Tips & How-Tos

Hands-On: Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art

The world’s first full-frame 14mm F1.8 lens, exclusively from Sigma. Click the lens for tech specs, pricing, and availability info!

Earlier this year, we announced the world’s first full-frame 14mm F1.8 prime wide angle lens. Featuring the industry’s largest aspherical glass element, this ultra-fast, ultra sharp ultra wide lens is a game changer. Yes, it seems we find ourselves saying things like that a lot these days; but it is true. The Art lenses truly have redefined the lens landscape over the past half-decade, and the 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art lens delivers edge to edge performance, exceptional aberration correction, and swift autofocus while taking in a sweeping 114.2º angle of view on super-resolution full-frame DSLR cameras.


Goldenrod, dune grass, and Officer’s Row at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook as seen through the Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art lens paired with a 6D at 1/200 F/8 ISO 100. Lightly tuned in ACR for web optimization.


This lens has been making huge waves in the astrophotography, landscape, and architectural arenas since it began shipping mid-summer. You can check out some of the amazing work Astrophotographer Jack Fusco has made so far with this lens and gather some night photo tips in this piece, and in this incredible video (check back Tuesday for the link!). Here, we are going to focus on the in-the-hands, and on-the-ground experience with this awesome new lens.

The North Branch of the Raritan river flows past exposed roots of a tree along the banks in Natirar park as seen through the 14mm Art lens at 1/80 F7.1 ISO 100.

Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art: Physical Size and Hand Feel

At nearly two and a half pounds, and with a 3.8 inch diameter and 5 inch length, the Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art is a solid chunk of high quality glass and electronics. Of the 16 elements in 11 groups in the optical path, three are FLD glass, four are SLD glass, and three are Aspherical lenses. The petal-type hood is permanently attached, and the fit and finish is in the distinctive and elegant Art line finish. The full-time manual focus ring is towards the front of the barrel, at the widest diameter of the lens, for easy focus tuning and the AF switch location and feel is familiar to anyone who has handled an Art lens. Because the lens field of view is so wide, you’ve got to be mindful to keep stray fingers out of the framing when cradling the lens in your hands—once you’ve caught yourself through the viewfinder gripping the front of the petals, you’ll quickly stop this habit!

On a hike through Rutgers Gardens, I stumbled upon a series of interconnected timber shelters built of fallen trees in the geometric forest. The 114.2º field of view allowed me to show the interiors of these cool artistically hewn spaces. 1/30 F7.1 at ISO 400.
Another section of the shelter compound in Rutgers Gardens. The ultrawide field of view really works to document this space. Same tech specs as above.

Autofocus performance and close-focusing distance

Autofocus is surprisingly swift for a very wide angle lens—even in typical indoor conditions, and even with single peripheral AF point selected. Close-focusing distance is 10.6 inches; remember, this is measured from the focal plane, so that’s just over five inches in front of the lens itself.

We are mere inches from the tree directly in center of frame wide open at F1.8. See how the background is both sweeping and blurred with pleasing bokeh thanks to the nine rounded aperture blades of this ultrawide Art lens. 1/1600 F1.8 ISO 400.

The combination of very fast aperture and close focusing allows for shallow depth of field bokeh effects combined with a sweeping field of view for creative takes on ultra wide photograph—in addition to the near to far total sharpness hyper focal style of image this class of lens is also known for when focused a bit further afield and stopped down to middle apertures.

Autofocus had no trouble locking onto the red lettering in HEAD on the curved walls of the Twin Lights in Atlantic Highlands in the dim conditions you’d expect in a lighthouse stairwell. 1/30 F2 ISO 640.
Following the pattern of the spiral stairs and brickwork, the ultrawide is able to take in a wide sweep, even in claustrophobic conditions! I stopped down to F7.1 for more depth of field here, at 1/100 ISO 640mm.
I set the camera to closest focusing distance, stopped down to F14 for some depth of field, and lay down on the wet shoreline to focus on the clamshell at center of frame. Notice how, even stopped down to F14, the background is softened. 1/200 F14 ISO 100
Another shot a moment later, still stopped down to F14, but focused at hyperfocal for serious near-far depth of field. Notice that even with the sun direct overhead and reflecting off the water, that flare and ghosting is very, very well controlled. 1/80 F14 ISO 100.

Angle of View, Wide Angle Distortion, Rectilinear Correction, and Perspective Distortion

The Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art has a 114.2º angle of view on full-frame cameras. This is a sweeping field of view that is much more wide than the human standard perception. As a class of lenses, ultra wide angle lens exhibit extension distortion. This is how the greater arc of information is projected onto the sensor. Objects that are nearer to the edge of the frame exhibit the characteristics of extension distortion the closer they get. This is how a sweeping field of view is accomplished.

As an rectilinear ultra wide lens, the 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art can create cool perspective effects. The concrete wall in the foreground is twenty feel tall, about eight feet wide on the open side and about 150 feet to the rusted container on the right side. My bike gives a sense of scale. And of course, the nearby Lighthouse is much, much taller than the the Mortar Battery wall. The Battery wall exhibits two-point perspective with the straight up and down line of the wall corner anchoring the composition. 1/80 F14 ISO 100.

The Sigma 14mm Art lens is a rectilinear ultrawide, so it is designed specifically to keep straight lines as straight as possible.  The Fisheye class of lens, on the other hand, is designed to take in a sweeping field of view, and does not attempt rectilinear correction. This class of lens shows extreme, intentional barrel distortion as a design characteristic. Straight lines appear curved, and curve more so closer to the edges of the frame.

This is a mild HDRI shot of Battery Potter, shot with an eye on ensuring that the main lines of the building are as vertical as possible from my position. A slight switch off axis can cause the walls to fall away. F9.1 focused on the structure for serious depth of field.

All Rectilinear lenses, from Ultrawides to Superteles, are benchmarked on their optical performance by how well the lens keeps straight lines straight. If a lens shows a little of the fisheye effect unintentionally, where a straight line is bowed towards the edge of the frame, that is called Barrel distortion. If it is pinched in and bowed towards the center, that is called Pincushion distortion. So, Barrel or Pin distortion is not the same thing as extension distortion. Why do I mention all of this? Because I have read several recent reviews online from photographers and editors who should know better who have called extension distortion “barrel distortion” while illustrating their “point” with a two or three-point perspective image perfectly illustrating the rectilinear correction of this or that ultra wide lens!  The principle of Extension distortion is what fuels this entire class of lenses.

Here we have a one-point perspective with a vanishing point that is near the left edge of the frame in the background, and a two-point perspective object in the foreground. Notice how all the lines in the image that are presumed to be straight are projected as straight onto the sensor. 1/80 F9.1 ISO 100.
A close focus variation on the above to show the very shallow depth of field and sweeping background effect this lens is capable of. 1/4000 F1.8 ISO 100.

Another characteristic of ultra wide angle lenses is perspective distortion, and this can be employed for creative effects. Thanks to the sweeping field of view, parallel lines appear to converge at a vanishing point that is much nearer than with a standard or telephoto lens. And when you’ve got one, two, and three point perspective compositions, it can be used to give a serious sense of scale. And the effect is amplified the more any of the axes deviates from the focal plane. Buildings can fall away and distance can be expressed dramatically. But it also means that if there’s not an alignment anchored to one axis, it can appear haphazard, or accidental and disorienting to the viewer.

So…all that being said, the Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art lens does an outstanding job with rectilinear correction and total image quality for an ultra-wide lens. The bottom lines is straight lines stay straight, and there’s great edge to edge sharpness and crispness with this lens. It is super-sharp at F1.8, and stopped down, is just mind-blowing.

Lens Flare, very wide fields of view, and High Dynamic Range Imaging

Taking in nearly one-third an arc of a circle, there a good chance the sun is in, or near your framing with an ultra wide lens like the 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art lens during daylight hours. Therefore, flare control is critical. I shot into the sun, around the sun, across the sun, and in every instance, flare and ghosting was exceptionally well controlled. And so was chromatic abberation, which can often be a hobgoblin for ultrawides near the frame edge.

It was very challenging light, and very tight quarters on a boardwalk pathway riddled with poison ivy, so my angles were limited to capture the full breadth of the historical Lifesaving Station at Sandy Hook. So I shot a bracketed sequence for HDRI and gave it the full Photomatix treatmen for old time’s sake. The combination of HDRI and very wide angle can make for some cool compositions. I made sure the center corner of the building’s tower was the anchoring line in this composition.
Nine Gun Battery is an impressive set of military ruins at the very tip of Sandy Hook’s Fort Hancock. Due to the decaying status, it is off limits to foot traffic. I chose HDRI bracketing here to really accentuate the deterioration and decay, rust and overgrowth that is reclaiming the concrete and steel of this old battery. F8 for maximum depth of field, merged and toned in Photomatix.

This optical formula is really impressive at taming these sorts of imaging issues, and this makes the 14mm Art a great choice for ultrawide angle high dynamic range imaging. When you are taking in such a sweeping field of view, there is oftentimes a very wide dynamic range that can tax the sensor performance for a single shot even in the best modern DSLRs. It is 2017, not 2007, so I’m not interested in debating the artistic merits of HDRI versus single shot; and if you don’t choose to employ this technique, that’s your personal decision. But when it comes to ultrawide angle primes, everything about the imaging characteristics that makes the 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art a favorite among astrophotographers and architectural photographers also rings true for HDRI photographers.

The Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art in a Nutshell

The Sigma 14mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art truly is in a class of its own. There is no other full-frame DSLR lens that pairs its ultra wide angle, fast F1.8 maximum aperture, autofocus capabilities, and the signature performance that is the hallmark of the Art line of lenses. The focal plane is sharp even at widest apertures, and the close-focusing abilities plus F1.8 F-stop allow for close-up details and sweepingly blurred backgrounds. Focused farther afield—hyperfocal at F1.8 or stopped down a bit, this lens takes it all in with impressive edge to edge sharpness. Whether in dark sky territory to capture the Milky Way, on Main Street to shoot architectural details, or on a hike to capture nature, this 14mm Art lens is ready to take it all in.

Comments (2)
  1. Very well done with very nice images. I’ll have to research this lens as to its use on a Sony A7Rii. I’m finding more and More the Beni fits of a very wide lens especially when traveling to interesting cities, and landscapes.

  2. I also just received my copy of this new 14mm art. I’m still in the learning mode with this work of ART lens. Last week we had some perfect weather and I spent some time on a photo walk around my town and had perfect results.
    I also sent a few images to Sigmas photo shire site. Please let me now your feedback.

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