Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN Review

In recent years, Sigma has been pushing out excellent (large) lenses. Although there were a few duds, most of the lenses have been very well received over the years.

In this particular review we’ll be looking at the Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN (not to be confused with the F1.4 version).

So, how does this expensive prime stack up against a wealth of 35mm competitors? Let’s find out.

Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?

Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN (Summary)
73 Reviews
Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN (Summary)
- Unbelievably sharp across every F-stop
- Gorgeous bokeh & subject isolation
- Built like an absolute tank
- Custom button & aperture ring
- The only 35mm F1.2 for Sony systems
irish coastline

Build Quality

Size & Weight

First off, let’s talk about size and weight. Sigma’s art series lenses are typically MASSIVE, and this one is definitely no exception.

The Sigma 35mm F1.2 measures about 5.3in (13.4cm) and weighs a chunky 38.4oz (1088g). Attaching the hood adds another roughly 0.8in (20cm).

With many of their early FE mount lenses, Sigma adopted a “quality over size” approach, preferring maximum image quality over a compact build.

Although I’m a fan of small kits myself, some photographers are unconcerned about weight so long as they get the best quality possible.

Is the lens well built?

Speaking of build quality, this thing is built like an absolute tank.

Much of the lens is made out of a nice mix of metal and plastic. This isn’t cheap plastic, however, as it’s Sigma’s “thermally stable compound”, a type of plastic polycarbonate.

Although I haven’t been able to test the longevity of this lens specifically, my nearly five year old APS-C Sigma 30mm F1.4 is made out of the same material and hasn’t had any durability issues.

The included lens hood is mostly plastic, and is reversible for easier storage. Speaking of storage, the lens comes with a nice padded case for safer transport. It’s little touches like this that really add to the premium/pro flair of this lens.

Chasers of inclement weather will be delighted to know that the Sigma 35mm F1.2 features complete weather-sealing. There’s the typical gasket around the lens mount, seals throughout the body, and even water-resistant coating on the front element. A lot of prior Art lenses have had poor weather sealing so this is really good to see.

Between the weather sealing and the bulletproof build, I really do believe this lens is built to last. It’s a tank.

sunlit portrait

Ergonomics

Handling

As for ergonomics, the lens is absolutely massive but the giant focus ring acts as a really nice grippy surface.

Purchasing the Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN saved me so much money as I was able to cancel my gym membership and just bench-press the lens all day long.

Alright, that’s not true. In any case, this lens is extremely heavy and taking it on a hike was quite a bit of… extra exercise.

My advice with large lenses like this is to keep one hand on the camera and one hand on the lens.

Buttons/Switches

The lens also comes with a variety of physical buttons and switches.

Aperture ring, focus hold (custom button), and of course a physical AF/MF switch.

I’ll go into greater detail on these three features later on in the article.

Aesthetics

Next up, I’d like to touch on aesthetics. Beauty is a subjective concept, of course, but I think the Art series lenses generally look great.

The lens barrel transitions from various shades of gray, starting off with sleek dark metal at the base, tapering off to some lighter polycarbonate, and then transitioning to sleek black metal again.

This lens doesn’t just feel premium, it looks the part. The buttons, switches and physical aperture ring really just make it look and feel expensive. It gives me Sony 35mm F1.4 GM vibes.

a castle in ireland

Image Quality

Sharpness

Now it’s time to look at sharpness. Sigma’s Art series lineup is pretty famous for their nearly unmatched sharpness scores, and the 35mm F1.2 doesn’t disappoint.

My lens tests don’t get very scientific, so don’t expect complex MTF charts or any sort of ultra-nerdy measurements. I usually just pixel peep.

Even at F1.2, I found that centers were RAZOR sharp and the corners weren’t even that far off. Stopping down just slightly evens out the frame entirely and shows excellent edge-to-edge performance. This would be a perfect companion to a high-resolution body like the a7rIV.

If you, for some reason, so desired to shoot landscapes at F1.2, this would be the lens to do it with. Performance is just spectacular across every F-stop, at least until you start to hit some major diffraction at F11.

long exposure of flowing water

Optical Quirks & Flaws

As far as optical quirks and flaws, the Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN is rather problem free with one exception: flare resistance.

Flaring

Shooting into direct sunlight causes heavy loss of contrast and some pretty major flaring. Even some bright artificial lighting can trigger some pretty bad stuff.

I’d suggest always keeping the lens hood on, and trying to avoid direct sunlight whenever possible.

Vignette

To a lesser degree, the lens also suffers from some vignette. It’s pretty moderate, but should be able to be fixed with a single click from post-processing.

However, when shooting in extreme low light, you may risk a bit of digital noise when removing it. Either way, it’s an F1.2 lens so you’re getting plenty of light as it is.

Distortion

On the other hand, the lens doesn’t suffer from much else.

Distortion can be strong if uncorrected, but a single click in post-processing will easily remove it.

Chromatic Aberration

Same situation with chromatic aberrations. Very, very minor and easily removable in post-processing.

Even in extreme cases (like tree branches against a sunny sky), CA was minimal and barley noticeable.

portrait with flare

Bokeh

Next up, we’ve got bokeh. The Sigma 35mm F1.2 is a wider lens, yes, but it’s also got an incredibly bright aperture.

The bokeh is creamy and gorgeous when shooting close-ups, but it even offers some nice subject isolation when doing portraiture. There’s very little bokeh warping near the edges, with only slight oval-shapes near the far corners of the frame.

People in portraits seem to almost pop out of the frame, the rendering is just so flawless.

Overall Optical Performance

Overall, I’m very impressed with the optical performance of this lens.

The Sigma 35mm F1.2 is razor sharp (as we’ve come to expect) and suffers from few optical flaws besides the flaring.

The flaring is definitely a bit of a bummer, but with some careful shooting you should be able to largely avoid it. Definitely worth the rest of the optical goodness.

portait in a dark forest

Focusing & Other Notes

Autofocus

Next up, we’re going to focus on focusing. Most autofocus lenses perform well enough to where I feel I don’t need to go into extreme detail, and this one was, mostly, no exception.

Stills AF

Autofocus for stills was as I expected: quick, reliable, and quiet.

It performs incredibly with Sony’s many focus systems such as EyeAF and AF-C (continuous autofocus). The front filter thread (82mm by the way) doesn’t rotate as autofocus is internal.

Really great stuff for stills shooters, but there’s a couple quite things to touch on for those looking to use this lens for video.

Video AF

Video AF was a bit of a mixed bag. Autofocus is quite and reliable still, but the lens racks focus in a sort of choppy way.

Instead of a smooth transition from close to infinity (or vice versa), the lens is “choppy” in the sense that it freezes up for a split second when going through the focus range.

This may be an issue for those planning on shooting a lot of AF video with this lens.

Manual Focus

As for manual focus, the lens is focus-by-wire, but it’s honestly very well dampened. As an avid user of manual lenses, I’m usually fairly critical of the MF experience of modern autofocus lenses.

This one was rather a joy to use though. Physical AF/MF switch, huge focusing ring, very well dampened and with great focus throw.

It played quite well with Sony’s great focus assists such as peaking and the magnifier. Good stuff, Sigma.

long exposure of a river

Aperture Ring

Another really neat feature of this lens is that it has a physical aperture ring! As I said prior, I’m an avid user of manual/vintage lenses, so I’ve become really accustomed to having a physical aperture ring.

There’s even an option to click or declick the ring! I do really wish more lenses had this feature as many photographers have difference preferences. I prefer a clicked ring, although many others (most videographers) prefer smooth clickless rings.

Custom Button

Finally, the last feature to touch on is the custom button.

Much like a Sony GM lens, the Sigma 35mm F1.2 features a custom focus lock button that can be rebound to anything you want.

This is a feature that I wish was more prevalent on cheaper lenses, but it seems to only be reserved for large, high-end glass.

dark castle on irish coast

My Final Thoughts

Alternatives

Alright, so now that we’ve talked about how spectacular this lens is, I’d like to offer a few cheaper alternatives.

I would like to point out that there’s no direct competitor. No other manufacturer has produced a 35mm F1.2 lens for Sony’s system. Regardless, let’s jump into the alternatives.

Sony Lenses

Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM

First up on the list would be the closest competitor: the Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM.

It’s a comparable lens in many, many ways. Both image and build quality will be similar. Autofocus superiority and compact size goes towards the Sony. Still, it’s not an F1.2 lens like the Sigma.

Sony FE 35mm F1.8

The cheaper OEM alternative is the Sony 35mm F1.8. When compared to the Sigma’s max aperture, F1.8 seems almost pathetic in comparison.

Either way, if you don’t need the F1.2 aperture, consider this budget Sony. Very sharp, much cheaper, and much more compact.

Third Party

Sigma 35mm F1.4

Sigma’s own 35mm F1.4 (check out my review) is another option to consider. They’re very similar lenses in many ways but with a few key differences.

The F1.4 is just as razor sharp, but you do lose some light. It is a bit cheaper, however, and a little bit more compact.

Samyang 35mm F1.8

Next up, the dirt cheap option is the Samyang 35mm F1.8. Don’t expect the same level of sharpness or build quality.

However, it’s still a great lens in it’s own right, and a perfect pick if you’re looking for a very low-budget 35mm.

Voigtlander 40mm F1.2

Finally, the weird option: Voigtlander 40mm F1.2. It’s a strange little lens that is a bit soft wide open, but has a ton of character.

It’s tiny, F1.2, incredibly well built, but also quite expensive for a manual lens. A really good one to look at if you’re looking for a unique lens with a lot of character.

irish coastal cliffs

Conclusion

Made for Professionals

Overall, despite the HUGE size, I really do think the Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN is the way to go if you’re looking for the absolute best 35mm money can buy.

It’s unbelievably sharp, built like a tank, and renders incredibly gorgeous F1.2 bokeh goodness.

To be completely honest, I don’t think Sigma designed this with hobbyists in mind. They clearly meticulously crafted a professionals tool meant to deliver fantastic results at the cost of size and weight.

Where to Buy

If you’re interested in picking one up for yourself, I’ll leave some purchase links below.

Purchasing through Amazon or B&H supports me (at no extra cost to you), whereas renting through Lensrentals gets us both $25 off our next rental.

Thank you for your support and thanks for reading!

Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN
73 Reviews
Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN
The Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN is an incredible lens that combines top tier sharpness, fantastic build quality, and blazing fast autofocus into one (very large) premium package.
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