If you’ve never used Sigma’s Arts range of lenses, you may be in for a treat. As with the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens, these are high-end offerings that are very capable of competing against the usual go-to lenses. Obviously, each lens comparison has to be done on its own merits, but in general, the range provides great optical quality and at a price point which is a touch more palatable.
Initially, there are high hopes for the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens, but it still has a lot to prove against what the best of the rest can offer. Let’s delve in and see what this lens has to offer.
For starters, the Sigma can be used on a crop sensor body, with the focal length having an equivalent 19-38mm and an aperture of f/6.4. There’s nothing overt or flowery about the design. Simple seems to be the best at the top end of the range, with a very straightforward design.
There is a thin, smooth-turning focus and zoom ring, auto and manual focus switch, and a regular distance scale. The lens also comes with a nicely designed petal hood which should give confidence in protecting the upfront element and reducing lens flare.
The lens has a constant aperture of f/4-f/22, a Ring-type Ultrasonic motor and is available in Canon EF, Nikon F and Fx, and Sigma mounts. Inside the lens are nine rounded diaphragm blades with 16 elements arranged in 11 groups.
On top of the blades, there are F-Low Dispersion and aspherical elements, an 80mm large-diameter molded glass aspherical element and a super multilayer coating. Sigma’s equivalent to other makers Fluorine coatings. Everything weighs in at a heavyweight 1151g.
All the focusing is done internally, which is reassuring, but focusing is external which could be a deciding factor with the bulbous front element. Although the lens isn’t fully weatherproofed, it does have a moisture-resistant rubber gasket for the lens mount and is stated to be dust and splashproof.
The lack of pure weatherproofing is a downside at this quality level, but I’m guessing it’s one of the areas which keeps the price down. However, the front element has been given a water and oil repellent coating for extra peace of mind.
At this point, the lens has a definite feel of quality. Reassuringly heavy, which may be a negative for some, but at this end of the spectrum, it’s almost a given that quality zooms weigh in at a couple of pounds.
The Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens in Use
Although the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens is a heavyweight, strapped to a Canon 5D Mark IV, it actually balances very well. You may have to put in some extra hours at the gym doing bicep curls, but the effort will be worth it. A featherweight lens would be the ideal in every case, but lots of glass in a lens always cranks up the weight factor in zooms, so it’s a given in this respect.
The ‘HSM’ Ultrasonic focusing motor works as efficiently as expected. It’s very quiet and snaps into focus very quickly, only starting to hunt in the very lowest of light conditions.
As for lens anomalies, the Sigma handles chromatic aberration very well, especially when wide open. There are signs of CA in very high contrast areas, but in general on a par with its competitors. Vignetting can also be seen when the lens’ aperture is wide open, roughly two to three stops of falloff at the edges, but when stopped down to f/8, the effect is almost gone.
The lens handles distortion quite well across its focal range, even when wide open. It’s clearly apparent at its widest, but most of this can be corrected with a good lens profile during post-editing. Lens flare is also handled well, which is quite an achievement for such a bulbous front element.
When it comes to overall sharpness levels, edges are surprisingly sharp and comparable to the competitors when at the widest focal length. However, this advantage drops at the telephoto end of the range when the aperture is wide open. So, stopping down to f/8 is needed to get everything as sharp as possible.
Center sharpness is generally good, but to get an even balance of sharpness across the frame, the lens seems to work best around f/8 across the board and from 12-16mm. After 16mm, the center sharpness is good, but not as tack sharp as would be expected. For landscape shooters, it may be a case of going into live view and manual focus for the sharpest centers.
How Does It Compare?
If no other competitors existed in wide-angle zooms, then the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens could be the obvious good choice. But for Canon users, the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L is a heavyweight performer and highly respected at this end of the range. The Canon initially tips the balance, going slightly wider to 11mm, zooms internally, and has full weather sealing. For the working photographer, the weather sealing alone could be a deciding factor.
The Canon definitely wins out for overall center sharpness across its range, but the Sigma is not far behind, especially at the wider focal lengths. Past 18mm, the Canon has the edge, but at 12mm, the Sigma is compatible with edge sharpness, but just a touch behind in the center.
A less expensive option for an APS-C sensor could be the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM. As the 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art moves to f/6.4 on a crop sensor body, this is a possible alternative.
|Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens||Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L|
|Elements||16 elements/ 11 groups||16 elements/ 11 groups|
|Blades||9 rounded||9 rounded|
|Weather Sealing||Dust and splash||Full|
Having tried a bunch of the Sigma Art lenses, we had high hopes that this lens would romp ahead with what it could offer. On its own, the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens renders images in a clearly defined fashion and won’t be a disappointment. But, lined up against the Canon, it doesn’t have the same overall sharpness.
The Sigma works best at its widest focal length but starts to lose ground against the Canon as the lens gets to the telephoto end of the range. The Sigma handles lens anomalies very well, such as chromatic aberration, vignetting, and lens flares and if you keep to the widest focal lengths, it’s a top performer.
The other deciding factor here is the cost. The Canon costs far more than the Sigma, so if you’re mostly interested in the widest focal lengths, then the Sigma could be a good option considering price levels.
If money is no option and you want the best in overall optical quality, then the Canon wins out, along with having full weather sealing. Considering price alone, the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens provides excellent image quality for the money.