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Lens Comparison: Sigma 35mm f/1.4 “Art” vs. Canon 35mm f/1.4L

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 vs Canon 35mm f/1.4

[O]ver the years, Sigma has produced some nice lenses, but also some dogs, and their prices and external appearances are not always the best indicators of their performance.  Sigma’s new 35mm f/1.4 “Art” series lens is a beautiful looking lens, and with a price tag $400 less than the Canon equivalent, it is a tempting offering, so I got a copy from BorrowLenses.com and put it through its paces.

The results were a little surprising, even though I had heard good things about it.

If you saw my first lens comparison video (between the Canon and Tamron 24-70 f/2.8 lenses), you may have still been left a little unsure about which was the best option for you in the end; the Canon offered better image quality, but the Tamron wasn’t much worse, had image-stabilization, and was a lot less expensive. That’s still a tricky choice.

Sigma made things easier in this case. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is clearly the better lens, according to my tests.

The results from the video can be summarized pretty easily:

  • The Sigma is sharper and provides higher resolution, especially away from the center of the image at f/1.4 – f/2.8
  • The Canon produces surprisingly strong chromatic aberration (magenta fringing), even at apertures as small as f/8
  • The Canon suffers from heavy vignetting, and modest vignetting is a factor even at f/5.6, while the Sigma shows no significant vignetting until f/2.8 (and none worth worrying about until f/2)
  • The Sigma produces smoother bokeh, while the Canon’s is slightly more contrasty.
  • Neither lens offers significantly better AF performance, though in my tests, the Sigma was a little more reliable.

Considering that the Sigma costs $400 less, feels better in the hand, and is constructed of metal rather than plastic, I can only conclude that the Sigma is the better lens and the better buy.

RAW Image Examples

Download RAW files from Seattle Watefront(Waterfront Examples: 12 RAW Files, 360MB)

Skateboarding Pictures

I’ve had a couple of questions about the settings that I used for the skateboarding pictures. They were generally shot at f/2 between 1/1000th and 1/5000th of a second at ISO 100 or ISO 400. The important part, though, was that the shots against the sky had +2 stops of exposure compensation so that I didn’t lose all of the subjects in shadow (at the expense of losing some highlight detail). Since they were shot as RAW, I could then pull some of the highlight detail out in post processing. Here’s an example:

Looking at the finished image now, I’d probably tone down the processing a bit… maybe lighten it up overall. But you should be able to see why I was able to hold the shadow detail.

Want to Help?

If you’ve found this review helpful and are about to purchase or rent a lens, please consider following one of our links to Amazon.com or BorrowLenses.com so that we can continue to make more reviews like this in the future.  Or, purchase your lens from B&H Photo! Thanks!

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Alicja Duchiewicz sesje zdjęcioweYizchalJoshDavePiotr Król Sesje Zdjeciowe Recent comment authors

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Alicja Duchiewicz sesje zdjęciowe
Guest

I’m totally in love with Sigma 35 1.4 Art. Absolutely great lens.

Yizchal
Guest
Yizchal

I own and like both, but I think the Canon renders better images…. subjective call, but like I said, I’ve used both in the real world and the Canon has some magic dust sprinkled inside, whereas the Sigma also has great rendition, but not quite the same level as the Canon.

Josh
Guest
Josh

Just saved me 400$…cheers.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Matthew, Thank you very much for these fantastic real-world lens tests. Everything you are testing is important to me: image quality at all apertures (detail, sharpness, contrast, color, fringing, bokeh) and at all points in the frame INCLUDING the very corners! Thanks!
I earn my living from my lenses and your tests are very helpful.
Good substance and very nicely presented!
-Dave

Piotr Król Sesje Zdjeciowe
Guest

I use Canon 35 1.4 for 3 years already its amazing len, tested last time sigma 35 and loved this lens ! its not worse even better than canon u have to try it and after you love it ! its price is unbelievable..

Davide Gaudenzi
Guest

I saw online very different reviews and i totally agree with yours!
I had the Canon 35 1.4 for 2 years and was happy with that. But i had a LOT of purple fringing and often af missed out.
I used the Sigma now for 2 weddings and i loved it ! af is really more accurate than the canon and the sharpness wide open at the border is amazing. I havent seen purple fringing anymore.
AF seems a little slow in sunny or bright conditions (very strange i know, but i had this impression, though the canon is damn fast in those conditions). Build quality and finish is nice but the canon looks more solid and durable.

Marcel | fotografia ślubna warszawa
Guest

I was testing the lens today in store on my Canon 5d1 and 6d. The photos were perfectly sharp in both cases. I didn`t buy the lens because photos looked out of focus on my 5d. But now I see it was 5d display screen`s fault and the photos themselves are perfect. So maybe Sigma improved something.

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

I just bought the Sigma, and I am tremendously disappointed. I am a newborn photographer and it cannot seem to grab focus anywhere towards the bottom of the frame. While testing this lens 80% of the images where out of focus. The only images that were in focus where were the ones that I need focus around the center and I was standing 4 – 5 feet away. This lens is going back. :(

I had the Canon 35L 1.4 and the focus was too soft.

Looks like I will be sticking with my 50 1.2L unless the tamron or some other brand is just as good as I really want to be able to get closer to my little subjects.

K.
Guest
K.

I had the exact same experience, poor AF. Totally disappointing as reviews have been so good for the Sigma.

Torben Christiansen
Guest

Sigma has really improved their quality over the last year or two. I know that two years I wouldn’t even consider buying a Sigma lens again (had one many years ago), but I hear a lot of good feedback about the lens, so they might be worth considering for the next lens purchase. Another thing with Sigma is that they have begun to produce lenses that is unique in the market like the Sigma 18-35 1.8

Rafael
Guest
Rafael

Only time will show if Sigma would be reliable or not. Sigma past didn’t show it….! Canon L BEST!