Review Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art: ultimate 35mm lens?

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The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is one of the first Art lenses specially designed for mirrorless system cameras (DG DN). The lens is available with a Sony FE mount or an L mount. This is the brightest 35 mm (full-frame equivalent) lens that we have tested, and it’s also the first lens from a reputable manufacturer with a brightness of f/1.2 for the Sony E mount. Even so, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art isn’t one of the top-10 most expensive lenses with a field of view of 63º. That’s surprising and makes this lens extra attractive.
​Click on the product for specifications, prices and test results.

SIGMA 35MM F/1.2 DG DN ART TEST RESULTS:

pros

  • Extremely high brightness
  • World-class image quality
  • High build quality
  • Focus-hold button & adjustable clickless aperture
  • Sealed extra-well against dust and splash water
  • Attractive price-to-quality ratio

cons

  • Big and heavy
  • No built-in image stabilization
  • Not cheap

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The image quality of the first f/1.2 for Sony FE is a resounding success.

The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is the first lens with a brightness of f/1.2 for Sony cameras with an E mount and the Panasonic and Leica cameras with an L mount. Many brands with (considerably) larger mounts have been claiming for years that the mount of the Sony system in particular would be too small for good, bright lenses. The Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is proof that they were wrong. There is a price tag for that, and the Sigma is not a compact lens, but we can say the same of many modern, less bright f/1.4 lenses. Looking at the price, the lens is almost twice as expensive as the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art. It is also about 50% longer and heavier. That’s not so surprising. The complexity when designing lenses increases exponentially, especially with the last extra stops towards the magic f/1.0. That is clearly visible when we compare the Sigma with the Canon RF 50 mm f/1.2L. The difference in size and weight between the two is quite small. If you want the utmost in terms of brightness, then you have to accept the weight and not make a fuss about the price. You are namely getting a special lens in return. If this Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art doesn’t fit in your budget, you can of course always opt for the Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art.

BUILD AND AUTOFOCUs

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The Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is a robust lens. It is almost 9 centimeters thick, more than 13.5 centimeters long and almost 1100 grams in weight. With the ample lens hood on it, it becomes even bigger. It’s clear that Sigma has gone all-in, as they say in poker, with this Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art. Everything has been done to make this lens the ultimate 35mm for system cameras. The Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art feels robust and is of course weather-resistant and sealed against moisture and dust. The lens has a wide focusing ring that turns silky smooth. The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art has an aperture ring that can not only be turned off by setting it to the A position but can also be made clickless with a switch on the lens. It also has an AF/MF switch and a focus-hold button. That is also something that we rarely see on lenses that don’t come from one of the camera manufacturers. The optical design consists of 17 elements in 11 groups, and the filter size is a hefty 82 mm.

WHAT DOES DG DN MEAN?

Lens names are usually composed of a large number of abbreviations. Fortunately, that’s not so bad with the Art series from Sigma:

    • DG means that a lens is designed for the highest possible image quality on a camera with a full-frame sensor. You can also use them on an APS-C camera with what’s called a crop factor, but lenses without DG cannot work on full-frame cameras.
    • DN means that a lens is designed for a system camera without a mirror, so that the rear lens element is much closer to the sensor. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is not a DN lens and is therefore made for SLR cameras. The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is a DN lens and is therefore made for system cameras.

 PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE: MOUNT CONVERSION SERVICe

Over the years, camera manufacturers have more or less been playing leapfrog when it comes to popularity and ultimate image quality. Among the photographers who strive for the best of the best, it is relatively common for them to switch to a different camera brand because it has become better than the brand they had originally chosen. How nice it would be if you could continue to use your own trusted lenses! Sigma offers the possibility to convert your lens to a mount from another brand, for a fee. At the moment, the full-frame sensors of the Sony system cameras score very high. Suppose you want to switch to an L-mount camera in a few years: then you can have the Sony FE mount on the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art replaced with an L mount for a relatively modest fee.

VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION

The choice was made in the lens design not to completely correct for distortion, but to give other properties a higher priority. That appears to be a good choice. Even after correction of distortion, the score for sharpness (in camera jpg) is still the highest of all 35mm (full-frame equivalent) lenses that we have tested. It was striking that at the time of the test there was no correction of vignetting when saving jpg files in the camera. That explains the modest score for vignetting with jpg files. There is a correction profile for the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art in Lightroom. If you use that, the score for vignetting becomes 3 points (and with that also the total jpg score) higher. The uncorrected value of almost 2.5% is quite high for a moderate wide angle and certainly visible in shots with straight lines.

Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art vignet

At full aperture, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art certainly also shows the expected vignetting. In RAW, a fraction more than in the jpegs. This already partially disappears when stopping down to f/1.4, and at f/2, you no longer have any problems with it. We believe that vignetting is more a characteristic of a lens than a real lens error. Many photographers choose to add some vignetting in post-processing. The Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art already delivers a beautiful vignette at full aperture. You can use that if you want. Flare is something that this lens is hardly bothered by. The coatings do their job perfectly in that regard, although the use of the lens hood always remains a good idea.

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You can also turn off the corrections in the camera. Without any correction, the Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art suffers from both considerable distortion and considerable vignetting. Of course, you can also use that as a style tool. It gives the photos a classic look, certainly because backgrounds at f/1.2 quickly melt away in the blur. This puts all the attention on your subject. The shot above shows the difference between an image at f/1.2 and one at f/2.8. The vignetting has completely disappeared after two stops of stopping down, and the image is technically almost perfect. Which photo you prefer is a personal choice. You could have taken the shot at f/2.8 with almost any good zoom, the shot at f/1.2 only with this Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art.

IMAGE QUALITY

Even after correction of distortion, the score for resolution of the Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 Art is still the highest of more than 125 lenses that we have tested at a field of view of 36°.

The Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art scores very well over the entire range. It is striking that the sharpness at full aperture is already very good. Given the f/1.2 brightness, that’s an exceptionally good performance. The gradient to the corners is low, so you can safely place your subject on the edge of your image, even at f/1.2. That’s not possible with bright lenses that aren’t as good, because your subject can never be in focus. The sharpness increases slightly when stopping down. The highest sharpness is achieved at f/4, in both the center and in the corners. However, you do not have to do stop down with this lens to get the highest sharpness. It’s already good at full aperture. You will probably stop down more to increase the depth of field and possibly to reduce vignetting. The latter is also useful if you want to get the most out of the dynamic range of your sensor.

The Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art also has very few problems with chromatic aberrations. Both axial and longitudinal chromatic aberration are hardly visible in the shots. That means that shooting with backlight is no problem at all. You occasionally see a little bit of lens flare when the sun is directly in the frame, but colored edges along your subject are virtually absent. Color shifts when shooting at full aperture in the blurred areas are also minimal. There is no more than a hint of it at f/1.2. and what there is has disappeared at f/2.8. This allows you to use that biggest aperture to your heart’s content without worrying.

bokeh

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Of course, you buy a lens like this Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art mainly to use it a lot at full aperture. The tests show that the sharpness is very good, even at full aperture. The longitudinal chromatic aberration is also very low. That is a lens error in which blurry areas in the foreground take on a magenta edge, and blurry areas in the background get a greenish edge. If you suffer a lot from that, it not only looks ugly, but it also comes at the expense of the sharpness and quality of your bokeh, because it is a sign that different colors do not fall on the sensor in the same plane. The Sigma 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art has little trouble with any of that. The blur is therefore beautiful, and the sharpness pops out, even if it is only in a very small part of the photo. This allows you to nicely isolate your subject from the background, even if your subject is not very close. And especially the latter is something that is difficult with less bright wide-angle lenses.

Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art SAMPLE IMAGES

Click on the button below and visit our renewed web gallery with sample images. The images can be downloaded in full resolution to be viewed at 100%.

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ConclusiON: Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art @ Sony A7R III REVIEW

Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art: extremely bright documentary lens with world-class image quality.

With a lens designed for system cameras with a full-frame sensor (DG DN Art) weighing more than 1 kg, which is extremely bright, you would easily pay more than 3,000 euros with a brand other than Sigma. That’s if such a lens existed, since at the moment, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 Art  is the only good f/1.2 lens for Sony FE cameras. The 1500 euro pricetag is thus actually surprisingly low, certainly for the target audience: professional photographers and prosumers, who distinguish themselves with the highest possible image quality, in sharpness and in blur. That is why  in the pros and cons for this article we call it both an expensive lens and one with a good price-to-quality ratio.

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The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art for Sony FE is the masterpiece showing what lens manufacturers are capable of today. With every stop of brightness, a lens’s errors increase exponentially. Eighteen years ago, given the lifespan of lenses of about two generations, f/2.8 was the limit for where you could still set requirements for the image quality at full aperture. Color errors and sharpness in the corners in particular were sometimes dramatically poor with brighter lenses. Twelve years/two generations ago, the lower limit dropped to f/1.8. Seven years ago, Sigma introduced the Art lens series and showed that f/1.4 lenses for SLR cameras could also combine high brightness with extremely high image quality at full aperature. With a special design for system cameras, Sigma appears to have successfully lowered the limit in 2019 to f/1.2. The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art for Sony FE is a no-brainer for every perfectionist who strives for the ultimate image quality.

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