Sigma 24–35mm f/2 DG HSM Art: Sigma, Sigma, Burning Bright
Much like William Blake’s legendary poem, the Sigma 24–35mm f/2 DG HSM Art, the brightest ever full frame zoom lens may well be used to photograph the forests of the night. Raj Lalwani takes the lens through a series of photographic challenges.
Personally, I am going through a phase where I am steering away from zoom lenses. Sure, modernday zooms often give prime lenses a run for their money in terms of optics, but there are users, like me, who want a prime lens not for any assumed advantage of quality, but to allow the camera to become a part of one’s presence, a part of the scene. Fast zoom lenses, being much bulkier, do not allow the same, a drawback that I kept reminding myself when I expressed an interest to test the Sigma 24–35mm f/2.
But the 24–35mm has already written its way into the imaging history books; it is the first ever full frame zoom to have a fixed f/2 aperture. Neither a 24–70mm, nor a 16–35mm, the focal length range is, what I would jokingly refer to, as the ‘sane’ wide-angle range—focal lengths that allow you to get into the heart of the action and make intimate shots, but not so wide that things start getting distorted. For the patient, sensitive photographer, it is the perfect field of view to be in somebody else’s personal space, but not trespass it outrightly.
The choice of f/2 as opposed to f/2.8 is great for low light, but considering how good modern cameras are at high ISOs, the real reason why the specification is special is depth control. It gets more interesting. When you approach your subject, you realise how close this lens actually allows you to go! The minimum focusing distance of 0.28m is outstanding for a fast-aperture zoom lens. The soft, inobtrusive bokeh allowed me to experiment with some dynamic compositions that included the subject at mid distance and other passersby, blurred in the foreground, much like a frame to the overall frame. Landscape shooters may want to keep in mind that the lens does not stop down beyond f/16.
A silent Hyper Sonic Motor powers the focusing mechanism, which is fast and assured. Even on the Canon 6D, whose AF system lags behind most cameras at its price point, the 24–35mm does a quick job of locking focus, in all but poor light. On faster AF systems like the 5D Mark III, the focusing is as fast as any proprietary f/2.8 zoom lens.
Like previous Art lenses, the lens is not weathersealed, but seems to be very well built. ‘Seems to’ being the operative term though. When we test equipment, we gauge its strength and longetivity, but as a personal owner of an Art lens (the 35mm f/1.4), I have come to realise that the rubber rings are susceptible to coming off with wear and tear, sooner than one would expect, probably because of the heat, dust and humidity seen on the Indian coastline.
The grip provided by the focusing ring is excellent, as is the travel required to go from one end of the focusing range to the other. MF is a joy to use, and I often found myself resort to zone focusing while shooting on the streets or in light where the 6D struggled to focus as easily.
Sharpness is astounding at 24mm and f/2. At 28mm and 35mm, the centre-to-edge sharpness is excellent, as well. The quality at 35mm isn’t as good as Sigma’s 35mm prime, but on the high-resolution 5Ds, we observed that this zoom lens actually beats the much more expensive (and optically slower) 16–35mm f/2.8 II. Fringing and flare are well controlled, as is distortion, which is minimal, uniform and easily correctable. At f/2, there is prominent light falloff, and it goes away only at f/5.6.
Despite my initial reservations about the size of the 24–35mm f/2 Art, it’s undeniable that this is one of the most significant pieces of optical technology, ever released. It offers something that no other zoom has, and beats its (non) competitors hollow. Nikon users have the option of buying three inexpensive f/1.8 primes in its place, especially if they want to be more discreet, but the Sigma 24–35mm, huge albeit, is not only an all-inone solution, but also more economical, with almost the same maximum aperture. With a price of only Rs. 79,900 (the street price being a lot lesser in some cities), it’s an absolute no-brainer of a buy.
Fastest ever full frame zoom lens, excellent minimum focusing distance.
Excellent sharpness and control over flare, some vignetting, quick AF
Sturdily built, but no weathersealing
Extremely large lens, but balances well, physical distance scale
|Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty with service centres in major metropolitan cities
|VALUE FOR MONEY||4/5|
|Who should buy it?||Photographers and videographers, dealing with documentary, reportage, or any wedding-related work.|
|Why?||The 24–35mm f/2 is like three fast primes in one. It’s bulky, but its relatively low price and quality make it a steal!|
Tags: Raj Lalwani, Sigma, sigma art lens, November 2015, Sigma 24–35mm f/2 DG HSM Art, Sigma 24-35