It’s never been a better time for third-party lenses. Even the less well-known makers are producing high-end optics in both primes and zooms, with very reasonable price points.
Like any lens choice, it’s ultimately about testing a few examples and seeing which fits your needs. But, if you’re in the market for a high-end prime lens and one which sits nicely between a 24mm and a 35mm, the Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art could be a suitable option.
A 24mm lens is a handy solution as it is a happy middle ground between the common 24mm and 35mm focal lengths. A little less wide than the 24mm, but not as zoomed in as the 35mm.
In other words, it has a good range of applications from small group shots, getting close to the action or wide scene shots. Lots of potential here, so let’s dig in and see what this lens is all about.
The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art works best on a full-frame camera, but also equally well on an APS-C sensor if you don’t mind it coming in at 42mm. The other main advantage here is the f/1.4 aperture.
f/4 is a very wide aperture at this focal length, which is great for producing those creamy, background blur effects and is a distinct advantage in low light. Considering lower spec’ed lenses can only go to f/4, this lens gives a distinct light advantage.
This lens follows the rest of the Art series in design. Simple and elegant looking, with only the basic features needed. The lens barrel itself is made from thermally stable composite material, which feels very robust. It’s not weather-sealed, but there is a rubber gasket on the lens mount to keep out dust and moisture.
There is a simple AF/MF switch within easy reach on the side of the lens, a distance scale, and a large manual focusing ring. As for the general lens specs, there are 17 elements arranged in 12 groups, nine rounded diaphragm blades and a 77 mm filter thread up top.
Everything weighs in at a not-so-lightweight 865g which is typical of the Art series. The lens also comes with its own petal-shaped hood and a nicely padded case which gives its own air of quality.
Lastly, the 28mm is compatible with the Sigma Dock, which allows for firmware updates and also calibration of the lens. Overall, a high-quality package.
The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art in Use
As for overall sharpness, the lens performs extremely well at f/1.4. There’s a slight increase in resolution by f/2, with everything looking awesome by f/2.8.
There is a tiny bit of edge softness when the lens is fully wide open, which is a consideration for landscape photographers. For other shooting scenarios, this may not be as much of a problem, especially if you can live with stopping down to f/2 for the finest results.
Manual focus is very smooth with 110 degrees of rotation which can be very precise. In general, the Sigma is a very sharp lens and competes very well against other 28mm lenses.
When it comes to close-up photography, the Sigma has a minimum focus distance of 28cm. Like most wide-angle lenses, it’s not the best solution for close-up subjects. At this range with the excellent overall optical quality, mixing in some nice background blur can produce some interesting results.
Autofocusing is very quick and quiet, with no problem to lock onto a subject in good light. Focusing speed does drop a little in very low light, with the odd occasional focus hunting, but in general, the Sigma is a quick performer.
The lens exhibits roughly 3.5-stops of light falloff at f/1.4. This clears up considerably by f/2 and is virtually gone by f/2.8. The effect is not distracting at any aperture point, easily corrected in software and is actually rendered in a pleasant way, not too distracting.
The same is evident with chromatic aberration when the lens is fully wide-open at f/1.4. The aberration is definitely present but quickly goes away by f/2. This seems to be apparent on a few of the f/1.4 Art lenses, which is still good for such a wide-open lens, but a factor you need to be mindful of.
The Sigma handles lens flare very well, even when wide open, but the effect becomes more dramatic with a more narrow aperture by f/16. In reality, lens flare only becomes a problem when the sun is directly in frame and the Sigma was found to handle the brightest of glare very well.
The lens produces a very small amount of barrel distortion at the edges, which you can easily see when capturing subjects with horizontal lines. Not so much a problem when you load in the correct lens profile into editing software.
Like any lens which has f/1.4, the background blur quality is a factor. A wide-angle lens isn’t going to produce the strongest bokeh effect, but the Sigma can produce lovely background blur when needed. The nine rounded aperture blades can produce nice 18-point stars in the right circumstances, with a high level of quality.
How Does It Compare?
The Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art slots into the market, providing very high-quality optics, but also with a not so regular focal length and f/1.4. This means that there are fewer options on the market, especially if you want that extra edge in image quality.
This is where the law of diminishing returns comes in, with a likely choice being the Zeiss 28mm f/1.4 Otus lens. The Zeiss is a heavier lens, has beautiful design, and produces exceptional images.
However, for the slight step up you have to pay nearly four times the amount. The Zeiss is probably the zenith of quality here, but if you consider what you get for the price with the Sigma, it gives exceptional image quality for the money.
There is the alternative of a zoom at this focal length, such as the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art, which is a great performer. But, it’s not a complete replacement for a quality prime.
|Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art||Zeiss 28mm f/1.4 Otus|
|Elements||17 elements/ 12 groups||16 elements/ 13 groups|
|Blades||9 rounded||9 rounded|
In the right scenarios, the 28mm view of the Sigma can fill in a lot of gaps. The f/1.4 aperture can’t be underestimated and when compared to other 28mm lenses, it’s quite rightly a top performer.
If you really need the slight increase in resolution and that certain something that a Zeiss Otus can provide, you are going to have to shell out a lot more money. Definitely worth it if you have the funds. But, considering the level of optics you get with the Sigma 28mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, it’s worth every penny.