of the image relative to the shape of the subject. To assess distortion one shoots pictures with the camera on a tripod and the subject chart or similar geometric subject with straight lines near the edges of the image. The “film plane and subject plane must be totally parallel. So if I mount a map or chart on a wall and mount my camera so the middle of the sensor / lens is at the same hight as the middle of my subject and the camera neither tilts up or down nor is it pointing left or right then we can see if the straight edges in the subject are straight in the picture. Let’s asssume we have a mythical perfect lens. Therefore it will reproduce the straight lines near the edge of frame, dead straight. If I now tilt the camera in any way the lens remains perfect but perspective comes into the eqausion. Perspective is nothing to do with lens quality but to do with angles of view creating vanishing points as seen by any optical device perfect or not, including your eyes. I’ll explain. Let’s assume we still have our pefect lens on our camera and we shoot a picture looking into the distance down a long straight road whilst we stand on the centre line. The centre line will be straight and the perfectly flat horizon, in out perfect landscape, will be straight too. Critically the road’s left and right margins will also be straight, just not paralell to the edge of the picture.

      Now if there are street lights etc in our perfect landscape along side our straight road and they are on vertical posts, those posts will be reproduced dead straight and parallel to the edge of the frame and to each other if the camera is not tilted up or down. Of course, if your lens is pointed up, say, then the rules of perspective apply. The posts will appear to slope but still they will be straight, just not aparallel to the edge of the frame, in the same way the edges of the road converged but were straight. In this second example the posts converge to a vanishing point in the sky, where the lense is pointed.

      The degree to which we get these parspective effects,is often, and incorrectly, blamed on wide angle lenses. This is understandable but nonetheless wrong. The degree of the effect is entirely to do with the distance from the point of view to the subject. Wide lenses make it easier to get the subject in, from closer and being closer cause the dramatic effects you have noticed. But perspective is another topic. But to illustrait this point. In our second example the nearby street light posts will slope in a lot but the distant posts will slope in much less. Same lens, some straight posts, just differnt perspective because of different object distance.

      Conversley long lenses are said to compress perspective. Not so. Shooting from great distances compresses the subject. Shoot the road with the lens not tilted up or down. Use a wide lens and then shoot again with a longer lens. Blow up the middle of the wide shot to crop exactly as the long lens croped the scene and you will see in a side by side comparison that both have produced the same image compression. Same compression/perspective different lenses but same object distance.

  2. Thanks for the brilliant review! The images are simply stunning… even more that they are not even retouched!

    Im curious as to what type of focusing you used for the models since most shots where at f1.6 and the faces are all sharp, then again at 35mm its quite wide but it still baffles me a bit… did you set it for spot focus on the eyes or group focus on the head?
    Thanks from Tenerife!

    1. Hi Raico! thank you so much for your kind words! I am only using spot focusing on the eyes when shooting portraits even if I shoot at f4. This works for me every time!

  3. Great review Alin, I bought this lens a few weeks ago and I love it on my D750. Great lens, but unfortunately I bought an old copy and the lens is having issues in focusing when its at f1.4. It tends to front focus a bit. Its quite frustraring. I got 30 months warranty from Sigma for this lens which is great. So I asked Sigma how can I resolve this problem. The only thing that they are suggesting is to get the USB dock and that should solved the problem. Just want to know your opinion on this before I buy the USB dock.

    1. Hi Zaff! Hope you are doing great! To be completely honest with you I never had problems and did not use this product. But however, some friends of mine have been using it and they only say cool things about it! I’m not very sure but I think you will need to calibrate once in a while.

    1. Hi Sylvain! Thank you for your compliment! Just wanted you to know that for this review I was using only natural light and a silver/white reflector for filling the shadows. In fact I am using a cover shade and this gives you the impression that I am using flash.

  4. Salut Alin , superbe rezultate cu Sigma . Am un 20 mm Art in probe , mi se pare un pic prea deschis . Am sa iau si 35 mm sa il incerc , sunt norocos , pot sa inchiriez lentilele inainte a le cumpara. Nice work . Vali .

    1. Salut Vali!

      Intr-adevar 20mm este un obiectiv destul de wide. Consider ca 35mm este mult mai versatil in special atunci cand nu iti permite timpul sa schimbi obiectivul de pe camera odata la 3-4 minute. Multumesc pentru aprecieri si iti urez o zi minunata in continuare.

  5. Awesome review, found your link on another review site, but it didn’t contain any pictures. This is great work and really enjoyed reading this thoroughly. After this review, I am purchasing this lens and will be shooting at the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, and a few other prime locations.

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