Sigma’s New 35mm f/1.4 Has Impressive Sharpness Compared to Its Rivals

If you use a major-brand DSLR, you should be keeping a close eye on the new $899 Sigma 35mm f/1.4 (above center). It undercuts the popular (but pricey) lenses of rival camera makers by hundreds of dollars, and appears to have build- and image-qualities that are equal to (if not better than) those lenses.

LensRentals’ Roger Cicala just got his hands on a copy of the lens and did some initial tests. Here’s his verdict: “This lens kicks butt, takes names, and basically posterizes the manufacturers who make the cameras this lens will fit on.”

In case you’re not familiar with basketball terminology, “posterizing” is when one basketball player gets utterly humiliated when another one dunks the ball in his face (figuratively, not literally). Here’s an example:

Anyhow, back to photography. Here are some of the glowing things Cicala says about the lens:

[…] this lens is built solidly. It really feels more like a Zeiss 35mm than a Canon or Nikon. Sigma says there’s a lot of metal in there, and at 1.4 pounds I believe them. On the other hand, that makes it several ounces heavier than either the Canon or Nikon, but about the same amount lighter than the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4.

It feels solid, too. The manual focusing ring is smooth and accurate, although I found it a bit stiff. Not problem stiff, but certainly not move-it-with-a-fingertip. Autofocus speed was reasonably quick, about on a par with the Canon 35mm. More importantly to me, AF accuracy was good, too, even when we darkened the room down to the point where many Sigma lenses start hunting.

[…] this copy of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 was a bit better in the center and clearly better in the corners than the best copy of the Canon 35mm f/1.4 I’ve ever tested. For the Nikonians amongst us, the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 tested on a D3x resolves almost identically to the Canon.

Sample photographs for this lens should be hitting the Interwebs shortly. Until then, you can take a peek at the official sample shots released by Sigma last week.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Arrives. Announces New World Order [Lensrentals]

Image credit: Photograph by LensRentals

  • Sam B

    Whats your take on the Sigma 24mm 1.8? Is the build quality and sharpness as ass kicking and name taking?

  • Dave Polak

    I wonder how this compares to the Samyang 35mm f1.4.I have it in Pentax mount and love it. It’s only $500 so it is a bargain. It’s also only manual focus which doesn’t bother me at all.

  • Mansgame

    That maybe but the other two hold their value. Sigma will have a new version in 6 months that looks a little different for the same price point.

  • buchananimagery

    I’d be interested to see how it stacks up against the 35L II if that ever comes to be. Can’t beat the price of the Sigma, though, if it’s as good as the review says.

    Unfortunately, Sigma’s 50mm 1.4 left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think I’ll be going back.

  • Zach Sutton Photography

    Hmm…I just bought a 35L and I have no regrets whatsoever.

    Don’t you dare make me regret it, Sigma

  • lidocaineus

    That’s unfortunate – I heard there were some bad copies. The one I have is one of my favorite lenses ever. The image quality and bokeh are absolutely stunning.

  • lidocaineus

    And that will affect your photos how? Will they suddenly lose their quality?

    You don’t invest in lenses to get a return on them when you sell them. You invest in lenses for their quality. The existence of another lens of better quality in no way diminishes yours. Also Sigma’s higher end lenses do not get replaced at any rapid rate; case in point, the 50mm 1.4.

  • RogerCicala

    No, and absolutely no.

  • Jay McIntyre

    I don’t get this whole resale value, are you buying a lens to shoot with it or to sell it someday soon. My assumption is that a 1.4 is a lens that you are stepping up into, not upgrading from so why not go with the best lens for you money and not the one that you hope to make your money back on by reselling.

    I use the Sigma version of the 24-70mm f2.8 and it is killer! It spend more time on my body than my Nikon 50mm f1.4

    Third party manufacturers are letting customers know that although you do have to pay more for quality, you don’t have to pay what the big guys are charging.

    BTW, he should have been called for an offensive foul!!

  • Ross Jukes

    I am getting seriously tempted to get one of these (Look at it all stood there Like Darth Vader with it’s subordinates by it’s side…) but it costs about the same as my 650D, looks worth it though…

  • theNibbler

    when will the first ask about weather sealing?
    ….. and no the canon 35L is not weather sealed!!!

  • theNibbler

    and it will be still better then the canon 35mm L 1.4 after 120 months.. so what?

    where is the logic in your comment?

    it´s not an investment it´s a TOOL.

  • stanimir stoyanov

    Bought one in Nov 2011, sold in Jun 2012.

  • Daniel Nolan

    Will Siggy now be fazing out the 30mm 1.4 (a lens I own and love) or will they keep this as a cheaper crop cousin?

  • Mansgame

    Maybe I’ve been spoiled by how much Nikkor lenses have gained in value over the years. A 24-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor used to go for $1400 new 4 years ago. Now, the exact same lens is $1900. The sigma versions all dropped in value. The same thing will happen with the 35mm lenses.

    I don’t know whether the sigma tested here really is better – I can’t take the word of a guy who makes money off the lenses, but maybe in 2 years the Sigma falls apart (the older Sigmas had a knack for the paint chipping off even) but even if it was slightly better, the Nikon (or Canon) will do a very close job and in a few years when that something better does come along, when I sell it, it will be as if I was using that lens for free all along and maybe even a little profit where with the Sigma, I’d be lucky to get 2/3 what I paid.

    Everything is a tool, but in the case of lenses, they are investments too. I’ve had the same 80-200mm lens for 5 years.

  • Mansgame

    I take them with my beautiful Nikkor lenses. I get use out of them AND can sell them. With sigma it’s only one part of the equation. How is that hard to see?

  • Mansgame

    Which Sigma 24-70? the one that’s discontinued and selling for $400 on Ebay now and cost you $700? The Nikkor version is better than the Sigma in every way and it gained in $500 over the last 4 years. I try to save up money and buy the best and it’s money well spent when it does come to move to something else. $300 here or $500 is money that could be spent on bodies too.

  • lidocaineus

    Once again, your comments make no sense. If you had the choice between a lens with better image quality but less resale value, you’d actually pick the lens with worse image quality? No one buys lenses for resale value; if you do, you’re a fool. It’s like buying a car for its resale value – people talk about it, but everyone knows a car is a money sink. It’s the same with lenses – some go up in value, but the majority go down.

    The ONLY time resale value would come into play would be if image quality and features of the lens were exactly equal to a competitor. Choosing a lens based on resale value is ridiculous, especially for someone like you who swears that image is the primary measure of a photo.

  • Ronald Ford

    I have the Sigma 15-30mm f/3.5-4.5 EX DG ASP and absolutely love the lens.

  • Ammar Ul Haq

    i want to see this lens vs the samyang /bower 35 1.4

  • Mansgame

    Resorting to name calling now? That’s mature. Still, I’ll play along.

    With you car example: Let’s say Toyota and Honda, the two big dogs are Nikon and Canon. Then you have the Hyundai and Kias of the world that are like Sigma and Tamron. In some ways the Hyundai may be the better car when you drive off the lot. It may look a little sportier than the Accord, it will definitely cost a little less, and heck it may be have more horse power (I haven’t checked but for argument’s sake let’s believe the commercials).

    Someone who hasn’t been burnt by Hyundai before may claim that the Hyundai put the Honda to shame. “Holy crap, who would buy the Honda when the Hyundai has 20 more horse powers, a better stereo and is cheaper?? A car is a tool yo, not an investment!”.

    The thing is, the Honda has a better resell value for a reason. in 2 years once the cars are out of warranty, The Honda has almost no problems while the Hyundai is getting weird noises and is going to the shop. In 5 years, the paint is all faded off the Hyundai and the engine is making a lot of noise, suspension is shot, and the transmission needs work. When you try to trade it in, they laugh at you. When you try to put it on craigslist, it stays on there.

    Nobody cares that the now obsolete stereo on there was better than a Honda. You put a 1984 Honda civic on Craigslist and I promise it’s gone after a few days because it may not be flashy but it works and is built to work for a long time.

    In this case, even if the Sigma was slightly better in some areas, I would still choose the Nikkor. Photography is not about stats. Sigma has let me down twice now. You often do get what you pay for with lenses. Sooner or later, the Nikkor quality is going to catch up with Sigma. It may not be the first year, but it will.

    Unlike the car example however, Nikkor lenses usually GAIN in value. It’s almost better than putting your money in a bank.

  • lidocaineus

    I didn’t call anyone names.

    Your example is specious since you just compared two things that aren’t equal; build quality is something everyone takes into account as part of an item’s properties. Now if you don’t like Sigma because of past experience, that’s a completely different and valid reason for selecting one lens, versus something like “resale value”.

    Here’s what you make no sense: you say the Nikkor quality will eventually catch up with the Sigma. Well of course it will; ANY lens will eventually be surpassed. Not buying something that you know will be eventually superseded by something else will result in you never buying anything.

    And finally, photography isn’t about stats? Of course not, but weren’t you the same person who thinks a point and shoot is preferably to the guy doing tintypes? Which side of the coin is it?

    As for your comment about buying Nikkor lenses gaining in value and being better than putting money in the bank, well, that’s just a troll comment if I’ve ever heard one.

  • Mansgame

    By stats I meant if something is a little off in a chart, it’s not the end all be all of that lens. I’m still not convinced that the Sigma is the better lens based on a semi-scientific test a website did. I’ll just have to check back on this page in 2 years to see how the two lenses are doing.

    You call my bank comment a troll comment, I call it tongue and cheek. There is a lot of truth to it though. If 3-4 years ago you bought a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at $1400, it’d be worth $1900 today. That’s a 35% gain in 4 years! You can get out your financial calculator and figure out the annual yields and time valuation of money if you want, but it’s still better than the .5% money market returns banks offer these days.

  • The_photographer_Tom

    I’m glad the cleared up (for me anyway) the fact that “posterizes” is a basketball term. I thought at first tgat you were referring to photographic posterization.

  • TN

    The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is absolutely amazing.

  • shark101au

    The thing is your used lens is worth no where near $1900, I’ve seen them go for as little as $1200 on Ebay. So your point is moot, it doesn’t gain in value.

  • Robert Daniels

    Sigma….’The Vince Carter of lenses’ :P