Lens Guides

Sigma 35mm F1.2 DG DN | Art: Hands-On Report

As a bokeh lover myself, just the mere thought of an aperture of f/1.2 makes me very happy. Pair that with a 35mm focal length, and it sounds like a perfect dream. Luckily, Sigma made this dream come true with the brand new Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art lens! I had the pleasure of taking this lens out into the world paired with my Sony Alpha to see just how well the new 35mm holds up—I was very curious, especially with it being Sigma’s first f/1.2 lens.

Sony a7r IV, ISO-50, 1/1000, f/1.2

 

The Build

In true Art lens fashion, the lens is solid, sturdy, and built like a tank. The lens features the dust- and splash-proof structure additionally with the water- and oil-repellent coating on the front-most surface of the lens, which I can personally attest to considering I have already taken this optic out in some dire conditions (intense heat, a windy beach day, and even some rain in a couple of high altitude mountain shoots!) I put lenses through the ringer, and if they can’t survive me, they aren’t a worthy build! Although the lens is a bit large and heavy, I don’t find this bothers me all that much—because I prefer a sturdy build that will withstand it all (including a couple of accidental bumps.) Also akin to the Art line is the beautiful optical quality of the glass—vibrant, sharp, clear, perfect.

What’s really interesting about this lens is the ability to click/declick the aperture ring. I may be just a still image user, but I definitely see some incredible cinema uses for this feature. The inclusion of the AFL button adds to the lens’s functionality as it can be assigned various operations. I love the aperture ring for when I work, it allows me to make quick adjustments while shooting.

Sony a7r IV, ISO-200, 1/2000, f/1.4

Creamy Bokeh for Days

You don’t buy an f/1.2 lens to not use it at its widest aperture! The bokeh is creamy, beautiful, effortless. The subject separation is superb and so far, the client response to these magical images has been pure bliss. There is ever so slight vignetting at the corners, but I personally enjoy this look and actually add a bit more of it in post (and a couple of quick clicks in any workflow program can tame the mild vignette, should that be your style choice.) The bokeh balls are very smooth and lovely—no onion-ring bokeh as seen in many other types of similar lenses. I loved using this lens with cluttered backgrounds as the distraction smoothed away into pure abstractions.

Sony a7r IV, ISO-320, 1/1600, f/1.2

Sharpness

Crazy sharp. Edge to edge sharpness. Sharp at f/1.2. Sharper even still at narrower apertures too. That’s how sharp it is.

What can I say, when I pair this lens with my 60+ megapixel camera viewed on a massive print-calibrated 4k screen, you can truly gape in awe at the sharpness quality. With this lens’s ability to talk effortlessly with the Sony E Mount cameras, pairing the tack sharpness characteristics of the sensor with this lens’s visual sharpness results in an image that would make even the ultimate pixel peepers happy. From my own use, I’d say my sweet spot was around f/2.0 – f/2.8.

Every teeny hair in every portrait is clearly shown. If that scares you, don’t worry- no one will notice unless you zoom in at well over 100% magnification. But the point is, you want a lens that can do more- not one that can do less. My clients have been thrilled with their prints because of how clear each shot really is.

Sony a7r IV, ISO-1250, 1/1600, f/1.2

Autofocus

Paired with a Sony, lightning fast doesn’t even begin to cover it! Autofocus has been fast, accurate, and an honest dream. I have had a hard time putting this lens down, and can always find at least one excuse to bring it along for the ride.

I’ve gone as far as to shoot canine sports with it, even though a focal length of 35mm requires me to be in a bit of a precarious-for-my-equipment position with how close I have to sit next to an obstacle the pup is jumping over. It’s well worth it for that creamy bokeh however, especially since canine agility fields tend to be quite cluttered with obstacles (which makes for a busy frame).

Sony a7r IV, ISO-640, 1/1000, f/2.0

Other Notes

Much to my positive surprise, I have not experienced any chromatic aberration or fringing even on extremely contrasting subjects. This tends to be a common problem with very wide apertures, and whatever magic Sigma did to this particular lens clearly works because I have yet to encounter fringing.

There is little to no subject distortion as well, allowing beautifully accurate and clean portraits. Even when subjects get closer to the edges of the frame, they are still nicely proportioned with no elongated limbs (not even a little bit). That’s part of the appeal and charm of the 35mm lenses, overall—it is wider than standard, so you can both feel more enveloped in the image, without any of the ultrawide perspective distortion effects.

Sony a7r IV, ISO-640, 1/2500, f/1.2

Communication with Sony E Mount Cameras

As one of the first Art lenses designed exclusively with full-frame mirrorless in mind, seamless communication with the popular mirrorless system Sony is pretty key (considering the lens only comes in Sony E mount and L mount).

My camera investment of choice was the Sony A7r IV- partially because the megapixel count was too high to resist and partially because the incredible autofocus features are guaranteed to make a photographer’s life easier. As such, using a lens that is able to utilize all of this camera’s functionality is a make-or-break aspect for me.

I am thrilled to say that the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art lens performed spectacularly. This lens speaks to the Sony in its native language, which results in all autofocus features (including eye tracking [human and animal] and AI autofocus) translating brilliantly. I was able to catch dogs flying in the air with their eyeballs tack sharp with this lens and not miss a single shot!

Sony a7r IV, ISO-800, 1/1000, f/2.0

Final Thoughts

My final thought is simple: “this lens will be permanently attached to my mirrorless camera”. The 35mm f/1.2 can easily become a staple of any kit, with an incredibly vast array of uses- from portraits, to weddings, to fine art, and everything in between. With the popularity of prime lenses at an all time high (according to social media trends anyways), this one is definitely a top contender.

Sony a7r IV, ISO-50, 1/1000, f/1.2
Comments (1)
  1. Troy Phillips says:

    Phenomenal performance from both camera and lens .
    Sure wish Nikon (which I shoot) had this af performance. And that Sigma made Z mount lenses. I haven’t even went mirrorless yet . Deciding which direction I want to go .
    But I am shooting Sigma art lenses.

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