The Sony full frame lineup boasts an extensive collection of 35mm primes, both from Sony itself along with numerous third party manufacturers.
The one we’ll be looking at today is the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art. This particular lens was released originally for DSLRs, but was later tweaked and adjusted to be able to fully harness the power of Sony’s mirrorless system.
So, in a focal length with plentiful choices, how does this Sigma stack up against competitors? Let’s find out.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Excellent build quality
- Fast and silent autofocus
- Good alternative to Sony OEM lenses
- Very large and heavy
Size & Weight
Although they’ve created some amazing compact lenses recently, Sigma has long had a reputation for putting out MASSIVE glass.
This particular lens weighs in at roughly 27oz (765g) and measures about 4.8in (12cm) from the mount to the front element.
Although larger than a lot of other 35mm options, it’s really not that extreme, especially for a bright F1.4 aperture. I found that it balanced well on my Sony a7iii, but I imagine it would feel a lot more awkward on something like the a7c or an APS-C body.
Is the lens well built?
Next up, let’s talk about build quality. The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is built like an absolute tank inside and out.
To start, the gigantic lens barrel is made of thermally stable compound (TSC) which is a type of heavy-duty plastic polycarbonate.
Although plastic isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think durability, I’ve found Sigma’s TSC material to be quite good. I’ve owned my APS-C 30mm for years and it’s still in fabulous shape.
A petal-shaped lens hood is included and, although it is also plastic, it does a great job of protecting the (massive) curved front element. From some merchants (Amazon and B&H at least), a small carrying bag is also included.
As for weather-sealing, the lens doesn’t offer any sort of gasket or mount sealing. For what it’s worth, I’ve taken a lot of my non-sealed Sigma lenses out in the rain over the years, and I’ve never had any issues. I still wouldn’t trust this in anything more than a light drizzle though.
Overall, I’d say the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM is built to last. It’s huge, it’s heavy, and it’s built out of material that has proven to be quite durable over the years. The only concern I have is the lack of weather-sealing.
Aesthetics & Ergonomics
Aesthetically, this big lens looks like most Sigma primes. It’s sleek black, has a nice distance scale, and sports the iconic Sigma Art “A”. The large size and weight gives it an overall very premium vibe.
In terms of ergonomics, I have very few complaints. Yes, it’s massive, but the (also huge) focusing ring provides a perfect point for grip. One hand on the camera, the other hand on the lens.
To be honest, I wouldn’t take this with me if I was going to climb a mountain, or spend the whole day doing street photography, but for smaller shoots it can actually be quite comfortable. Again, it balances well on an a7 series body.
Next up, let’s talk about the sharpness of the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM. While not entirely perfect, it’s pretty damn fantastic.
Completely wide open, there is incredibly minor softness in the center and rather high fall-off near the corners. Stopping down to just F2 remedies the center softness and sharpens up the corners slightly.
At F4, almost everything is razor sharp except for a little bit of softness near the extreme corners. At F5.6 everything, including the extreme corners, is nearly flawless.
While not quite as meticulously perfect as a G-Master lens, only the most critical of pixel-peepers would notice any flaws here.
While a lot of photographers may use a 35mm as a general wide-angle, a lot of us enjoy shooting environmental portraits.
The bokeh on this lens, thanks to the bright F1.4 aperture, actually looks great.
Bokeh balls are perfectly circular and show great uniformity (only some extremely minor cats-eye warping near the edges).
Optical Quirks & Flaws
As for optical flaws, the Sigma suffers from a few issues.
Chromatic aberrations are fairly well controlled, but when shooting wide-open you’ll find minor amounts of green/magenta fringing in high contrast situations.
Although I noticed very low CA myself, it should be easy to fix in post.
Distortion is also quite well controlled. A tiny bit of barrel distortion is present, but I didn’t find it to be an issue.
There may be slight warping on straight lines such as buildings, but, again, a single click in Lightroom should remedy that.
The lens shows a major vignette when shooting wide open, but stopping down to just F2.8 completely eliminates it.
Although it could be used as a tool to draw attention to subjects, it can also just be easily removed in post.
Finally: flaring. There’s very little flaring when wide open, but stopping down causes fairly significant ghosting from light points near the edge of the frame.
I really don’t think this is a huge issue, but its worth noting if you shoot in a lot of bright environments.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall, I’m really impressed with the optical performance of the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM.
If you ignore the bit of softness wide open, the lens is sharp as a tack edge-to-edge when stopped down slightly.
Bokeh renders beautifully, and despite some flaring/vignette issues, the lens is largely free of any major optical flaws.
Next up, lets focus on focusing. The “HSM” in the lens name stands for “Hyper-Sonic Motor” which, according to Sigma, is supposed to mean “quiet, smooth and accurate autofocusing,” and, honestly, that claim seems to be true.
This Sigma is blazing fast, very accurate, and whisper quiet. For those who use filters (67mm thread by the way), the front of the lens does not rotate, so filters won’t be affected by refocusing.
I won’t dig super deep into AF because, to be honest, any modern (and expensive) lens is probably going to have spectacular autofocus. The tech has advanced so much, especially on Sony’s more recent camera bodies.
For video users, the autofocus is, as I mentioned, nearly silent. I don’t shoot a lot of video, but in my very limited testing I found that focusing was reliable, but definitely a bit slower than an OEM lens.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the AF performance of the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM. Video performance was a bit iffy, but for photography, it is pretty much flawless.
Note: I learned from other users that some copies of this lens come with older firmware. If autofocus feels slower or less reliable than you’d expect, check Sigma’s website for an update.
Now that we’ve covered autofocus, let’s look at the art of manual focus.
First thing to note: the focusing ring has a full-time override feature. You spin the ring, and it immediately kicks into manual focus. There is, of course, also a switch on the lens barrel if you want to disable AF entirely.
The focusing ring itself is gigantic and very easy to grip. The sliding distance scale is incredibly handy, but I’d always suggest using features like focus peaking and magnifier to make sure you’re nailing it just right.
Overall, the MF experience was pretty good, despite being focus-by-wire. Not comparable to a dedicated manual lens like the Voigtlander 40mm F1.2 of course, but definitely fun to use.
My Final Thoughts
So, now that I’ve sang the praise of this lens, let’s talk about some alternatives (both cheaper and more expensive).
Sony 35mm F1.4 Distagon
First, the most direct comparison would be the Sony 35mm F1.4 Distagon.
The Sigma wins out slightly in sharpness and cost, but the OEM Sony is a little bit smaller (not by much).
Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM
Second, the more expensive comparison would be the Sony 35mm F1.4 GM.
That lens is an absolute monster. Better build quality, somehow even sharper, insane autofocus. Better in every way, except for price.
Sony 35mm F1.8
Third, the Sony 35mm F1.8. It’s about half the size of the Sigma, yet it offers comparable optical quality.
However, build quality is lackluster and you’ll lose some bright aperture goodness.
Voigtlander 40mm F1.2
Finally, if you love manual focus, consider the aforementioned Voigtlander 40mm F1.2.
It’s extremely expensive (for an MF lens), but it’s like… attaching a Lamborghini to your camera. The build quality is exceptional, the design is beautiful and it is incredibly sharp.
So, is the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM worth buying? If you don’t mind a heavy kit, yes.
If you want a large, autofocusing lens that produces fabulous pictures, then the Sigma is a great alternative to Sony’s more expensive OEM lenses. Why pay hundreds of dollars more when you could buy this and get nearly the same results?
If you’re interested in trying it out yourself, I’ve included purchase links below. Thanks for reading.
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