I make no secret about the fact that I love 35mm prime lenses. Ever since its launch, I have been excited about the massive Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art. After getting my hands on one to review, I put it through its paces as anyone would. Could this really be the 35mm prime to beat?
As an event photographer, having lenses that can perform in extremely low-light situations can be a huge blessing. I just happened to have an event pop up during my time with this lens that needed such a fast option. Does the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art live up to the hype? Is this a lens for everyone? Did my biceps grow by three inches after using it? Find out in our full review.
- Simply stunning image quality
- This lens renders some of the nicest colors I’ve seen from a Sigma lens
- The lens is fully weather-sealed from the mount through the body
- It’s built like a tank
- Good autofocus performance
- This is a big, heavy lens
- The aperture dial, while nice, turns a little too easily
- Some hints of chromatic aberration and a little barrel distortion
- The manual focus ring is pretty stout
35mm primes are usually on the smaller side of things while still offering pretty fast maximum apertures. They’re great for portraits, street photography, food photography, documentary work, photojournalism, landscapes, events, weddings and they’re great as an all-purpose walkaround lens. The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art bucks this trend. This is a large, heavy lens that’s perhaps not the best for those who like to remain light and nimble
However, I think this particular 35mm lens is meant for just a few of the genres mentioned above. Namely event, wedding, portrait and perhaps documentary photography. Let’s take a look at the specs:
- 17 elements in 12 groups
- 11 rounded aperture blades
- Aperture range: f/1.2-f/16
- Minimum focus distance: 11.8-inches / 30cm
- Filter size: 82mm
- Weight: 2.4lbs / 1,090g
- For L Mount and Sony E Mount
Handling and build quality
There’s simply no escaping the fact the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is a solid chonk of a lens. The prime lens is slightly bigger than the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art and it weighs 2.4 pounds (1,090g). There’s simply no escaping the enormity of it.
The 35mm f/1.2 has Sigma’s customary glossy black finish. There’s no texture to speak with the lens feeling smooth. Toward the mount, you’ll find an annoyingly free-spinning aperture dial. The dial is very loose. In fact, you’ll be changing apertures accidentally far more often than you’d like. The slightest touch knocks it out of position.
On the left-hand side, you’ll find the autofocus/manual focus switch, a programmable button, and a click and de-click switch for the aperture dial. This lens takes 82mm filters so keep that in mind as they don’t always come cheap. Sitting just behind the front element is the large manual focus ring. The manual focus ring is quite stiff to turn, though this works out as you don’t have many other places to hold and grip the lens.
It’s as tough as old nails
I always try to use review gear in real-world scenarios so that I can give an accurate reflection of how the gear functions. During an event, I was bumped, pushed, and prodded, and so was the lens. It still looks like it’s fresh out of the box.
I used the lens in a very dusty, sandy environment and out in the rain and it held up to Mother Nature without breaking a sweat. Overall, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 is a hefty lens that’s designed and built incredibly well. It will stand up to modern event and wedding photographers and what they will subject it to with ease.
In the field
As mentioned above, this is a big lens and you’re going to know that it’s attached to your camera after a short amount of time. While I wouldn’t recommend this lens to photographers who want a lens to walk around with on photowalks, I would recommend it for those whose work demands it.
I used this lens during a very unique event that featured multiple lighting scenarios in a very interesting setting. There was an indoor desert, lasers, low light, very low light and it was incredibly hot and humid. Tough conditions for any lens and camera combo to deal with. The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art handled it in its stride.
While this lens doesn’t have any image stabilization, handholding it at slow shutter speeds is not too difficult. With IBIS in the Panasonic Lumix S5, I was able to handhold the lens down to 1/8th of a second. While admittedly not the easiest lens to use due to its size, you’ll quickly find that you will adapt and learn how to get the most out of it.
The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 Art is a consistent performer when it comes to autofocus. Mated to my Panasonic Lumix S5, the lens performed very well. In single focus mode, the lens focused quickly in great light. In low light, the lens did slow a little, but it was still plenty fast. I was never worried about missing important shots.
In continuous focus modes, the lens pulses on Panasonic L mount cameras. This won’t affect stills shooters and it will rarely, if ever, cause you to miss a shot. Videographers beware, though. You can see what the pulsing looks like in this video. If you use Leica or Sigma L mount cameras, or Sony E mount cameras, this is something you do not need to worry about thanks to their phase-detect autofocus systems.
As you can see, I was able to use this lens in very low light with continuous autofocus to capture a performer who was spinning. The camera and lens tracked his face and eyes and nailed the shot for seven of the 12 frames I captured. The light was not great, but I still got the shot. This is a pretty impressive performance for a lens that has so much glass to move around.
Overall, I didn’t run into any issues with the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art when it comes to autofocus. It’s a solid performer.
It should be no surprise to hear that the image quality from the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 is exceptional. If there is one thing Sigma knows how to do, it’s how to create world-class optics. The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art does not disappoint (for the most part).
Images are ridiculously sharp right off the bat at f/1.2 with a minimal loss of sharpness in the corners. There is only a slight vignette when shooting wide-open too. Stop down to f/2 and you’ll have corner-to-corner sharpness and the vignette disappears. It’s seriously impressive. You can shoot down to f/14 with no loss in quality. Past that diffraction will start to rear its head.
Colors, distortions and bokeh
Keep in-camera corrections turned on and there are no distortions to worry about. Disable profile corrections, though, and you will see some barrel distortion that affects the edges of the frame. It’s definitely not the worst distortion I’ve seen, but it’s worth making note of.
Unfortunately, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art suffers from flares when shooting directly into light sources. This is not uncommon by any means, but this Sigma lens has a very strange halo effect flare that looks pretty bad.
Sigma has done a fantastic job when it comes to controlling Chromatic Aberrations. I have used this lens extensively during my review period and I have only seen green fringing once. After I spotted it, it was easy to remove during post-processing. I wouldn’t even worry about this. Nicely done, Sigma.
One area where the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art wins is in the color rendition department. This lens produces some of the best colors I’ve ever seen from a Sigma lens. The colors are nice and vibrant without being too oversaturated. The colors also render neutrally too with no leaning toward warm or cool tones. Overall, the colors produced are quite magnificent right out of the box.
How’s the bokeh? It’s brilliant. You’ll find that out-of-focus areas are as smooth as butter. Out of focus areas simply melt away. The falloff is gorgeous and it will make your images look fantastic. However, bokeh balls are not completely round, but they are still beautiful. The lens can focus from just 11.8-inches as well. This makes the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 great for product and detail shots. If you love all things bokeh, this is a lens you’ll want.
Is this a lens for everyone?
If you’re a professional event, portrait, or wedding photographer, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 Art is a solid choice. This lens is built like a tank. Autofocus is good, image quality (apart from some weird flaring) is exceptional, and the bokeh and colors rendered are beautiful. Both you and your clients will love the results.
However, if you’re a street photographer or are a photographer who wants a lens that will be even better at autofocus and won’t be a burden to lug around all day, I’d suggest looking at the Sigma 35mm f2 DG DN Contemporary. Still, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is an exceptional lens. It’s pricey, but you’re getting a lot for your money. If you’re a professional photographer who can justify the expense and can make back what you spend on it, I say go for it. You’ll love it. It will make capturing events and weddings that much easier.
Sigma 35mm F/1.2 DG DN Art
The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is a solid lens that’s aimed at professional event, portrait, and wedding photographers. The optics will help you create incredibly sharp images and will render gorgeous colors and creamy bokeh. Autofocus performance is fantastic, and the lens is built incredibly well. The Sigma 35mm f/1.2 DG DN Art is available for both Sony E mount and L mount cameras.