Review: Sigma 28mm F1.4 DG HSM Art (What The 35mm Should’ve Been)

The Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art is a fantastic lens in so many ways.

After reviewing the Sigma 40mm f1.4 lens, the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art was a relief to handle. A smaller lens in almost every way, 28mm is also one of my favorite focal lengths. Photographers who often reach for this focal length are street photographers, travelers, and even those looking to photograph just for fun. It is an incredibly useful focal length and works well in the documentary process. The Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art is weather sealed, fast to focus, and delivers beautiful image quality. I’d like to call the image quality that we get here “cinematic.”

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Weather sealing
  • Image quality
  • Beautiful colors
  • Nice bokeh
  • Great sharpness
  • Pretty lightweight and portable for what it is

Cons

  • Still big. Sony was able to take a 24mm f1.4 lens and make it both smaller and lighter.

Gear Used

We tested the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art with the Canon EOS R.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Sigma 28mm f1.4 Art DG HSM listing.

Lens construction 17 elements in 12 groups
Angle of view(35mm) 75.4°
Number of diaphragm blades 9 (Rounded diaphragm)
Minimum aperture F16
Minimum focusing distance 28cm / 11in.
Maximum magnification ratio 1:5.4
Filter size φ77mm
Dimensions
(diameter x length)
φ82.8mm×107.7mm /
φ3.2 × 4.2in.
Weight 865g / 30.5oz.
All figures calculated by SIGMA.
Appearance and specifications are subject to change without notice.

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

The Sigma 28mm f1.4 Art DG HSM is a very standard Sigma lens when it comes to the ergonomics. Many of their primes more or less follow the same formula when it comes to the exterior design. There is a large, rubber ring that makes up the focusing ring. This helps greatly when it comes to grip and the overall ergonomic feel.

The front of the lens has a 77mm filter thread. This is a very large filter thread for a wide angle lens, but to be fair, we’ve seen lenses like this hit the market for a few years now.

The side of the Sigma 28mm f1.4 Art DG HSM has a switch for autofocus control. That’s the only switch of any sort on this lens.

Build Quality

When it comes to the build quality of the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art, we can’t make any sort of complaints at all. See this photo of the lens in the snow? It continued to work even after this. What about the lead image of this story? We surely gave the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art quite a thorough test and found that the build quality is really solid.

The weather sealing is made thanks in part to the rubber gasket around the lens mount. But the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art also has lots of internal seals to ensure that moisture and dust don’t end up messing with your experience.

Earlier on, I mentioned that the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art is everything that the 35mm f1.4 should have been. I stand strongly by that statement. The 35mm f1.4 should have had weather sealing built into it from the start and it baffles me why Sigma never did it. Behind closed doors, what I’m often told is that there was concern over a patent issue. But Tamron, Zeiss, and the like have all done it.

Ease of Use

The Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art is a pretty straight forward option. You screw it onto the camera, focus, point, shoot, and enjoy. Unlike many other options on the market, Sigma doesn’t use a clutch autofocus ring. So if you want to manual focus then you’re going to need to hit a dedicated switch. I see most folks working with this lens doing nothing else but using it in autofocus. Considering how modern photography works, that just seems to be the norm.

As it is, the depth of field scale is almost useless too.

Autofocus

In my tests with the Canon EOS R, I didn’t run into any problems with the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art when it came to autofocusing. In both low light and bright light, the lens and camera focused as they should. The only situation where I experienced a “misfocus” is with Dan moving closer to me.

That’s visible in this image. If Dan had stayed put, the lens and camera would have stuck with him. But we were both walking and moving. As it is, I’m still not too sure I’d recommend it for street photography when shooting at a shallow aperture, at least when it comes to autofocusing on the Canon EOS R. It’s still a bit too slow for my liking unless I decide to really stop down the lens, crank up the ISO and use zone focusing.

To be fair, this is a lot of cameras in general. Micro Four Thirds and APS-C do a great job for street and the Sony a9 does too. But the rest of the industry really needs to catch up.

Image Quality

The Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art has some beautiful image quality to it. A little bit wider than the 35mm focal length, it’s going to be perfect for a lot of photographers who tend to look to a scene and want to capture the world just as how they saw it. In our tests, we found the lens to not only have some beautiful bokeh but also be more than usable for many different applications. Coupled with a great photo editor like Capture One Pro 12, photographers are bound to be able to get a lot out of not only lots of modern RAW file capabilities, but the already great colors of the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art too. We also found there to be no aberrations worth speaking of and lots of great sharpness.

Bokeh

As many of you know, the wider a focal length becomes the less bokeh it will have than a longer focal length at a given aperture comparatively. But with the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art you get some incredibly creamy bokeh. Part of this is due to closer focusing abilities. Combine this with using film-like kevlin levels and you’re going to get images you’re bound to fall for.

As you can see, it’s a nice lens for portraiture too. Of course, you’re not going to be shooting headshots with this lens but it’s good for environmental portraits that tell a story.

Chromatic Aberration

While this image above may seem like there is chromatic aberration in the form of fringing, there really isn’t. That’s just the natural color of the Williamsburg bridge being hit by the surrounding lights. As far as distortion goes, it’s pretty minimal and you’ll only really see it if you’re too close to your subject. Plus look at the corners–see how little there is.

Color Rendition

While lots of folks will sit there and complain about the Canon EOS R, I’m still sticking by my guns and saying that this is Canon’s best camera yet. The sensor can output really nice image quality and, with the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art in front of the sensor, it delivers even more beautiful image quality. Sigma’s wide angle primes have often been very saturated, but the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art isn’t leaning into it the way that the 35mm f1.4 Art and everything wider than it does.

When you combine the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art color rendition with the little bit of micro contrast it has, you’ll get colors that pop. When used with effective lighting techniques such as flash and spotlights, you’re going to do a better job with story telling while creating a scene with gorgeous colors.

Sharpness

The Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art is sharp wide open, but stop it down a bit and it gets sharper. As it is, every lens at 50mm and beyond is sharper than the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art in my eyes. But this isn’t a slouch in the slightest. At the moment of writing this review, Sigma’s 85mm f1.4 Art is at the top of DXOMark’s lab test list. But as wide angle lenses go, the only thing sharper would probably be the Zeiss 25mm f2 Batis. Next up would be Sony’s 35mm f1.4 Zeiss lens, but I think the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art is sharper. However, the Sony lens has higher saturation and folks may like that more.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Weather sealing
  • Color
  • Sharp enough

Dislikes

  • I wish Sigma made this for more mirrorless cameras

I really like the Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art. It delivers fantastic image quality all throughout the frame that no one can really complain about. It has gorgeous bokeh that is smooth and combined with the close focusing abilities, you’re bound to get photos you’re happy with. The sharpness is more than acceptable. Despite the fact that we didn’t test this lens with a flash, we’re still confident in what it’s capable of doing. Couple all of this with the weather sealing and you’ve got a highly reliable lens. If anything, what’s holding it back is the autofocus speed comparatively to other competing products out there. Though Sigma may blame the Canon EOS R, I don’t really buy it. Anything that I’ve put on that camera has done well when it comes to autofocus performance.

But as I sit with it on the shelf with review units in my office, I consider the fact that it is the nearly perfect wide angle focal length for me except that it doesn’t come in more mirrorless camera mounts. I own the Sony a7r III and the Canon EOS R when it comes to full frame. I could go for the lens in Sony FE mount, but then I’d just have a massive 28mm lens on the camera that is unnecessarily large. To me, that’s the saddest thing.

The only thing that I can really compare this lens to is the Nikon 28mm f1.4 but I think folks will like the colors here more.

The Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art can be had on Amazon and is worthy of our Editor’s Choice award and five out of five stars.