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
  • Chris in NH

    Get to the gym.

  • Fink

    You want some TransLation fun? Find yourself a Honda Motorcycle manual from the ‘You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda’ days…….I’d say pre-1970.

  • shing

    I am using 40mm art on my gfx 50R via adapter. it works wonderful with some v at edge

  • Barbu Mateescu

    I loved Sony’s A700, used the A99 (first one) for a bit but… Sorry, the “form factor” might be just like a DSLR, but I still prefer an actual optical viewfinder.
    Of course, as I enumerated above, there are tons of reasons against OVF which get “corrected” with an EVF; I still “see” the act of taking *my* pics as inseparable from the optical view, just as there are lots of people who prefer the (non-TTL) rangefinders. More power to the EVF users, and I realise that the OVF is bound to become just a nostalgic niche, but… That’s what I’m confortable with.

  • Lee

    B&H says April 18 is the expected release date.

  • oratrix magna

    A little anticipation? I have had bad experiences in the past and I would not make another mistake. thanks

  • Matti6950 .

    My gut says the 40mm art is one of the best field curvature corrected lenses in history. Namely the extreme sharpness in corner at F1.4, wouldn’t be possible without it, and also the amount of glass inside with a very similar but small bend, suggest they really went far for flat field.

  • We do test for field curvature, but these posts are long enough. I might do a similar thing for field curvature some day.

  • It’s coming.

  • We should call it ‘astigmatism-like’ separation on MTF. It usually is caused by astigmatism, but lateral chromatic aberration can also cause it. If we really want to differentiate it we can use the bench to give a numeric lateral chromatic aberration number, or redo MTF with monochromatic light. But time takes time – to do every test we could would take a full day per copy.

  • Lee

    Y’all, correct me if I’m wrong: I thought the divergence of the saggital and tangential lines indicated the amount of chromatic abberation? If that’s the case Roger’s tested Tamron 45s were quite good on CA whereas my copy is very poor :'(

  • Patrick Cligny

    Very interesting… The improvements on quality level are very impressive.
    I would like to see the comparison of the 28mm Art with the Nikon 28mm/1.4E ED.
    Any chance to see that in the future ?

  • Brenda

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  • oratrix magna

    Hi, do you have any indication on field’s curvature?
    many many thanks

  • Y.A.

    I would gladly trade 0.1-0.2 at the edges for 500-600g of weight. It almost feels like this lens was created for the sole purpose of producing great MTF figures. I was so bummed when the specs for the 40 came out as 40mm is my favorite FL.

  • Devil’s Advocate

    technically, how does changing the aperture change the focus? Surely you’re just adusting a hole which the light passes through?

  • Franz Graphstill

    @Barbu – given that the “delay” is now a matter of a few milliseconds, which is of the order of the shutter lag anyway, it’s hardly an issue.

    Besides, an optical viewfinder can’t offer you 100% magnification for fine manual focus, and an EVF can.

    Still, feel free to stay with your antique cameras if you want 🙂

  • Thanks for posting guys! The 40mm looks very impressive. MTF-wise it beats even the 35/1.4 II (mid/corners).
    The 105 is a real gem, especially for the price.

  • Very helpful, thank you! It saved Roger a question to throw the 35/1.4 II into comparison today 🙂

  • Unrest

    Don’t forget, 40 mm lenses are more difficult to design compared with telephotos like the 135 & 105 Art lenses. Need more real world testing with the 40 Art before making a judgment in my view.

  • Mister D.

    I had a good laugh! At both posts this and Rogers’ what a treat! 🙂

  • Gerard R

    Note here that Sigmas published MTF of the 40 is pretty drastically different than lens rentals mtf. Sigma shows 30 lp/mm starting at 90% contrast approx. and staying above 85% through most of the frame. Sigmas published 28mm MTF is very similar though to Lensrentals’ mtf above. The 40/1.4 was hailed as their best of the Art breed, and judging by the info above, it doesn’t seem so.

  • Mr.JAM

    As Korean, I think one-way google translation is not that bad. … or not.

    You: 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.

    In Korean: The slide of 28mm f/1.4 Sigma is in between the slot of 24mm and 35mm art lenses. (Don’t you get it is a slot? the cinema shooter is the part of the reason why Sigma made this lens.) Like the other two, MTF is remarkable. Other good thing is the 28mm is smaller and lighter than the others. So, Can Sigma make the lens sharp without making it giant? Yeah, yes, they can.

    You: 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.

    In Korean: Up to the mountain top, I’m comparing the new Sigma against Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4. This comparison surprised me. The simga is far away from the center, but at the center, it is sharper. But for the price of Otus 28mm, you can buy 3 brand new Sigma lenses.

  • I honestly don’t know how shooting manual focus with very fast primes is any fun on a DSLR? To even have a realistic shot you need to install a focus screen, which has it’s issues, or shoot from the almost always laggy (and slow shot-to-shot) rear LCD.

    I’m not even sure what this “delay” is that you speak of with an OVF vs. an EVF? Maybe you haven’t used one in a while? And there are a couple cameras that do a really good job of presenting a constant love view while shooting better than a DSLR does.

    I’m not trying to be argumentative, or say one type of camera is better than the other—just that, as someone who really likes MF glass, I can’t imagine not having a mirrorless or SLT camera to help with that. The Sony a99II gives you the “proper” DSLR form factor, along with 12fps with it’s 42MP sensor (and Milvus and Otus glass can be adapted to work on A-Mount as well).

    The Nikon Z6 and Z7 look attractive to me almost entirely because of their great grip, excellent rear LCD (and especially with the Z7, amazing EVF)—all due to how much betternit’d make the shooting experience with MF lenses and any large DSLR lens that might have back/front focus issues or focus shift problems.

    Just my two cents. I’m not saying you’re going about anything the wrong way. Maybe one day EVF’s will be good enough for you? I don’t know.

  • You mean, “British English will do nicely”? 🙂 I have a question, if you will indulge me, Miss Muster. Why is it that I so frequently hear Brits carelessly throwing the exclamations, “Brilliant!” and “Lovely!”? (Half of the time prefacing both with “Absolutely!”) Those are tip-top on the glee tree.

    And honestly, as if to make up for all instances of restrained indifference in one exclamation, there’s the also common “It works/was/is a treat!” That has got to instantly lower the testosterone count of in any male non-British party privy to that particular exclamation by at least 5%.

    I’m not trying to defend Americans and their gruesome failure to verbally contain their excitement—or even their apathy. …And Americans do have the expression “kudos” in its many queer forms to account for. But I felt the need to point out that there is a very gay (or jolly) underbelly to that stiff upper lip that seems to spurt out like curdled jelly from a meat pie if given the proper opportunity—and I don’t quite get it?

    Also, the 40mm Art is at the tippy top of my list (along with the VG-C3EM grip that’ll allow me to hold it.)

  • iKonOkLasT

    What does that have to do with the point that mirrorless focusing is not fooled by focus shift?

  • Sggs

    I have that lens and 3 EF/FE AF adapters, from the time of my transition to mirrorless. One is a metabones 2 or 3, the first for full frame, a cheap brandless bought on ebay from China, that work surprisingly well with most lenses (24/105, 70/200) and a Mc11 that I just bougth to use the 150/600. In my experience, Metabones and china work very bad with the 40, hunt a lot, but is not totaly impossible to use. Best results with the sigma, but not in the corners. Manual focus doesnt work on either of then. I like using small and discreet (and cheap, so you work more confident) lenses on the street.
    Recently I had a tamrom 150/600 and AF did not work with none adapter. The sigma 150/600 + mc11 works well on normal cameras, but not on IR. Maybe it can be callibrated, as it quickly find the focus point and in one moment loses it. There are no afordable tele FE lenses, so l use MF. Maybe buyng a new adapter will cost more than the 40/2.8…

  • Sggs


  • Sean T

    “Even your mama thinks your MTF is sad!”

  • Well, yeah, I don’t like testing m4/3. But I test all kind of things I don’t like. Most of it is because all of the electronic focus ones I can’t test — we don’t have an eletronically wired m4/3 mount.

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