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Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG DN Art (A021) Lens Review

John Riley has been putting the Sigma 35mm F/1.4 DG DN Art lens, for FE and L-Mount cameras, to the test to find out how this new full-frame optic performs.

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Sigma 35mm F/1.4 DG DN Art FE

Sigma's Art lenses have been proving themselves, worthy performers, for some time and now they are being introduced in mirrorless format, in this case for the L mount and for the Sony FE mount. The new lens is full-frame (although it can equally well be used on crop sensor Sony cameras, with a “35mm equivalent” field of view of 52.5mm) and a complete redesign for mirrorless cameras. Recent Sigma lenses, such as the 35mm and 65mm Contemporary designs, have been excellent, although have had some design quirks as well. Let's see now, using the Sony A7R III 42MP body, how this new Art design stacks up in terms of results and in terms of handling.


Sigma 35mm F/1.4 DG DN Art (A021) Handling and Features

Sigma 35mm F/1.4 DG DN Art FE

Weighing in at 645g (L mount) or 640g (FE mount), the lens does not feel overly heavy in use and fits well with the Sony A7R III. It must be said that current 35mm f/1.4 lenses are positively huge compared with what we might have expected from a typical film-era lens, but to be fair they do tend to perform better. Bulk would appear to be the order of the day.

Starting our tour of the lens at the front, there is a generously sized petal lens hood that bayonets slickly into position. There is a locking catch, neatly recessed so it cannot be accidentally pressed when in a camera bag. Within the bayonet, fit is a standard 67mm filter thread. Plastic lens hoods are usually fairly unremarkable but in this case, for no apparent benefit, there is a rubberised band around the outside of the hood that is not unlike the focusing ring material on some Zeiss manual focus lenses. Unfortunately, in much the same way it attracts and gathers dust and debris and is very difficult to clean. I can only surmise that it was thought to be a way of improving the grip on the hood for attachment and removal, but this would not have been a problem without it and plain plastic would have been just fine.

Sigma 35mm F/1.4 DG DN Art FE

Thankfully the ribbed and wide focus ring does not have the same problem and operates smoothly, as we would expect any electronic system to do. The lens is supported by all the usual Sony focus settings, all accessed via the camera menus in the usual way, in addition to the AF/MF switch on the lens itself. That is, AF, MF and DMF (Direct Manual Focus) are available as usual. This last setting enables tweaks to be made to the focus position manually whilst still in AF mode. Focusing is down to 30cm, or 11.8 inches, giving a maximum magnification of 1:5.4, usefully close but not into macro territory.

There are several switches around the barrel. Click on/off controls the click positions on the aperture ring, so videographers will likely be glad to be able to switch this off. An AFL button can be used to lock focus, allowing a lock and recompose technique to be used. There is an AF/MF switch and, rather oddly, a switch to release the lens from the A setting. Normally this would be a button on the aperture ring itself, so the catch can be released and the ring turned in one action. This arrangement needs two actions to achieve the same thing, perhaps a backward step in handling.

The aperture ring itself can, as intimated, be set to A so the camera can control the setting, or the splendid aperture ring can be used. This is as smooth as silk and operates in one third stop detents. The click stops are perfectly judged. There is no distance scale and also no depth of field scale.

Optical construction is 15 elements in 11 groups, including 2 SLD (Special Low Dispersion), 1 ELD (Extraordinary Low Dispersion) and 1 FLD (LD but having properties similar to fluorite elements). The diaphragm consists of 11 blades, a very generous number that should enhance the bokeh. The lens is also dustproof and splashproof, meaning light splashes of rain but probably not downpours.

The lens actually handles beautifully, there are just a couple of niggling design fails where the design logic perhaps could have been better. This relates to ergonomics and, although not a deal-breaker, is nonetheless unnecessary. Of course, the main point will be in the performance, so let's have a look at that now.

Sigma 35mm F/1.4 DG DN Art FE

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