Last Updated on 02/07/2018 by Chris Gampat
Or: Why I missed the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art Lens
When I used to use DSLRs a whole lot, my Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens was my go to. To this day, I don’t consider it to be the sharpest 35mm lens out there but I surely consider it to be the best. It has a great balance of sharpness, bokeh, color, and just an overall gorgeous look and rendition to the scenes it shoots. I don’t want to say it looks like film; that would be absolutely foolish unless you know how to work with and develop medium format film in just the right way. But the reason why I missed it so much is that I’ve moved away from DSLRs for a number of reasons.
Since 2009, I was a Canon man. But even mow they admit the Canon of 2009 was a much different Canon. They were innovating at a better pace, changing the entire industry, etc. These days, Sony and Fujifilm tend to do that more than anything else. These days, Canon, Nikon, or Pentax don’t do what I need. Their optical viewfinders don’t work for my eyes and EVFs are fantastic these days and can help you in so many different ways. But the thing is that Sigma’s mult-award winning lens wasn’t available for FE cameras, at least as of the publishing of this article. Sony’s and Zeiss’s lenses are nice, but they don’t give me the Je Ne Sais Quoi Sigma’s does.
Before I go on, I should say that I really like medium format SLR viewfinders. If modern day SLRs were anything like those, then I’d change my mind.
So I did a number of things. What was keeping me tethered to Canon was Sigma, Phottix, and Flashpoint. But my gear over the years has evolved to keep up with what I do to the point where Sigma was all that was left. I sold my Canon 6D recently to my cousin who wanted a cheap full frame body; and being that she’s my cousin I pretty much gave it to her along with a lens I don’t use anymore. I’d rather my gear go into the hands of people who will genuinely use them and grow with them instead of just making a significant profit on something. And today, for the first time in years, the only Canon body I own is a film body that I’m going to either sell or give away.
First off, when you mount it with the adapter onto the Sony camera, you realize it’s not substantially larger than Sony’s own Zeiss 35mm f1.4 FE lens. Metabones provides weather sealing with its rubber gasket design but this is an early Sigma art lens, and so it doesn’t have weather sealing built in. So I still need to be careful. The adapter also doesn’t add a whole lot of weight to the combo overall. Is it big? Yes. Is it heavy? Not really; and if I want something lighter I own Sony’s 35mm f2.8 FE. That’s a much smaller package overall and it simply works well.
For a whole lot of you, the autofocus will perhaps be one of the most important things. Want to know something funny? This combination focuses faster than it will on any of Canon’s bodies. It’s fantastic. The accuracy with focusing is also very good. What I’ve found is that on the Sony a7r III, you can use the entire focusing area but on Paul’s Sony a7r II, we found it won’t use the entire focusing area. Strange, right? But at least the a7r III is giving me everything I need. The combination focuses in low light very well too. Essentially, it all just works simply how it’s supposed to. In fact, I think it focuses a bit faster than the 35mm f2.8 FE.
And the image quality? Well, Sigma surely put some beautiful glass into this lens as I’m still able to create really nice looking photos with it.
Now, could I have done this stuff with Sony’s lenses? Sure. But it’s nice that I don’t necessarily have to. And it’s sort of like returning home to something you used to use and just simply always worked. Creatively, I’ll push myself no matter what sort of gear I work with. But the gear doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with that. I could’ve tried to do these with 35mm film on a Leica if I wanted, but the experience wouldn’t be the same. And experiences need to be had for themselves.