Sigma Imaging (UK) Ltd., teamed up with professional photographer Marcus McAdam to review the SIGMA 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM | Art lens at one of the most iconic locations in the world for photography; The Isle of Skye.
Marcus McAdam has been a professional photographer for the past twelve years and started his career after winning the Practical Photography Photographer of the Year Award. He has been a regular contributor and feature writer for many photographic magazines over the past few years. As a self-described travel photographer, Marcus is as comfortable taking a naturally lit portrait, as he is when seeking potential in a wide and dramatic landscape.
The SIGMA 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art lens by Marcus McAdam
Sigma’s Art series of lenses are their professional range, made to the highest standards both optically and physically. The 12-24mm f/4 is the latest in the addition to a fast growing family of great optics. I already own the SIGMA 50mm f/1.4 and the SIGMA 35mm f/1.4 Art lenses. The former is generally accepted as the best 50mm lens ever made – far out performing the Canon and Nikon equivalents for sharpness, and often being compared to the far more expensive Zeiss lens. Although the 35mm is very sharp, I have always found it to be a bit hit and miss with focusing. I have also tried the SIGMA 20mm f/1.4 Art for astro-photography and was impressed with the results.
It wasn’t long ago when 24mm was considered “super wide angle” but over recent years there have been a number of great 14mm lenses, and most full-frame wide zooms now start at 16mm, which makes 24mm seem far from super wide. In the past 12 months Canon have released their 11-24mm f/4 L, and now Sigma have come up with their competitor in the super wide zoom market. To give you an idea of how wide this lens is when fitted to a full frame camera, the angle of view at 12mm is a whopping 122 degrees.
There are four things I am most interested in testing with any lens. The first is sharpness across the frame. This is important to me as I sell a lot of large prints, so I’m always looking for tack sharp images right into the corners. Second is contrast. If the shot looks punchy straight out of the camera, it will need less editing, and I try to do as little as possible in this field. Thirdly is flare. Some lenses suffer very badly from scintillation flares, and super wide angle lenses are prone more than any other. Flare can ruin a good image, so a lens which copes well in this area scores major points with me. Lastly is distortion. Out of all these four points however, distortion is the one which can be most easily corrected, so it is of less importance.
The contrast of this lens is impressive, with rich tones present straight from a RAW file. This is helped by the lens’s ability to cope well with flare. Before using the lens I read the enclosed instructions which warn that “ghosting and flare occur much more easily than on longer focal length lenses”. I interpreted this as admittance by Sigma that this lens may not perform well in this area, but looking at these images here, you will see it actually seems to cope remarkably well. It’s certainly way better than my Canon 14mm f/2.8 L II which is particularly prone to specular flaring, and much better than my old Canon 17-40mm f/4 L.
Vignetting is obvious with this lens when used at f/4 and 12mm, but stopping down to f/5.6 improves things dramatically, and by f/8 it’s really not noticeable. Even at f/4, the vignetting is not a problem as it can be so easily removed if not wanted.
Using such a wide angle lens requires you to have a large subject and be able to get up close and personal with it. There is no point in standing in a vast open landscape and shooting at 12mm because everything will appear way too small, with any foreground dominating the scene. This lens comes into its own in tight spaces or where you have significant interest and detail within a metre or two of the lens.
Verdict – would I buy his lens? Absolutely I would. The build quality is fantastic, with image quality to match. In fact I would need to look very hard to find anything negative to say about this lens, so it really just comes down to whether you can afford the dent in your wallet and the additional kilogram in your bag.
To read the full version of this article along with evaluation images, CLICK HERE.