Up until recently, the fastest Sigma 35mm prime lens for the general populace was the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art. Now, the company has come out with an even faster lens in the form of the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art. This huge chunk of glass is built specifically for the mirrorless format, geared toward the Sony users out there. But given enough time and lots of pleading on forum groups, we should hopefully see this lens being ported to other camera mounts in the near future.
Judging from the reputation of the rest of the Sigma Art series, this lens should check all the boxes for high-quality professional use. But with so much competition in the 35mm prime arena, it will be interesting to see how it compares to what the other lens makers currently offer.
If you’re already familiar with Sigma’s Art lenses, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is more Sony-like, more in keeping with the latest GM series.
On a regular Art lens, you would be treated to a distant scale and an AF/MF switch on the lens barrel. On this particular version, there’s still the AF/MF workings, but no external distance scale, with the real estate being taken up by a manual aperture ring, AFL focus lock button, and de-click switch. The aperture ring moves in thirds of a stop, which can be easily de-clicked with the accompanying switch. The focus hold button is also a handy feature, which should make Sony users even more at home.
True to form for the Art series, size matters. In this case, that means a 1,090g overall mass, making the f/1.4 version look very small and compact in comparison. The f/1.2 aperture is going to be one of the biggest selling points here, providing excellent low-light capabilities and great background blur. The 11-blade, rounded diaphragm should also help in this respect, providing more pleasing bokeh balls and smoother backgrounds.
The total heft of this lens has largely gone into its optics, centered around 17 elements in 12 groups, which includes three SLD and aspherical elements for superior image clarity. Sigma’s tried-and-tested HSM autofocus motor has also been included, with full-time manual override via the very substantial manual focusing ring. The whole lens is wrapped around a fully-weatherproofed construction and the front element has been treated to an oil and water-repellent coating.
Generally, a 35mm prime lens is seen as an all-rounder. So, it’s good to know this one has a close focusing distance of 30cm when you need to get up close and personal. At such a close focusing range, you have to be very careful with the f/1.2 aperture and extremely shallow depth of field. But it does mean this lens can slot into most shooting scenarios when called upon.
The autofocus system is respectably fast for most situations. It may not have the flea-like reaction time of a telephoto GM lens, but for a wide-angle lens capturing environmental shots, autofocusing was quick off the mark.
As you would expect for a lens with such a wide aperture, there is vignetting in the corners at f/1.2, which slowly goes away by f/8. Luckily, this effect can be easily corrected in Lightroom if it’s not to your taste.
As for overall sharpness levels, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is plenty sharp in the center at f/1.2, with the best results coming in at f/2.8. The edges of the frame were better than expected, with reasonable sharpness at f/1.2, but the most detail coming in when the aperture was stopped down to f/4.
In terms of overall lens anomalies, this lens handles flaring very well, even with the sun directly in frame. It’s also better than expected when it comes to chromatic aberration with the aperture wide open. There are still aspects of blue and purple fringing at times in high contrast areas with the aperture at f/1.2, but far less than seen on a comparable lens.
One of the main reasons why most people will start to salivate over a f/1.2 lens is for its bokeh rendition. Background blur is extremely smooth, with a nice transition of colors, although the vignetting can get in the way at times. However, there are really no complaints with bokeh right across the frame, making the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art an excellent solution for environmental portraits. This lens probably produces the best bokeh I’ve seen in the Art range of lenses.
Overall, color and contrast looks very much like the rest of the Sigma range, with neutral tones, which are a good starting point for post-processing.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art and Its DSLR-Friendly Cousin
If you’re already grimacing over the fact this lens is only available for the mirrorless people, then there is at least the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art to consider. You’re obviously not gonna get the benefit of an f/1.2 aperture, but f/1.4 is still plenty wide enough for most people’s needs, and this lens weighs in at nearly half the amount and cost of the f/1.2 lens.
The f/1.4 lens is still extremely capable, providing very sharp results and quality bokeh. The f/1.2 35mm lens edges forward in both these respects, but you will also have to pay a dividend for the privilege. We break it down further in our Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art review.
|Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art||Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art|
|Close Focusing Distance||30cm||30mm|
Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art: Worth the Workout
One of the standout features of the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is the way it renders bokeh, not just in the center of the frame but also in the foreground. This means the f/1.2 Art can easily stand tall in this department against any other 35mm prime.
This third-party lens is also extremely sharp, even at f/1.2, providing plenty of confidence when diving into any shooting scenario. Coupled with the extra quality in the bokeh department, the f/1.2 Art feels like the next step up in the range and can be easily recommended as a go-to 35mm for Sony users.
The only real drawback is its size and weight. But like the rest of the Art range, you don’t mind giving your biceps an extra workout when you see the quality of the results.