The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is my third full frame compatible Art lens, and my fifth overall, and slowly but surely I’m having trouble keeping them apart. That is not only because of the very similar appearance of the DG Art lenses (24/1.4, 35/1.4 und 50/1.4), but also because of their very good image quality.
Build quality and handling
In the past, which is to say before “Global Vision”, there were large differences between various Sigma lenses. Since the introduction of the A/S/C series the lens manufacturer is relying on identical materials and consistent design. The 24mm f/1.4 Art is for the most part, just like all of its siblings, made of a synthetic material called „Thermally Stable Composite“ (TSC). Even though it is synthetic, it is impossible to mistake this material for cheap plastic, given how similar it is to high-grade steel in terms of look and feel. The resemblance is astonishing, it even feels cold to the touch. It is almost as cold as the lens mount, which is truly made of metal.
The focus ring rotates smoothly and has a throw of about 100°. It is a bit tight, which is what I prefer to a focus ring with hardly any resistance, since it prevents shifting the focus by accident. The AF/MF switch is borrowed from the other Art lenses. It clicks firmly into position and offers enough resistance, so that it can’t be switched accidentally.
Just like the other Art lenses the 24/1.4 is large and heavy, feels, however, neither front-heavy nor back-heavy on the SD1 Merrill. On smaller DSLRs the weight distribution may look completely different, though.
Prior to the 24/1.4 I bought a 50/1.4 Art, which as you probably know is one of the best 50mm out there, and tested it thoroughly. I didn’t expect the 24/1.4 to be able to match the latter in terms of image quality and I wasn’t surprised to find out that it can’t. I haven’t compared the 24mm directly to the 35/1.4 Art and 50/1.4 Art, I however feel that it can’t quite keep up with its longer siblings. Don’t get me wrong, it has good image quality, I would even go so far to say that it is fully usable wide open, but the other two mentioned Art lenses are simply in a class of their own.
I’ve uploaded several photos including 100% crops, so that you can make your own mind about 24/1.4’s performance wide open. You can find additional full resolution images on Flickr.
By now I’m positive that Sigma not only uses the same AF/MF switch, but also the same AF motor for most of its Art lineup – the only exceptions being the 18-35/1.8 and 30/1.4. Even with lots of imagination one can hardly tell a difference in terms of autofocus performance and behavior between the 24/1.4, 35/1.4 and 50/1.4. This is not a bad thing, however, since the 24/1.4 just like the latter two focuses fast enough for my needs. It is audible while focusing, but not annoyingly loud by any means.
As a self-confessed standard prime fan I had a somewhat difficult time getting used to the focal length of the 24mm f/1.4 Art. It is without a doubt one of those lenses that grow on you, given enough time. The versatile 35mm equivalent focal length, excellent build quality, very good image quality and fast autofocusing are the ingredients which make the 24/1.4 Art an interesting and very good allround prime lens. That being said I can only recommend it to those APS-C photographers who absolutely need an aperture of f/1.4. All other APS-C users are, in my opinion, much better served by another Sigma lens, which is more versatile and has just as good image quality. Yes, you guessed it, I’m talking about the superb 18-35/1.8 Art. 😉
If you are a full frame photographer, however, I would recommend that you check this lens out. Given how good it performs on an APS-C sized sensor, with its smaller, more tightly packed pixels, it is bound to be even better on a full frame sensor. 😉