Review: Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art (Canon EF Mount)

The Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art lens is the fastest aperture wide angle lens that you can currently find on the market. It’s perfect in so many ways for the photographers who do astrophotography as well as those who photograph interiors in low lighting. The fast f1.8 aperture along with the autofocusing will suit these photographers well. However, the moment you try to attach a filter to the lens is when things start to go weird. It’s very difficult to do despite many lens options on the market finding ways to make this easier. At the same time, photographers can argue about how modern day sensors are so good at getting the image that you may not need those filters. But the same argument can be made for high ISO output–I mean, why would you need an f1.8 lens? Let me restate that: why would you need an f1.8 wide angle lens?

Despite my questions and reasoning with just how good modern optics and cameras are, the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art lens is a fantastic, and innovative lens for pretty much any photographer who needs a wide angle, prime lens.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Sharp image quality
  • Keeps distortion down to a minimum
  • Fun to use
  • Great look overall to the scenes you get
  • Images look fantastic in black and white
  • Weather resistance
  • F1.8 aperture is nice for really low light shooting

Cons

  • I wish there were a way that I could attach a filter to the front.

Gear Used

The Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art was tested on the Canon 6D and the Canon 6D Mk II.

Tech Specs

Specs for the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art were taken from the Sigma website

SPECIFICATIONS

Lens Construction 16 Elements in 11 Groups
Angle of View (35mm) 114.2°
Number of Diaphragm Blades 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
Mininum Aperture F16
Minimum Focusing Distance 27cm / 10.6in
Filter Size (mm)  –
Maximum Magnifications 1: 9.8
Dimensions
(Diameter x Length)
Φ95.4mm × 126mm / 3.8in. x 5.0in.
Weight 1,120g / 39.5oz.
Corresponding Mounts
Sigma HSM
DG
Nikon HSM
DG
Canon HSM
DG
HSM -Hyper-Sonic Motor
DG – DG for Digital Full Frame and APS-C
* The appearance, specifications, and the like of the product are subject to change for improvement without notice.

Ergonomics

The Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art is first and foremost, characterized by that big, massive front element of glass. It’s curved and feels almost like a crystal ball. It’s prone to oil and smudges, so be careful! Oh yeah, the lens hood is permanently attached too.

Turn the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art to the side and you’ll find the Sigma Art badge. The exterior is a carbonite type of plastic or something like that. Sigma doesn’t use metal like many other manufacturers do.

On the side of the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art is the AF/MF switch. Generally speaking, I only use MF if I’m focused out to infinity. Otherwise, there is this big giant focusing ring that can be used in combination with this switch’s functions. The ring provides the only real grip on the lens with the exception of the fact that the head of the lens is so darn giant.

Build Quality

When you look at the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art you’ll find this rubber gasket ring on the outside. This is part of the weather sealing. For what it’s worth, I didn’t test this lens out in the rain, but it survived a splash or two from the Atlantic ocean–and those splashes weren’t that bad at all as I stood on a pier on Coney Island and witnessed some of the biggest waves I’ve seen in a while. I have a lot of confidence in the build quality but for what it’s worth, I still think IRIX, Tamron and Zeiss are more superior due to their incorporation of metal into the body’s exterior. IRIX in particular is a brand I’m very impressed by these days.

Granted, if a plastic lens takes a bump it’s less likely to affect the alignment of the elements. But metal prevents that in the first place.

Ease of Use

Using the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art is pretty simple. Screw it onto the camera, autofocus, and shoot. That’s it. But where it really starts to change is with the manual focusing you’re going to need to do to shoot scenes at infinity. What I’m really in love with is the fact that for the first time with a lens from the Global Vision project, Sigma incorporated a zone focusing system into the autofocus. That’s awesome!

Autofocus

On both the Canon 6D and Canon 6D Mk II, the focus was pretty much always accurate. In fact, even in low lighting the cameras and lens never missed focusing unless I wasn’t using the center focusing point. You need to expect this with the Canon 6D series of cameras though. They still are my favorite over the 5D series. I can’t imagine anyone shooting super fast moving subjects with the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art though, so don’t worry about needing to have the fastest focusing with such a wide angle lens anyway.

Image Quality

The Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art is a lens you’re not going to have any sort of trouble with as long as you combine it with a high megapixel DSLR of some sort. At the lower megapixels, you may complain about sharpness until you zoom all the way in on a computer to see how stupidly, amazingly sharp this lens is wide open. It’s very useful and pretty fun to work with. Then there are other things like the color.

Bokeh

Because I know someone is bound to sit there and complain about the bokeh, you should know that it’s nice bokeh indeed. Is it creamy? No. You’re not going to get that from a wide angle lens. But to its point, the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art has the closest thing to creamy bokeh I’ve seen from any sort of wide angle prime lens. As it is, you don’t buy this lens for the bokeh.

Pro tip though: because of the contrast this lens has, it has a really beautiful look when shooting in black and white.

Chromatic Aberration

While some folks may say lens flare is chromatic aberration, I embrace it. This lens has a lot of flare but surprisingly manages to keep the fringing down. Embrace the flare is what I say!

Color Rendition

The Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art is like many of the company’s other wide angle lenses, very contrasty and very saturated. Perhaps they designed it for landscape photographers and this is why you get that look. Those colors and contrast translate well into beautiful black and white images.

Using the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art with Ilford Pan F 50 Film

The Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art was loaded up in my Canon EOS 33 and used with Ilford Pan F 50 film. In the right situations, the film looks great with this lens. But the lens also has a whole lot of contrast I don’t think works so great with the equivalent of slide film. It’s hit or miss; but when you hit it, you really hit it! More of this can be found over at La Noir Image with a subscription.

Sharpness

Wide open the Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art is super sharp. But as you stop down it becomes even sharper. For the most part though, it’s designed to be used wide open.

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusions

Likes

  • Sharp wide open
  • Beautiful for black and white photography
  • Weather sealing
  • f1.8 aperture

Dislikes

  • I really think it’s time Sigma starts making lenses like these for Sony E Mount

The Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art is a fantastic lens is every single way. I’ve got pretty much no issues at all with its image quality. But the reason why it’s not getting the Editor’s Choice award is because at this point, I think Sigma makes such great glass that it’s normal to expect this. This is the company that made an 18-35mm f1.8 lens and a 24-35mm f2 lens. Their innovation game is strong in terms of traditional features like a Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art being created. But I’d like to see more. For example, IRIX lenses have a clicky area that tells me when something is at infinity. The writing can also glow under a black light. Considering this lens is designed to be used for astrophotography, I’m shocked the text doesn’t glow in the dark at all. It would make heading out to the shoreline and looking at the text on the lens so much easier.

Still though, as far as sharpness, colors, and overall image quality go, this lens can’t be beat.

The Sigma 14mm f1.8 DG HSM Art wins five out of five stars. Want one? Check out Amazon for the latest prices.