A prime lens with a 14mm focal length isn’t anything new, but Sigma has upped the stakes here with not just a lens from the top end Sigma Art series, but also a lens with a wide f/1.8 aperture. This means better low light operation with a clear application for landscape and astrophotographers who want to shoot at night. The lens is also wide angle enough for architecture and environmental portraits. The lens also has bragging rights as the first full frame f/1.8 ultra-wide-angle lens.
With a top quality build, high-end optics, ultrawide angle and a f/1.8 aperture there’s a lot to like here, but is it any good?
The Sigma Art series has proven that third-party lenses are a force to be reckoned with and the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art is no exception. The lens barrel is built from TSC (thermally stable composite) and feels rock solid, along with good weather sealing. The lens has a simple layout, a very grippy and large focus ring, a distance scale for fine tuning with manual focus (especially handy for landscape photographers) and then a auto/manual focus switch. There’s also a nice little ‘A’ emblem on the lens, just to remind you where your money has been spent.
Being a third-party lens means there are options for different camera mounts. Those supported include Nikon F, Canon EF and Sigma SA. There’s also an Electromagnetic aperture control for Nikon’s and a rear filter holder FHR-11 for Canon cameras. Sigma have also added a rubber gasket to the lens mount providing a good seal to stop dust and debris entering the lens.
The aperture range goes from f/1.8-f/16 with a 114.2 degree angle of view. There are 16 lens elements in total and 11 groups, three FLD Glass elements and four SLD Glass elements. The lens hood is non-removable which is no bad thing, as it would be used most of the time, plus it constantly protects the huge front convex element. You can’t fit regular filters on this lens, but there is a super large filter holder and filter kit available if needed.
With so much glass, the lens weighs in at 2.6 lbs (1,170 g). Although heavy, it’s well balanced on a DSLR and the bulk of the lens gives a nice platform to hold.
Autofocus is done with Sigma’s HSM (Hypersonic motor) which is fast and quiet. Some reports have noted inconsistencies in the auto focus, where focus has missed in reasonable light conditions on seemingly easy to focus on subjects. One reported good center sharpness but soft corners which was down to the lense’s field curvature. The remedy was to to get good centre sharpness in live view, then zero in on the corners and tweak the focus. Luckily, the main applications for this lens will be in situations where you can spend a little time, enabling the focus throughout the frame, like with landscapes. Maybe not so great for moving subjects.
With such a wide angle of view, there’s a lot of scope for creativity here. One fun way is to have a very close-up subject in the frame and everything else very wide-angle, either pin sharp or with nice bokeh. With a lens of this quality you expect pin sharpness and it even produces pleasing bokeh when needed. When the lens does decide to nail the focus it does so extremely well.
Flare is usually a big concern with a lens with such a large front element, but the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art handles this extremely well even when wide-open. The 9-blade aperture helps in this regard and can even produce 18-point sun stars. Vignetting is present but not as bad as you would expect with such a wide focal length. If you want to clear up any vignetting, which is only there in small amounts, you can do in postprocessing. Chromatic aberration is at low enough levels to be easily cut out in post processing and the same with barrel distortion. It’s such a gift these days that we can so easily correct lens anomalies in post production. It can turn a good lens into a great working lens.
Stopping down a little generally produces the sharpest images, but there’s no point in having a lens with f/1.8 if you’re not getting the most out of it. Wide open at f/1.8 images are extremely sharp, with great contrast and even creamy bokeh if you nail your distances. A wide-angle lens will always show its weaknesses when wide open, but in general images are crisp and sharp. You just sometimes have to be a little patience with the autofocus. This may also be down to the copy of lens and the camera body it is used on.
The lens can be used on a APS-C/crop sensor and gives you a 22mm view. The angle of view will not be as extreme, but you still get the benefit of a f/1.8 aperture. Images are the same quality as on a full frame camera.
How Does It Compare?
If we are just talking image quality alone, then the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art beats out cheaper rivals and is wider than such models as the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 and Irix 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone. The problem is the Sigma compared to some of the alternatives, is nearly 3 times the price. However, it’s still cheaper than the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens, but you’re also getting the added advantage of a zoom with the Canon.
|Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art||Irix 15mm f/2.4 Blackstone|
|Elements||16 elements, 11 groups||15 elements, 11 groups|
There are clearly cheaper solutions on the market at this focal length, but the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art’s biggest strength is its f/1.8 aperture. The deciding factor here is how much low light, ultra-wide-angle photography you are involved in. Astrophotographers and those of you into landscapes will appreciate the extra light entering this lens. If f/2.8 is sufficient for you, then there are more options on the table.
You can’t fault the quality and sharpness of this lens. If it wasn’t for the autofocus sometimes missing the point, this would be an all-round fantastic ultrawide angle lens if you wanted to the best image quality.