Sigma now offers the DSLR designs 35mm 1.4 Art and 40mm 1.4 Art and the newly designed 35mm 1.2 Art for Sony E-mount cameras. Let us find out what the differences between those 3 are and if there is a reason to get one of the bigger, heavier and more expensive lenses.
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Disclaimer: I only tested one sample of each lens on only one camera. As lens and camera tolerances (sample variation) come into play, it is possible that a certain combination of lens and camera shown here may perform above or below average in certain areas, like off-center sharpness or field curvature. The Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art for example works generally better in combination with my A7III.
Furthermore no lens is perfectly symmetrical, so it is possible I picked the best corner of one lens while I picked the worst of another.
The influence on other aspects like bokeh and color correction are usually less affected by this though.
The 40mm 1.4 was kindly provided by a reader, the other two lenses I bought myself.
|Sigma Art 35mm 1.2||Sigma Art 35mm 1.4||Sigma Art 40mm 1.4|
|Min. focus distance from sensor||30cm||30cm||40cm|
|Number of aperture blades||11 (rounded)||9 (rounded)||9 (rounded)|
The 35mm 1.2 is slightly less wide than the 35mm 1.4. This is how the field of view compares:
Being from the same manufacturer there are many similarities, so I will mainly talk about the differences.
The 35mm 1.4 Art and 40mm 1.4 Art are very similar, they both have a mechanical coupling between focus ring and internal mechanics and a physical distance scale, very rare among “native” E-mount lenses. They both share an AF/MF switch on the lens, too. The only noticeable difference is the lens hood: the 35mm 1.4’s is just a simple piece of plastic, the 40mm 1.4’s features a release button and is made from a mix of polycarbonate and rubber.
The 35mm 1.2 is a focus by wire design (without distance scale) and in addition to the AF/MF switch it features a de-clickable aperture ring and a focus hold button, just like the Sony GM lenses. Hood design is the same as that of the 40mm.
All of these are big and heavy lenses, but the 35mm 1.4 certainly is a bit easier to handle than the other two due to smaller size and less weight.
The 40mm 1.4 is certainly the worst, not only is it the heaviest but weight distribution is also worse compared to the 35mm 1.2.
|Sigma Art 35mm 1.2||Sigma Art 35mm 1.4||Sigma Art 40mm 1.4|
|f/1.4||2.6 EV||2.9 EV||2.2 EV|
|f/2.0||1.9 EV||1.9 EV||1.7 EV|
|f/2.8||1.2 EV||1.1 EV||1.1 EV|
|f/8.0||0.9 EV||0.7 EV||0.8 EV|
These values are for the extreme corners of the A7rII. Despite the size of these lenses the light falloff is very obvious wide open, but still slightly better compared to smaller fast lenses like the 40mm 1.2 from Voigtlander.
The Sigma 40mm 1.4 Art has the least vignetting at maximum aperture, but the difference compared to the 35mm email@example.com isn’t exactly huge.
Stopped down to f/2.8 or further the differences between these 3 lenses are within the margin of error.
We are looking at the following parts of the frame:
The camera was set on a tripod (Gitzo series 4 with Arca Swiss P0 ballhead) and 5sec self release had been used. For shutter speeds faster than 1/500s the mechanical shutter had been used, for slower ones the electronic first curtain shutter had been activated.
Focus was manually set on the red rooftop in the center. The focus has not been adjusted for midframe or corners, so you may see effects from field curvature.
It was windy, so better not use the trees for any evaluation, especially on the stopped down crops.
100% crops from center, A7rII
Differences in the center are minimal. The 40mm 1.4 might be slightly cleaner than the 35mm 1.2 at f/1.2 or f/1.4, but it will be really difficult to see these differences in the real world.
35mm 1.2 and 40mm 1.4 are extremely crisp at f/2.0, the 35mm 1.4 needs f/2.8 to look similar.
100% crops from midframe, A7rII
Here by a tiny margin the 35mm 1.2 looks better than the 40mm 1.4 at maximum aperture, but these differences are within the margin of sample variation.
The 35mm 1.4 exhibits a bit of field curvature, which is almost non existent in the other two lenses.
100% crops from corner, A7rII
The 35mm 1.2 looks slightly cleaner at maximum aperture again. According to Sigma’s MTF the 35mm 1.2 should show some astigmatism in the corners and the 40mm 1.4 should not, these samples look the other way round. Easily possible due to sample variation.
In the very extreme corner the 35mm 1.4 does not look too great at f/1.4 and f/2.0, but at f/2.8 this is mostly resolved.
Based on this comparison I would not decide whether to buy the 35mm 1.2 or 40mm 1.4. How well one works for you depends more on the tolerances at play (flange focal distance, sample variation) than on actual differences between these two lenses. Both are the best fast wide primes I had the chance to use so far.
Sharpness portrait distance
For portraiture it isn’t so important how flat the field is, it is more interesting to see what the sharpness is like when focused at different parts of the frame to take field curvature out of the equasion.
This is what I did here, I refocused for every shot to get the best possible result at different locations in the frame (center, inner midframe and outer midframe).
Focus distance was roughly 1,0 m (1,2 m for the 40mm lens) and the circle of the dollar bill is more or less the size of a human eye.
100% crops from center, A7rII
Unsurprisingly all lenses look great in the center. The 35mm 1.4 Art is slightly less contrasty but this will hardly be field relevant. The differences between 35mm 1.2 and 40mm 1.4 are well within the margin of focus accuracy or sample variation.
100% crops from inner midframe, A7rII
Some fine detail on the 35mm 1.4 is lost while the other two are almost as good as in the center with moiré everywhere. Between 35mm 1.2 and 40mm 1.4 I fail to name a winner again.
100% crops from outer midframe, A7rII
This is where the 35mm 1.4 begins to struggle. The 40mm 1.4 also looks slightly clearer than the 35mm 1.2 now. But again, this difference is within the margin of focus accuracy or sample variation.
The Sigma 40mm 1.4 Art shows an amazing performance here, there is barely any coma visible at f/1.4. Surprisingly the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art is a very close follower: only one very bright light source shows some purple outlining.
The Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art needs to be stopped down to f/2.8 for a similar performance.
All the images from this chapter can be found in full resolution here. Sometimes I shot from the same distance, sometimes I tried to adjust the subject size to be a match between the lenses.
Everyone has his or her own opinion on this topic, so I decided not to write what I think under each set. If you do care what I think: I prefer the 35mm 1.2 but the 40mm 1.4 does not lack far behind.
Scene 1: plasticity
Scene 2: long distance (1)
Scene 3: long distance (2)
Scene 4: transition (1)
Scene 5: transition (2)
Scene 6: medium distance
Scene 7: short distance
Scene 8: city lights
Scene 9: light circles
All lenses show only minor lateral CA which are easily corrected in camera or in post with the help of the built in profiles.
Longitudinal chromatic aberrations come in different forms. Unfortunately there are only few (if any at all) sources that give a clear differentiation. In the following comparsion we will have a look at purple fringing (it shows up close to the plane in focus) and the “bokeh-CA” or “bokeh fringing” which you will see in the out of focus areas.
The Sigma Art 40mm 1.4 shows an amazing performance here, it might be the best corrected f/1.4 lens I have seen so far.
The Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 is the worst with noticeable purple fringing and very obvious bokeh CA.
The Sigma Art 35mm 1.2 is somewhere in between. Purple fringing is really well behaved, bokeh CA are not as bad as the 35mm 1.4 but not as good as the 40mm 1.4 either.
Get the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art, if you want the smoothest bokeh, GM handling or the first 35mm f/1.2 lens with AF.
Get the Sigma 40mm 1.4 Art, if you are allergic to longitudinal CA or want the best lens in this focal length range for milky way panorama stitching. Or you prefer the 40mm focal length, obviously.
Get the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art, if you are on a budget yet need a 35mm 1.4 lens with AF to get the job done or you mind the size and weight of the other two.
Not only Sigma has come a long way since the introduction of the first Art lens (35mm 1.4 Art in 2012) but also optical design in general. We have finer aspherical elements that mostly got rid of those dreadful onion ring patterns and prime lenses are as complex as never before. With 17 single elements the 35mm 1.2 is a very complex design and the 40mm 1.4 with its 16 elements is not much simpler.
But all this comes at a price: these lenses have grown significantly in size and weight as well, which makes them ill suited to certain tasks (e.g. travel photography).
The Sigma 40mm 1.4 Art may very well be one of the – if not the – best corrected lens(es) you can buy. Despite being an f/1.4 lens it is an almost apochromatically corrected design. Coma and astigmatism are pretty much non existent. It even shows the least vignetting at maximum aperture.
In my opinion the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art is even more impressive though: designing an f/1.2 lens is not slightly more difficult than an f/1.4 lens, it is significantly more difficult. Yet in many categories it fares no worse than the 40mm 1.4.
Some may wonder, why the color correction is slightly worse compared to the 40mm 1.4 then, but I am sure this was intentional: the apochromatic lenses we have seen so far (e.g. Voigtlander 65mm 2.0 or 110mm 2.5) never featured the most pleasing, best in class bokeh. And you can also see these differences when comparing the 35mm 1.2 to the 40mm 1.4. So in the end the 35mm 1.2 is the more desirable lens in my eyes, as its results are closer in look to those derived from the Sony GM primes (which I prefer, your mileage may vary).
Then there is the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art: it is only half the price of the other two and significantly lighter and smaller. What are you giving up when going for this one by comparison? Off center sharpness at maximum aperture, coma correction at f/1.4-f/2.0, a bit of bokeh smoothness compared to the 35mm 1.2, a bit of color correction compared to the 40mm 1.4.
How field relevant are these things? In many use cases not really, actually. Especially when you are not using one of the higher resolution cameras.
It remains my recommendation if you are looking for a 35mm f/1.4 lens with AF for your E-mount camera (unless you want to pay for and carry one of the other two lenses instead).
One very important remark: go out and shoot. Don’t look for flaws in your lenses. Don’t do stupid comparisons to find out about tiny differences – that rarely matter in the field – like I did here. Be smarter than me.