First Look: Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Hands-On

by Jack Howard

Photographers have been excited about the possibilities of the new Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM lens since it was announced at Photokina. The first of the Art line in the new Sigma Global Vision, this lens is finally here. And being one of the first photographers in North America to shoot with this lens, I can now tell you it is flat-out amazing.

Check out the gorgeously shallow depth of field on the steel cable and little purple flower on this footbridge. The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM combines a fast aperture with close focusing for very creative selective focus effects! Sigma 35mm F1.4 paired with a Canon EOS Rebel T3i. 1/400 F1.4 ISO 100. And be sure to click on the photos for fullscreen views.

The build quality is suberb–from the generous focus ring grip to the inscribed lens name on the removable petal hood, down to the capital A in the silver circle designating it as a member of the  Art line–it feels instantly like an old friend. Autofocus is quick and responsive, and the manual focusing resistance is dead-on to my liking. I get the feeling this lens is going to make a lot of photographers very happy. It feels great in the hands. But more than that, the optics and images it makes are  simply gorgeous. In-focus details are razor-sharp, and defocused areas are just plain lovely.

The Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM. First of the Art lenses to be released.

The close focusing operation at widest apertures creates beautiful defocus off the focal plane–which is razor thin even stopped down to F4 or F5.6 when filling the frame with the chosen point of focus. Keep in mind this lens can focus down to 11.5 inches, but it is not a macro lens, as the maximum magnification is 1:5.2. Whether paired with a full-frame DSLR for true wide angle, or on an APS-C DSLR where it is closer to a normal lens in terms of focal length and field of view, the super selective focus slice combined with painterly to truly abstract background rendering will push photographers to explore their subjects in ways to make the most of this lens–it has had me looking at everything with a fresh eye this week!

We are very near the closest focus distance here on this small pine branch that’s mere inches in front of the lens. The abstract light circles in the background come from a companion tree on a Main Street display that’s about five feet from the camera. Tripod used for a 1/10 exposure at F1.4 ISO 100 on the Rebel T3i.

Here’s a sampling of my “first light” images this week with the new Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM.  After the Thanksgiving weekend, stay tuned for a longer blog posting on depth of field, bokeh, and the sweet spot for background blur with this and other Sigma lenses.

Here, we’ve stopped down to F4.5 for a tiny bit more depth of field on the ribbon bow and the frayed ends. 1/80 F4.5 ISO 100 onCanon Rebel T3i
Now this variation was made at F1.4. Notice thin the critical focus is here–just the one sagging loop of the bow is in the focal plane. 1/1600 F1.4 ISO 100 again on the Reb T3i.

But for now, enjoy these photos, I’m going to head back out and make some more photos today!

We’re focused just on the edge of the frame of the APS-C sensor here, and the lights farther down this alley are a lovely collection of sparkly circles. This lens is a lot of fun. 4/10 second F2.5 ISO 100 Rebel T3i on a tripod.
This tattered flag was catching the last rays of daylight every time it flapped upwards. The super-fast F1.4 aperture let me use a motion-freezing 1/1000 shutter speed to catch this moment on the full-frame Canon EOS 5D at ISO 100.
Low, late afternoon late autumn sun illuminates this maple leaf and an F1.4 aperture offers the tiniest slice of sharp focus on the upper holes in the leaf. 1/1000 F1.4 ISO 100 Canon Rebel T3i.

Watch a video clip from this leaf-shooting sequence to appreciate the shallow DOF as the leaf sways in the breeze.

Here, the focal plane runs through the rim of the glass and on the foreground grass. This brandy snifter nearly fills the frame of the Canon EOS 5D for creative effect. 1/4000 F1.4 ISO 100.
In this variation, we are again focused just on the rim of the snifter, but this time, the glass is at waist-level, and notice how much more abstract the grass and leaves behind the focal plane are rendered here. 1/8000 at F1.4 ISO 100 on the Canon EOS 5D.

Learn more about the Sigma Global Vision and the A1 MTF testing for each and every new Sigma lens.


About the Author

Jack Howard is Sigma Corporation of America’s New Media Specialist, where he blogs, builds community, and shares his passion for photography with loyal and future Sigma customers every day.

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