If you’re in search of a wide-angle lens — be it for architecture, weddings or creative portraits — one of the single best options in the entire photography space is the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art series lens. It’s become a workhorse and a staple in my arsenal of lenses — let’s get to it!
When Sigma introduced their Art line of lenses back in 2013 with the 35mm f/1.4 Art, they changed the way the industry would view third-party lens manufacturers. Prior to 2013, Sigma as a company produced relatively inexpensive lenses that were plagued with quality control issues.
Sigma reinvented itself as a high quality producer of third-party lenses when they introduced their “Global Vision” initiative. The initiative focused the company on quality lenses at value prices. By nearly all accounts, the Global Vision reinvention was a smash success! Gone were the majority of the quality control issues, results from lens to lens improved across the company’s line of lenses.
The critics were won over as well. To date, the highest scoring lens in the entire DxO mark database is still the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens.
The other innovative part of the global vision initiative was Sigma’s willingness to try different aperture and focal length combinations that fell outside of industry norms — for example, using f/1.8 and f/2 apertures in zoom lenses — in addition to wide apertures in prime lenses that we hadn’t seen before — like this lens.
Sigma has indeed come a long, long way. Did the virtues of quality and results carry over to the 14mm f/1.8? Let’s take a look.
Handling and build
In a word? Beastly! The 14mm f/1.8 is built like a grapefruit, unapologetically ginormous and coming in at a whopping 2.6 pounds (1170 grams). Check out that bulbous front element. The second you lay your eyes on the sigma, you know this lens means business and was clearly designed for wide-angle shooting. Unfortunately that also means, standard screw on filters are incompatible with the Sigma.
In an era where all of the manufacturers are moving toward smaller and lighter gear, Sigma has gone in the completely opposite direction with their lenses. They’ve made the decision to make image quality the priority over size and weight. The 14mm is the epitome of this line of thinking.
On the inside, there are 26 elements arranged in 11 groups, and there are 9 rounded aperture blades for surprisingly nice out of focus bokeh rendering especially for a wide-angle lens. The aperture ranges from f/1.8 to f/16 and the lens is dust and moisture resistant (at this price point, it better be). The focus ring is thick and ribbed and moves freely with a nice degree of resistance.
Unlike many lenses built for Sony cameras (I’ve been using the 14mm on my Sonys but it is available for all the major brands) the focus ring is not fly by wire (meaning the ring and the elements within are physically connected to the ring), and we have a true focus distance meter on the lens. If you’re going to carry the Sigma around all day, I might suggest a tripod or maybe even a monopod. But in either case, get to the gym — the Sigma will weigh you down after a long day.
Autofocus speed and accuracy
Outfitted with Sigma’s latest Hypersonic motor, AF is silent, very fast and very, very accurate. Continuous AF in video tracks faces predictably and silently with not a lot of jackhammering around. Transitions on to faces is silky smooth and very cinematic. AF performance just doesn’t get much better than this.
Usually I’m not buying a wide-angle lens to be dazzled by its out of focus bokeh rendering abilities, but the Sigma might be an exception, especially as you bring your subject closer to the lens. The f/1.8 aperture actually does a surprisingly nice job of blurring the background — again, especially for a wide-angle lens.
Subjects are tack sharp in the center of the frame, even wide-open at f/1.8 where it counts, but we do get less than sharp images as we move closer to the edges of the frame — not surprising for a wide-angle lens. Distortion and vignetting are strong wide-open, fortunately both can be corrected quickly and easily with the lens profile corrections in Lightroom. Chromatic aberrations are present, but very minimal and are irrelevant in real world usage.
I use the sigma in my real estate videos and sometimes in my real estate photography. In these cases I’m usually stopped down to f/4 for video (unless I’m in a low light situation) and f/8 for photo work in real estate. At those setting, vignetting is less present and images are much sharper closer to the edges.
However, the Sigma has also found a home for me when I want to so some wide-angle portraits at weddings and with families at the beach. It’s proven quite competent on both counts. The results have been creative and loved by the clients!
If there’s a fly in the proverbial ointment, it’s the price. For everything the 14mm has to offer — great optics, an f/1.8 aperture, great build, weather resistance, etc. — all of this goodness has to come at a price. However, when compared to first-party offerings like the Canon 14mm f/2.8, the Sigma seems like a relative bargain. Check the latest pricing through B&H or Amazon.
That said, there are far lower priced competitors out there. Specifically the Samyang 14mm f/2.8, which is a competent lens for much less money. There’s also the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 — a nice lens that’s a bit wider, but doesn’t have AF.
I find the f/1.8 aperture of the Sigma definitely comes in handy for some of those night videos that I do for my real estate clients. In spite of it’s high price, it’s difficult not to highly recommend the 14mm f/1.8 Art series lens from Sigma, it’s proven to be a versatile, useful and creative optic for my photography business.
- Focal Length: 14mm
- Aperture Range: f/1.8 — f/16
- Aperture Blades: 9, Rounded
- Elements/Groups: 16/11
- Size: 3.76 x 4.96″ / 95.4 x 126 mm
- Weight: 2.6 lb/1170 grams
- Angle of View: 114.2°
- f/1.8 aperture
- Stellar build quality
- Brilliant optics in the frame center, even wide-open
- Surprisingly nice bokeh rendering, especially for a wide-angle lens
- Fast, silent, accurate AF
- Weight — it’s heavy!
- Front elements prohibits the use of standard screw on filters
- Vignetting is strong wide-open
- Less versatile than wide-angle zoom offerings
- Price — though expensive, still less than first-party offerings of similar focal lengths