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The Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art DG DN is the first true full frame mirrorless lens designed by Sigma and also the first full frame 35mm f / 1.2 AF lens. Is this finally the high quality 35mm lens we have been waiting for?
Update 12/19: experiences after 4 months of usage added

Most of the sample images in this review can be found in full resolution here.

Contents

In addition to the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art - which was the first lens of Sigma's Global Vision lens lineup and the first lens of the Art series - we now have this Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art DG DN, a true mirrorless design, which has the following specifications :

    • Diameter: 88 mm
    • Field of view: 63.4 ° (diagonally) *
    • Length: 137 mm
    • Weight: 1090g (without hood and caps)
    • Filter diameter: 82 mm
    • Number of aperture blades: 11 (rounded)
    • Elements / Groups: 17/12
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.30 m
    • Maximum magnification: 1: 5.1
    • Mount: Sony-E

You may also have a look at the official page.

* Despite Sigma claiming the 35mm 1.2 Art and the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art both having a diagonal viewing angle of 63.4 ° the older f / 1.4 version is wider. Focal lengths are usually subject to rounding and as I did not properly measure either I cannot tell you which is closer to actual 35mm.

The Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art is not listed everywhere yet, you can already find it at amazon.com | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de for about $1499/1529€

Handling

Compared to the former Sigma lenses we are in for a few surprises here. In terms of handling this new line of Sigma lenses feels almost exactly like a Sony GM lens.
We have an aperture ring with 1 / 3rd of a stop click stops and de-cklick lever (just like the GM lenses) we have an AF / MF switch and a focus hold button (just like the GM lenses) and the manual focus has a linear coupling.
The only differences compared to the GM lenses like the 85mm 1.4, 135mm 1.8 or 24mm 1.4 are the position of the AF / MF switch, which is above the focus hold button, not below (I prefer Sigma’s design here) and the focus throw.

The GM primes I tried all have exactly 180 ° focus throw from infinity to the minimum focus distance. Sigma seems to have thought this is way too little and so the 35mm 1.2 has a ~ 540 ° focus throw.
This is good for fine tuning focus but in the field it felt a bit too long to be honest. The resistance is really nice though, better (higher) than that of e.g. the Sony 85mm 1.4 GM.
There is also no physical distance scale that we know from the Sigma E-mount lenses with built-in adapter tube.

There is no denying, this is a huge lens. Already the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art was a very big lens, but it is dwarfed by its f / 1.2 brother:

A bayonet type lens hood is also part of the package which also offers improved build quality like the ones we know from the GM series with a release button and a mix of polycarbonate and rubber (which is really good at attracting dust).

Build Quality

The outside is made from the same high quality polycarbonate we already know from the other Sigma Global Vision lenses.
I cannot tell you much about the long term reliability (yet) or about the internal parts, but maybe we get to see a teardown by lens rentals one day.

Sigma claims the lens is dust and splash proof and like all of Sigma’s full frame E-mount lenses there is a rubber gasket to be found at the bayonet.

Autofocus

I have only used the lens for slow moving adults and encountered no problems with the autofocus. If you primarily want to take pictures of running animals or small children you may come to a different conclusion. It was good enough on the A7rII to capture this constantly moving swan at f / 1.7 though:

Eye-AF also works generally well, but you have to be close to your subject for the camera to actually recognize an eye in the frame (this is true for all wide angle lenses). So at the distances I was mostly using this lens, the cameras usually resorted back to face-detect mode.

So far I saw little difference in terms of speed and accuracy compared to the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art or the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA.

light falloff


Wide open there is strong light falloff of roughly 2.9 EV, stopped down to f / 1.4 this improves to 2.6 EV, stopped down to f / 2.0 it is 1.9 EV and further improves to 0.9 EV at f / 8.0. You can either correct this in Lightroom as soon as there is a profile available or directly in camera.

These values ​​are comparable to most of the 35mm f / 1.4 lenses and especially wide open they are better than those of smaller f / 1.2 lenses like the Voigtlander 40mm 1.2 E or 50mm 1.2 E.

color cast

I did not detect any color cast issues with this lens.

optical vignetting

Very fast lenses often show optical vignetting. Without going too much into technical details optical vignetting leads to the truncation of light circles towards the borders of the frame.
In the center of the frame almost every lens will render a perfect circle, but only lenses with very low optical vignetting will keep this shape in the corners.
So in the following comparison we move from the center (left) to the extreme corner (right) and see how the shape of the light circle changes.

 

This Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art does show a noticeable amount of optical vignetting in the corners. The Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art and the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA have slightly less deformed light circles in the corners at shared apertures.
There is something positive though: onion ring structures, while still visible in the new lens, are noticeably less pronounced.

I did not shoot these lenses side by side. The circles would be bigger on the f / 1.2 lens in the center when focused at the same distance and cropped to the same size.
Performance in this subject is highly dependent on the focus distance and the distance to the light source, so it is possible to get other results at other distances.

infinity

The center sharpness is good af f / 1.2, contrary to most other f / 1.2 lenses we see almost no spherical aberration (glow), the peak performance in the center is probably around f / 2.8.
Surprisingly midframe and corners are also good to very good already at f / 1.2 (minimal field curvature, if any) and also show only little signs of astigmatism or coma. Just have a look at the Voigtlander 50mm 1.2 E review to see what I am talking about. Peak performance here is reached at f / 4.0 to f / 5.6.
The lens is very usable from f / 1.2 even for infinity landscape shooting though. Already at f / 8.0 you see the negative influence of diffraction on center and midzone.
The Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art easily beats all the 35mm 1.4 lenses I tried / reviewed in this category. Only the Sigma 40mm 1.4 Art performs on a similar level.

The exposure of the f / 1.2 to f / 2.0 corner crops has been lifted in post to reveal more details.

portrait distance

For portraiture it isn’t so important how flat the field is, it is more interesting to see what the sharpness is like when focused at different parts of the frame to take field curvature out of the equasion.
This is what I did here, I refocused for every shot to get the best possible result at different locations in the frame (center, inner midframe, outer midframe and corner).
Focus distance was roughly 1.0 m and the circle of the dollar bill is more or less the size of a human eye.
I will compare it directly to the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art, to see what the improvements in this regard are.

Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art <—> Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art

100% crops, A7rII

So far my reference in this category was the Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 (which is much better than either Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art or Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA here) but this Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art is amazing at portrait distance. An absolutely outstanding performance.

close (0.30 m, 1: 5.1)


100% crops from center, A7rII

The Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art offers a decent reproduction ratio of 1: 5.1 to start with. Close focus performance is an area where the smaller fast lenses like the Voigtlander 40mm 1.2 E or 50mm 1.2 E struggle, as they don’t feature a floating elements design.
The lens reviewed here most certainly does and the performance at the minimum focus distance can be described as decent at f / 1.2, good at f / 2.0, very good at f / 2.8 and excellent at f / 4.0. Across frame performance is also pretty good here with only minimal field curvature.

The Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art has a very high element count (17) and lenses with a high number of elements rarely fare well in this category.
On top you can see the worst result I could produce. Depending on the position of the light source in the frame you can also catch some veiling flare instead of rainbow artifacts. The contrast stays on a high level though.

In the situations above the hood made no difference.

Also with strong light sources outside the frame you can catch some artifacts, here shading with my hand helped a bit though:

Sony A7III | Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art | f / 1.2

The performance is similar to the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art. Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron and also the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA fare better in this category.

In the early marketing material Sigma claimed coma correction was high on their priority list for this lens, so let us have a look how this turns out.

While the lens is not free of coma wide open it is certainly one of the better 35mm lenses. By stopping down to f / 2.8 this aberration seems to be completely gone.


100% crops from extreme corner, focused on corner, A7rII

Stars are slightly more forgiving than city lights, so let us have a look at those and how this lens compares to its predecessor:


100% crops from extreme corner, focused on corner, A7rII

There is no denying the f / 1.2 version fares better here and noticeably so, but if you thought this lens was completely free of coma at f / 1.2 you might be disappointed.
I do find it hard to name a better lens in this regard though, but I haven't tried the Samyang 35mm 1.2 XP and the Canon EF 35mm 1.4 L II yet.

The lens shows a noticeable amount of non-wavy barrel distortion. For jpegs this can be corrected in camera, for raws it can either be corrected by dialing in +9 in Photoshop / Lightroom or using the lens specific profile that has been added to Adobe products on 14th August 2019.

The bokeh rendering is surely the main reason to get a 35mm f / 1.2 lens. It surely is for me, so let us have a closer look how it performs at different distances.

In close focus scenarios the bokeh is really nice, smooth and with very noticeable subject separation. At f / 1.2 there is a noticeable amount of optical vignetting which is pretty much completely gone when stopping down to f / 2.5.

 

At half body distances the bokeh is still really nice in my opinion and the high contrast in the focal plane leads to a noticeable subject separation (3D pop as some like to call it):

At longer distances (e.g. full body portraits) where the transition zone overlaps with the background many fast wide angle lenses struggle. You can not expect performance similar to a lens like an 85mm f / 1.4 here, but the corner bokeh is the best I have seen from a 35mm lens at f / 1.4 or faster yet:

To be honest I did not have the highest expectations when it comes to the bokeh rendering based on the former fast yet wide Sigma lenses, but this seems to be a real winner if you are like me and prefer smooth bokeh rendering.

You can also have a look at my comparison of Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art, 35mm 1.4 Art and 40mm 1.4 Art to see how these lenses compare.

Sunstar rendering has never been a high priority for Sigma and it seems this hasn’t really changed with this new line. Sunstars look best at f / 11 to f / 16 but still the rays have varying length and distance to each other. Not something that worries me in a lens designed mainly for taking portraits or astrophotography though.
If you want to know more about sunstar rendering of different lenses have a look at this article.

lateral


100% crops from border, A7rII

Even with all corrections in camera and deactivated in Lightroom there is still a profile for correcting lateral CA applied. So I took another shot without electronic contact between lens and camera.
Lateral CA can losslessly corrected in post, but in this case they are very low to begin with.

longitudinal


50% crops, A7rII

Near the minimum focus distance the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art shows a bit of longitudinal chromatic aberration wide open which is mostly gone on stopping down to f / 2.0 and almost completely gone on stopping down to f / 2.8.

Longitudinal chromatic aberrations come in different forms. Unfortunately there are only few (if any at all) sources that give a clear differentiation. In the following comparison to the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art we will have a look at purple fringing (it shows up close to the plane in focus) and the “bokeh-CA” or “bokeh fringing” which you will see in the out of focus areas.

LoCA in the out of focus areas (“bokeh fringing”) are present and can be noticeable, but are still less obvious compared to the half a stop slower Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art.
Purple fringing on the other hand is corrected really well. This also shows in other scenarios, as can be seen below.

Overexposed highlights, e.g. on office windows hit by sunlight, are a real stress test and there is just a tiny patch of purple fringing visible:

Sony A7rII | Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art | f / 1.2

Chrome highlights on vehicles are another situation where purple fringing can really ruin the party, but that is also not the case here:

So despite being half a stop faster the performance is much better when it comes to purple fringing and slightly better in terms of bokeh fringing than that of the Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art and noticeably better compared to the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA. Quite the achievement.

Auto focus

Sigma 35mm 1.4 Type:
If you are looking for a native 35mm lens with AF but feel the f / 1.2 versions is too big, heavy and / or expensive this remains my recommendation.
buy from B&H | amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de for $ 770 (affiliate links)

Sigma 40mm 1.4 Type:
Even bigger and heavier. Correction of longitudinal CA is even better, but bokeh is a little less smooth. In terms of sharpness and contrast, they are equally good.
buy from amzon.com | amazon.de | B&H | ebay.com | ebay.de for $1399/1150€ (affiliate links)

You can also have a look at my comparison of Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art, 35mm 1.4 Art and 40mm 1.4 Art to see how these lenses compare.

Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA:
Unfortunately this is nothing like Sony’s newer GM primes and furthermore plagued by severe sample variation. If you have a good sample it gets the job done, but I cannot recommend going down the rabbit hole of finding one of those golden copies.
buy from B&H | amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de for 1499 $ (affiliate links)
>

Samyang 35mm 1.4 AF:
This Samyang is the cheaper version of the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 ZA in many ways: similar size, similarly high CA, similar questions regarding sample variation. No button or aperture ring and according to some reports the manual focus experience is really bad with this lens.
This is your cheapest option when looking for a native 35mm f / 1.4 lens with AF, personally I would pay slightly more to get the Sigma lens reviewed here.
buy from B&H | amazon.com | amazon.de for ~ 550 $ (affiliate links)

Canon EF 35mm 1.4 L II USM:
This might have been the “best” 35mm f / 1.4 lens with AF, but now I would rather recommend the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art reviewed here, if you are looking for an AF lens.
buy from B&H | amazon.com | amazon.de for ~ 1649 $ (affiliate links)

Sony FE 35mm 1.8:
A reasonable lens that I don't know much about yet. From what I know so far, maybe a bit pricey for what it is.

Sony RX1RII (Sonnar 35mm 2.0):
For a long time this was the only option to get an AF 35mm f / 2.0 in the Sony ecosystem. Reknown to have nice bokeh which in my opinion has now been surpassed by the Sigma 35mm 1.2 Art reviewed here. The whole camera is less than half the weight of the Sigma lens, but also one and a half stops slower.
buy from B&H | amazon.com | ebay.com | ebay.de for 3299 $ (new) or 1999 $ (used) (affiliate links)

Manual focus

Voigtlander 40mm 1.2 Nokton E:
One of the few other E-mount primes with a maximum aperture of f / 1.2. What are the differences compared to the Sigma reviewed here? No AF, lower corner sharpness, less smooth bokeh rendering, slightly more vignetting, more pronounced onion ring bokeh, better flare resistance, only 420g heavy and much smaller size.
Furthermore this Voigtländer is optimized for portrait distance and is a worse performer at minimum focus distance and infinity at wider apertures.
Many people like this lens though and it is certainly more fun to carry around.
buy from B&H | amazon.com | ebay.com | ebay.de for ~ 1099 $ (affiliate links)

Zeiss ZM 35mm 1.4 T * Distagon:
This lens is noticeably smaller, offers very high contrast too but struggles a bit on Sony cameras due to the thicker filter stack.
buy from BRA| amazon.com | amazon.de | ebay.com | ebay.de for ~ 1999 $ (affiliate links)

Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 Ultron:
This is still my 35mm lens of choice and there is a reason for that: it is one of the best balanced lenses money can buy. It really needs a 5m PCX filter to shine on Sony cameras, but going through that trouble is totally worth it. Still my allround choice for travel, landscape, architecture and blue hour photography.
buy from B&H