Posted by: kerryl29 | June 25, 2018

New Lens: Sigma 24-35 mm f/2

I’ve never been entirely satisfied with the image quality of my 24-70/2.8 lens.  It was fine when I was shooting with the Nikon D700 and its 12-megapixel sensor, but when I moved to the 36 MP D800E (and its cancellation of the anti-aliasing filter), the 24-70 started to show some flaws in the corners of each frame.  When Nikon announced a successor to the lens about three years ago I anxiously awaited its release.  The lens was bigger, heavier and significantly more expensive than the version I have.  It also has a larger filter thread size which would have meant a full replacement of polarizing and neutral density filters; the entire cost of replacement (lens and filters) likely would have cost me in the neighborhood of $3000.  That would have been hard to swallow, but had the image quality been immeasurably better I would have seriously thought about purchashing it as this is, by far, my most used lens.

Reviews of the Nikon replacement were…okay.  IQ in the corners was improved, but there was some diminution in the center.  Overall, it was iffy, in my view, if this was a better lens in terms of sharpness.  Does that sound like a purchase worthy of $3000?  I didn’t think so.

Then Sigma announced that its Art Series–a very highly regarded set of lenses released by Sigma over the past few years–would see the addition of a 24-70/2.8, including one with a Nikon mount.  I thought that this would be a certain home run, given that the Art Series hadn’t had anything but exceptionally high quality lenses to that point.  And then the lens was released and the reviews implied that this new lens was no better than the lens I already had (and might not even be that good).

So, it was back to the drawing board.  While I use, at various times, the entire 24-70 mm focal range, the area I use the most–probably half the images I make with the 24-70 lens if not more– is near the wide angle end.  I seriously considered a fast prime lens–a 24/1.8 or 24/1.4, for instance–but one lens really intrigued me:  Sigma’s 24-35 mm f/2 Art Series optic.  It’s fast, it’s more versatile than a prime and the image quality reviews were all extremely positive–some went so far as to state that the lens offered prime quality throughout its focal range.  It’s also not a particularly expensive lens, retailing for about $1000.

Late last year, there was a $200 Sigma instant rebate on the lens, dropping the price to about $800, and tossing in the Sigma dock (a value of roughly $60) at no additional cost and that’s what finally persuaded me to pull the trigger.

Sigma 24-35 mm f/2 Art Series Lens

I spent a couple of days testing the lens after I received it and I was impressed.  I produced duplicate images with the Sigma and the Nikon 24-70 that I already owned throughout the 24-35 mm focal range.  There was no discernible difference between the two in the center of the frame but in the corners there was no contest–the Sigma was significantly sharper.  So, I kept it, and finally had the opportunity to use the lens in the field when I visited Cataract Falls back in May.  If you check my Cataract Falls post, you can see some images produced with the Sigma 24-35.  As you might imagine, when I was processing the files I paid particular attention to the corners of the images.  As expected, based on my testing, I wasn’t disappointed.

The lens isn’t much smaller or lighter than the 24-70/2.8 (due to the f/2 maximum aperture) and it’s obviously nowhere near as versatile.  Those are the trade-offs for the additional sharpness.  I’ll use this lens for images in the focal range when I’m “near the car,” (i.e. when my shooting location isn’t far from whatever I used to get to the spot) and/or when I know I won’t be using the normal or short telephoto focal lengths of the 24-70 at a particular location.  It will likely rarely accompany me when I’m hiking as the last thing I need to do is add weight in such circumstances.

But when I travel to places far away from my home bases, this lens will be coming along for the ride.  It did, for instance, make the journey up to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula last week (more on that experience next time) and it will be making the trip with me to Alaska in late August (more on that in the relatively near future).

So how does this purchase comply with what I said about new equipment in my last entry?  It will allow my large prints to hold up to closer scrutiny.  The corner sharpness difference is truly significant; this isn’t a hypothetical improvement we’re talking about.  (The wider aperture will also come in handy should I have the opportunity to photograph the aurora borealis while in Alaska later this year, but that wasn’t a major factor in the decision to purchase the lens.)  This may seem like a modest reason to justify this purchase–and perhaps it is–but I merit it worthwhile.  In the real world, the lens is filling exactly the role I expected of it–and, to me, that role is worthwhile–and that’s really all one can ask.

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Responses

  1. “the lens is filling exactly the role I expected of it”
    Sounds like a perfect reason to me. Never because it’s the latest thing.

    • Thanks, Gunta. Agreed re: latest thing. This definitely wasn’t a “shiny new” purchase; the lens had been out for several years when I decided to buy it (following much teeth gnashing).

  2. […] a few seconds behind me.  We were out of the vehicle very quickly and got set up.  I placed my Sigma 24-35/2 lens, the fastest lens I own, on my camera.  At this point, green streaks were beginning to light up […]


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