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Considering the amount of articles I’ve written about shallow depth of field, it is safe to say that anything wider than f/1.8 is my sweet spot. However, Sony has found itself severely lacking in my favorite fast aperture: f/1.2. Well, my friends, Sigma has come to save the day with the brand new Sigma 35mm f1.2 ART Lens for Sony E Mount! It’s the fastest autofocus lens available for Sony mirrorless cameras to date.
Upon first glance, this lens is large and heavy. Many people wouldn’t realize this is a wide-angle 35mm focal length. The weight is a bit daunting when you use a mirrorless system, especially since one of the big selling points of mirrorless is the small size of the camera. However, the benefit of mirrorless is that all you’re carrying is the weight of the lens, which I don’t mind.
The weight of the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 ART lens is very worthwhile. The following are the reasons why.
In true ART fashion, the lens is solid, sturdy, and what I’d consider shock-resistant. Give it a bump, you’ll see (no, please don’t do that intentionally!). The lens features a dust and splash-proof structure with additional water and oil-repellent coating on the frontmost surface of the lens. I can personally attest to these, having already taken this optic out in some dire conditions. I put lenses through the wringer, and if they can’t survive me, they aren’t a worthy build!
Also, akin to the ART line is the beautiful glass that is vibrant, sharp, clear, and perfect. It’s very reminiscent of the Canon L-series glass, which I was obsessed with, and was thrilled to find similar in the Sigma ART line.
If you’re a native Sony G-Master user who picks up the Sigma 35mm f1.2 ART lens for the first time, you’ll likely see a familiar feature – an aperture ring. This smooth and easy to use manual adjustment of the aperture is quite a useful feature (especially for those who dabble in video and cinema).
Additionally, what’s really interesting about this lens is the ability to click/de-click the aperture ring, allowing complete silence or clicks to let you know you have turned the ring.
The inclusion of the AFL button adds to the lens’s functionality as you can assign it to various operations.
You don’t invest thousands of dollars on a camera like the Sony Alpha to not use those features, yes? So why would you grab a lens that isn’t compatible? You just don’t. As such, my deal breaker is whether or not the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 ART lens can speak the Alpha’s native tongue (being a non-Sony-brand lens).
Well, the answer is one that I certainly hoped for: The Sigma is fluent in Sony speak!
As one of the first ART lenses designed exclusively with mirrorless in mind, it’s communication with the popular Sony mirrorless system is key (considering the lens only comes in Sony E mount and L mount). All autofocus features (including eye-tracking [human and animal] and AI autofocus) translate brilliantly between the camera body and optics.
First of all, the autofocus of the Sony Alpha 7r IV and 7r III are just fantastic. Paired with this lens that is great at communicating with the camera, and you have a recipe for winning. My photo sessions have been so much smoother as a result.
Autofocus has been fast, accurate, and a dream. I have had a hard time putting this lens down, and can always find at least one excuse to bring it along for the ride.
I’ve gone as far as to shoot canine sports with it, even though a focal length of 35mm requires me to get closer to my subject than I’d usually like. However, it’s well worth it for that creamy bokeh, because canine agility fields tend to be quite cluttered with obstacles (which makes for a busy frame without the bokeh).
Whether your subject is running at you, away from you, or to the side, there is no discrepancy in autofocus.
Edge to edge sharpness doesn’t even begin to describe how crystal clear the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 ART lens is. If I closed my eyes, I’d swear I was shooting with Canon L glass. The ART glass has been truly tremendous, especially in recent lens releases.
I found that my subject was just as sharp in the center point as any corners. This is great for those that want to take advantage of the 35mm focal length width and do some off-center frames.
The full-frame capability gives it a further wow factor. When attached to my Sony A7r IV – a 60+ megapixel camera – the images viewed on a massive print-calibrated 4k screen equals some jaw-dropping moments. Pairing tack sharpness with this lens’s visual sharpness results in an image that would make even the ultimate pixel peepers happy. From my own use, I’d say peak sharpness was around f/2.0 – f/2.8.
What you see is what you get, as the sharpness translated to prints beautifully.
You don’t buy an f1.2 lens not to use it at its widest aperture! It took a bit of effort on my part to ever take it off f/1.2.
The bokeh is creamy, beautiful, and completely effortless. The subject separation is superb, and the client’s response to these magical images is pure bliss. I loved using this lens with cluttered backgrounds as the distraction smoothed away. Even when the aperture is widened to f/2.8, the bokeh continues to be smooth and satisfying.
There is some slight vignetting at the corners, but I quite enjoy this look and add a bit more of it in post-production. Those photographers that are miffed by vignetting may not be too thrilled. However, the 35mm wide focal length does allow for a wee bit of cropping so you can remedy that situation with some corner snips.
The bokeh balls produced with the Sigma 35mm f1.2 lens are very smooth and lovely. You won’t find yourself trapped with no onion-ring bokeh in the editing room, as seen in many other types of similar lenses.
Much to my positive surprise, I have not experienced any chromatic aberration or fringing with this lens – even on extremely contrasting subjects. This tends to be a common problem with very wide apertures. Whatever magic Sigma did to this particular lens clearly works because I have yet to encounter fringing.
With that said, I’m not saying there isn’t going to be fringing in some peculiar situations, but just that I have not yet personally encountered it. I have encountered fringing immediately with several f/1.4 and f/1.8 lenses from Sony (even the G-Master), unfortunately.
My final thought is simple: “this lens will be permanently attached to one of my mirrorless cameras.” The investment is well worth the amount of use you’ll likely get out of this lens, even if you don’t shoot at extremely wide apertures such as f/1.2. I have always found it more worthwhile to invest in lenses that grant you more options and versatility rather than less.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 Art Lens can easily become a staple of any kit, with an incredibly vast array of uses from portraits, pets, events, fine art, and everything in between. With the popularity of prime lenses, this one is definitely a top contender.
Have you used the Sigma 35mm f1.2 ART Lens? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!