The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM ($899 direct) is a fast wide-angle lens available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sigma, and Sony cameras. The lens provides a moderate wide-angle field of view on full-frame cameras, and the smaller sensors in APS-C bodies make the lens act more like a traditional standard-angle 50mm. Sigma’s take on the lens is incredibly sharp at every aperture and is priced at a bargain compared with its competition—Nikon’s version is $1,800, Canon’s is $1,480, and the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 is $1,843. The Sigma is a tough lens to beat for shooters who love the 35mm focal length, so it earns our Editors’ Choice based on its price and performance. If you prefer a wider field of view, don’t count out the less-expensive Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G, which also earned our award.
The lens is pretty big for a prime, but it’s not out of line when compared with other 35mm f/1.4 lenses. It measures 3.7 by 3 inches (HD) and weighs in at 1.5 pounds. The Pentax SMC FA 31mm f/1.8 Limited is noticeably smaller—it measures 2.7 by 2.6 inches and weighs just 12.2 ounces. It’s a bit wider, and half a stop slower, and features all-metal construction. The Sigma lens also features a metal barrel, but the focus ring and some other exterior elements are made from a sturdy composite material. It can focus on objects as close as 11.8 inches, and supports 67mm filters. There’s no aperture ring on any version of the lens, so you won’t be able to use it with some older manual focus film bodies—but more modern film cameras and any digital SLR will let you control the aperture via a dial or similar control.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the lens using the full-frame Canon EOS 6D as the body. At f/1.4 it scores 2,438 lines per picture height, well in excess of the 1,800 lines required to record a sharp photo. Resolution increases steadily as you narrow the aperture, peaking at 2,625 lines at f/5.6. Distortion is negligible; the lens shows a mere 0.3 percent barrel distortion. The Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 1,4/35 isn’t quite as sharp at f/1.4, it scores 2,243 lines there, but approaches 3,000 lines at f/5.6. Of course, that lens only supports manual focus and it does exhibit a bit more barrel distortion—1.4 percent.
Sigma’s 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is an excellent choice for full-frame shooters who prefer the 35mm field of view, or APS-C camera owners who gravitate towards a narrower, standard-angle field of view. It’s less expensive than its peers, and its fast aperture makes it possible to shoot in low light and to create a smooth, blurry background behind your subjects. For these reasons, it is worthy of our Editors’ Choice award. If you prefer a wider field of view, and own a Nikon system, you may prefer the AF-S Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G, but for 35mm aficionados, Sigma’s take on the 35mm f/1.4 is an exemplary performer.
More Digital Camera Reviews:
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc