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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.

Lensrentals.com, 2019

 

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

Lensrentals.com, 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.

Lensrentals.com, 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.

Lensrentals.com, 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.

Lensrentals.com, 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.

Lensrentals.com, 2019

 

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

Lensrentals.com, 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.

 

Lensrentals.com, 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.

 

Lensrentals.com, 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.

Lensrentals.com, 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.

Lensrentals.com, 2019

 

Conclusions:

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

Lensrentals.com

March, 2019

 

 

 

Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Lensrentals.com. 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
  • BG

    Too subtle! 🙂

  • T N Args

    I thought the reason for the dearth of Micro 4/3 lens tests might have been due to a certain someone associated with the OLAF machine hating testing of Micro 4/3 lenses….

  • Actually, the opinion around the office is the Otus is nearly as good as the RF 50. 🙂
    I’ve mentioned a couple of times I’m trying my best not to commit personally to any mirrorless right now, because I want more information. But the RF 50 calls me. It calls me a lot.

  • In general, the difference between Canon, Nikon, and Sony cover glass is pretty small and rarely a major problem. Additionally, only lenses with a rearward exit pupil have major problems. So if Sigma knows they’ll be using the lens on cameras with different sensor thickness, they put in some design constraints to make sure it’s not an issue.

  • Gerard Roulssen

    Would love to see a comparison between 28/1.4 Sigma Art and NIKKOR E … Nikon’s 28/1.4E is much, much better than 24/1.4G and 35/1.4G NIKKORs, so them twentyeights should be close.

  • Claudia Muster

    You don’t need to go as far as Chinese, British English will do just fine.

    US English: amazing
    British English: nice

    US English: fantastic
    British English: nice

    US English: outstanding
    British English: nice

    etc.

  • denneboom

    i hope sigma will soon release sl versions, to compare it against the panasonic 50 f1.4

  • That 28mm looks rather awesome for nightscape pano stitching, as long as its plane of focus is flat at infinity. I would rather not lug the 40mm into the wilderness or up a mountain, though.

    Here’s to hoping that Nikon and/or Canon can achieve similar sharpness with their new, bigger mirrorless mounts, without the massive size/weight of these three Arts. So far, though, optical perfection does still seem to require a “no free lunch” attitude, as we see in the Canon RF 50 1.2. But, for astro, I’ll settle for an ultra-sharp f/1.8 prime; I don’t need f/1.2 if it adds nearly a whole pound to the lens…

  • SC

    Thanks for the new tests! These are lenses I’ve been hoping to see on this blog. I’d been a bit ambivalent about the 40mm until I read some reviews on it. The data seems to more than backup the praise.

    I’ve enjoyed shooting at 21mm on u4/3. On full frame I think I would be quite happy with the 40mm over a 50mm for the exceptional performance this lens gives.

  • SC

    I would also be interested in seeing the new Sigma Contemporary crop lenses. I have used the 16mm and 30mm on u4/3. In my (far less scientific) testing for my purposes (nightscapes primarily with some widefield astro) I’ve found the 16mm to be leaps and bounds ahead of the 30mm. Less astigmatism, coma, and chromatic aberration. I will quite happily admit that only having tested one of each is too small a sample size to draw meaningful conclusions.

    I have my fingers crossed that the 56mm is of a similar standard/character to the 16mm. I’ve recently enjoyed shooting deep sky objects with the Sigma 60mm f/2.8 but would really appreciate a wider aperture. The 56mm appears to hit the mark in terms of features at a much more attractive price point than the Panalympus alternatives. Seeing the Lenstip coma test of the 56mm doesn’t impress me much, but neither do their results with the 16mm, I’ve found in my experience that the 16mm coma (and chroma) is better than the test would suggest.

  • Sggs

    Mr Cicala, I thank you again for your posts and briliant work. Once again I have questions. As I have some sony a7, a7r2, a7s2 mirrorless cameras I know about the problem of the thickness of the glass over the sensor and the loss of quality in adapting Canon lenses. But I dont see how it works with third party lenses. A emount sigma lens is optically diferent different of a canon mount? Does sigma adapt the lens for diferent cameras? The difference is just the carcass? If I buy a canon sigma 40mm it may be used in my sony (with sigma adapter mc11) and in my lumix cameras that are used for video, and that will be helpfull. What you advise me?

  • HaroldLee

    Thanks for the information!

  • I don’t have a 10-lens set of the Batis, but I’d say the Batis at f/2.0 is pretty close to the Sigma at f/1.4.

  • Ok. I was going to say I’m happy to provide hosting etc. But unfortunately I don’t have the time to help code up engine.

  • Barbu Mateescu

    The focus shift happens precisely because the optical convergence moves (shifts) when you close down the aperture. In other words, a lens which is focused at a specific distance at one aperture (f/1.4 in this lens, on a DSLR) will focus elsewhere if nothing changes (same camera-subject distance, focus ring untouched etc) *but* you change the aperture .
    If you have autofocus slightly in front or slightly in the back of your subject even with the maximum open aperture, then the lens is not properly adjusted to your camera; for most enthusiast/pro cameras, you have some option in the menu to micro-adjust the focus (and for that I recommend using the documentation that came in the box of your camera)

  • Ryan Stone

    Appreciate your work and your rental service. Can you comment subjectively on the two, I’m sure there’s been some discussion around the office on this trend of large, highly corrected glass. The Sigma design is lifted from their cine series, so it must be something special. I have the RF 50 and find it to be sublime, it’s Otus level IMO.

  • HaroldLee

    Great aritcle. Any chance to compare the sigma 40 with the Batis 40mm?

  • Mostly it’s writing a display and search engine. I’m going to be putting up a series of posts over the next month with just all the MTF tests for all the lenses. That will let people find them. But it’s nice to be able to do side-by-side comparisons, etc.

  • I thought I had. You saying nicknaming one the Sumo Wrestler didn’t make you think it was big? Or you missed the 6 mentions about ‘size be damned’?

  • AE-1Burnham

    Prodigious!

    …something “found in translation” here. Above I used Google tranny with “amazing” (Engligh->Chinese->English) as some sort of culture-twisting thesaurus to obtain the apropos “prodigious”. Alternatively: everybody needs an editor. Cheers & enjoy the weekend!

  • Samuel H

    WOW, just WOW
    Me before this test: why would anybody buy that 40mm, the 35mm is super sharp but is a lot smaller and basically half the weight. Me now: OK THAT’S WHY.

    Please do the Sigma APS-C lenses (particularly the 16mm and 56mm: those made stop craving full frame, I need your MTF results to be sure I’m on the right path!)

  • decentrist

    in the battle of form over function, form lost with the Sigma 40

  • Ed Hassell

    You’re right, the 24/1.8G is an exceptional lens, possibly better in some ways than its f/1.4 counterpart — I’ve got one. The truth is that I have more lenses than I really need but that has never stopped me from buying more.

    Back in the ’60’s, the person who was in many ways my first photography mentor had me taking three 35mm film bodies to weddings and receptions: one with a 35mm f/2, one with an 85mm f/2 and one with a 135mm f/3.5 — no zooms back then — they were A!W!F!U!L! He shot with two Mamiya Press bodies and three lenses.

    When I could afford faster glass, I modified my choices to a 28/2, either an 85/1.4 or a 105/1.8, and a 180 f/2.8, depending on the venue. I actually still have all four of those lenses. I’ve been using the 24-35 f/2 Sigma Art as my wide-angle reception lens, but I’d like get back to three primes. I’m using the 105/1.4E and the 200/2G and am trying to decide between the Nikkor and the S/A for the 28mm slot.

  • What is the issue with saving the data? Is it storage space, or requires a database, or ??

  • Unrest

    Don’t know too much about the technical aspects of focus shift. Is it true that it’s typically only apertures in the 2.0 to 2.8 range that are affected? So if you shoot at 1.4, focus shift isn’t an issue? Are there any somewhat reliable workarounds for dealing with focus shift on a DSLR?

  • Unrest

    I have the Nikon 28 1.4 E. It’s a really nice lens. Very sharp in the center wide open! But the Nikon 24 1.8 G (too wide or not) gives you 90% of the performance of the 28 1.4 E and is much lighter and less expensive. Just my opinion.

  • They release video and photo versions of all the arts. I did not mean to suggest they are replacing existing Art lenses.

  • Barbu Mateescu

    Thank you for the links. Indeed, from the camera labs one can see that the lens is almost unusable at 2.0-2.8, at least not for a normal quick DSLR AF usage. Same as Canon’s 50/1.2L, one would need great care when stopping down just a couple of (well…) stops.

  • Barbu Mateescu

    OVF is no good when using ground glass to focus open wider than 2.8, not good for any other angle than eye-level, no good for the mismatch between the AF sensor distance and sensor distance, no good for the added size, weight and cost… But still the only way to get a truly real-time view thru the lens, not some delayed estimation.

  • Steve Singer

    Roger, you stated in your discussion of the new Sigma Art lenses that…”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.”
    Are you implying that Sigma may come out with photo lenses (for those of us who are only into still photography) that will replace the older Sigma Art series lenses (24, 35, 50mm lenses)?
    Or are the newly released 28 & 40mm lenses both for photo and video use?

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