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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!