Thoughts and Field Test of the Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Lens

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In November 2016, Sigma introduced the world to its widest zoom lens offering to date: the Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art lens. This is actually Sigma’s third version of the 12-24mm DG (full frame) lens, but it is the first to have the “Art” designation and a constant aperture. Previous lens versions share the same focal length but differ in maximum aperture, weight, size, and price.

Priced at $1,600, this isn’t the cheapest lens, but it is a steal compared to Canon’s EF 11-24mm f/4L USM, which runs just under $2,700. Here are some more details on the Sigma 12-24mm lens and reasons why it may or may not be for you.


Sigma 12-24mm Art Lens

Thoughts and Field Test of the Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Lens

Sigma 12-24mm mounted on a Canon 6D.

Specs of the Sigma 12-24mm

  • 12-24mm focal length
  • Maximum aperture of f/4
  • Minimum focusing of 0.24 m (9.45″)
  • Available in Canon EF, Nikon F (FX) and Sigma mounts
  • Ring-type hypersonic motor
  • Item dimensions of 3.3 x 4.7 x 3.3 inches
  • Item weight of 1.5 lbs
  • Weather sealing, dust and splash proof
  • Comes with a solid lens cap and a zippered carrying case with shoulder strap
Sigma 12-24mm Art Lens

A phenomenal lens for architecture and interiors. Shot at 12mm.

Pros of the Sigma 12-24mm

Solid build quality

The build quality of the Sigma 12-24mm is impeccable. Constructed mostly of metal and glass, this is a solid and rather heavy lens. It takes up quite a bit of space in your bag and can make it difficult to travel with (more on that below). On the plus side, I would expect it to hold up well over time. Also, it is dust and splash proof as well as being weather sealed.

Thoughts and Field Test of the Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Lens

Excellent distortion control

Ultra-wide angle lenses often suffer from distortion, where straight lines may appear more curved, and proportions may seem off. This can often be corrected in post-processing. Shots that were taken with my previous wide-angle lens, the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, often needed quite a bit of Photoshop post-processing to straighten lines and correct distortion. The Sigma 12-24mm, however, does an outstanding job of keeping photo subjects pretty free of distortion, no matter what focal length you’re using.

Sigma 12-24mm Art Lens

Interior image shot at 12mm.

Sigma 12-24mm Art Lens

Same photo subject from above, but shot from a slightly closer angle at 24mm.

Things to consider

Not for everyday shooting situations

Shooting with an ultra-wide angle lens takes a certain eye for composition. Not everything will photograph well at 12mm due to perspective distortion. People, for example, may end up with body parts that appear much larger or longer than they should be when they are photographed at wide focal lengths. Thus, it’s important to manage your expectations with a wide-angle lens and realize that not everything will photograph well with it. Generally speaking, ultra-wide angle lenses suit the needs of architecture and landscape photographers. Portrait and product photographers, not so much.

Thoughts and Field Test of the Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Lens

Not a great image due to poor composition and distortion of shooting at 12mm.

Sigma 12-24mm Art Lens

With better composition and positioning, 12mm can work in certain situations, like landscape or cityscape photos.

Curved front lens element

The Sigma 12-24mm f/4 has a bulbous, curved front lens element that makes it impossible to use standard, threaded filters. This might be a hindrance to landscape photographers needing to use circular polarizers and neutral density filters, or the average photographer who likes to stick a UV filter on for added lens protection. There are other filter solutions such as slip-in rear gel filters, but those can be quite large and cumbersome to deal with.

Heavy lens

While a solid lens is great in terms of being reliably built, the weight and bulk of this lens are undeniable. Combined with the aforementioned con of not being able to add a protective filter to the glass, the Sigma 12-24mm becomes very unfriendly as a travel lens. If you do travel with it, you’d need to be extremely careful to avoid damaging the glass.

Thoughts and Field Test of the Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Lens

Other Lens Options

Since this is the third iteration of Sigma’s 12-24mm lens, there are two previous models to consider if you are looking for alternatives.

This Sigma lens is also going up against the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens ($2699), the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ($1899), and Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 ($1199). Focal lengths, apertures, and prices all vary, so it really depends on which features are most important to you.

In Conclusion

In terms of image quality, I found the Sigma 12-24mm to be incredible for shooting architecture and interiors in particular. However, its weight and fragile, bulbous lens make it tricky to travel with.


Would you pull the trigger on investing in this lens? Let me know in the comments below!

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art Lens
Author Rating
4.5

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Suzi Pratt

is an internationally published Seattle event and food photographer. Her photos appear regularly in Eater and Getty Images. She is also a blogger who teaches others how to run a successful photography business.

  • Troy Phillips

    I wouldn’t worry at all about the bulbous front element. Doubt it is fragile at all. It extremely thick and the lens coatings are tough as nails. I shoot live music with the Sigma 8-16 (which I bought used) and also the Tamron 15-30. I’m in some harsh elements with these lenses and never have they gotten scratched or scuffed. It takes a pretty hard whack to chip or scuff these lens coatings.
    If this lens is 1/2 of what the old 8-16 apsc lens is it’ll be stellar. Over the past several years of shooting I was going through my best pictures and they just happened to be coming from that old used Sigma 8-16 . I was surprised. I got the Tamron 15-30 to replace it because I needed the f/2.8 for the low light. Well it just doesn’t hang. It misses focus a lot in the low light where the f/4.5-5.6 Sigma didn’t. Does sound right but that’s been my experience. Think I’m digging out the ol Sigma this weekend for a big festival I’m hired to shoot. I was shooting the Sigma last year on my Nikon d810. Going to give it a whirl on my new d500.
    This 12-24 would be perfect for that d810 I believe over my Tamron 15-30. I got the Tamron just before they announced the Sigma . After I got the Tamron the Sigma came out and I almost took it back. Now I’m wishing I would have.

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  • Ray Arsenault

    I bought a near-new used copy of the 2nd generation version of this lens a few years ago (Sigma 12-24mm f/4.5-5.6 DG II HSM). It’s great for tight interior shots. It’s also good for exterior architecture shots when a lot has to be brought into the photo. It’s not an everyday lens, but for what it is designed to do, I really find it useful. I would also give it very high marks for solid quality construction. I’ve never had a problem with the bulbous front lens… in fact I find it uniquely charming among my collection of lenses.

  • tonyc0101

    Yeah, I loved my 8-16mm, but sold it to get a faster wide-angle for low-light handheld shots. If only Sigma made an 8mm f2.8 rectilinear, that would be baller! I’m using the Tokina 11-20mm f2.8 lens on my D500 for now, which has been awesome!

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  • Troy Phillips

    Yes and I’ve thought about the Tokina

  • QA06021E

    I’ve had occasion to use the Nikon 14-24 2.8 and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve used it for interiors, landscapes, even a professional cycling race and thanks to being reasonable close got some really neat shots. I would have loved to use it for a recent F1 outing but it wouldn’t have got me “past” the fences from my vantage point. I’ve also used it to do some “fun” shoots with models to deliberately exaggerate leg length.
    This lens or the Nikon could be pretty useful, long-term, but up front it’s a big investment in a “might use it now and then” lens.
    The weight of a lens like this is because it does have quite a bit of glass, but it’s worth the weight considering the results.

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