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First Impressions: Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 DG OS HSM and 35mm f1.4 DG HSM

by Chris Gampat on 10/28/2012

At Photo Plus 2012, we had the opportunity to sit down with Sigma and take a look at their brand new lenses announced at Photokina. In particular, the 120-300mm f2.8 OS DG HSM and the 35mm f1.4 DG HSM wowed us. With that said though, we were only able to handle prototypes in the Sigma SD mount, and we weren’t allowed to put a card in the camera to take a look at the image quality.

Nonetheless though, the lenses were incredibly impressive and represent a total re-branding and re-envisioning with the company. Sigma lenses have been under a lot of heat for years (admittedly so even from us.) But put any one of their prime lenses from the last five years onto your camera, and you’ll be stunned at not only the quality, but just how overall great they are. Around Photokina, the company also announced new quality control measures as well as marketing strategies for the lenses. And of any lenses the company has put out before, these are two of what I consider to be some of the most important lenses in the company’s history as they are not only the first to be subject to the re-branding, but also the new QC efforts. They may seriously and potentially change what forum readers have been saying for years.

 

 

Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM

Tech Specs

- Wide f1.4 aperture

- Comes with a carrying case and lens hood

Specs from Sigma’s listing

Specifications

Lens Construction 13 elements in 11 groups
Minimum aperture F16
Filter size φ67mm
Angle of view (35mm equivalent) 63.4°
Minimum focusing distance 30cm / 11.8in
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) φ77mm x 94.0mm / 3.0in x 3.7in
Number of diaphragm blades 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
Maximum magnification ratio 1:5.2
Weight TBD

Ergonomics

The Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG HSM is one of those lenses that you look at and say, “Whoa.” Why? Well first off, it’s incredibly small: in fact it is significantly smaller than Canon’s 35mm f1.4 L (my bread and butter lens) and also smaller than Nikon and Sony’s comparable offerings. The finish on the lens is wonderful and feels great when your fingers are wrapped around it.

I wasn’t kidding when I said it was small; the front element and filter are especially small as well. Usually, I’ve known lenses with larger front elements/filters to perform well but for the moment I’m going to assume that this lens was designed with an emphasis on AF focusing speed and that may be why it is smaller and lighter than other offerings. Typically, third party lenses can perform slower than their primary counterparts.

The lens has a big and easy to read distance scale. Like other autofocus lenses, the depth of field scale is nearly non-existent as well.

The front focusing ring feels very nice; better than Canon’s and almost comparable with Zeiss’s. Everything about the exterior from the focusing switches on the side to the finish and focusing ring feels polished and resonates with excellent quality.

The lens, even with a hood attached, still stayed extremely compact. Once again, I hope that the company’s decision to go with a smaller lens helps to give extremely fast focusing speeds and that somehow or another, they have also managed to not sacrifice on image quality. If they can outdo Canon and Nikon’s 35mm f1.4 or at least come close, they may indeed have some extra special to offer to the market. As it is, Canon’s 35mm f1.4 L is quite old but still remains to be one of the company’s top 10 sharpest lenses; and there are even rumors of an updated version flying around.

Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 OS DG HSM

Tech Specs

Specs taken from Sigma’s product page

Lens Construction 23 elements in 18 groups
Minimum aperture F22
Filter size φ105mm
Angle of view (35mm equivalent) 20.4° – 8.2°
Minimum focusing distance 150cm – 250cm / 59.1in – 98.4in
Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 124.4mm x 291mm / 4.8in x 11.5in
Blades 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
Maximum magnification ratio 1 : 8.1
Weight TBD

Ergonomics

This lens, to put it bluntly, feels like a miniature hand-cannon; Sigma must have designed blunderbusses before. The 120-300mm f2.8 OS DG HSM not only has a super long name, but it is also amazingly light for a lens of this size and caliber. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t really light, but it isn’t terrible either.

If I were still a paparazzo and made the money to afford back massages once a week, this would probably be my mainstay lens.

The massive behemoth features a zoom ring and focusing ring that are both beefy and comfortable to use for prolonged periods of times. The only thing is that the zoom ring feels like it needs a bit too much power to zoom in and out from the human hand; and that can be frustrating for sports photographers shooting a long game. If you intend to spring for this lens, consider also building up some muscle. The lens zooms and focuses internally as well; which helps to keep the entire package down. The lens hood indeed adds to the size of the lens. In fact, the hood attaches via a screw lock like other large lenses.

Like the other new lenses, it features an excellent finish. The 120-300mm f2.8 lens features an interesting tripod collar with a fastening screw sideways on the tripod mount. You can flip it around and slide it around all you want after messing with that little screw for a bit.

Overall, the lens seems really quite awesome and we will be very excited to test it out when it comes in for review.

First Impressions

As stated before, these lenses are what I feel to be part of an ultimate test for Sigma. They have come under a lot of criticism over the years but have made critical measures to improve. We will have to see what the future holds, but I personally have faith that the company’s future offerings will be quite excellent and that a lot of careful thought and research has gone into the design of these lenses: especially with the USB addition for firmware updates.

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