Go Wide or Go Home
Thanks as always to the good folks at Sigma for making this lens available for review.
This new ART lens from Sigma is not a direct competitor to Canon's 11-24 nor to Nikon's 14-24. It's a very good product, but the lenses perform differently. I had sold my original Sigma 12-24 not because it was a poor lens, but because I found it optically slow for my use cases. With the new lens, that's not an issue as it is a constant f/4 maximum aperture throughout the range.
Which makes it the same optical speed as the much larger Canon, at the expense of 1mm of wide angle. The Sigma ART 12-24/4 is quite a bit smaller than the Canon, and weighs in much lighter. It's also smaller and one stop slower than the Nikon 14-24/
The front element is of the bulbous sort with a permanent petal style hood. It looks like the little brother of the Canon front end, kind of a slightly smaller Eye of Sauron feel. Swing weight is considerably less and the zoom ring is smooth, albeit tighter than the Canon. Construction feels like all Sigma ART lenses. Tough and durable. All movements are firm and smooth including the focus ring, should you want to shoot in manual focus.
Mounted to a Canon 5Ds, focus was as quick as any lens can be on the 5Ds which means awkwardly slow. On a 1Dx Mark II, focus speed was good. Sharpness is very good but the corner stretching at 12mm is quite vicious. Many folks automatically enable lens profile corrections in Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW. Don't do it with images from this lens. To be blunt, the profile corrections make the images a lot worse, creating more stretching and really softening the edges. Usually Adobe's corrections are great. This time they do you no favours at all. I had actually been really disappointed with the images I saw on the computer, and only when I was going through the settings did I catch on that I had automatically applied the corrections on import. Turning them off changed my perspective from disastrous to something far better.
The big front end means that there are no screw on filter options, but as I feel the front is nearly the same size as Nikon's 14-24, I can see how one could use a similar compression ring system to mount a holder for square or rectangular filters. A quick check with Lee Filters shows that they have a mount ring for the Sigma lens to use with their SW150 holder system. It's the same system that I use on the Canon 11-24 and carries the same caveat of some vignetting wider than 13mm.
The lens cap is a nice solid unit with a tight friction fit over the petal hood. These caps are too big to stuff in a back pocket, but they do a good job of lens protection so carry and use as needed.
The lens uses a 9 blade aperture design for round out of focus highlights when shot wide open. There are also FLD and Aspheric elements to manage chromatic aberration and distortions. The lens, like most ART series, is weather sealed and can be tuned or updated via Sigma's USB dock system.
Fit and finish is as on other ART series lenses, meaning excellent. For real estate photographers and travel photographers, as well as documentary videographers, a lens like this is a given but you absolutely have to be 100% on your plane alignment otherwise you get these stretchies that look like a movie version of a drug trip…
Image colour is good, but not what I would get out of camera from the Canon lens. Contrast is a bit soft as well. You can adjust these things in post processing of course, but this can be a big deal for working pros, who want the colour to be consistent on a subject as you move from lens to lens. Picky I know.
The Sigma lens is available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma mounts. It sells for about $2069.99 CDN which might sound expensive until you realize that the Canon 11-24L f/4 sells for about $4399.99 CDN. Nikon's 14-24/2.8 is much closer in price at about $2369.99 CDN so it's up to the buyer to determine if they need one more stop of light transmission or 2mm more width at the wide end. 2mm sounds small but you can definitely see the difference between 12mm and 14mm. Buyer's decision.
I certainly appreciate that Sigma makes its lenses available to fit its own bodies. If they were interested in a suggestion, I would respectfully suggest putting the priority of a Sigma mount AFTER a Sony FE mount. Sony is delivering very credible full frame cameras, and there is not a ton of competition for ultra wide zooms. In fact, to be blunt, there is no competition at all. Sigma could own the on Sony marketplace if they stepped up. Sony will not lie back forever, so get in while the getting is good. I am aware of the MC-11 adapter and I have used it with Canon mount Sigmas on the a7R Mark II, but no adapter is a substitute for a real mount.
All the images shown were shot with the 12-24 mounted on the Canon 5Ds. All were shot in RAW and post processed in Lightroom. All have have received moderate retouching for sharpness and colour / contrast adjustment.
The lens is frankly less than I expected based on the excellence of Sigma ART series primes. This one is good, but the OEM lenses are better. I have to be fair because most of the work was shot on the 5Ds and I was trying to keep the ISO low and while the shutter speeds should definitely be handholdable, the 5Ds is known for excessive mirror slap and microshake. Consequently, every image that I kept has made a trip through Piccure + to fix any microshake that showed up. Meaning every single image was improved. I do not blame Sigma for this. While I came away with a lesser opinion than I initially expected, I don't see this as a bad lens. I just think that the OEM variants are better, and if I were a Nikon shooter, I might be inclined to forfeit the extra width for the superior image quality and extra stop of light. As a Canon shooter, if I was not generating revenue from the 11-24 L, the Sigma would be the go to lens because the quality is sufficiently high for day to day use, and it costs about half what the Canon does.
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I'm Ross Chevalier, thanks for reading, and until next time, peace.