Sigma 30mm f/1.4 ART is the first lens belonging to one of the tree new series from Sigma (Art, Sports, Contemporary), which I’ve had the chance to use more extensively. After a month of use, many photos and two comparisons in regards to bokeh and sharpness with the 30mm f/1.4 EX, I find that I have to revise some of my earlier statements, published in the blog post “The “old” Sigma 30mm f1.4 EX HSM should not be put on the scrap heap”. But more on that later. 🙂
This is what the 30s look side-by-side.
The ART is longer by a few millimeters, but also narrower and has a small glass element up front.
Build quality and handling
Sigma hasn’t changed the handling of the ART at all. Just like the 30mm f/1.4 EX, it sits comfortably in the hand. The surface is just as slip-proof, despite the smooth, new finish. I like the design, look and feel of the new 30mm a lot more, the lens feels like a premium product. In my opinion, Sigma has managed to pretty up the lens, without sacrificing functionality and handling.
The mount is made out of metal, the focusing ring turns smoothly and evenly and offers moderate resistance, the AF/MF switch clicks firmly into place and the lens barrel feels solid. The 30mm ART is one of the most beautiful and best built lenses I have ever held in my hand.
With the new lens design of the ART Sigma has managed to improve sharpness considerably. The new standard prime is very sharp straight from max. aperture and much sharper than the EX through the entire aperture range, in the middle as well as toward the edges. The bokeh of the two lenses looks very similar. Up to f/2.8 the EX has a slight lead, above f/2.8 ART takes over. Please follow the links to view bokeh and sharpness comparison tests. All images are available in full resolution (15 Megapixel) on Flickr.
In the blog post “The “old” Sigma 30mm f1.4 EX HSM should not be put on the scrap heap” I’ve expressed the opinion, that the 30mm EX, although less sharp than both 30mm ART and 35mm ART, is highly recommended due to its beautiful image rendition. The 30mm f/1.4 ART renders images in a similar way, while being considerably sharper. The only aspect left in favour of the EX is its lower price.
The AF of the ART is a bit slower than the one on the EX, in my experience however, it is considerably more accurate. Especially around the closest focusing distance it eases up, and takes its time, to ensure that it has locked on correctly. At least that’s the way AF works on my SD1 Merrill, if you are using a body made by another manufacturer your millage may vary.
The 30mm f/1.4 ART is a worthy successor to the EX. Despite far better resoling power, this lens maintains the lovely image rendition and smooth bokeh of its predecessor. Build quality is very good, and the new finish both elegant and subtle, while not being a fingerprint magnet. Just like the EX it sits comfortably and securely in the hand. The ART is the superior lens across the board. The only thing left in favour of the EX, is its price.
You can view additional images here: