The 24-35mm f/2 A is part of Sigma’s ‘Art’ line of optics and works with both full-frame and APS-C format cameras. The lens is available in Sigma, Nikon and Canon fits, and breaks new ground – it’s the world’s first full-frame zoom lens on the market with a f/2 aperture. This puts the 24-35mm in a unique position. Although not quite matching the super fast f/1.4 aperture of Sigma’s 24mm (£699) or 35mm (£636) Art lenses, its widest f/2 aperture is still plenty to blur backgrounds, and its ability to fine-tune composition without moving your feet is a feat its prime siblings miss out on.
The audience for this lens is vast and diverse. Photographers with full-frame cameras will consider this optic for landscape use, while street shooters will see the benefit of the bokeh from the f/2 aperture. The lens focuses internally, making it suitable for using filters with ease, and the AF is whisper quiet, making it great for video use too. Fitted to an APS-C camera, it gives an effective focal length of 36-52mm (38-56 for Canon), bringing it into the sights of portrait photographers. So, there’s definitely a big market for this special lens, but how does it fare in the field?
Features & Build
What first strikes you about this lens is its size. At 87.6x122.7mm it certainly isn’t small and doesn’t look much different from a 24-70mm optic. Along with the girth, comes the weight – the lens tips the scales at 940g, which weighs around the same as a Canon 5D MkIII and is just 40g lighter than a Nikon D810. The reasons for this weight are two-fold. Firstly, the build quality is impressively robust. This is a quality-built lens with no plasticky bits in sight. Secondly, to achieve that f/2 aperture, there’s a lot of glass – 18 elements in 13 groups, to be precise. One of the elements is Sigma’s top-flight FLD glass which delivers a high light transmission and corrects for chromatic aberration.
The rugged build of the 24-35mm continues with the large zoom and focus rings either side of the focus distance window. Perfectly-sized for cold fingers to grip the textured rubber on a frosty morning, the oversized grips are also useful when fine-tuning focus when recording video. There’s only one switch (AF/MF) on the side of the lens as it doesn’t feature any image stabilisation technology, but this too is large and easy to activate. A close focusing distance of just 28cm allows you to get really close to a subject for frame-filling images. The 24-35mm also comes with features that aren’t immediately visible. It can be connected to Sigma’s USB dock (costing from £40), which allows the firmware of the lens to be updated and the focusing to be calibrated and fine-tuned.
Performance & handling
This is a pro-spec lens and certainly acts like one. Sigma’s Hypersonic Motor technology (HSM) works well, ensuring the lens locks onto subjects quickly and quietly. The weight of the lens does tell on the arms after a full morning’s shooting, but if it’s attached to a tripod you’llhave no worries.
Although the zoom range is quite small, it does make a difference out in the field. The ability to fine-tune your framing by simply zooming in and out rather than having to move a tripod back and forwards shouldn’t be overlooked. The lens tops out at a minimum aperture off/16, but still stays incredibly sharp (see image quality panel). It’s a great feeling to be able to open up to f/2 and take advantage of the fast shutter speeds and beautiful bokeh created by the rounded diaphragm blades.
Value for money
At £949, this lens is a big investment for anyone. But the combined price of Sigma’s 24mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/1.4 Art primes is significantly more at £1335, plus they’re 41% heavier in your bag. With this in mind the 24-35mm f/2 is very good value. It focuses quickly and quietly, covers the focal range without the need to change lenses and its image quality shone out too. If you’re on the hunt for a wide, versatile lens this one is a gem!
Although pricey and a little heavy, the Sigma 24-35mm pushes zoom lenses to new heights with its robust build, image quality and versatility.
- Price: £699 (As of July 2016)
- Mount: Canon, Nikon, Sigma
- Construction: 18 elements in 13 groups
- Angle of view: 84.1-63.4 degrees
- Diaphragm blades: Nine (rounded diaphragm)
- Maximum aperture: f/2
- Minimum aperture: f/16
- Minimum focus distance: 28cm
- Maximum magnification: 1:4.4
- Image stabilisation: No
- Filter size: 82mm
- Dimensions: 87.6x122.7mm
- Weight: 940g
- Visit: www.sigma-imaging-uk.com
This review was first published in the December 2015 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.