Gear Reviews

Gear Review // Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens for Nikon

Sigma has been knocking it out of the park with their recent releases of prime lenses. For nearly half price you can get the same and in some cases better performance  out of a sigma prime than Nikon’s own brand lenses. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is no exception to this Sigma trend and I’m excited to tell you all about it…. read on.

The Quick

35mm is a really comfortable focal length for most photographers. I know some that shoot entire weddings with 35mm lenses and never have an issue. It also pairs incredibly well with an 85mm lens which gives a some good reach to compliment the 35′s width. The biggest issue I’ve had with most 35mm lenses is the unflattering and often times distracting barrel distortion. I rarely use my Nikon 35 1.4 (reviewed here) even though it’s a FANTASTIC performer in the color, speed, and sharpness arenas. I’m happy to say that I have not had the same distortion annoyance with the Sigma 35 and it’s been performing better than my Nikon in virtually every aspect.

The Build

The lens feels really well built, however not as solid as the Nikon 35mm f/1.4. The sigma is a definitely a cheaper plastic. It could probably take a small drop on soft carpet or grass, but anything more than that and you’re surely sending it in. That being said… it’s still a really comfortable feeling lens and a completely new design from Sigma’s previous 30mm prime. I also use sigma’s 50mm f/1.4 lens allllll the time and I have to say I hope they re-release it with an updated design similar to this 35mm.

Size wise it’s almost exactly the same size as Nikon’s. See here:

The first thing that stood out to me in a positive way was the massive focus ring. There is a very pleasing grip that wraps around everything your fingers would ever hold onto while shooting so it feels like you’ve got a lot of precise control when manually focusing. I think Sigma must have anticipated this lens being used for a lot of videographers (or still shooters like me that are addicted to live view) and realized it’s important that manual focusing can’t be just an afterthought anymore. The focus ring is pretty stiff compared to Nikon’s very fluid ring, but I think in time my Sigma 35 will wear in move a little easier.

Just like Nikon’s (and just as annoying) the Sigma 35 1.4 takes 67mm sized lens filters instead of the much preferred 77mm.

(Click image thumbnails to see larger version)

The Use

I’ve had this lens one week and pulled off nearly 2000 frames with it. I’ve photographed two portrait sessions, a few bits of street photos (which I love the 35mm focal length for), and an engagement session in NYC. I gotta say that 50mm was my heart and soul this entire year, but I’m seriously considering leaving the 50 at home starting next year. Maybe it’s that I’m not used to shooting the 35mm so much, or that I’ve grown tired of the 50mm, but I’m totally excited by every shot I’ve put together using this lens. It performs beautifully and needed no focus calibration on my Nikon D4 or my Nikon D800 camera bodies. It focuses at roughly the same speed as the Nikon 35mm, which is perfectly fine for 99% of what most people will need.

It’s sharp. Wicked sharp. Sharper than Nikon in my opinion.

Here is an example image of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta shot with the Nikon D800 and the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 at 1.4

and here is a closeup of his eye

and here’s another example also at 1.4, but with the nikon d4

end of discussion.

It’s fairly contrasty, however not as much so as the Nikon 35 in my opinion. Also, because of Nikon’s nano coating (which is meant to retain contrast and reduce flare) I still like the way Nikon’s renders colors a tad bit better than Sigma’s. Surprisingly, I didn’t have any issues fighting flare even without the lens hood (I despise lens hoods and never use them) and the contrast was still great shooting against the sun.

You’ll see in the second example image above there’s a fair amount of fringing, but that’s easily fixable in software like Adobe lightroom or photoshop.

The bokeh rendering is perfectly fine and not distracting to me. I’m usually not picky about this, but I’ll be uploading a video soon that will demo the bokeh of this lens.

(Click image thumbnails to see larger version)

The Conclusion

Sigma has done it again. They created an incredibly affordable and high performance tool for professionals. I have to say all of their prime lenses can barely compare to their zoom gear. I don’t really understand it, but I don’t really care. I’m not ashamed to use a third party brand as long as they perform as good or better than the name brand stuff. Nikon photographers? This is the lens you want. Unload your Nikon 35mm while you still can.

Check out more of my gear reviews here!

Summary

Rating

If you shoot nikon and 35mm is your golden range than there’s no reason to buy any other lens.

  • Price
    $899.00
  • Uses
    Anything except macro and sports
  • In my bag?
    Absolutely
About Sam Hurd

Sam is a professional wedding and editorial photographer based in the Washington DC area. He photographs 40+ weddings a year, press events, commercial portraiture, and regularly hosts workshops in his Baltimore MD studio and around the world. His work has been published internationally including the Wall Street Journal, the NYTimes, and the Washington Post. He's available for commissions worldwide.

Blog Comments

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  1. Damn it. (Great review, just, as an owner of the Nikon 35 I’m annoyed that I have to think about dealing with the hassle of selling it for this.) Those shots are seriously beautiful, man.

  2. I’m so exciiiiited! I’ve held off on buying the Nikon 35mm for a long time, mostly because I couldn’t justify the cost. This, however, seems totally reasonable. Yaaay! Thanks for the review :)

  3. Very cool man! Had no idea Sigma had put out a 35 and was contemplating the Nikkor, but not eager to spend $1600 on glass I’m not sure I’d use that often. I also love their 50 and 85. Thanks to the review and the heads-up!

  4. love that portrait of leon panetta sam. really great

  5. Now if only sigma did cheap but equally good boddies!

  6. Great review Sam. A lens that I might be getting and you explained it well. I’ll def. follow your website for updates on reviews and/or photography! Keep it up.

    James Tippett
    Automotive Photographer

  7. I snagged one on the Canon mount and am completely sold. I have never had such a positive experience from an “off-brand” lens and this monster is making me rethink my entire approach to buying lenses.

    It’s awesome.

  8. Great review and photos Sam! So glad to finally see a review from a Nikon shooter especially since I’ve been contemplating to purchase the Nikkor version for a while now but the price holds me back a bit. I guess your samples and review sealed the deal for me. Thanks

  9. We just got one last week and love it too. Highly recommended!

  10. I think Sigma has finally snagged me. This is awesome. Thanks for the review!

  11. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for sharing the review, great and straight to the point as always.

    I’m waiting for these to come back into stock here in the UK, but considering the all positive talk coming out around this new Sigma, I think it would be pretty stupid to spend double on the Canon/Nikon versions. Hopefully we’ll see more of this from Sigma going forward.

    Thanks for sharing

  12. How does the focus accuracy compare to the Nikon? I’m really tempted to flip my Nikon 35mm after seeing all these glowing reviews of the sigma.

  13. Sam,
    I have been regular reading your blogs for a couple of years and when I saw that you to see the the value in the Sigma prime lens 50mm 1.4 and 85mm 1.4 as I did I knew you were the type of Nikon user who’s blog I could enjoy following. I have been excited about this release and have been waiting for a Nikon user to give me some images to review since Flickr Canon users are the ones who are posting in volume right now. I can’t wait to get mine and I too wonder how much will I use the 50mm going forward but it will always be in my arsenal. I shoot with D700 and the 85mm and 50mm sigmas are great.

  14. Great review. Thanks for the eye-opening images. Didn’t think that this Sigma could be better than the Nikkor version but now you got me thinking to sell the Nikkor.

  15. Nice review! I tried both the Nikon and Sigma today in the store. It’s amazing how sharp the Sigma was and it had almost no CA compared to the Nikon. However i did notice that the Sigma underexpose a bit on my D800. Did you noticed this too?

  16. thanks! You just saved me a thousand bucks!

  17. Great review and just the reassurance I was looking for. Hope the Canon example is as good as your Nikon. Thanks for your help. Chris

  18. Well I received mines last Saturday, January 26th 2013, after pre ordering through BnH. Tonight I clean up the old D700 before mounting this bad boy. Firstly build quality is friggin’ awesome. The lens makes No Noise whatsoever when focusing. It is quick! I imported 2 shots into Lightroom 4.3 and Nikon View NX2. Exported to .tif, then converted to .jpg. All Sharpening, micro adjustments …etc… etc… were off. The results are handheld and straight out of the box.
    See Here : https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151299381787615.458759.643457614&type=3

  19. Muchas gracias por el review, sin duda me ha gustado y me ha ayudado a decidirme por un 35 1.4, aunque sea de Canon. Gracias

  20. Is this lens FX or would it be cropped on a full frame DSLR?

  21. I noticed in your little sidebar up there you say it’s uses are for “Anything but macro and sports”. While I didn’t really think of this as a macro lens, I posted a photo on flickr today and someone commented that it was “a great macro shot”. It was taken with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and a D5200. It’s a relatively close-focusing lens and on a DX camera I would venture to say it can get you pretty close to macro. Obviously not “true 1:1 macro” but with some cropping on a high MP count camera you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference.

  22. Picked mine up yesterday. DOOD. It’s amazing.

    Your comments about plastic are interesting, since I think only the filter/lens hood edge is the obvious plastic. Most of the outside is metal and rubber.

  23. Great review will have to try it out

  24. Great review, am glad other great options are coming out to compete with higher priced nikkor.

  25. Silvia Roberts says:

    Picked up the Sigma a few weeks back and all I can say that this is a fantastic lens. I tried the Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.4G, but I returned it. The Nikon was just not sharp enough wide open and focus accuracy was not very good. The Sigma delivers absolutely stunning image quality for about half the price of a Nikon!

Trackbacks

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