In 2014, Sigma said the size of the Sony mount made it difficult to make fast glass for Sony. In 2019 they released an amazing piece of fast glass in the form of the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN ART.
It’s also one of the first Sigma lenses to be true FE mirrorless mount as opposed to the mounts that Sigma produced in the past with a built-in adapter to their DSLR glass.
This glass is identifiable by the combination of DG DN delineation. To date, lenses have had either DG or DN, the DG indicating full-frame and DN mirrorless, but these are the first lenses to appear with both.
The 35mm has been followed by a Sigma ART 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN ART, 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary and Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN ART.
No doubt, this change in direction has been helped by the growth of the mirrorless market and Sigma’s involvement in the L Mount alliance.
When Sigma announced the 35mm f/1.2 DG DN ART, it didn’t take long for me to decide to buy one. 135mm and 35mm are my two favourite focal lengths.
With the Sigma distributor in Australia 10 minutes drive from my house, I had my eye on their website. The moment I noticed the new 35mm appear in stock, I ordered one and went to their offices to collect it.
That was back in August, so after had it for four months here is my review.
Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN ART Specs
- Lens Construction: 17 Elements in 12 Groups
- Angle of view (35mm): 63.4°
- Number of diaphragm blades: 11 (Rounded diaphragm)
- Minimum aperture: F16
- Minimum focusing distance: 30cm / 11.8in.
- Maximum magnification ratio: 1:5.1
- Filter size: 82mm
- Dimensions (diameter x length): 87.8mm×136.2mm / 3.5in.×5.4in.
- Weight: 1,090g / 38.4oz.
Build & Ergonomics
The 35mm comes packaged in Sigma’s usual ART series white box, with an upmarket look and feel. Inside the box, you’ll find the following:
- Lens hood
- Manuals/Warranty pack that normally go back into the box and never get read
This lens is a solid chunk of steel weighing in at just over 1kg, nearly as much as my 135mm ART. That’s a prime lens that weighs 250 grams more than the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN ART.
If you want a lens that will double as a self-defence weapon in a dark alley, this is it. I also think the weight will be one of the single biggest deterrents for potential buyers.
Mirrorless buyers tend to be a little more focused on weight than their DSLR counterparts. The question you will have to ask yourself is whether you can live with the weight and size of the 35mm f.1.2?
If it’s a show stopper, you’re going to be looking at one of the 35mm alternatives that are a lighter weight. If you take it, you will be rewarded, and I’m not referring to the free gym membership.
The lens comes equipped with a manual/autofocus button, focus lock button and an aperture ring. The aperture ring and focus lock buttons aren’t something Sigma don’t typically provide with their lenses in the past and seem to be recent editions for their mirrorless lenses.
Aperture rings can be a love it or hate it affair. I don’t mind them at all, I got used to them from my Fujifilm days. If you don’t like them, put it in auto and put an elastic band over it.
The focus lock button is a bonus although I don’t use mine often. I find the inconsistency of having them on some lenses and not others means I prefer something on the camera for muscle memory.
The hood is a nice surprise. I can honestly say it’s one of the nicest hoods I’ve seen on a lens (with the exception of the $100 metal Fujifilm hoods which are exquisite).
They are well constructed with a rubber bumper and a button that ensures that don’t fall off accidentally. It feels better than the hood on my Sony 100-400mm G Master. The only negative with the rubber ring is that it attracts fluff, but I think I’d rather have it there than not.
On paper everything on the lens sounds pretty good, so where did Sigma go wrong? That would be the horrible Sigma lens caps which are prone to falling off. While it may not seem like a big issue, having a lens cap fall off in the camera bags leaves the risk of the lens cap scratching the front element.
I had some preconceived ideas about the focus performance before I picked it up. Wide glass isn’t normally great from an AF perspective. Not with Nikon, and not with my previous Fujifilm gear.
Initially, these expectations seemed correct. The AF was good, but the eye-AF was horrendous. Ten minutes into the test run with my first two subjects, my six and nine-year-old, I discovered the problem. I’d forgotten to switch off animal eye-AF.
It doesn’t explain is why animal AF worked on one of our children, although that’s more likely to be my side of the family than my wife’s.
After resolving the initial animal AF teething issues, I can now conclude that it’s excellent. I would say substantially faster than many of the Sony lenses I have tried and given the amount of glass this lens is moving, that’s an impressive achievement.
It won’t be the first choice for sports, but I don’t think lenses like this are ever suited to that genre. They’re more likely to be used for portraits and in that genre, the Sigma is more than capable of holding its own.
One nice little surprise was the minimum focus distance which allows the 35mm to be used as a pseudo macro similar to the Tamron 28-75mm.
Firstly, let’s start with sharpness. I said that if you purchased this, you would be rewarded for carrying around a 1kg weight. Sigma has created a lens that is incredibly sharp, and that’s wide open at f/1.2. Stop it down to f/4, and it‘s simply spectacular.
On the bokeh side, 35mm is not the kind of focal length that creates creamy bokeh under normal circumstances, but at f/1.2, the Sigma is as bokelicious as they come. Soft and buttery, and about as good as you can expect from a 35mm lens.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN ART has a lifelike 3D pop on it that reminds me of the Brenizer technique. Subjects lift off the photo, which isn’t the same type of feeling you get as the longer focal lengths due to the lack of compression.
The added advantage of the f/1.2 is the extra stops it provides for indoor shoots where limited light is available. I tested it side by side with both the 135 f/1.8 and new Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 and extra stops make a difference in ISO and/or shutter you can achieve.
For those worried about the Chromatic Aberration, it’s negligible and shouldn’t be of any concern for photographers. Distortion is minor but easily corrected in post-processing.
Value for Money
There aren’t a lot of 35mm f/1.2 lenses to compare this to, but given the price of the Sony 35mm f/1.4 and the image quality coming out of this lens, I would say that the pricing is fair.
Sigma has always provided great value for money and the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN ART is no exception. With a retail price around $1499, the Sigma is priced fairly close to the Sony 35mm f/1.4 ZA. Let’s remember this is the Sony Zeiss, not the GM which tend to be more competitively priced.
On the surface, the pricing may be close, but the Sigma is an f/1.2 piece of glass and small changes in aperture mean big changes to lens prices.
A typical f/1.4 is generally at more than two times the price of the f/1.8 lens, so one could only imagine what Sony’s 35mm f/1.2 GM would cost if it was ever released. My guess is you could buy the Sigma 35mm f/1.2, a 35mm f/1.8 and still have change to spare.
Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN ART Review | Conclusion
Despite the heavyweight, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN ART is the kind of lens you’ll find attached to your camera more often than you would like to admit. I find myself constantly drawn to the f/1.2, and I’m constantly blown away by the image quality.
For most portrait shoots these days I carry two bodies, one with the 35mm and the other a 135mm, occasionally if I am indoors where there are constraints on space, my 24mm GM and 85mm might get some use but it’s the exception rather than the rule.
What is clear that Sigma’s new direction with mirrorless is the right one and producing lenses like this will continue to garner support in the Sony market. With the new 14-24mm and 24-70mm, Sigma has sent a shot across the bow with Sony and that’s a good outcome for everyone.
It’ll put pressure on Sony to produce better lenses, whilst making good quality professional optics accessible for those on a limited budget.
- Image quality
- 3D Pop
- Lens Cap