With the introduction of Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 Art (“3 bright lenses in one”: 24 mm, 28 mm and 35 mm), Sigma repeats the feat that they previously accomplished with the Sigma 18-35 mm f/1.8 (“the world’s first f/18 zoom lens for cameras with an APS-C/DX sensor”). At every focal length, the Sigma 18-35 mm f/2.8 was just as good as—or even better than—a lens with a fixed focal length and the same brightness. That was unparalleled. A zoom lens with not only the brightness of a fixed focal length, but also the image quality of a fixed focal length. After which many owners of a camera with a full-frame sensor at that time sighed, When will Sigma release a similar lens for us? Now.
Sigma 24-35 mm f/2: the world’s first f/2.0 zoom lens for cameras with a full-frame sensor!
It is photographers who use a camera with full-frame sensor who love bright (<f/2.8) lenses. First, a very bright lens makes it possible to also take pictures in the dark without motion blur. But with the increased image quality of cameras with high ISO values, this point becomes less decisive. What is decisive is the limited focal depth that you can achieve with it and the beautiful background blur (bokeh) that goes along with that. The zoom range of the Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 Art betrays that Sigma set a high bar by limiting themselves to a modest zoom range, instead of a 24-70 mm zoom that you would sooner expect. It practically always applies that the larger the zoom range, the more compromises have to be made as far as image quality is concerned. In particular for zoom lenses with short focal lengths, you see that in the image quality. Even so, I do not find this limitation to be any objection: in my own collection of lenses, the 50 mm is (still) missing, but I can choose from multiple 24 mm or 35 mm lenses. It depends not only on personal taste, but also on the kind of photos that you will be making. I primarily take holiday photos, whereby I mostly use 24 mm and sometimes 35 mm if I want to bring the subject in closer. Documentary photographers also choose a 35 mm more often than a 50 mm lens.
Build and auto focus
The construction of the Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 Art is as we are now accustomed to: uncompromising professional level. With a very solid metal mount. This part of a lens is sometimes underestimated, even though the precision of the connection of the lens to the camera can have enormous influence on the sharpness; especially for cameras with high resolution. You can see that Sigma recognizes this and handles this part properly. Manual focusing goes very well with a wide, nicely dampened focus ring. The lens has no image stabilization and is not extra well-sealed against dust and splashwater. The Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 Art comes with a beautiful bag made in black and a flower-shaped lens hood. Just like all Art, Contemporary and Sports models from Sigma, this lens can be connected to the optional USB dock, with which you can update the firmware yourself, and with which you can fine-tune the AF if that should be needed.
With an AF reproducibility of less than 2%, the Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 + Nikon D810 together put on a top performance.
Sometimes it is even suggested that the AF accuracy of non-proprietary lenses would be lower. That seems to me—in any case as far as Sigma is concerned—to be a thing of the past. This Sigma zoom, together with the Nikon D810 test camera, puts on a fantastic performance in our AF-accuracy test. That is extra-remarkable, given the high brightness. Bright lenses often, due to the limited focal depth, show larger AF spread in our tests.
At f/2.8, the amount of vignetting is less than that of full-frame zoom lenses of other brands at f/5.6.
When testing lenses for cameras with a full-frame sensor, we regularly encounter lenses with more than two stops of vignetting at full aperture. You correct for vignetting with software, but this increases the noise on the edges of the image. You do not want that. At full aperture, the Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 in our test showed a bit more than 1 stop vignetting, which was already halved after 1 stop to a value that will seldom create problems in practice. That is really a remarkably good performance: at f/2, the amount of vignetting is less than full-frame zoom lenses of other brands at f/5.6. Even for a lens with a fixed focal length, these would have been very good results.
Distortion lens X
The distortion runs, as you would expect for a lens like this one, from barrel-shaped at 24 mm to pincushion-shaped at 35 mm. The amount of distortion is not really high and runs from -1.5% at 24 mm to +1.5% at 35 mm; it is visible in critical situations, but simple to correct with software in Lightroom, Photoshop or DxO Optics.
Flare and chromatic aberration
Sigma pays a lot of attention in the design of lenses to the prevention of internal reflections, and thereby goes much further than the coating of lens elements. You see that in the insensitivity to flare and ghosts. It is not always absent, but during the practice test, I had to take a great many pictures in order to cause ghosts. Even when you photograph directly against a bright light source, it goes surprisingly well.
Chromatic aberration also remains beautifully limited. Not only in the jpg files, in which every Nikon camera immediately suppresses undesirable chromatic aberration, but also in RAW files, where no correction has been done. Longitudinal chromatic aberration/color bokeh is a phenomenon that can occur with practically all bright lenses. In a few practice shots, there was recognizable color bokeh, but it is still tremendously well limited.
With a 36-megapixel sensor without anti-alias filter, the Nikon D810 is a merciless test camera for modern lenses. Certainly when it comes to sharpness in the corners. But the Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 is a lens that produces very sharp pictures at all focal lengths. This is a lens with which you do not have to worry about blur that you find with so many bright lenses if you use them at full aperture. In the center, the sharpness, with 2000 lines per image height, is already very high, but it increases even further until the very highest sharpness is reached at f/5.6. Even in the corners, the resolution is more than 1000 lines per image height. That sharpness in the corners increases further if you stop down.
Click on the illustration below, made at f/2, for a larger version.
Bokeh Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 DG HSM Art
A wide-angle zoom is not the first lens that you think about when it comes to butter-soft bokeh. Even so, the Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 also has a surprise up its sleeve in this area. Not only is the background shown beautifully blurred, but the range from sharp to blurred is beautifully even.
Conclusion Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 DG HSM Art review with Nikon D810
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Look in our list of reviewed lenses to compare this lens with other lenses.
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, where you have applied all available in-camera lens corrections. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens if the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you make use of Photoshop, Lightroom or DxO Optics for the conversion of RAW files, then the RAW scores are the same as the jpg scores.
Customization with your own camera possible thanks to the optional USB dock
Extremely high image quality across the whole zoom range on all fronts: high sharpness, beautiful bokeh, extremely little flare
At least as good as lenses with a fixed focal length
No built-in image stabilization
No extra seals against dust and splashwater
What many did not consider possible, a wide-angle zoom lens for a camera with a full-frame sensor that is just as good and bright as a set of lenses with a fixed focal length exists.
This is a zoom lens that deserves a permanent place in the photo bag of renowned and professional photographers, who until recently used almost exclusively lenses with a fixed focal length. The Sigma 24-25 mm f/2 is, in comparison with a 24 mm or 35 mm with a fixed focal length might be relatively large, but not in comparison with many lenses. At the same time, the enormously high image quality of this lens ensures that the Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 Art, in comparison with all other lenses that we have reviewed—fixed and zoom—at 24, 28 or 35 mm, scores extremely high in our list with test results per focal length. Are there still things to be desired? There are. Built-in image stabilization and complete protection against dust and splashwater are still lacking. Otherwise, this is a nearly ideal zoom, with a surprisingly low list price. Since both the image quality and the build quality are absolutely top class, this is an absolute must-have.
Author: Ivo Freriks
With Camera Review Stuff I hope to make a modest contribution to the pleasure that you get from photography. By testing cameras and lenses in the same way, evluating the results and weighing up the pros and cons, I hope to help you find the right camera or lens.