Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art

Does Sigma’s lat­est zoom de­liver on its prom­ise of be­ing the de­fin­i­tive wide-aper­ture, ul­tra­w­idean­gle zoom lens? Michael Topham finds out

Amateur Photographer - - 7days -

michael Topham tests Sigma’s wide-aper­ture, ul­tra-widean­gle zoom lens

The be­gin­ning of each year usu­ally brings with it an in­flux of new cam­eras. Hav­ing tested most of these, we’re turn­ing our at­ten­tion to the in­ter­est­ing lenses that have en­tered the mar­ket. The Sigma 70mm f/2.8 DG MACRO | Art, the 105mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art and the 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM | Art are all on their way, and it’s the widest of the three that has shown up first. It sits along­side Sigma’s 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art in the com­pany’s line-up, and though not quite as wide, is a stop faster.

The op­tic has some ex­cel­lent widean­gle full-frame com­peti­tors. Nikon’s AF-S 14- 24mm f/2.8 G ED (£1,719) and Tam­ron’s 15-30mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD (£929) are two ri­vals, with Canon’s clos­est of­fer­ing be­ing the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM (£2,049).

At £1,399, this ul­tra-widean­gle zoom is any­thing but cheap, and with its prom­ise of de­liv­er­ing near-zero dis­tor­tion and top-level im­age qual­ity at ev­ery fo­cal length, it sets our ex­pec­ta­tions ex­tremely high. The lens we’re look­ing at is a bit of a brute, and Sigma hasn’t held back from mak­ing it as big and heavy as it needs to be to en­sure the finest op­ti­cal per­for­mance. The lens is op­ti­mised for a wide range of cam­eras, in­clud­ing those that have a 50-mil­lion-pixel res­o­lu­tion. Speak­ing to Sigma’s CEO, Mr Kazuto Ya­maki, last year, I was told the com­pany’s lat­est Art lenses are ca­pa­ble of be­ing used with sen­sors higher than 50-mil­lion pix­els. Al­though it hasn’t been con­firmed, I’m led to be­lieve the 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM Art is one such ex­am­ple.

In terms of op­ti­cal con­struc­tion, the lens is made up of 17 el­e­ments in 11 groups, with three ‘F’ low- dis­per­sion (FLD) glass el­e­ments, three spe­cial low- dis­per­sion (SLD) glass el­e­ments, and three aspher­i­cal lens el­e­ments, in­clud­ing one large- di­am­e­ter aspher­i­cal el­e­ment. The low- dis­per­sion glass is used to cur­tail chro­matic aber­ra­tion, which is known for be­ing prob­lem­atic in large-aper­ture ul­tra-widean­gle lenses. To pre­vent flare and ghost­ing when

shoot­ing to­wards the light, Sigma has also em­ployed its Super Multi- Layer Coat­ings. The nine-bladed aper­ture di­aphragm can be set be­tween a max­i­mum aper­ture of f/2.8 and a min­i­mum aper­ture of f/22. For smooth, quiet op­er­a­tion, the lens fea­tures Sigma’s Hy­per Sonic Mo­tor (HSM). In ad­di­tion to driv­ing the aut­o­fo­cus sys­tem, this offers full-time man­ual fo­cus­ing, al­low­ing users to ad­just the fo­cus man­u­ally at any time with­out the need to flick the AF/MF switch to man­ual first.

At the 24mm end of the zoom range, the lens has a min­i­mum-fo­cus dis­tance of 26cm. The di­am­e­ter is 96.4mm at the widest point and with a length of 135.1mm, it’s stub­bier than Tam­ron’s 15-30mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD. The lens is also com­pat­i­ble with Sigma’s USB dock­ing de­vice, al­low­ing users to up­date firmware and re­fine fo­cus set­tings man­u­ally us­ing the com­pany’s Op­ti­miza­tion Pro soft­ware.

At the time of writ­ing, this lens is avail­able in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts, but hope­fully as the com­pany in­tro­duces new E-mount Art lenses mov­ing for­wards, it’ll also recog­nise the de­mand for widean­gles in E-mount and make this one avail­able for Sony’s A7 se­ries, too. Noth­ing is guar­an­teed, how­ever. The lens is sim­i­lar in de­sign to Sigma’s 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art. Both weigh 1,150g and fea­ture a bul­bous front el­e­ment that’s pro­tected by a fixed lens hood. Such a large front el­e­ment re­quires a push-fit lens cover and this has a felt lin­ing to pre­vent it slip­ping off.

Assess­ing the build qual­ity of the lens from the rear look­ing for­wards, there’s a metal lens mount around which a rub­ber seal com­presses against the cam­era mount to pre­vent mois­ture and dust creep­ing in. The bar­rel ta­pers out slightly to the zoom ring, which offers good grip and op­er­ates across its range in just un­der a quar­ter turn. The mo­tion is con­sis­tently smooth through the zoom range, but as is to be ex­pected of a lens that fea­tures large, heavy glass el­e­ments, it re­quires a lit­tle effort to shift the zoom from 14mm to 24mm and vice versa. Ahead of the zoom ring is a fo­cus win­dow, and off­set from this is the only switch on the bar­rel. The AF/MF switch offers a sat­is­fy­ing click and a white back­ground is shown be­hind the switch when it’s set to AF, which acts as a use­ful vis­ual ref­er­ence in low light. The di­am­e­ter of the bar­rel widens be­yond the fo­cus dis­tance win­dow. Like the zoom ring, the man­ual-fo­cus ring pro­vides plenty of grip for those who might use it with gloves, and it op­er­ates flu­idly across its fo­cus­ing range of 0.26m to in­fin­ity.

To use the lens with fil­ters you’ll need a spe­cially de­signed ul­tra-widean­gle sys­tem such as the Lee Fil­ters SW150 Mark II. At present, a cus­tom adapter hasn’t been made by Lee Fil­ters for this lens, but we ex­pect one in the near fu­ture. One of the first man­u­fac­tur­ers to of­fer fil­ter sup­port for the lens is NiSi, who’ve re­cently re­leased a new S5 fil­ter kit (from £309), which can hold up to two 150mm fil­ters, as well as an in­te­grated cir­cu­lar po­lariser.

‘ The lens does an ad­mirable job of keep­ing fring­ing un­der con­trol’

pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. Shoot­ing a va­ri­ety of scenes, then analysing them closely along­side our lab­o­ra­tory tests, re­vealed that bar­rel dis­tor­tion is present when the lens is used at the widest end of the zoom. That be­ing said, this dis­tor­tion isn’t as se­vere as one might ex­pect for a lens so wide. Zoom in from 14mm and it soon dis­ap­pears, and there’s vir­tu­ally none be­tween 18mm and 24mm. The lens is sup­ported by an Adobe pro­file, so if you find your­self shoot­ing at the wide end, cor­rect­ing for dis­tor­tion is a one- click fix: simply place a tick in the En­able Pro­file Cor­rec­tions box in Light­room CC or Adobe Cam­era Raw.

Our Im­age Engi­neer­ing tests, which are car­ried out at each aper­ture set­ting at three fo­cal lengths, re­veal the lens to be at its sharpest in the cen­tre at the wide end. Corner sharp­ness at 14mm peaks around f/8, where it’s sim­i­lar to that in the cen­tre. Zoom­ing in to 18mm sees corner sharp­ness peak at around f/6.3 and the sharp­ness fig­ure wide open at 18mm is slightly higher than that recorded at 14mm. In­spect­ing re­sults at the long end of the zoom (24mm) tells us that cen­tre and edge sharp­ness isn’t quite as good as it is at the wide end, but again, it im­proves by f/5.6 or f/8. The com­pro­mise of be­ing able to shoot so wide at f/2.8 is the level of sharp­ness at the edge. The sweet spot of sharp­ness at any given fo­cal length is be­tween f/5.6 and f/8.

An in­spec­tion of im­ages at 100% mag­ni­fi­ca­tion re­vealed that the lens does an ad­mirable job of keep­ing fring­ing un­der con­trol. It was only in the bright­est ar­eas of a few test shots that I be­came aware of some green and pur­ple fringes of colour, which were quickly dealt with by se­lect­ing the Re­move Chro­matic Aber­ra­tion box from the Cor­rec­tions tab in Light­room CC. Vi­gnetting does ap­pear in im­ages shot at f/2.8, but it grad­u­ally be­comes less ob­vi­ous as the aper­ture is closed down to f/5.6. Adobe’s Pro­file Cor­rec­tions are very ef­fec­tive at al­le­vi­at­ing vi­gnetting from pho­to­graphs taken at wide aper­tures.

Stop­ping down from f/2.8 to f/5.6 sees a no­tice­able im­prove­ment in edge-to-edge sharp­ness

Canon EOS 5DS R, 1/500sec at f/4.5, ISO 100

The lens was tested on the south­east coast, close to Dun­geness nu­clear power sta­tion

Canon EOS 5DS R, 1/1250sec at f/2.8, ISO 100

Cen­tre sharp­ness wide open is ex­cel­lent, but sharp­ness drops off to­wards the edge Sigma sent out our re­view sam­ple in Canon fit, so to test it we paired it up with the 50-mil­lion- Im­age qual­ity

Canon EOS 5DS R, 1/200sec at f/5.6, ISO 100

A test shot taken at the long­est end of the zoom range

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