dPS Writer's Favorite: Sigma 24-105mm F4 Lens

My Favorite: Sigma 24-105mm F4 Lens


Image: Sigma Photo

Perhaps you’ve heard of Sigma’s Art series of lenses? After years spent making relatively mediocre lenses, the Japanese manufacturer has stepped up their game to create some beautiful gems that outshine the lenses made by the camera companies themselves.

The 50mm f/1.4 and the 35mm f/1.4 were both on my list, but I seem to have ended up with the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art lens, and while my artistic conscience might try to persuade me of the superiority of prime lenses, it’s currently my favourite.

Zoom versus Prime Lenses

The prime lenses I like are big and heavy, because of the large maximum aperture. Assuming that my assistant carried them everywhere and could change them instantly, I might be less keen on the versatility of the Sigma. But that’s not the case, and often a zoom is the better choice. Zoom lenses used to be too much of a compromise. The Sigma 24-105mm lens compromises just enough, and delivers a lot. It’s a slow lens at f/4, but the optical stabilization is good, and the high ISO capabilities of current cameras means that I’ve never felt too limited by this. It’s certainly a compromise compared to a prime, but at f/8, I bet you couldn’t tell the difference. The bokeh for this zoom, necessarily a matter of personal taste, and not as amazing as some of the prime lenses, is good enough too.

Sigma 24-105mm lens

Bokeh at f/4, 105mm

But I want Nikon/Canon, I want the best…

Canon has an equivalent 24-105mm f/4 lens from their premium L-series. It’s a versatile lens, and I know several professional photographers who use it almost exclusively. I use Nikon, but I’ve seen comparisons that demonstrate that optically, the Sigma Art series lens is sharper. The Canon is weather-sealed though, which the Sigma is not. Nikon has a 24-120mm lens that isn’t as sharp as the Sigma either. If image quality is what you want most, the Sigma is the best among the three lenses. Of course, both Nikon and Canon make 24-70mm lenses that are sharper, though at the expense of the longer telephoto reach.

Sigma 24-105mm lens

We photographers love our lenses

Why choose the 24-105mm focal length over a 24-70mm?

Forgetting prime lenses, the main competition for my affections were the Nikon 24-70mm and the Tamron 24-70mm lenses. There’s also a Tokina 24-70mm available that I didn’t consider. I decided against the Nikon because it doesn’t have optical stabilization (OS). While the larger f/2.8 aperture is attractive, it doesn’t make as much difference in low light for static subjects as the OS on the Sigma. Moreover, the stabilization is useful for on-the-go filming too. The Tamron however, has the larger f/2.8 aperture and is also stabilized.

I chose the Sigma lens because of the longer reach. 70mm, for me, is not as flattering for headshot portraits as the 85-105mm focal lengths that the Sigma provides. I find I use the extra reach quite often. On the other end, 24mm seems to be wide enough for the majority of situations on a full-frame body. If I need a larger field of view, or shallower depth of field, I can often stitch multiple photos together.

Sigma 24-105mm lens

That 105mm short telephoto is useful

Space for a whinge

It’s not a perfect lens, and there are a few omissions that I’d like to have a moan about to help round out the My Favourite Lens angle. While the lens is sharp, it does have noticeable distortion and a fair bit of vignetting too, especially at larger apertures. This is an issue that I’m happy to accept because the RAW photo conversion software does a good job of correcting these flaws.

The bigger issue is the lack of weather sealing, which I’d have happily paid a bit more for. It makes you think twice when photographing in the rain or by the sea. The thoughts are usually, “I wonder if the lens will survive this?” and, “I wonder if I’ll buy the Nikon if it doesn’t?”. Showers aside, the lack of weather sealing does mean that the lens attracts more dust – it veritably sucks it up, and distributes it liberally amongst its inner optics, safe from my lens cleaning cloth. The build quality is good, but not as solid as the Canon L-series lens, for example, and after some abuse, the focal length numbers on mine wore off as they are not etched into the lens. Sigma were good about fixing this though.

Sigma 24-105mm lens

Distortion and Vignetting even At 62mm, f/8


I’ve tested a huge number of lenses, and also read pretty much most of reviews of the others, to keep up to date. I chose to buy the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 OS, and it lives on my camera pretty consistently. It’s photographed a range of genres from landscapes, to portraits, and fashion, and the image quality has been good.

As photographers, there’s a tendency to fuss over MTF charts and such like; but having the right focal length available immediately is far more important, and as for overall sharpness and rendering compared to primes, it’s usually only experienced photographers who, occasionally, may notice the difference.


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Ben Evans is a best-selling photography author of Photography: The Few Things You Need To Know *click here to get your copy now* and English photographer based between London and Barcelona. He specialises in fine art portraits, fashion and commercial photography. He teaches photography courses in Barcelona and Holistic Photography workshops in London and worldwide. He shoots Hasselblad, Nikon, Apple ;-P and those little waterproof film cameras with the plastic lenses.

  • gservo

    I’ve bee using this lens for while and it has become my workhorse, nice write up

  • BlackRipleyDog

    About 18 months ago, I took the plunge with a group of fast (1.4 – 2.8) Nikkor Af-D primes (24, 35, 50 and 85) for my D800. My lone zoom is the 70-300 VR. I concentrate on fine art landscapes and am pleased with the results but after hauling a camera backpack to Hawaii that weighed in close to 25 lbs and the constant lens changing, I am rethinking that strategy.
    I have been looking at the Sigma Art series with the 20mm as a new starting point and this 24-105 to round things out. Coincidentally, I had been considering the addition of the Nikkor 105-DC but $900 was somewhat beyond my means at this time and it would just add to my back strain.
    This would not be my first foray into Sigma so I am hoping Sigma has stepped up their game since then and these Art lenses are worth the long green they are asking.

  • Mike Fewster

    I had the earlier version and it was a fantastic lens. I sold it with an older camera and have forever regretted it. Stunningly sharp and excellent colour.

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  • Jan Kovacs

    Thank you very much for the article. I am Nikon shooter as well. The new version of the Nikon 24-70mm f 2.8 has stabilization so here I would say your statement is not correct. Like any shooter of my age, I started off with primes. But nowadays primes better than zooms is more a cliche rather than the truth, expecially in the Nikon lineup. With new Sigma lenses primes are not even faster and sure are not that versatile as a zooms. But then of course doesnt matter what lens as long as you get the expected result.

  • CA ES

    Hi Ben, I bought this lens recently but I’m not to sure what the sweet spot of this lens is in order to get the sharpest images. What do you suggest it is? Thanks.

  • M.h. O’Dell

    I am wondering why you didn’t look at the Tokina?

  • Jfred

    Vignetting is an issue. Haven’t fallen in love with it yet.

  • Higbe33

    Tony Northrup did a good review of this lens compared to the Canon version. Christopher Frost also did a nice review. I’ve sold my Canon and saving for the Sigma.

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