Gear Review: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG

I have never done a review on any piece of photography equipment before, but this lens is too good not to promote it. I had been shopping around for a new prime lens for quite some time. I saw that Sigma would be releasing a new 35mm lens for Nikon cameras, so I saved up some cash and saved all the money I got for Christmas in order to pick one up as soon as it came out. I already own two sigma lenses, which overall are well put together and are good for certain shots, but I was leaning more towards purchasing Nikon’s version, until I saw this. Sigma has completely revamped their line of lenses and it is a much nicer, sharper looking design than their previous products. I mainly find myself photographing lifestyle photos and concerts/live events, so majority of this review will be geared towards that specific purpose and be more directed towards actual images rather than talking specifications.

For all of you tech folk, here are some of the specs:

  • Aperture Range: f/1.4-16
  • Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM)
  • Floating Internal Focus System
  • Minimum Focusing Distance: 11.8″
  • Anti-Flare Super Multi-Layer Coating
  • Special & “F” Low Dispersion Elements
  • Front Filter Thread Diameter: 67mm
  • 9x Circular Aperture Blades
  • SIGMA Optimization Pro Software

The weight of the lens really impressed me when I first took it out of the box. It came with a really nice lens bag which can be attached through a belt loop and I plan on using it for festivals where I am using my gear for long periods of time and also have to change lenses quickly. The hood is also rock solid plastic and I really like how it actually clicks into position and doesn’t just sit on the front. Below are a few images of the lens when I took it out of the box.

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All I had been reading about was how incredibly sharp this lens is wide open at f/1.4, so I took a few images quickly in my backyard. The lens was mounted on my Nikon D3 full-frame DSLR body.

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Both photos taken at f/1.4

What i saw when I looked at the LCD screen on the back of my camera had completely blown me away. It was even better when I looked at it on my iMac. I couldn’t wait to shoot some more images with it, especially a concert. The first concert that I was able to try the new lens out was the Deftones sold out show at Kool Haus in Toronto, Ontario. I hadn’t used the lens in low light that much before this show, so I couldn’t wait to try it out at a show. The Deftones had a really good light setup and excellent production on the tour. Most of the lights were combinations of different colours that all worked together well and even some small LED’s around the stage made for some cool images. Here are some images I got from the show with their respective apertures.

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Overall, it was a fantastic lens for this venue. With the stage not being too big and the barricade right up close to the stage, 35mm was a good focal length to get photos of every member of the band. Another major thing to note is how well the lens did with having multiple lights in front of it. The flaring overall was very minimal and I was extremely impressed. The next big trip/event I was able to shoot photos with my new 35mm was SXSW in Austin, Texas. I knew going in that I would be using the lens a lot this trip due to the fact that a majority of the shows and showcases were in small pubs/bars, but I had no idea that I would only take it off my camera a total of two times the entire trip. There just simply was no reason to use a different lens for a lot of the stuff I shot that week. From photos around the city of what was going on, to live concert shots, I was able to capture a lot of important moments that week without having the need to keep switching lenses.

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One of my favourite attributes of this lens is that it has very minimal vignetting and low chromatic aberration, which I personally care a lot about. It is hardly noticeable in concert photos or in situations with a lot of light, but even the darker situations only requires a slight adjustment in Photoshop. I personally believe that this is the sharpest lens that I have ever used, and I own a 50mm f/1.2, 80-200mm f/2.8 and so on, this lens has very little soft edges which I find can tend to happen with my 50mm at the aperture of f/1.4. This lens was definitely a great asset to have at this festival and I can’t wait to photograph more concerts with it in the future.

I went out one night with a friend of mine who also happens to be a photographer. He wanted to try and find some new locations to shoot on-location wedding photos next month. I decided to bring my camera along and take some photos with the 35mm for this review. The photos below were taken in Sarnia, Ontario along the St. Clair River.

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The next shoot I had planned was with a phenomenal drummer by the name of Luke Holland from Peoria, Arizona. Luke is the drummer for a band called The Word Alive and he also records covers of bands which he posts to his YouTube page. Luke had messaged me a long time ago saying how if I was ever in the Arizona area, that we should get together and shoot some photos. When I found out that The Word Alive would be playing a show in Detroit, MI with Parkway Drive on April 19th, I messaged Luke to see if he would be down to hang out and take some photos. Him being the genuine guy he is, he gladly hooked me up with a photo pass and I made the trip to Detroit that night to grab some images of him on and off stage.

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The only downfall I have regarding this lens is that the bokeh can sometimes have a bit of an “onion” look to it if underexposed, which is not very appealing in most situations. This is just a slight downfall as I don’t consider that to be a reason not to buy this lens. Comparing this to the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G, the bokeh to me wasn’t enough of a reason to justify spending $400-700 more for the Nikon version.

Overall, I would highly recommend this lens to anybody who is constantly shooting in low light situations, want a good walk-around lens and also to people who are just simply looking for a professional grade lens at a great price tag. I look forward to shooting with this lens more throughout the spring/summer months. I should have a few more blog posts in the coming few weeks so keep checking back here for more photos/blog write ups, or head on over to my Facebook page to find out where I will be heading next.

www.facebook.com/JoelPilottePhoto

Thank you for taking the time to check out my review and I hope you liked the images.

– Joel

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3 comments

  1. Good review with real world application. I have ordered this lens, and shooting low light in small areas is one of the reasons. You have given me some great examples of that.

  2. Nice. Thanks for the review. I want this lens.

  3. Thanks for this review 🙂 I’m planning to buy this lens, I also shoot at concerts so it has been very helpful.
    Amanda, Italy

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