Geek Articles

MTF Results for Recent Sigma Art Lenses

And you may find yourself in a shotgun shack.
And you may find yourself in another part of the world.
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile.
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house.
And you may ask yourself, well, what should I shoot with?

A number of people have noticed I haven’t been publishing MTF results for new lenses lately. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but all primarily come down to I’m doing too much other stuff. For a year, my priority has been improving our in-house testing methods; developing the Rapid MTF tests has taken several thousand hours (not all mine, but it seems that way sometimes). Introduction of new mounts (R, Z, SL) each means making modifications to our test bench, etc. etc.

There were also discussions with some other websites to host our data and make it more obtainable and organized. Those faded out, but for a while, I was hoping things would get automated, and I wouldn’t have to write these posts anymore. (And I’m the guy who coined the term HINAP: Hope Is Not A Plan. So yet again, my hope was a downpayment on inevitable disappointment.)

We still run the tests; I just haven’t had the time to do the write-ups. I’m going to try to get those out reasonably quickly by grouping them. Today we’ll post the several Sigma Art lenses that have been released and tested over the last few months.

My Expectations are Simple

I make no efforts to hide the fact that I love Sigma’s attitude; it’s refreshing. Every lens made by anyone balances three things: price, size, and image quality. Sigma has made their attitude clear; size can be damned; we’re going to make reasonably priced lenses with amazing image quality. If they’re huge, they’re huge. That’s what I expect from all the Art primes.

In these days when most manufacturers have replaced their marketing department with a Poet Laureate blowing more smoke than a California wildfire, Sigma goes with the three-step ‘how to build confidence’ model of marketing:

  1. Tell ’em what you’re going to do.
  2. Do it.
  3. Show them that you’ve done it.

Today I’m going to show you if they’ve done it.  We’ll look at three newer Sigma Art Models: the 28mm f1.4 DG HSM Art; 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM, and 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lenses. I’m going to keep it relatively quick and straightforward: MTF charts, and a couple of comparisons for each lens. I’m not going to show variance graphs; people abuse them, and the variance for all of these was very low.

Sigma 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM

At $1600 it’s quite a bit cheaper than the other 105mm f1.4 lens (the Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 E ED), but at 3.5 pounds it’s pretty huge. It’s heavier than the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art. So it had better be good.

It is good. It is very, very good. I particularly draw your attention to the purple line (50 lp/mm) which correlates with fine detail on a high-resolution camera. We like for that to be over 0.5, and the Sigma is 0.7. That is truly exceptional, and the lens maintains sharpness well to the edge of the image with little astigmatism., 2019


The obvious comparison is to the Nikon 105mm f/1.4, and the Sigma looks just spectacular here., 2019


The Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar should be an unfair comparison; the Zeiss is being tested at f/2 which should give it a big advantage. Sigma doesn’t care, though; from a resolution standpoint, it’s clearly superior at f/1.4 to the Zeiss at f/2., 2019


I’m not trying to tell you that you need a 3.5 pound 105mm f/1.4 lens. I’m just telling you that if you need a 105mm f1.4 lens, the Sigma Sumo Wrestler is the sharpest one.

Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM

I’m not sure if 40mm is the new 35mm or the new 50mm. The Sigma 40mm is (compared to the 105mm at least) a fairly light 2.5 pounds. Can they still do laser sharp with a pound less glass in this thing? Yeah, pretty much., 2019


Of course, the MTF is not quite as impressive as the 105mm, because telephoto lenses are generally sharper than mid-range lenses. So let’s compare it to some similar focal lengths. My first comparison isn’t really fair; the Tamron 45mm f1.8 Di VC is one of my favorite bargain lenses, costing about 1/3 of what the Art does. The Tamron is an excellent lens, and I put this comparison up just to show how excellent the Sigma is., 2019


Let’s move over to something more in the same financial class. I think comparisons to the Sigma 35mm and 50mm f/1.4 Art lenses are appropriate; unless you need to collect the whole set, a lot of people will be picking one from among these.

We’ll start with comparing the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art to the 40mm. (For those of you who don’t recall, the Sigma 35mm Art is our current mid-range resolution MTF champion. If you own a great 35mm prime lens, it’s MTF is nearly as good as the Sigma 35mm Art.) Which means the Sigma 40mm is at least as good in the center, and better away from the center than any of the 35mm f1.4 lenses we’ve tested., 2019


We’ll do the other side of the bracket now, comparing the 40mm to the Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art., 2019


OK, let’s see if the Sigma can punch out of its price class. Here’s the Sigma 40mm compared to the much pricier and equally heavy Zeiss 55mm Otus, just for fun. Color me impressed., 2019


Sigma 28mm f1.4 DG HSM

The 28mm f/1.4 slides neatly into the slot between the 24mm and 35mm Art lenses. (You didn’t know that was a slot? Cinematographers do, and that’s probably some of the reason Sigma made these lenses.) Like the other two, the MTF is excellent. The other nice thing is the 28mm is a LOT smaller and lighter than the others. So, can Sigma do sharp without huge? Yes. Yes, they can., 2019


You can scroll up a bit and see that the 28mm Art definitely has a better MTF than the 35mm Art. Let’s compare it to the 24mm side-by-side. The 24mm is not the best of the Art primes, and the difference between it and the new 28mm is dramatic., 2019


Let’s go straight to the mountaintop, and compare the Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4 to the new Sigma. This comparison surprised even me. The Sigma is sharper in the center, although things even up away from the center. But you could buy all three of the latest Sigma’s for the price of the Otus 28mm., 2019



First, a reminder: this has been an MTF test. It is only an MTF test. Had this been an actual lens review I’d have talked about other stuff, but it’s not, and I don’t. I test lenses, and I tell you about the test results. If you’re into bourgeois concepts, like sharpness, then these are certainly worth further investigation. You have to decide if it ‘takes your creativity to a new level’ or whatever.

But as far as MTF tests go, Sigma Art lenses set the bar high back when the first ones were released. These new ones have raised the bar even higher. I shouldn’t be surprised; Sigma did exactly what they said they would do.

I think one of the major reasons for the new releases was to give more focal length selection for videography. The fact that we could get video versions of these as soon as (and in one case before) the photo lenses were released tends to support that.

But if you are considering adding an Art Prime to your photo collection, from a resolution standpoint, I’d take a very serious look at these three.  Yep, they are big and heavy. Nope, no image stabilization. But damn, they outresolve just about anything else you can buy.

Same as it ever was.
Same as it ever was.
Same. As. It. Ever. Was.


Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

March, 2019




Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Geek Articles
  • Tuolumne

    At least some people will be using this lens on a DSLR. For these people, focus shift will be a consideration in use of the lens or even whether to buy it. Should a DSLR user want to use autofocus, or the optical viewfinder for manual focus, then focus could be significantly off at certain apertures unless a compensatory adjustment (of uncertain size) is made.

    In my case, if I get this lens I would probably use it with enlarged live view manual focus which should solve the problem for me.

    EDIT: I removed an inaccurate sentence I originally wrote because I confused two different articles.

  • Ed Hassell

    Thanks. That’s exactly the kind of assessment I was looking for. I’m hoping for a better “group” portrait lens as opposed to an ultimately sharp landscape lens. I want to discern detail in hair, but I’m seriously not interested in counting pores. 24mm is just a little too wide to portray those on the edges of a group accurately. 35mm can be just a bit too restrictive. 28mm is about as wide as I’m willing to go. I was hoping the 28/1.4E would have some of the “character” of the 58. Living in the boonies limits my ability to borrow lenses for just a few trial shots.

  • Vladimir Gorbunov

    It’s not good when you use a slow lens or strong ND filter.

  • bdbender4

    Into the blue again after the money’s gone
    Once in a lifetime, water flowing underground

  • Barbu Mateescu

    However nice a mirrorless camera might be, and no matter how many issues would be solved by not having the mirror box, some of us still appreciate a good optical viewfinder that shows the actual image thru the lens

  • I absolutely love reading the Google English translations of the Chinese translations of my articles, mostly because what often comes out is like technical poetry sometimes, and makes me wish I’d said it that way. My favorites from this article:

    Roger: The Tamron is an excellent lens, and I put this comparison up just to show how excellent the Sigma is.
    Translated: Tamron is a pretty good lens, but here turned into a green leaf that just reflects the excellent optical quality of Sigma.

    Roger: The 24mm is not the best of the Art primes, and the difference between it and the new 28mm is dramatic.
    Translated: Compared, the 24mm Art has no sense of existence, the gap is still quite large, and the new 28mm Art has a higher sharpness.

    Roger: Let’s go straight to the mountaintop, and compare the Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4 to the new Sigma. The Sigma is sharper in the center, although things even up away from the center.
    Translated: Once again, the expensive Otus lens was sacrificed. The sharpness of Sigma’s center is better than that of Zeiss. In the position outside the center, Zeiss can find some face

  • Like many new Nikon primes, the 28mm seems designed less for resolution and more for an even look across the entire frame. While I don’t have enough for valid stats, I can say it’s not going to compete with the Sigma for absolute resolution, more about an overall look. I don’t say this as a bad thing; the Nikon 58mm is a superb example of a much loved lens that doesn’t resolve awesomely wide open.

  • Ed Hassell

    Okay … that response implies that you have tested at least one copy — and, probably, more than one — but not the ten (or more, ruling out outliers) that you prefer for statistical integrity. Without holding you to it, could you comment on your tentative impression?

  • Vladimir Gorbunov

    You’re welcome! Unfortunately it’s just a little part of various glitches experienced by me with adapted lenses. For example, when adapting the EF8-15L, on MBV it sticks around MFD, and it’s necessary to move the focus ring manually to continue autofocusing, on Commlite EF-E HS it utilizes insanely slow CDAF, on MC-11 it disables the IBIS.

  • Vladimir, I don’t. Wasn’t even aware of the issue, so thank you for letting me know.

  • I haven’t tested enough copies to publish results – we haven’t had much demand for it so LR doesn’t have sufficient copies.

  • No, because I can’t test the RF on the bench yet. We have to have special mounts made.

  • DrJon

    Actually I was thinking that while I like the fast 40 it’s a lot of weight and money for the f1.4-2 it gives you over the slow 40, and wondering how much better it was, so thank you for that, appreciated.

  • Vladimir Gorbunov

    In mirrorless cameras the focus shift is not an issue anymore. Focusing with closed aperture is.

  • Vladimir Gorbunov

    Dear Roger, don’t you have any idea, why the EF 40/2.8 STM refuses to focus outside the middle part of frame on Sony bodies? I’ve experienced this on A7III + MBV, and others have had the same experience with MC-11. In the same time in same conditions said SP 45/1.8 VC focuses everywhere across the frame.

  • Ryan Stone

    Can you comment on the RF 50 vs the Sigma 40?

  • Ed Hassell

    Great article. Thank you. Just for giggles, how does the Nikkor 28/1.4E compare to the new Sigma and the Otus?

  • Barbu Mateescu

    Thank you!
    For me, it wouldn’t be about what to buy but more about what to carry and how much I leave behind, when 1kg of lens stays at home.

  • Bryan and I have talked about it. It may happen.

  • You talking about the 40 pancake? Not really a reasonable comparison, since the Canon is two full stops different than the Sigma. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good lens, but a tiny f/2.8 vs a huge f/1.4 doesn’t seem like a decision people are actually making. But here you go.

  • Barbu Mateescu

    Canon 50/1.2L had egregious focus shift too, but still was used by many people, and to great effect (not just wide open); still, it’s unfortunate…
    Also, “has been reported elsewhere” doesn’t really add to the discussion; care to share a link?

  • Tuolumne

    Impressive results. However, the Sigma 40mm has been reported elsewhere as having significant focus shift which is unfortunate.

  • DrJon

    Any chance of comparing the Sigma 40mm with the Canon 40mm, as I have that and think it’s great, so assume I need the 28mm and not the 40mm…

  • Kevin

    Hi Roger,

    You mentioned you were looking for sites to save your MTF data. I remember you posted some on the-digital-picture. Any plans to continue that?


  • I’m sure it will only be used logically and factually. The most common use of MTF data is to go “oh, this lens has a great MTF. Too bad your camera can’t resolve it.”

  • I’m so excited for all the fanchildren to line up and get the data to bicker until the end of time. What would we do without you Roger? Oh wait, we’d still see the bickering but it’d have even less data.

  • Good to hear from you again Roger, I’ve been missing these. Great results, and oh my that’s impressive.

  • Wade, it’s just a time thing. And training someone else to do it takes even more time than doing it. On a happy note, over the next month or so I’ll be publishing a series of posts of all our MTF tests so they’ll be easy to find. No more searching for ‘when did they test the Wonderbar 8mm f0.95’.

  • Barbu Mateescu

    “…nope, no stabilization”.
    If only there would be a camera with stabilization and a good, classical optical viewfinder… Oh wait, there is? Good, then let’s *not* make lenses in their mount!

  • Wade Tregaskis

    As always: thank you! Your data is the most trustworthy – pretty much the _only_ trustworthy such data out there, these days. I rely on it heavily. Please keep publishing!

    I for one would support this endeavour via e.g. Patreon, if you were to set such a thing up. I’d love to have a material way to help support & accelerate your publishing of lens data. I suspect others would too.

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