Photography is fun, and photography is more fun when the lens is little, light, and sharp. That's what the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens is all about.
For a prime lens, the f/3.5 aperture is not remarkable, but the image sharpness this lens delivers at f/3.5 is that. The 24mm focal length is useful, the metal design with gear-like rings looks and feels great, and this lens's low price is especially attractive.
How popular is the 24mm focal length? As I have shared in a few recent reviews, counting the number of lenses currently available in a focal length at B&H provides us some insight into that answer. There are a LOT of 24mm lenses.
The focal length range (or individual focal length for a prime lens) is a primary consideration for a lens purchase or selection for use. Focal length matters so much because it drives subject distance choices with perspective determined by those distances.
If I had to choose a single focal length for landscape photography, 24mm would be my choice. This focal length is quite wide and can allow an entire scene to remain in focus, but 24mm is not so wide that it complicates composition and not so wide that it makes distant details (such as mountains) tiny. A very high percentage of my landscape images have been captured at 24mm.
Architectural photography, large product photography, interior photography, birthday parties ... are just a few uses for 24mm. This focal length is a great one to leave mounted for documenting life in general.
Wedding and event photography often utilize a wide-angle lens for capturing the large scene, for environmental-type portraits, and for group portraits, including in tight spaces. Even groups of your largest subjects will fit in the frame.
Photojournalist's needs are often similar to those of a wedding photographer and can also make use of 24mm. Videographers often find the 24mm focal length an important option to have available.
While telephoto lenses are more frequently used for sports, a 24mm angle of view allows a very different perspective on these events and the participants. This focal length can be used to capture the big picture of the venue, the overhead shots of the athletes and their coaches being interviewed after the game, and, when access permits, full-body environmental action sports photos showing lots of venue in the background. Note that when used for action sports with a rapidly approaching subject, a 24mm angle of view makes the perfect pose and framing capture very challenging due to the subject rapidly changing size in the frame at short distances. I'll talk more about this lens's max aperture soon, but strong lighting is required when using this lens for fast-action photography.
The only moderately wide aperture also reduces the usefulness of this lens after dark, with the night sky being an otherwise great subject for 24mm.
A great feature of this lens is its extremely close minimum focus distance, which allows a strong perspective at this focal length.
To visualize where 24mm fits among other common focal lengths, I'll borrow a focal length range example from a zoom lens review.
The full list of 24mm uses is massive.
On an ASP-C/1.5x sensor format body, the 24mm focal length provides an angle of view similar to a 36mm lens on a full-frame sensor format body. This angle of view is essentially the same as 35mm and useful for the same applications as this extremely popular modestly wide-angle focal length. Those uses coincide with many 24mm focal length uses with slightly tighter framing or slightly longer perspective for the same framing being the difference. The 35mm angle of view shifts ideal portraiture use from environmental to full body.
For a 24mm prime lens, f/3.5 is a very narrow max aperture opening. I can't think of a 24mm prime lens with a narrower max aperture (except this unique one), and most major lens manufacturers offer a 24mm lens with an f/1.4 aperture. Even most 24mm-capable zoom lenses open to at least f/4 or f/3.5.
A narrower aperture permits a lower amount of light to reach the imaging sensor. Less light means higher, noisier ISO settings are required to enable action (subject and camera) stopping shutter speeds. A 24mm f/3.5 lens is often marginal for handheld indoor use under average ambient light without image stabilization or ultra-high ISO settings.
Another advantage of a wide aperture lens is the background blur it can create. This lens does not have that advantage over most other 24mm-enabled lenses. In addition, the 24mm focal length renders the background details small and with less blur magnification.
Here is a look at the widest aperture this lens avails.
At a moderately close working distance, the background objects remain easily recognizable at f/3.5. Still, the background objects are blurry enough to show modest separation from the subject.
Advantaging this lens in regards to background blur is the extremely close minimum focusing distance it avails. These examples illustrate the maximum blur this lens can create when focused to its minimum distance:
In these examples, the background blur becomes relatively strong. Of course, to obtain this level of blur, the subject must accommodate the close perspective.
This lens's moderately wide aperture takes away one reason for selecting a prime lens over a zoom lens. However, many good reasons for selecting this lens remain. The smaller aperture advantages include smaller size, lighter weight, and lower cost, advantages directly associated with smaller lens element size. This lens has all of those features, and the fun factor for this little lens is very high.
While discussing the aperture, it should be noted that this lens features a 1/3-stop-clicked aperture ring that enables a manually-selected aperture. With the ring in the A (Auto) position, the camera controls the aperture setting, while all other ring settings electronically force the aperture to the chosen opening.
Aside from a slightly more complicated design, I find inadvertent aperture changes the primary disadvantage of an aperture ring. Incorporating a lock for this ring would eliminate that issue, and learning to not grasp the aperture ring when mounting the camera reduces the issue.
The Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens is not optically stabilized. Still, Sony takes care of that omission with Steady Shot or IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) in their mirrorless cameras. In addition to reducing camera shake, the stabilized imaging sensor provides a still viewfinder image, enabling careful composition. Sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.
With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS, a slight impediment to working quickly, going from tripod to handholding, for example.
Good sharpness, a combination of contrast and resolution, is a highly-desired lens feature, and everyone wants a lens to be sharp wide open. However, more typical is that a lens is not as sharp at its widest aperture as it is stopped down one or two stops. When a lens has a relatively narrow max aperture, stopping down to gain sharp imagery leaves a relatively small working set of apertures before diffraction-caused softening becoming apparent.
Fortunately, the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens turns in excellent sharpness across the full-frame image circle at f/3.5. Only a slight contrast improvement is realized at f/4, and none is needed. This is an impressive performance.
Below you will find sets of 100% resolution center of the frame crops captured in uncompressed RAW format using a Sony a7R III. The images were processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method with the sharpening amount set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.
The f/3.5 example is outstanding, and including the f/4.0 result is superfluous.
Focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA), often shows in this comparison and is not an issue with this lens (many lenses now correct for it).
Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme top-right corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame.
Especially for a 24mm extreme corner, these results are impressive. The clearing vignetting improves contrast at the narrower apertures, but the resolution at f/3.5 is excellent.
Corner sharpness does not always matter, but it does matter for many disciplines, including landscape and architecture photography, two well-suited uses for this lens. This lens checks the corner sharpness box.
When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings. The about-3.5-stops of wide-open shading this lens produces are obvious and very strong for the f/3.5 aperture. Just-over 2.5-stops of shading remain in the f/5.6 periphery, and only minor improvement is seen throughout the balance of the available aperture range. The strong vignetting is a weakness of this lens design.
APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the just-over one-stop of shading showing at f/3.5 may be visible in some images, especially those with a solid color (such as a blue sky) showing in the corners.
One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern showing in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.
The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.
With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better not to have this aberration in the first place. Color misalignment can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a worst-case example. This is a 100% crop from the extreme top left corner of an a7R III frame showing diagonal black and white lines.
There should only be black and white colors in these images, with the additional colors in this sample indicating a mild amount of lateral CA.
A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.
In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.
The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects.
The color blur seen above is relatively strong for the respective apertures.
Bright light reflecting off of lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes-interesting, usually destructive artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare in an image are variable, dependant on the position and nature of the light source (or sources), selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quantity and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. Sigma utilizes Super Multi-Layer Coating to combat flare, and the low 10-element count is additionally helpful in this regard. Even at f/16 with the sun in the corner of the frame, very minimal flare effects are seen for an excellent performance.
Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes very challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can be quite destructive to image quality.
Two lens aberrations are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either meridional (radiating from the center of the image) or sagittal (perpendicular to meridional). Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.
The image below is a 100% crop taken from the top-right corner of an a7R III frame.
The brightest stars are showing noticeable stretching in this sample.
With only a single focal length to be designed for, prime lenses often have low amounts of geometric distortion. Still, the 24mm f/3.5 DN lens shows moderate pincushion distortion.
Most modern lenses have lens correction profiles available (including in-camera), and distortion can easily be removed using these. However, distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level as some portion of the image must be stretched or the overall dimensions reduced.
As seen earlier in the review, the amount of blur a lens can produce is easy to show, and wide-angle lenses are disadvantaged in this regard. Assessing the quality is more challenging due to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes. Here are some f/11 (for diaphragm blade interaction) examples.
The f/11 example is a 100% crop showing defocused highlights looking nice, though the edges are somewhat squared off despite the rounded-designated diaphragm only closed by three stops. The f/8 examples are full images reduced in size and also looking nice.
Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round, and that is the shape seen here. This sample is an upper-left quadrant reduced in size.
As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.
With a 7-blade count diaphragm, point light sources captured with a narrow aperture setting and showing a sunstar effect will have 14 points. In general, the more a lens is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. A mid-sized max aperture lens does not typically produce the biggest or best-shaped sunstars. In this case, the Sigma creates rather small stars with good shape.
The example above was captured at f/16.
Sigma describes the 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary Lens design as featuring "... the latest optical design optimized for mirrorless systems. This includes [three] high-precision, glass-molded aspherical elements created with advanced processing technology, and SLD glass and high refractive index glass elements. Together they make it possible to combine high optical performance with compactness." [Sigma]
Overall, especially for the price and size of this lens, the optical performance is very good. The strong vignetting and wide-open color blur are image quality downsides, but this lens's impressive sharpness is sure to please.
Driven by a stepping motor, the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens auto-focuses quite fast. The focusing is internal and practically silent.
Remember that (at least some) cameras, including the Sony a7R IV, defocus the image slightly before final focusing in AF-S mode even if the subject was initially in focus. This process adds significantly to the focus lock time. Autofocus speed is noticeably faster in AF-C mode.
With adequate contrast on the subject, this lens focuses in very dark environments but not nearly as dark as wider aperture alternatives.
I found this lens to consistently focus accurately, the number one requirement of an AF system.
FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) mode with the shutter release half-pressed or the AF-ON button pressed.
Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone very-critically framing while adjusting focus. With a very significant focus distance range, this lens produces a strong change in subject size through a full extent focus distance adjustment.
The Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens features a metal ribbed focus ring. Located immediately in front of the lens hood, the focus ring is easy to find. The hood being raised from the lens barrel slightly restricts access to the full size of this relatively slim ring.
Overall, this lens provides a high-quality manual focus experience, with a nice rotational resistance, no play, and, when turned slowly, a slow rate of adjustment that facilitates precise manual focusing. A full extent focus distance change requires 3290° of rotation when turning the focus ring slowly. Measuring 3290° of rotation, nine full turns plus 50°, requires multiple attempts as ADHD kicks after a few turns, and I lose track of the number. Fortunately, this focus ring has a variable adjustment rate based on the rotation speed. Turn quickly for a more reasonable 270° rotation to run the full distance range. I sometimes complain about variable adjustment rate implementations making rocking focus challenging, but this lens's transition between the rates is well implemented, making it easy to stay in slow speed when needed.
With a minimum focus distance of 4.25" (108mm), this lens generates an impressive 0.50x maximum magnification spec. This spec is quite remarkable, usually worthy of the "Macro" designation in the name.
|Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens||7.9"||(200mm)||0.23x|
|Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens||9.8"||(250mm)||0.19x|
|Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens||4.3"||(108mm)||0.50x|
|Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD Lens||4.7"||(119mm)||0.50x|
A subject measuring approximately 2.4 x 1.6" (61 x 41mm) fills the imaging sensor of a full-frame camera at this lens's minimum focus distance.
That this lens can focus so extremely close is a huge advantage, but the poor image quality produced at this distance diminishes the value of this feature. Only the center of the frame is sharp at the minimum focus distance. The image above was captured at f/3.5, and despite this significantly reduced size, the image periphery is obviously blurry. Stopping down pushes the sharpness outward, but not as much as you want it to. Use the selective focus for an interesting look, but don't use this lens to photograph your collectible stamps.
The minimum focus distance is calculated from the imaging sensor. After subtracting the camera and lens portion of that distance, only approximately 1.3" (33mm) of working distance remains without the hood installed. That is nearly the length of the hood, so forget about using the hood while working at the minimum focus distance. Lighting the subject within that small opening is a challenge to be considered. The stamps in the above image were lit by window light through a cloudy sky.
Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? An extension tube mounted behind this lens should provide a very significant decrease and increase — likely too much.
This lens is not compatible with Sigma teleconverters.
"All I series lenses have an all-metal construction. The precision-cut aluminum parts not only give the barrel a sleek, stylish finish, but provide superb durability, which improves the quality of the entire product. Metal materials are also used in internal structures that slide with the operation ring for added robustness. These high-precision components crafted with SIGMA’s cutting-edge metalworking technology are also used in SIGMA’s cine lens line-up for professional cinematographers and provides an exquisite feel to touch as well as sound effects, making photographers want to reach for it and play with it over and over again." [Sigma]
Interesting is that Sigma refers to this product line as the "I series", while the product name includes no mention of that designation. Regardless, the description is accurate. This is a well-built lens.
While many current lens designs feature smooth lens barrels, this one goes in the opposite direction, featuring gear-like ribs standing out on the focus and aperture rings, and the cold, solid feel of metal is included. This lens's look and feel are very different from many other lenses, but I like this look and feel.
This lens is compatible with lens-based optical correction when used on cameras supporting this feature.
The AF/MF switch clicks assuredly into position, and a white background shows when the switch is in the AF position.
From a weather sealing perspective, Sigma states, "Mount with dust- and splash-proof structure." There is a gasket seal on the mount of this lens, but the "Mount with" part leaves us wondering about the sealing of the rest of this lens.
The Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary is a compact lens and, despite the metal construction, it remains among the lightest in its class. Carrying this lens all day is effortless.
|Model||Weight oz(g)||Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)||Filter||Year|
|Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM Lens||9.9||(280)||2.7 x 2.2||(68.4 x 55.7)||58||2012|
|Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens||23.5||(665)||3.3 x 3.6||(85.0 x 90.2)||77||2015|
|Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens||7.9||(225)||2.5 x 2.0||(64.0 x 50.8)||55||2020|
|Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD Lens||7.6||(215)||2.9 x 2.5||(73.0 x 63.5)||67||2019|
For many more comparisons, review the complete Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.
Notable is that my finger joints clear the barrel of this lens when tightly gripping the Sony a7R III and IV.
Here is a visual comparison:
Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:
Note that the lenses are shown aligned on their lens mounts, with the differing lens cap heights not affecting the overall height in the comparison. The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.
Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens to other lenses.
A small lens gets narrow filter threads, and this lens's 55mm thread diameter is very small. Small filters are convenient to pack and inexpensive to purchase. The 55mm filter size is not especially popular, but very convenient is that Sigma used the same thread size in the 35mm and 45mm variants in this lens series.
The Sigma LH576-01 lens hood is included in the box. Designed to match the lens body, this modestly-petal'd hood has a solid, ribbed (inside and out) metal construction. Hoods built for prime lenses, vs. zoom lenses, can be tuned to a single focal length's angle of view, and this hood provides good protection from bright flare-inducing light and also from impact.
Sigma does not include a case in the box with this lens, but finding a case should not be challenging. Consider a Lowepro Lens Case or Think Tank Photo Lens Case Duo for a quality, affordable single-lens storage, transport, and carry solution.
Along with Sigma's standard (nice) center- and side-pinch lens cap, this lens ships with a very nice aluminum magnetic cap. Snapping into place, the magnetic cap is easy to install, and it stays firmly in place. Unfortunately, there is no provision to grip the center of the cap, and with inadequate space provided inside the hood to grasp the cap's edges, the hood must be removed to get the cap off. That was enough of a disadvantage for me to put the metal cap back in the box. If you leave your hood in the box (not recommended), you'll love the magnetic lens cap.
The larger metal cap under the smaller one is from the Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary Lens.
Sigma's name has become synonymous with good value, and Sigma's I-series lenses continue that legacy. This lens performs very well, is strongly constructed, incorporates a nice design, and is very affordable.
The "DN" in the name indicates that this lens was designed for short flange mirrorless cameras. The Sigma 35mm f/2 DG DN Contemporary Lens is available in Sony E-mount, compatible with both full-frame and APS-C sensor format models, and is also available in Leica L-mount.
"Made in Japan" craftsmanship. "Every single lens undergoes SIGMA's proprietary MTF measuring system 'A1'" Sigma provides a limited 1-year limited warranty, and Sigma USA provides a limited 3-year warranty extension.
The reviewed Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens was online-retail sourced.
Without considering the tilt-shift options, there are few 24mm prime lenses with narrow max apertures to consider as direct alternatives to this Sigma lens. The most similar lens is the Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD Lens.
The image sharpness produced by the Sigma 24mm C lens is hard to beat, but the image quality comparison shows the Tamron lens is a near match in this regard. The biggest difference seen in that comparison is the Tamron lens's dramatically stronger geometric distortion (Tamron expects lens correction to be enabled). The Sigma lens has modestly stronger peripheral shading at narrow apertures.
Despite the metal vs. engineering plastic exterior construction, the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens vs. Tamron 24mm f/2.8 Di III OSD M1:2 Lens comparison shows these two lenses having a similar weight. The Sigma lens is slightly smaller than the Tamron model, and the Sigma lens uses smaller, less common filters (55mm vs. 67mm). The Tamron lens has a 2/3 stop max aperture advantage and costs less than half as much as the Sigma lens.
Use the site's comparison tools to create additional comparisons.
Need a small, light, sharp, metal-built lens with a moderately wide aperture in the 24mm focal length? The Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens qualifies for that role.
We are in good times regarding lens performance, especially relative to size and price. For the overall quality and features of this lens, the price is very attractive.
As I said at the beginning of this review, photography is fun, and the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN Contemporary Lens has fun written all over it.
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