Colorado is known worldwide for its amazing golden Aspen trees and gorgeous color every autumn. With fall foliage reaching its peak in my home state, I set out to see what I could find with the SIGMA 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art and the 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art for both Sony E-mount and L-Mount. Paired with the Sony A7R IV and SIGMA fp L, these lenses offer amazing details, incredible depth of field and beautifully rich colors, not to mention they are smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts.
Gear Impressions and Comparisons
The first thing I noticed about the 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art for both E-mount and L-Mount is that it’s not a “bubble” lens like my older Nikon F version. This means it can accept simple, affordable screw-on filters where the DSLR version couldn’t. Another important thing I noticed was the weight. The 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art lens is about 30% lighter than the DSLR version, and the 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art is about 20% lighter. This may not seem like much, but when you’re hiking at elevation in the Colorado mountains, being able to save weight without sacrificing quality is a huge bonus. I’ve personally owned both the 20mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art and the 24mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art (both for Nikon) and I can say that these smaller lenses are equally as good and live up to their “Art” name!
Another check in the DG DN lenses’ column is the variety of manual controls. As someone who learned photography from the film days, I love the aperture ring on both lenses. These smaller lenses really feel good in my hands when adjusting the F-stop via the aperture ring. These lenses also feature a manual focus lock, very handy for long exposures, and they’re both weather sealed to protect against the elements.
In the Field with the 20mm & 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art Lenses
With a F1.4 aperture I wanted to see what the depth of field would look like (above). I focused on the lower right corner so that the image sharpness would gradually fade off into the distance. Shooting wide open isn’t something I do often as a landscape photographer, yet I can see the artistic desire some would really enjoy with this lens.
I really enjoyed shooting highly detailed scenes such as this one (above) with the 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art lens. Where the 20mm may give a slight distortion due to its ultra-wide focal length, the 24mm kept the scene in check with no distortion and beautiful edge-to-edge sharpness. Matched with the SIGMA fp L the combo handled the light of the scene beautifully on this overcast day.
As I mentioned earlier, hiking with a lighter pack is always beneficial when you know you’re not sacrificing quality. The small mountain town of Ophir, Colorado is located at almost 10,000 feet above sea level. As you head up Ophir Pass, it gets even higher. Knowing I wanted to see these curved Aspens in the fall color I knew I was going to have to walk since my car is not made for going over mountain passes. I was able to carry two full-frame mirrorless camera bodies and the SIGMA 20mm & 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art Lenses for both Sony E-mount and L-Mount with ease. The total bag weight was just under 13 pounds (5.9kg) when you add in batteries, media cards and a cable release. The days of me carrying 45-pound camera bags are over! This made my hike up much more enjoyable, and I could really enjoy the fresh mountain air and the scenery.
The curvature of these Aspen trees (above) is thought to be caused by an avalanche when they were younger, possibly just covered up by snow for long periods of time and trying to find the sunlight they needed. It’s very interesting to see them curved like this and it also makes them quite photogenic. For this scene, I used the SIGMA 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art at its max aperture of F16 to ensure sharpness from front to back. Had there not been a breeze I would have focus stacked this scene. From top to bottom, edge to edge, this lens pulled out all the stops and delivered an amazingly sharp image.
Before we get into the more grand and wide landscapes, I want to touch on focus stacking with these amazingly sharp lenses. For the above image, titled Fern Floor, I used the 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art which has a minimum focusing distance of 9.1 inches. When composing this scene, I decided to utilize focus stacking to achieve extreme detail from front to back. It was a very calm afternoon and everything around me was super still, ideal for this technique. I also needed to get my camera and lens fairly close to the lighter colored fern in the foreground in order to get the composition I wanted, so the lens’ close focusing capability was needed.
Once I was composed, I took a series of 11 images, all focused in different areas of the image. Once I had the 11 images, I brought them into Photoshop, and simply used Auto Align and Auto Blend to do the work. When the images are properly shot, putting them together is easy. With the SIGMA 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art and 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art lenses being prime lenses, focus breathing is at a bare minimum. The colors you see here are a result of the soft overhead, overcast light I was lucky enough to have on this afternoon.
At the end of the day, on the bank of the East River near Gothic, Colorado, I found myself attracted to the rocks on the shore and the speckled yellows in the hills under the dark skies (above). 24mm was a little too close, so I used the SIGMA 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art to get the entire scene in. I had the camera and lens barely above the ground. I used an F16 aperture and focused on 10 different spots on the image from side to side and front to back to ensure every area was in focus.
While focus stacking is handy when your subject is close to your lens, it’s not needed most of the time when shooting wider or more distant landscapes. Upon arriving in southwest Colorado to partly cloudy skies, the sunlight danced in and out of this scene (above). By waiting patiently until the sun hit just right, I was able to capture these gorgeous colors. The weather didn’t bring any epic sunrises or sunsets, but that’s okay. Having the bright golds of the trees illuminated by the soft sunlight was fun for me, and led to images that are just as compelling.
Crystal Lake (above) was high on my list to shoot with the 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art. I was only thinking about the sunset and the reflection, but when I got there I noticed another element in the scene that I liked as well. The Moon. Based on where you can stand along the edge of the lake, the 24mm was the perfect focal length to get the scene composed exactly as I wanted. I set the camera down closer to the water to get an almost mirrored reflection. Having the moon over Red Mountain and the fall colors near the lake was just a very cool treat. Again, edge-to-edge sharpness was easily controlled by an F9 aperture and focusing on the hills. At this time, it started to rain, but I felt comfortable staying out there to get the shot. With Art lenses being weather sealed I felt safe knowing I could still get the shot before having to pack up. Once the moon had come out from behind the cloud and the lake had calmed down, I was able to take the shot. The luxury of being a landscape photographer is that you can wait until the scene is how you want it. Nature may take its time, but the end results are wonderful.
I was still hoping for an epic sunrise, but yet again it didn’t happen. Instead, I made the best of the situation and pulled out my gear to capture the dramatic cloudy skies over some gorgeous Colorado landscapes. I loved the mix of colors in the foreground topped by the snow on the mountains and the dark, moody skies. The SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art lens worked perfectly to capture all the intricate details and colors this scene presented.
I did find myself in a nice patch of sunlight amongst a grove of Aspen trees dripping in golden light (above). Keeping the brightest part of the sun out of the frame allowed me to let the light seep into the scene without overdoing it. I really liked the long shadows that were being cast by the trees on the trail.
Before heading out to the mountains I was able to sneak in a quick shoot at night under some dark skies with the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art for my Sony. Once again, brilliant stars, nice colors and sharp throughout the image (above). Anyone who loves astrophotography would be happy to have this lens in their bag. 24mm is one of my favorite focal lengths for night photography and this lens, with its size, weight and quality, is a winner.
A Pro Landscape Photographer’s Assessment
Exploring the mountains of Colorado with two of the best lenses for landscape photography – the SIGMA 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art and SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art – sure was a blast. Equally sharp, both provided nice colors, great depth, and with the added weather sealing it was easy to shoot in the not-so-perfect conditions.
I’ll be honest, as a landscape photographer, I don’t know if I could pick one over the other. While only 4mm of focal length difference, they each have their own uses. I really liked the 20mm F1.4 DG DN | Art for when I needed to be a bit closer to my subject or when I was focus stacking. The SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art worked well when I was shooting wider, more distant landscapes. With the high resolution of the SIGMA fp L and the Sony A7R IV, these lenses render incredible details. I like that I was able to shoot with two cameras which have the same 61-megapixel resolution so it was easy to compare. There is no lack of image quality from either of these lenses, and even with lower resolution cameras, these lenses will bring out the fine details in your images.
Where would you love to shoot with these two amazing lenses?