This month I was invited by Sigma to test out their brand new Sigma 24-105mm F4 lens and to shoot a series of bridal images to demonstrate the versatility of the lens. I decided to put together a fashion-influenced bridal shoot in a stunning location and with the help of my incredible talented creative team. Once I had put together striking visual elements, I would then test all features of the lens that would be important to me as a working photographer.
For several years I photographed weddings, and all the challenges that come with them. I realized very quickly that the last thing I wanted to worry about was my gear. I had to focus on the posing, the lighting, keeping everyone happy, my extremely long shot-list, and much more. I needed to know my gear was reliable and would help me get those must-have moments. When I started I didn’t have a second shooter or assistant; I was the one-woman band expected to make every shot count.
One challenge I frequently came up against was having the right focal length for any given moment. For example, when shooting a reception, at one moment I would want a close up of the couple dancing but then in the next instance I wanted a wide shot of the scene. These close then wide combinations were exactly what I needed to give me dynamic album design and to also capture the entire essence of the moment. What this meant for me, typically, is that I would have two cameras tangled around my neck. One one camera I would have the Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 lens and Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 lens. I would switch between them rapidly to ensure I got the shots.
Often I get the question, “What do I buy if I can only afford 1 lens and 1 camera for shooting weddings?” After testing out the Sigma 24-105mm F4, I feel confident to recommend it as an EXCELLENT one-lens solution. I had heard about the 24-105mm f4, but would f/4.0 give me the look I wanted and would this be enough range to capture all of the shots? During this shoot I tried to push the limits of the lens, always shooting wide-open at 4.0, testing all focal length, and also experimenting with minimum focus distance (how close can I focus).
First, I went through and shot some of my MUST have images to see what the lens could and couldn’t do on my essential check list. For example, one of my favorite shots that I always get at a wedding is a close up of the bride’s ring (in focus) with the bride and groom out of focus in the background. I usually shoot this with a Sigma 85mm f1.4, so would a 4.0 cut it?
Here you can see the image I was able to create. At f4.0 I LOVE it. The ring is tack sharp, and the bokeh in the background is perfect.
Also, for detail shots of the flowers and shoes, I typically use my Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 at 200mm, so how would this lens fare at 105mm?
Here I took a close up of a single flower with the lens a minimum focus distance. The flower is sharp, but there is a beautiful soft blur of her hands and ring in the background. If I wanted a macro shot of just the ring or just the petals of the flower, perhaps the Sigma 150mm macro would be a better option, but I was definitely pleased with this beautiful close up.
Next on my ‘must-have’ shots are portraits of the bride and groom together and separately. This lens handled that easily. As long as the subject was not directly in front of a background, there was a nice blur in the background and sharp focus on the subject.
You can see a couple of those portraits here.
Of course the central attraction of this lens is its range of focal lengths, so I had to test a few shots at 24mm. Distortion was extremely minimal. Being able to jump from 24mm for a wide shot into 105mm for a close up portrait was an extreme advantage for timesaving and versatility.
Finally, I wanted to test the lens in more challenging situations; backlit and lowlight. In low light situations I might want to have a longer shutter speed but ensure the sharpness so I enabled the optical stabilization (OS) on the lens, which allowed me to capture sharp images even below 1/60 of a second as seen in the image below.
Also, some lenses struggle to focus in backlight or have unsightly lensflare. I had no issues with this at all, and in fact added a bit of glow in photoshop in order to create more mood and atmosphere.
After shooting this test I am thrilled with the images, and amazed at how great the 4.0 bokeh looks, especially since I LOVE my 1.4 lenses. What I found is that there are certainly still instances where I love my Sigma 1.4 lenses (35mm, 50mm, 85mm) because of the narrow depth of field. Yes, there could be certainly situations where a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 lens might be ideal (at 200mm for example when the couple is at the alter). Yet the versatility of this lens and its sharpness are incredible. If I could choose only ONE lens to have to shoot an entire wedding, no doubt this would be it.