Recently, Sigma has been putting out a lot of really amazing yet compact glass.
In this particular review, we’ll be looking at the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN, a sharp portrait lens that still manages to stay… somewhat compact.
Note that this is the F1.4 version, not to be confused with the huge F1.2 version (which is also a great lens).
Anyways, the 35mm focal range has a wealth of options, so how does this Sigma stack up against competitors?
Let’s find out.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Incredibly razor sharp
- A fantastic build
- Quick & reliable AF
- Lots of premium features
- Great mid-budget 35mm pick
Size & Weight
First up, we’re going to be talking about the size and weight of the lens.
The Sigma 35mm measures a length of roughly 4.3in (10.9cm) and weighs about 22.6oz (640g). Although not super large, this one is a bit longer than some other recent Sigma lenses.
I’ve said it in many other reviews, but these compact-yet-sharp lenses are the exact kind of thing that got me to switch away from my bulky DSLR setup many year ago. If this were a Canon lens with comparable specs, it would be a few inches longer.
It fits well on my camera and even fits into my Tenba BYOB 10 (but just barely).
Is the lens well built?
As you might expect from such a heavy lens, build quality is rather strong.
The Sigma 35mm F1.4 features a lens barrel that is mostly metal with little bits of plastic mixed in.
It’s definitely not cheap plastic though, and I believe the barrel is made out of Sigma’s TSC (thermally stable composite), a type of plastic polycarbonate.
Sigma uses this material on a lot of their lenses, and I’ve never had any durability issues. In fact, my APS-C 30mm is made out of the same material and is still going strong almost half a decade later.
The petal shaped lens hood is also made out of this same polycarbonate material, but it feels strong and durable in the hand.
There’s a nice ridged design along the edge, making it pretty easy to grip and remove. It’s also reversible for storage, which is always nice.
The lens comes with a single run-of-the-mill plastic lens cap. It does its job well enough.
As for weather sealing, Sigma claims the lens has a “dust and splash proof structure”.
The Sigma 35mm F1.4 features a typical gasket seal around the lens mount, in addition to seals at the switches and rings. On the front element, there’s a water-repellant coating.
Really awesome to see all the weather sealing features, as sometimes these more “mid-budget” lenses lack such a thing. I’d have no hesitation taking this out into a rainstorm.
Built to last?
So is this lens built to last? I’d definitely say so, without any hesitation.
Weather sealing, heavy-duty, built incredibly well. What’s not to like?
It certainly feels pro-grade in the hand, and, as I mentioned prior, I’ve always known Sigma lenses for being rather long-lasting and durable over time.
As for aesthetics, I understand beauty is subjective, but I find that the lens looks pretty nice. Maybe not particularly unique or exciting, but nice.
The minimal white text engravings contrast nicely against the (admittedly boring) sleek black barrel. The iconic Sigma “A” adorns the side.
The Sigma 35mm F1.4 may not be the most unique looking lens out there, but it’s clean.
As for ergonomics, the lens strikes a solid balance between weight and size, thus allowing easy hand-holding (I usually grip near the focusing ring) without making the entire set-up feel too front heavy.
The aperture ring feels awesome to use (more on that later) and I’ve always really appreciated having a physical AF/MF switch on the barrel (plus a focus hold/customizable button!).
Generally, I found I was able to hand-hold the lens for quite a while before getting some hand fatigue. Though either way, it’s not ultra-heavy, meaning it won’t weigh you down even if you toss it in a backpack for a while.
Next up, we’ll be talking about sharpness. My lens tests don’t get ultra-scientific as I just generally pixel peep to the extreme. For this reason, don’t expect any sort of complicated measurements or MTF graphs.
First up, shooting at F1.4 shows a good bit of corner softness but still generally looks quite good.
F2 already looks substantially better, and we see the corners start to even out a little bit.
The (slight) softness wide open isn’t really a huge deal, as you’ll generally only be shooting wide open for portraiture, close-ups, etc. where corner sharpness isn’t as big of a deal.
Stopping down just a bit more is where the lens really shines.
The Sigma 35mm F1.4 looks fabulous even at F2.8, showing a nice crispy frame from edge to edge.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
As for optical “flaws”, the only (extremely minor) issue that this lens struggles with is some chromatic aberration in very niche circumstances.
There is a tiny bit of purple and green fringing in certain high-contrast situations, but I genuinely found it to be barely noticeable.
In 99.9% of situations, it won’t show up. If it does, one click in post-processing will get rid of it.
Besides the tiny amount of CA, the lens suffers from very little.
We see a small amount of barrel distortion, but that is easily fixed with, once again, a single click in post processing.
When shooting wide open, we do see a bit of vignette, although it’s not anything to be alarmed over.
Finally, flare resistance is incredibly strong. You can shoot literally directly into the sun.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall, the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN turned out excellently in terms of optical performance.
The rendering is razor sharp, the lens suffers from very few “optical flaws”, and the bokeh looks creamy and wonderful.
Sigma’s art series line-up has rarely disappointed, and the 35mm F1.4 is no exception.
Next up, let’s focus on focusing. I generally don’t too deep into autofocus on modern lenses as they usually all perform well. That’s the case for this lens as well.
AF was incredibly reliable and extremely fast. The lens plays quite well with Sony’s focus assists like EyeAF and AF-C (subject tracking). Even in dark conditions, there was minimal hunting, a feat that not all lenses can claim.
Plus, the lens even offers a focus hold button, much like a higher priced Sony lens.
Unfortunately, video users may be disappointed by the fact that the lens suffers from some pretty moderate focus breathing.
I wouldn’t say it’s a deal breaker by any means, but it’s certainly something to be aware of. Other than that, the focusing motor is dead silent and blazing fast.
Finally, manual focus. The Sigma 35mm F1.4 is, of course, focus-by-wire as with most modern lenses, but Sigma has done a pretty good job at emulating a true manual experience.
The dampening feels really good, and the focus ring itself is huge and nicely ribbed, making it a pretty painless process to use.
Also, did I mention there’s a physical AF/MF switch? Always good to see since Sony’s menu systems are so needlessly complicated.
Finally, just a few more random notes.
First up, the lens doesn’t offer any sort of in-lens stabilization.
There was a time in history where this would have been a big deal, but all Sony bodies are stabilized now, so it’s really not as important as it once was.
Next up, I want to talk about the lovely aperture ring. I’m a big sucker for physical, on-lens aperture rings, and this one doesn’t dissapoint.
You can, of course, just set it automatic mode and control F-stop from the camera, but if you choose to use the ring, it’s quite pleasant.
On the left side of the lens barrel, there’s a very small switch that lets you change the ring from clicked to clickless! This is an awesome feature to see, as some people (like myself) prefer clicked rings, while others (usually video shooters) like clickless.
Lastly, given that this is a rather wide bright-aperture lens, some photographers may be considering it for astrophotography.
The lens lets in a lot of light (thanks to the F1.4) aperture, and it doesn’t suffer from any sort of comatic aberrations.
Stars at the corner of the frame are free from tails, so… that’s great!
My Final Thoughts
So, this lens is absolutely spectacular, but I always like to offer at least a few alternatives at the end of my reviews, so let’s do it.
Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM
First up, we have the incredible Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM. The GM lens is an absolute beast, easily matching the Sigma in sharpness, build, and autofocus.
To be frank, it doesn’t really offer any intrinsic advantages, however, especially given that it’s hundreds of dollars more expensive.
Sigma 35mm F2
My second alternative would be the Sigma 35mm F2 DG DN. You won’t quite get the same optical quality (it’s close), but you will get a more compact and bulletproof build.
It’s also a bit cheaper, though of course you lose some light due to the F2 aperture.
So yeah, if it wasn’t obvious, I absolutely love the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG DN.
It’s a fantastic lens with amazing sharpness, fantastic AF, a strong build, and a lot of premium features especially given it’s more “mid” budget pricepoint.
If you’re looking for a fabulous 35mm that won’t break the bank, the Sigma is the way to go.
I’ll leave a purchase link below so you can check it out. Thanks for reading!
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