I have to admit that I am a gear snob, I have always bought Nikkor lenses to go along with my Nikon D800, and when I decided to get a smaller second body, I bought a Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon lenses and a couple of Carl Zeiss Touit lenses to go with the camera. My purchasing preference probably started when I purchased a positively reviewed Tamron 18-270 mm lens, which had major issues with its autofocus, which was sent back for repair under warranty, upon its return, I traded it in as I could not trust it to do the job. So ended my first flirtation with third party lenses, that was until Sigma brought out their new line of ART series lenses starting with the 35mm f1.4 which was followed by the 50mm f1.4. Both lenses had great reviews worldwide, especially the 50mm. My interest was finally piqued when the 24mm f1.4 came out earlier this year, it is the kind of focal length I would use for both street and long exposure photography.
I had an upcoming trip to Lisbon booked and made contact with Ray Fitchett from Sigma Imaging UK and discussed the possibility of Sigma lending me these 3 lenses for my trip. Happily, Ray agreed and with a mixture of anticipation and dread I only took the 3 lenses along with my Nikon D800 along with me for the trip.
This is not a technical review, as there are plenty of those and I am far from a technical kind of person. This review is based on my personal experience with the lenses and how well they delivered for my shooting style, so if you are expecting comparison shots of brick walls then I must apologise as you won't find one.
I was very impressed with how the lenses felt, they felt dense and weighty, though they are not full metal construction, the polycarbonate exterior really felt solid and not at all plasticky. All have metal lens mount which seems to fit my camera perfectly with no play at all. There is no weather resistant gasket, which may deter some people, but I have been advised that these lenses have been extensively tested in extreme conditions and have never failed.
Mated to a D800 with or without a battery grip, all 3 lenses felt great with good balance. Everything from changing lenses on the street, putting on and taking off the lens hoods and manual focusing was as I expected from a quality lens, things just felt right. The AF/MF switch needs a positive firm movement, which is fine with me, as normally carry my camera by my side and the last thing I want was for it to switch inadvertently.
Autofocusing with the D800 was a snap, which is essential for my street work. I can be walking along, see a shot and I need to bring up the camera, frame and focus in a second, and none of the lenses disappointed. Shooting at f1.4 is a challenge, even at 24mm the depth of field is quite narrow.
I really love the contrasty images that these lenses produced, which really impressed me. Lightroom handled the files easily and there was very little lens correction needed. I did not notice any major distortion, vignetting or chromatic aberration that wasn't corrected automatically by Lightroom.
All 3 ART series lenses were a pleasure to use, replicating the images I had visualised in my mind. They are all extremely fast lenses which would be suitable for low light and artistic use of varying depth of field. I would happily recommend them all to anyone who wants to use quality fast primes for their work, they all compete favorably with their Nikon counterparts at a fraction of the price.
On a personal note, the 24mm was my favourite, it was the perfect versatile prime that I thought it would be, just as comfortable shooting street as well as long exposure architecture/landscapes. This will be on the top of my shopping list.