Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Review

No, the product name for this lens is not missing a ".8" after the "f/2". This groundbreaking lens is the first full frame-compatible zoom with an aperture wider than f/2.8 – an entire stop wider. Hopefully you are feeling that "WOW" factor.

The Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens can stop action in 1/2 as much light as any previously available full frame zoom lens and can also create a stronger background blur than the next-best option at an equivalent focal length. While prime lenses in the contained focal lengths are available in 1-stop wider apertures (f/1.4), this lens covers the range of three of the most-standard prime focal lengths.

Sigma 24-35mm Art Lens Angle View with Hood

Focal Length / Focal Length Range

The first step in selecting a lens should be to insure that the focal length is optimal for the desired uses. The 24-35mm range covers the extreme upper end of what has long been considered "ultra-wide" (or 1mm over it depending on your definition) through simply-wide angles. While 24-35mm is a short range of focal lengths, those it has are very useful and very popular. The current lenses covering this focal length range, or a single focal length contained in that range, is huge.

I will list some uses for this range, but ... my list is very far from exhaustive.

Landscape photography is an especially great use for a 24mm lens. This focal length is quite wide and allows an entire scene to remain in focus, but 24mm is not so wide that it complicates landscape composition. A very high percentage of my landscape images have been captured at 24mm. Here is an example from the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 Art Lens behind the Canon EOS 5Ds R (this is an HDR image).

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Sample Picture

Architectural photography, large product photography, interior photography, birthday parties ... are some uses for the entire focal length range. I've been using this lens for documenting life in general.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Amusement Ride Sample Picture

Wedding and event photographers can often utilize these wide angles for capturing the overall scene, for environmental-type portraits and for even large-sized group portraits in tight spaces. At the 35mm end of the range, loosely framed individual portraits will have a nice perspective. Photojournalist's needs are often similar to those of a wedding photographer and can also make use of this range.

Falling into the range of focal lengths I would want for fixed focal length general purpose use, the 35mm focal length is a great choice for capturing a natural perspective on a wide variety of subjects. It is wide enough to capture the big scene but not so wide that people and other subjects are readily distorted by the close perspective invited by ultra wide angles and not so wide that a nice background cannot be easily achieved.

When combined with a very wide aperture, this entire range is a good choice for night sky photography. The Milky Way stays relatively large in the frame at 24mm while star trails are only beginning to become challenging at 35mm.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Milky Way Sample Picture

The above moonset and Milky Way image was captured at 24mm (f/2, 20 seconds, ISO 3200).

Videographers, including those producing documentaries and reportage, often find the 24-35mm focal length range to be a great fit for their needs.

While telephoto lenses are more frequently used for sports, a 24-35mm angle of view allows a very different perspective on these events. This focal length range can be used to capture the big picture of the venue, overhead shots of the athletes and their coaches being interviewed after the game and, when access and safety permit, full body environmental action sports photos showing lots of venue in the background.

On an ASP-C/1.6x sensor format body, the 24-35mm focal length range provides an angle of view similar to a 38.4-56mm zoom lens on a full frame sensor format body. This tighter framing slides the overall angle of view toward a more general purpose range. While many of the uses overlap, the narrower angle of view forces a longer perspective for similar framing or simply a tighter framing. This narrower angle of view favors people photography and more-tightly framed portraits.

Here is an example of what this focal length range looks like from a full frame camera.

Focal Length Range Example

Again, this is a short focal length range, but one with plenty of purpose.

Sigma 24-35mm Art Lens Top View

Max Aperture

Unmatched in a full frame compatible zoom DSLR lens is the wide f/2.0 max aperture. No other such zoom lets in more than 1/2 as much light. As a fixed max aperture lens, the f/2 aperture is available not only at the widest angle, but over the entire focal length range. Wide open exposure settings can remain unchanged during a full focal length extent adjustment.

Use the wide aperture to stop action in low light, to enable handholding in low light (though an image stabilized lens has the advantage with motionless subjects) and to create a strong background blur. Strong blur is a relative term as wide angle lenses are not nearly as good as telephotos at this task. The sign in the sample below is about 8' (2.4m) away from the camera with the longest focal length (35mm) in use. At full resolution, the background blur is strong, but at reasonable web page resolution, the background subjects are easily discernable.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Sample Picture at f/2

Move in very close to the subject for a stronger background blur. Here is a look at the 4 widest full stop apertures from both ends of the focal length range with a close subject (as seen by a full frame DSLR).

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Aperture Comparison Example

Sigma 24-35mm Art Lens on Tripod

Image Quality

An extreme wide aperture is an incredibly useful feature, but ... lenses often do not perform their optical best at their widest apertures and I was anxious to see what this lens delivered at f/2. Of primary concern for me is image "sharpness", a term loosely used to describe resolution and contrast along with the effects (or lack of) caused by other aberrations.

At f/2, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens delivers usably sharp images with sharpness decreasing slightly from 24 through 35mm. Usably sharp, but you might want to add more sharpness and contrast than normal to remove the slightly hazy appearance. The sharpness improvement seen at f/2.2 is very noticeable – noticeable enough that you may want to give up that 1/3 stop difference in aperture opening to gain the image quality benefit. At f/2.2, 35mm still trails in regards to sharpness over the entire focal length range. I would describe the center of the frame as very sharp at 24mm f/2.2 with the 35mm end reaching this level at f/2.8. Only a slight sharpness increase is seen in the center at narrower apertures.

Here is a set of examples showing center of the frame image quality. These 100% were crops taken from the center of EOS 5Ds R images processed in DPP using the Standard Picture Style with a sharpness setting of "1".

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Center Sharpness Example

Corner of the frame sharpness often warrants its own discussion as light reaching the corners is refracted at harder angles than light transmitting straight through the center of the lens, presenting a much bigger challenge to lens designers. In the case of the 24-35 f/2 Art lens, the corners are not so different than the center of the frame at f/2. At f/2.2, where the wide and midrange focal lengths receive a solid boost in center sharpness, the corners also show a solid improvement with vignetting reduction being the most visible difference. By f/2.8, corners are looking good and show continued improvement as the aperture is narrowed – up until diffraction sends sharpness in the other direction (beyond f/8 in my EOS 5Ds R test camera). The extreme full frame corner image sharpness this lens can deliver by f/5.6 (perhaps f/8 at 35mm) is very impressive for a zoom lens.

With a wide angle, wide aperture lens, some vignetting can be expected when the lens is used at the widest aperture. In the case of this lens, the vignetting profile remains similar over the focal length range with about 2.5 stops showing in the full frame corners. Stopping down to f/2.8 drops the peripheral shading levels to about 1.4 stops and at f/4, an average of .7 stops remains (below visibility in many scenes). Stopping down further results in little change with about .5 or .6 stops remaining at f/16.

As is usually the case, APS-C/1.6x format body owners will not likely notice any vignetting from this lens, even at f/2.

In the field, CA (Chromatic Aberration) can be quite apparent. Apparent enough to noticeably affect the infinity-measured MTF charts. Here are a pair of full resolution 24mm extreme upper-right corner examples captured with the ultra-high resolution (enlarges the CA effect) 5Ds R.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Chromatic Aberration

The result at 35mm is very similar. CA is my favorite lens aberration as software can often remove it without causing strong degradation to the image.

At wide apertures, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 Art Lens shows only a minor amount of flare even with a clear-sky sun in the corner of the frame. That amount of flare increases as the aperture narrows (this is normal) until a noticeable amount of flare is present at f/16.

Coma is generally recognized by a sharp detail contrast towards the center of an image and a long, soft contrast transition toward the image periphery. The 24-35 Art performs about on-par for wide angle lenses, showing a noticeable amount. I most readily see coma when photographing the night sky. Here is a full frame EOS 5Ds R corner example taken from just inside the top-right corner of a vertical frame.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Coma

The 24-35 Art shows a moderate amount of barrel distortion at the wide end. This distortion transitions into no distortion in the mid focal lengths and continues to transition into mild pincushion distortion at the long end.

This lens features a 9-rounded-blade aperture design. Nine blades, being an odd (vs. even) number, will create 18-point stars from specular highlights when stopped down significantly (try f/16). The bokeh (background blur quality) appears OK, but not remarkable.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Bokeh

Here is a closer look at corner image quality using an outdoor setting. Shown is a 100% crop from the extreme bottom-left corner (24mm crop is taken from perhaps 50 pixels from the corner for more-ideal subject presentation) of 5Ds R-capture images. Images were processed with the DPP Standard Picture Style with a sharpness setting of "1" and no aberration correction.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Corner Sharpness Example

The image corners present the worst case scenario for any lens. Remove the CA and the results would be considerably improved.

Sigma 24-35mm Art Lens Front View

Focusing

As an "HSM" lens, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 Art Lens gets Sigma's best Hypersonic Motor-driven AF system. Autofocusing is quick, quiet and internal. This lens does not change size with focusing (or zooming) and the front filter threads do not rotate. FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported. Simply change the focus ring to adjust focus, even with the camera powered off.

These focusing attributes are all very positive, but ... what about autofocus accuracy? Mounted in front of Canon's review-time-flagship AF system in the EOS 5Ds R and tested with the Datacolor SpyderLensCal, I was impressed with the consistent AF accuracy delivered by the 24-35 Art. I was able to dial in an AF Microadjustment (+6 W, +16 T) for excellent results with every shot.

I spend a lot of time testing AF accuracy beyond using the standard calibration tool and, in most instances, found the 24-35 Art to deliver the same consistently accurate results. There were, however, a small handful of result sets that were somewhat troubling. In those scenarios, shot-to-shot variance was higher than I expected. As with all lenses, confirm that the 24-35 Art's AF system works well with your camera body before putting to serious use.

Videographers will be happy to hear that subjects do not noticeably change size during a full extent rack focus at 35mm and only a minor amount of size change is noticed when doing the same at 24mm. Note that this lens is not parfocal, meaning that focus distance needs to be adjusted when focal lengths are changed (unless the subject remains in overlapping DOF).

With a large, front-positioned manual focus ring that is smooth, nicely damped, has no play, rotates 122° from one focus distance extent to the other and provides smooth transitions, this lens is really nice to use with AF switched off.

With a short 11" (279mm) minimum focus distance delivering a 0.23x maximum magnification, this lens is one of the better options for making even a small subject large in the frame and image quality remains good at close focus distances.

Coming up with a succinct list of lenses comparable to the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens is ... challenging. There are no equals. Some offer advantages, but none offers the specific set of attributes found in the 24-35 Art with the f/2 aperture and zoom range combination being the differentiator. I'll offer this list as a start:

ModelMFDMM
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.22x
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.21x
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens9.8"(250mm)0.17x
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.21x
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens9.4"(240mm)0.24x
Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D AF-S Lens10.8"(274mm)0.22x
Nikon 24mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens9.8"(250mm)0.18x
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S Lens14.4"(366mm)0.27x
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens11.8"(300mm)0.20x
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens9.8"(250mm)0.16x
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens11.0"(280mm)0.23x
Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens11.0"(279mm)0.23x
Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens15.0"(380mm)0.19x
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens9.8"(250mm)0.19x
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens11.8"(300mm)0.19x

The 24-35mm Art lens is not compatible with Sigma Extenders.

Build Quality & Features

If you are familiar with other Sigma Art lenses, especially the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens, you will likely already feel familiar with this one. Here is an image showing a comparison between these lenses.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 Art Lens Compared to the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art Lens

As one would expect from a lens projecting a larger image circle, the full frame lens is modestly wider than the APS-C format lens. While I did not tear these lenses down to compare internals, it is obvious that the exterior design characteristics are heavily shared.

I view this design sharing as a very positive attribute. Sigma's Global Vision lenses all have an excellent, classy, high-end look and feel and the 24-35 Art is similar. From the aesthetic mix of matte and gloss black finish to the great-feeling sharply ribbed rubber rings to the smooth overall dimensions, these lenses all have very impressive design qualities.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Product Images

MFD |    MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

The Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens has very smooth, perfectly-damped and ideally-sized zoom and focus rings that have no play in them. Also very nice is the rear-position zoom ring design choice. The zoom ring only rotates a short 38°, but ... that rotation amount matches the short focal length range nicely.

Note that the zoom ring rotates in the Nikon standard direction (opposite of Canon's standard zoom ring rotation direction). Only the ribbed rubber surface portion of the zoom ring extends beyond the lens barrel diameter and the forward-positioned (also where I want it) focus ring is raised only slightly from the lens barrel, for an overall smooth design that feels great in hand.

The Sigma 24-35 Art's single switch, enabling or disabling autofocus, is located within easy reach of the left thumb. A visually-attractive, high-visibility white switch background shows when in AF mode with black showing in MF mode.

This lens does not feature weather sealing. Extra precautions should be taken if photographing in potentially wet or dusty situations.

I especially like that this lens is fixed in size.

Two of the costs to be paid for a wide aperture lens are larger size and heavier weight. While the short focal length range helps to keep the 24-35 Art's size and weight reasonable, there is no getting around the larger lens elements required for such a lens. While this lens is the heavyweight in the table below (and the largest in size), I have not found it uncomfortable to use for long periods of time.

ModelWeightDimensions w/o HoodFilterYear 
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM Lens22.6 oz(640g)3.5 x 4.4"(88.5 x 111.6mm)82mm2007
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens28.4 oz(805g)3.5 x 4.4"(88.5 x 113.0mm)82mm2012
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens22.9 oz(650g)3.3 x 3.4"(83.5 x 86.9mm)77mm2008
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L II USM Lens26.8 oz(760g)3.2 x 4.2"(80.4 x 105.5mm)72mm2015
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens11.8 oz(335g)3.1 x 2.5"(77.9 x 62.6mm)67mm2012
Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8D AF-S Lens26.3 oz(745g)3.2 x 4.2"(81.25 x 107.0mm)77mm1999
Nikon 35mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens21.2 oz(600g)3.3 x 3.5"(83.0 x 89.5mm)67mm2010
Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens10.8 oz(305g)2.8 x 2.8"(72.0 x 71.5mm)58mm2014
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens28.6 oz(811g)3.1 x 4.8"(78.0 x 121.0mm)72mm2013
Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens33.2 oz(941g)3.4 x 4.8"(86.4 x 121.9mm)82mm2015
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens23.5 oz(665g)3.3 x 3.6"(85.0 x 90.2mm)77mm2015
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens23.5 oz(665g)3.0 x 3.7"(77.0 x 94.0mm)67mm2012

Again, coming up with a concise list of relevant 24-35mm Art comparison lenses is challenging. For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Specifications using the site's Lens Spec tool.

As the table shows, the image below confirms that 24-35 Art is larger than the prime and even the 24-70 L II, until it is extended.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right in their fully retracted positions are the following lenses:

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

The same lenses are shown below in their fully extended states with their lens hoods in place.

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

I should point out that these lenses were photographed under identical lighting. The difference in appearance is due to the difference in surface finishes selected by Sigma and Canon. Which is better? Your opinion is what matters most.

Large lens elements often mean a large filter and in this case, that means 82mm. Once a relatively uncommon size, I now find 82mm to be one of my most-used sizes. Though this size costs more than smaller filters, that it can frequently be shared can reduce the overall kit cost (and may permit a smaller travel footprint). I recommend a slim circular polarizer filter model to insure that mechanical vignetting is not an issue. The B+W HTC XS-Pro is my highly recommended choice.

As usual, Sigma includes the lens hood in the box. This hood is a mostly-plastic design with molded in ribs and a rubberized rear surface to make installation and removal easy. The shape is petalled vs. having a flat/round end. I think that petalled looks better and is better-optimized for its purpose, but flat has the advantage of allowing the lens to sit upright on its hood.

As with the rest of the Art and many other Sigma lenses, a nice black, zippered, padded nylon case is provided in the box. A 1.75" (445mm) belt loop permits attachment.

Sigma 24-35mm Art Lens Case

Sigma Global Vision and the Dock

Sigma's Global Vision lenses get a classification of "A", "C" or "S", representing a primary Sigma-intended use of "Artistic", "Contemporary" and "Sports". A full description of these categories can be found in the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Lens press release. You have likely heard me say that this overly-simplistic categorization structure is not my favorite and my opinion will not likely change, but I very much like what Sigma is doing with the Global Vision lines.

As a Global Vision lens member, the 24-35mm f/2 Lens gets an "A" stamped in a classy chrome circle on the lens barrel. As with many of the other "A" lenses, I'm sure that the wide "A"perture has some responsibility for the "Art" classification.

Sigma Dock

A great feature of the Global Vision lenses is compatibility with the Sigma Dock. The dock, working in conjunction with the Sigma Optimization Pro software, allows the lens' firmware to be updated (bug fixes, compatibility updates, feature enhancements, etc.) and allows precise autofocus calibration of four focal lengths at four focus distances as illustrated below (adjustments are fabricated).

Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens being adjusted in Sigma Optimization Pro

FTM can also be disabled/controlled via the dock.

Sigma 24-35mm Art Lens Side View

Price and Value

Consistent with the previous Sigma Art lenses is the 24-35mm f/2 Art lens' good value price. While not a cheap lens, the 24-35's price is well below the Canon and Nikon f/2.8 zoom lens alternatives. It is also priced well below that of a kit of two or three f/1.4 primes lenses (including the Art versions). The price-comparison examples are not directly comparable lenses, but ... none of those exist.

The Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens is available in Canon (reviewed), Nikon and Sigma mounts and this lens qualifies for Sigma's Mount Conversion Service in case you change your mind. My standard disclaimer: There are potential issues with third party lenses. Since Sigma reverse engineers (vs. licenses) manufacturer AF algorithms, there is always the possibility that a DSLR body might not support a (likely older) third party lens. Usually a lens can be made compatible by the manufacturer via a firmware update, but this cannot be guaranteed. Compatibility with the Sigma USB Dock is risk (and time) reducing as Sigma can release firmware updates for dock-compatible lenses. Sigma USA's 4-year warranty is superior to Canon's standard 1 year warranty (Sigma's international warranty is also 1 year).

The lens tested for this review was a retail model.

Sigma 24-35mm Art Lens Front Angle View

Alternatives to the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens

As already mentioned many times, there are no lenses that directly compare to the Sigma 24-35 f/2 Art Lens. All full frame zoom lenses, as of review time, have a 1-stop narrower max aperture. Prime lenses are available within this focal length range with an even 1-stop wider f/1.4 focal length, but ... you only get one focal length from these lenses and multiple are required to cover the same range.

If we eliminate only one spec from the comparison (full frame compatibility, zoom range or f/2 max aperture), the comparison field is huge.

Take away the full frame compatibility requirement and the sibling Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens quickly comes to the forefront of my mind. As of review time, this is the only other zoom DSLR lens with an aperture wider than f/2.8. The 18-35 Art lens provides a wider focal length range, a 1/3 stop wider aperture, a lighter weight and a lower price tag. The optical difference between these lenses is not dramatically different.

Take away the max f/2 aperture requirement and the Canon, Nikon and other top brand f/2.8 zooms come into the picture. The 24-70 and 16/17-35mm f/2.8 models all compete in this case. Use the site's comparison tools to compare the lenses most relevant to your need.

Take away the zoom option and again, the Canon, Nikon and other top brands, including Sigma, have entrants in the competition. There are many 24, 28 and 35mm f/1.4, f/1.8 and f/2 lens variants available. Many are optically good (especially at equivalent apertures), many are smaller/lighter and some are less expensive. Again, use the tools to compare these options.

Sigma 24-35mm Art Lens Top View with Hood

Summary

If I compiled the camera gear dream list of thousands of professional and serious amateur photographers, I'm sure that the "zoom lens wider than f/2.8" line item would bubble up to near the top of the list. I know that I have long wanted to see such a lens. Kudos to Sigma for doing what no other company has done to date. I hope that this lens is successful and leads to more f/2 zoom options in the future.

Do wide angle focal lengths work for some of your applications? Need apertures wider than f/2.8 to stop action in low light, to allow handholding in low light and to create a stronger, subject-isolating background blur? Need a range of focal lengths available at your fingertips without a lens change? The Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art Lens could become a most-frequently-used member of your kit.

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