That said, I do recognize the handiness of having such a fast aperture with quality optics in the one's arsenal of lenses. I just wish they wouldn't make them so large. It's getting so I'm going to need a pickup truck to lug around my DSLR outfit.
|Two very fast aperture, f/1.4 lenses for the Nikon camera. On the left is the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G lens, and on the right the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM. In the background is the Nikon D800 I used for testing them.|
The specifications on these two lenses come out roughly similar, with the exception of the price, of course. They are approximately the same size and weight, have the same filter size, focus the a similar close-up range, and have the same number of diaphragm blade, which, as you might expect, results in a similar, pleasant bokeh effect. Aside from price, their other major difference is in the number of lens elements.
The Nikon 35mm f/1.4G is one of its professional lenses, with all that means in terms of durability. It has an annodized metal body and feels built like a tank. Those of us who have used Nikon lenses for years know they are champs in standing up to abuse.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM is the first lens made as part of their new Art line A-series aimed at delivering high quality optics in a stylish design.. It's body is made up of metal with some plastic parts, and with protection for internal mechanics. It feels quite solidly constructed, but time will tell how it will wear with age. My own impression is that it is solidly constructed and will hold up quite well.
|Although roughly the same size, the Sigma 35mm on the right is slimmer and feels less bulky than the Nikon 35mm on the left.|
At f/1.4 and f/2 both lenses suffered from vignetting and a minor touch of corner softness. Once I closed them down to f/2.8 and below they were both sharp overall. Both lenses had the expected barrel distortion of a wide angle lens. In both instances the images were easily corrected with minimal post-processing.
The bokeh of the two lenses was also quite similar, as you can see from the four images below. In fact, if I didn't carefully label each test, I would never be able to tell the difference between the results.
|Sigma 35mm at f/1.4|
|Nikon 35mm at f/1.4|
|Nikon 35mm lens at f/1.4|
|Sigma 35mm lens at f/1.4|
|Sigma lens at f/8|
|Sigma lens at f/5|
|Nikon lens at f/5.6 Click here to download a high res version of this image.|
|Sigma 35mm lens at f/5.6 Click here to download a high res version of this image.|
|Nikon 35mm lens f/9 Click here to download a high res version of this image.|
|Nikon 35mm lens at f/8 Click here to download a high res version of this image.|
|Sigma 35mm lens at f/1.4 Click here to download a high res version of this image.|
|Sigma 35mm lens at f/8 Click here to download a high res version of this image.|
|Nikon 35mm lens at f/1.4|
|Nikon 35mm lens f/8 Click here to download a high res version of this image.|
These are both fine lenses -- fine optically and finely constructed. The Nikon is built with a more rugged body typical of the company's pro lenses. The Sigma, while not quite as solid, is well built also and should stand up to most pro uses. After shooting these lenses side by side, and analyzing the results, I don't think that optical performance is going to be the deciding factor. Most likely the decision will come down to confidence in construction of the lens and price difference. The Sigma lens comes in at close to half the price. Sigma has been making a substantial effort recently to raise the quality of its lenses to be equal to that of major camera manufacturers. The availability of better factory machining tools coupled with computer aided design has gone a long way to leveling the playing field between lens manufactures. The fact that they can produce a competitive lens of such exceptional quality for a fraction of the cost is to be applauded. Used to be we would rarely seek to purchase an off-brand lens for our camera system. Lenses like this one from Sigma are going to go a long way to changing that attitude.
I don't have room in my crowded gadget bag for another lens of this size, but if I needed one right now and had to choose, I would go with the Sigma. All other things being close to equal, the large difference in price would be the determining factor. I have to add, that when the tests were over and I needed to pick one lens to do some personal shooting, I chose the Sigma for its comfort, compactness, and stylish design.
That said, you can't go wrong with either of these two superb lenses.
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