The SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art is a wonderfully versatile wide-angle lens. From landscapes to real estate, aerial views to environmental portraits, this lens offers superior performance at a great price, earning it a place in many Sony and L-Mount users’ bags.
But many photographers — especially landscape shooters and videographers — rely on neutral density (ND) filters to achieve specific effects in their work. For example, a landscape photographer might want to slow down the shutter to give a quick-moving stream a smooth, flowing appearance. A videographer might want to shoot at a very wide aperture (and thus a shallow depth of field) in bright light to eliminate a distracting background. Or a wedding photographer might need a shot of the venue, but those pesky guests just keep walking through the frame. All of these problems can be solved with an ND filter!
But eagle-eyed shoppers have noticed that the SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art doesn’t have front filter threads, a result of the rounded front element and built-in hood, both of which are needed to ensure image quality. So where does the filter go?
There are a couple options… there are very large, very expensive glass filters that go in front of the lens, requiring custom mounting brackets and bit of patience to properly align. While effective, the engineers at SIGMA thought that a rear filter option would be more user-friendly and more economical, without sacrificing performance.
The SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art filter holder is nestled in the mount of the lens, with a tiny latch to secure your filter in place. SIGMA doesn’t manufacture filters for this lens, but third-party filters are available, or you can make your own (more on that later).
One excellent option is from filter maker Haida. This ND filter set includes 4 multi-coated glass filters including ND 0.9, ND 1.2, ND 1.8 and ND 3.0 (3, 4, 6 and 10 stops respectively). With a hard plastic case and pre-cut foam to keep them protected and organized, these tiny slivers of high-quality glass are easier to handle than bulky front filter systems, and at just around $100 for the whole set, it’s an affordable alternative.
Since they are designed specifically for the SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art, these Haida filters are extremely simple to install. Simply unmount your lens, flip the switch in the center, carefully insert the filter, and lock it into place. It should be noted that this last step is very important, as you don’t want a glass filter rattling around your camera’s sensor chamber.
In addition, because these filters are coated, they resist dust and fingerprints, and are easy to clean, meaning those shots at F16 and F22 won’t be spoiled by stubborn smudges or spots (like the ones that cling to your image sensor). And optical quality is excellent, with no noticeable change in sharpness, and very little to no observable color cast.
In these images shot by SIGMA Ambassador Liam Doran, the rushing water of the Colorado River was completely transformed, while maintaining the color and sharpness of the surrounding environment. All during bright daylight hours!
The following photos were shot by SIGMA staff member Nick Vrona with the Haida ND 3.0 filter on a Long Island, NY beach, with the intent to make the slightly choppy water look smooth as silk, while gathering enough of the vanishing light to provide proper exposure.
SIGMA Ambassdor Jim Koepnick also gave the Haida filter set a try near his home in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. These shots depict two very different long-exposure perspectives using the L-mount version of the 14-24mm and the SIGMA fp camera.
The Haida ND rear filter set proved to be a very useful, lightweight, high-quality addition to each photographer’s kit, and made the 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art an even more appealing option for all shooting conditions.
While a filter set like this is not all that expensive — especially considering the variety and quality of the set, and that large front filter plates are far more pricey — there is another budget-minded option, namely, making your own filters.
Every SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art lens comes packaged with a small template card which can be used to outline and cut colored gels or ND filter sheets that will fit in the lens’ rear filter holder.
Typically, these sheets — made by companies like Rosco, LEE, GAM and others — are large and not especially rigid, since they are designed for lighting, not optics. Not to mention they can get scratched and wrinkled, and the optical quality won’t match up to a good glass filter. But if you merely want to experiment with ND filters, hone your long exposure technique or if you’re really in a pinch, cutting out your own disposable filters is a good way to do so on a budget.
In the end, whether you trace and cut your own, or invest in a custom-made set like the above example from Haida, the SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN Art is a lens that can benefit greatly from neutral density filters. Landscape photographers, in particular, will find that being able to shoot long exposures during daylight hours is a great way to add a creative touch to almost any scene. Video shooters will also appreciate the ability to add unobtrusive, affordable filters to their lenses when shooting wide open in bright conditions.
Disclosure: Haida provided Sigma Corporation of America with several sets of filters for testing purposes.