I have been using the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art for about four months now and want to share my thoughts on its performance, possible uses, and image quality. The obvious choice is for landscape astrophotography. With the fast aperture and wide view, this lens would allow me to capture more of the Milky Way especially when shooting vertically. The image at top is from this summer shortly after getting the lens and the first Milky Way image I have been able to capture in New Jersey because of excessive light pollution. I had to travel two hours south of my house along the NJ shore to even remotely attempt it and still got the glow of distant cities along the horizon to the right of the shack. The images below were from my photo workshops to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons a few months after.
If you are just getting into astrophotography, you will find a formula called the rule of 500. Simply put, you start with 500, divide your focal length, and that yields your maximum shutter speed. Using my 14mm lens in the equation I would get; 500 ÷ 14 = about 35 seconds. I never go over 30 seconds on my shutter speeds for my Milky Way images and find the wider angle of the lens, I prefer to be closer to 400 as my base to prevent the outer edge stars from elongating. Using this formula, I would get; 400 ÷ 14mm = 28 seconds so I just use 25 seconds. I also bracket an additional 1/3 of a stop faster to compare the images on my computer later. With outstanding edge-to-edge sharpness, even at f/1.8, this lens is sure to be on everyone’s list for astrophotography.
The highlight of my night shoots with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art happened just a few weeks ago when I had my fourth workshop at the Very Large Array at the Festival of Cranes. This very exclusive workshop allowed the group access to a site very few get to photograph especially at night. The lights from the visitor center lit the radio telescope.
The super fast aperture of the lens also allows me to keep my ISO’s lower than an f/4 lens which is great for minimizing noise but what other uses did I find for this lens? The obvious answer is daytime landscapes but with the 114.2 wide degree field of view you have to be careful to not minimize your subject. The solution is to get closer to your subject and in both of the images below I was about 6 feet to the nearest point of the scene. Stopping down to f/16 allowed me to render the entire scene, from foreground to distant sky sharp.
Another great use for this lens is for architectural photography. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 10.6 inches allowing me to get really close to my subject and in tight spaces, allows me to capture the entire scene. In the image below of the inside of a trolley car, I was approximately 2 feet away from the nearest point of the ceiling and by stopping down and focusing about 4 feet away, I had everything from 1 foot to infinity in focus. I find this online depth of field calculator useful for determining what will be in focus in your particular situation.
I had the opportunity this year to visit the Chihuly night exhibit at the NY Botanical Gardens. In all of the situations above, my camera and lens were mounted on a tripod but in some cases, the facilities don’t allow you to use a tripod, so what do you do? Open up the aperture to make sure you have a fast enough shutter speed! In the image below, I was able to keep my ISO at a manageable 1600 and opened up to f/6.3. I was about 5 feet away from the sculpture and with the wide view, I was able to hand hold the setup at 1/50th of a second. Using the online calculator, you will see that everything from 2 feet to infinity is in focus.
The super fast aperture allows me to photograph handheld when tripods aren’t allowed even in dimly lit situations. In the image of the Yale library below, I opened up all the way to f/1.8 and still captured all the detail while maintaining a fast shutter speed to eliminate any possible camera shake from me.
This lens is an awesome addition to the Art lens lineup. With the outstanding build quality like the rest of the Art lineup, extra wide field of view, and edge-to-edge sharpness, this lens it is perfect for those looking to add a top performer for their astro, landscape, and architectural photography.
Roman Kurywczak is a full time nature photographer and proud Sigma Pro team member who conducts lectures and workshops across the globe. His boutique tour company, Roamin’ with Roman Photo Tours, caters to very small groups (only 4) to provide the ultimate learning experience for participants. His down to earth and easy to follow teaching style make him a highly sought after lecturer. The author of several instructional eBook’s on nature photography, Roman strives to share his passion for photography as others have shared with him. He is married for over 28 years with two sons and lives in NJ. You can learn more about Roman’s workshops, lectures, eBook’s, galleries, and more at: www.roaminwithroman.com