Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Review L Mount:
I’ve been a huge fan of Sigma products ever since I reviewed the SD Quattro a while back. Yes, the SD Quattro had its quirks, and it’s definitely not for everyone but the image quality is just fantastic. The Sigma lens that I used during that review was just as good. So, I’m so glad Sigma products are available for L mount, since as some of you know, I’m was an SL, and now an SL2 user. I’ve already reviewed a few of the L mount Sigma lenses (which can be found in my Leica section), and recently, I was able to get my hands on another one: the Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art. Let’s take a closer look.
On a side note, while I was reviewing this lens, the Corona Virus situation in NYC intensified pretty rapidly and suddenly, so there are less pics (and variety) than usual. There’s still a lot because I did most of the review before the situation here intensified but I definitely had to cut short my review in the end.
Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Build Quality:
When I first took the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art out of the box, I was quite surprised at the size of the lens. I knew it was going to be a large lens but I just wasn’t expecting it to be a little bigger than even my Leica Summilux-SL 50mm f1.4 ASPH. It even has the same filter thread as my Lux, which is 82mm. As for weight, it’s a hefty 1.2 kg or 2.6 lb, and yes, that’s even a bit heavier than my Lux. Bottom line is this lens is unapologetically huge as you can see in the photos below.
↑ The Leica SL2 with the Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art lens attached.
Now, there are a few of reasons for the size. For one, Sigma states that the concept of the Art line of lenses is optical performance comes first. This philosophy can sometimes lead to larger lenses, especially one with an f1.4 maximum aperture. Something like this may not be for everyone, and I completely get it but I for one am happy to live with this, if the results justify it; as some of you know, my most used lens is the Summilux-SL 50mm f1.4 ASPH. I’m all for a larger lens, if it can deliver the goods. I’ll just work out more haha ;). For some, the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art may not be the first choice for a street lens but for other areas in photography that I even shoot, for example, I want the best image quality I can get and believe me, this lens is pretty much technically perfect in this area (I’ll talk more about this below). Other reasons I imagine for the weight and size are autofocus, and pro build.
What I mean by pro build is the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art is extremely well-made. It is dense and very solid; it does not feel like it will fall apart anytime soon. Nothing rattles or squeaks. Yes, the lens is heavy and big but when combined with the excellent build, it not only feels like a high quality product, it gives me the confidence that this lens was built to handle the abuse that can often times, come from professional use. Furthermore, the overall design is clean and simple, which is what I like. There’s a large rubberized focus ring, which is easy to grip and manipulate. Plus, there’s a switch for AF/MF options.
Lastly, the 40mm f1.4 is also splash and dust proof, so you can definitely depend on this lens when the weather gets rough. I did not go through any intense weather or dust storms but there were a few rainy days while I had the 40mm f1.4 to review, and this lens was completely dependable. There’s also a water and oil repellent coating on the front element, which helps prevent oil and fat from sticking. It also makes it easier for you to wipe water away.
To top it off, the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art does come with a lens hood. I chose not to use it much because quite frankly, I didn’t need it. I didn’t have any issues with flare under normal shooting conditions (meaning I did not purposely try to flare this lens; I shot with it the way anyone would use a lens normally), and with the lens hood on, the 40mm f1.4 just looks massive as you can see in the photo below.
↑ The Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art lens does come with a locking lens hood. I didn’t use it much though because it made the lens feel a lot bigger.
Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Autofocus:
As for the autofocus, the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art employs a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) to help it capture your subjects. I tested this lens with my Leica SL2, and for the most part, I found it to be decently quick. It was also silent, and very accurate. However, the autofocus isn’t the fastest that I’ve experienced from Sigma. Don’t get me wrong; it’s definitely quick. I just feel the 35mm f1.2 that I reviewed a while back (review here), for example, is quicker. Still, I had no issues shooting various subjects on the streets. It performed great with landscape as well. I took it to one portrait assignment, and I had no issues keeping up with the constant changes in poses from the person. It never broke the rhythm of the shoot.
Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Image Quality:
In terms of image quality, I feel this is where the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art truly shines. Let’s first talk about the focal length itself. The 40mm focal length is an odd one to some as the 35mm and the 50mm are generally more popular. I was reading a bit about this lens on Sigma’s site, and apparently, the angle of view is quite sought after in the cine world, and the optical design of the Art line is adopted, and extended to Sigma cine lenses. But besides all that, I actually just love the 40mm focal length. My love for it manifested from the Fuji XF 27mm f2.8, which is a 41mm equivalent. I reviewed that lens a while back (review here), and I just loved it. Anyway, getting back on topic, I feel like the 40mm focal length is a nice alternative to either a 35mm or a 50mm. There are a lot of times where I’m in close quarters, and I need just a bit more breathing room than what a 50mm (which is my preferred focal length) offers but I don’t want to go too wide because of perspective distortion.
↑ This was taken earlier in the morning with 160 ISO. The aperture used here was f4.
↑ This was taken with 250 ISO at f8.
↑ Here’s a shot taken with 160 ISO and f8.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the lens’ optical characteristics, which are quite frankly, brilliant. I’m in love with what the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art can produce. This is easily one of the best lenses I’ve reviewed so far. For one, the 40mm f1.4 is incredibly sharp, and I’m not just talking about in the center. It is virtually sharp edge to edge even at f1.4. If you’re taking environmental portraits, be prepared to do some skin editing because you will see every little detail imaginable. In fact, the 40mm f1.4 is so sharp throughout the aperture range that in my opinion, one stops this lens down simply to increase depth of field rather than to improve image quality. There is a slight vignette at larger apertures but definitely nothing that takes away from the overall quality of the image. Stopping down just one stop, significantly reduces any vignetting. By f2.8, it’s virtually clear of any vignetting.
↑ This was taken at f5.6 and 100 ISO.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above. Notice on the left of the image: the “Dubs himself tho” is super clear.
↑ This was taken at f5.6 using 100 ISO.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the image above. If you click on the image to enlarge it, and look at the truck loading only sign, you can even read the very tiny print on the bottom that says Department of Transportation…PSE-153E. This lens captures every little detail.
↑ This was taken with 320 ISO using f8.
↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.
As for other traits, the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art produces pics with great depth. Color rendering and contrast are great. I also didn’t see any chromatic aberration or as I said earlier, experience any flare. Bottom line is the optical quality of this lens should leave no one wanting for more because the glass here is pretty much perfect in my book. It’s really that good. To me, it’s like the perfect 40mm lens. It’s large and heavy but it seriously delivers.
↑ This was taken at f8 with 160 ISO.
↑ Here’s a shot taken at f1.4 and 50 ISO.
↑ Here’s a shot taken at f8 and 640 ISO.
Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Bokeh:
Of course, with a maximum aperture of f1.4, you can bet that the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art will also produce a shallow depth of field when you want it. If you choose to shoot at f1.4, you will get some of the most sublime, and beautiful bokeh out there. It’s absolutely buttery smooth and velvety. The transition from the sharpness of the subject to the background is done perfectly. I had a couple of shoots planned with this lens to specifically demonstrate the bokeh but unfortunately, I had to cancel them because of what’s been going on recently. I so wish I could’ve shot more environmental or lifestyle portraits with this lens because from the stuff I did get to try with it, I think I would’ve gotten some really cool results. But hopefully, these examples I’ve included in this review will give you an idea of what you can achieve with this lens.
↑ This is an example of a shot taken at f1.4 from a distance. The ISO used here was 50.
↑ Here’s another shot taken at f1.4 using 100 ISO. As you can see, there really aren’t any distracting artifacts in the bokeh. It’s beautifully smooth and velvety.
↑ This was taken at f1.4, and 50 ISO.
↑ Here’s a shot taken at f1.4 and 200 ISO.
Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Pros And Cons:
Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Pros:
- Extremely well-made.
- Weather and dust resistant.
- Image quality is absolutely superb.
- Optically, my favorite 40mm out there at this point.
- Beautiful shallow depth of field and bokeh.
- For the quality of this lens, I think it’s priced well.
Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Cons:
- Yes, optics are epic but you pay for it in size and weight.
Sigma 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Verdict:
Simply put, the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art is the best 40mm lens that I’ve used so far, and for those interested in this focal length, I can not recommend it enough. The build is excellent, it’s weather sealed, the autofocus is decent, and best of all, the image quality is stunningly good. Plus, having an f1.4 maximum aperture not only increases the versatility of this lens, it also helps it to produce decent shallow depth of field for those moments where you want to isolate your subject. Of course, the “payment” for such high quality optics with such a large maximum aperture is the size, and weight.
↑ Here’s another shot taken at f8 and 400 ISO.
↑ This was taken at f4, and 400 ISO.
Large and heavy lenses aren’t for everyone, and I understand it. It also depends on what you shoot as well, which might affect what traits you value most from a lens. For instance, let’s take street photography. While the optics are not quite as good, I can see some preferring to use another one of my favorites, the 45mm f2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens (I reviewed it a while back as well) instead. The 45mm is much more compact and light; the autofocus is extremely fast, and when combined with my SL2, the combination makes for a very discreet, and easy system to lug around all day. In other words, it makes a great everyday lens, and to top it off, the price of $549 makes it much more attainable than the 40mm f1.4. Plus, the f2.8 maximum aperture really isn’t a negative to me. First off, it’s still pretty fast, and for street, I tend to stop down a bit anyway. Also, I shot a few portraits with it as well, and the bokeh is still decent.
↑ Here’s another shot taken at f1.4 and 100 ISO.
↑ Here’s one more photo of the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art lens with the Leica SL2.
But for those who simply want a no-compromise approach type lens with absolutely stellar optics, especially with an f1.4 maximum aperture (I’m definitely one of these people), the 40mm f1.4 DG HSM Art may just be the lens for you. This lens is simply a stunner. At $1,399, the price isn’t cheap but at the same time, I think it’s quite a deal for what you’re getting here. For those looking for an alternative to a 35mm or 50mm lens or just looking for an epic reference level 40mm, the Sigma 40mm f1.4 is a lens I can not recommend enough.
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