Many photographers swear by prime lenses, especially fast prime lenses. Such lenses have fixed focal lengths. This simplifies the complex arrangement of lens elements found in zoom lenses, resulting in sharper images.
In addition, a prime lens is usually a "fast" lens, in the sense that it has a huge maximum aperture, so more light can hit the image sensor, letting you use a faster shutter speed and minimising camera shake.
The new Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is one such fast prime lens.
This wide-angle prime lens is designed for full-frame DSLRs, but it will work on APS-C DSLRs as well.
For this review, I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III full-frame DSLR. If you use an APS-C DSLR, the resulting focal length ranges from 36mm (Nikon and Sigma mount) to 38.4mm (Canon mount) due to the different crop factors of the image sensors.
With a maximum aperture of f/1.4 and the resulting shallow depth of field, this lens is also ideal for photographers who love the bokeh effect - the deliberately blurred out-of-focus areas in an image.
The build of this lens is not as sturdy as Nikon's premium or Canon's L-series lenses. But at 665g, it is quite light and therefore easy to move around with.
This lens seems ideal for wedding photographers who sometimes need to work in low-light conditions. Yet, it can produce beautiful images with a nice bokeh effect to draw full attention to the bride or couple.
But autofocusing (AF) can be a bit noisy, though not irritatingly so. The AF speed is also not particularly fast.
With a 25cm minimum focusing distance and a 24mm wide-angle focal length, however, you really cannot do much in the way of macro shots of flowers or wedding rings.
With the f/1.4 aperture, the lens delivers great sharpness for your intended subject with soft bokeh surroundings. But there is slight vignetting at the corners.
With an aperture setting this big, the slightest deviation from the focus point may blur your subject. So, you must be precise with your focusing.
On the other hand, when you shoot using the minimum f/16 aperture, the results are superb. Not only are the resulting images razor-sharp, the edge-to-edge sharpness is consistent. Vignetting is also almost non-existent.
The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is a great lens to have, especially for wedding or event photographers. But it has specific functions which only a skilled user would be able to fully utilise.
Price: $1,288 (Canon mount, version tested), $1,288 (Nikon and Sigma mount)
Focal length: 14mm
Aperture range: f/1.4 to f/16
Focusing range: 25cm to infinity
Value for money 3/5
This article was first published on Apr 1, 2015.
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