First Impression: Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

First Impression: Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens

The Sigma Art series lenses have already received a lot of praises from the photographer community.  This is because of its affordable and competitive price point, yet still having an extremely high-quality optics.  In fact, Papa Bear has been a big fan of the Art series since January last year when Sigma released the 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art.  PB read numbers of raving pre-release reviews and was so impressed that he ended up with a pre-order of the lens at B&H.  The lens did not disappoint and became one of PB’s most favorites in the arsenal.  Then on October 16th, Sigma launched the world’s fastest full-frame ultra-wide-angle prime lens – the Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art.   The company touts its advanced optical design capability which allow them to  build the lens that has minimal distortion, chromatic aberration, and sagittal coma flare.   It did not take long for PB to hit the pre-order button after the announcement.  B&H shipped the item early in the Thanksgiving week and PB had his paws on this shiny new lens on the Black Friday.

This review is by no mean a scientific experiment nor measurement. It is actually quite subjective based on PB’s first impression on the lens.  PB won’t bore you with all the specs.  However, if you ever need them, visit the Sigma product page for more information.

The first thing PB noticed when unboxing the Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art was the weight.  At 33.5 oz (950 grams), the lens is heavy.  It is a bit larger than its cousin, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art.  The front element is bulbous and therefore, does not support front-thread filter system.  The lens has built-in petal shape lens shade which help block stray light sources and protect the lens from minor bumps.  The lens also does not have weather sealing so PB has to be mindful when taking this lens out under inclement weather conditions.

Since Mama Bear’s sister was in town for the weekend, the Bears decided to take her out to San Francisco Ferry Building for a walk.  Of course, PB took the lens along for a test ride too.

Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art @ San Francisco Ferry Building

First stop was at the Far West Fungi to check out fresh mushrooms in season.

Hmmm, white truffle!

And of course, black truffles taken at F1.4

Short Focus Throw – 100% crop of the above image. The Sony a7R II couples with Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art can resolve pretty amazing details. Although the focus throw is quite short, so trying to focus when shooting handheld at F1.4 can be tough. A little twist and whoops, you just go past the focal point.

The focus ring is wide and easy to grip. Focusing is smooth and has no creep. There are hard stops at both ends of the focus range.

Barrel Distortion – there is a slight barrel distortion that is noticeable. However this shoud be easy to correct in post processing.

The bustling hallway of the San Francisco Ferry Building

It is hard to see from the small images but the Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art offers exceptional image quality.  The pictures are extremely sharp and contrasty overall.    Micro-contrast is excellent and allows very fine details to come through.

The Bears walked over to Cowgirl Creamery shop next to test and buy some cheeses home.  Oh by the way, they have a tasty earl grey panna cotta!

Here is another 100% crop at F1.4.

Bokeh – this is probably the most subjective part. PB found the blurred background to be nice, soft, silky and pleasing to look at. There are some distortions to the out-of-focus light sources though especially near the corners and edges of the frame. Below is the 100% crop from the image above at the top edge of the picture.

What does Papa Bear Think?

Papa Bear loves it!  The Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art is similar in size and weight to its sibling 50mm Art lens, so PB felt at home right away.  The build quality is solid as you would expect from the premium product line. PB already has high expectation for this lens before its arrival, and it delivers extremely well.  Due to the workload and the weather has not been cooperating, so far PB has no chance to test the coma and astigmatism characteristics yet.  However, this lens will be the main workhorse for nightscape and wide-field astrophotography works, PB is looking forward to testing it out very soon so stay tuned for future updates.

The Goods:

  • Superb optical quality – this is an incredibly sharp lens even at its widest opening
  • Solid build quality
  • Large F1.4 aperture – no other lenses in the market offer this yet.  This should be a great lens for night photography and astrophotography.
  • Build-in lens shade – take the lens cap off and you are good to go.

The Bads:

  • Heavy and bulky
  • No front thread for screw-on filter due to the bulbous front element.  Landscape photographers use many filters especially the polarizer and the ND, so this is a bit of a letdown.  This also means PB can’t use existing Lee filter system.
  • No weather sealing

The Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens has an affordable price tag of $899.  The value you can get from this lens is very high considering the remarkable image quality you can get when pairing it with a high-resolution camera like the Sony a7R II.

DxO also published its testing and score for the Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art if you are interested in that sort of things.  The lens receives a DxOMark Score of 40 when mounted on Canon 5Ds R body.

Related Equipments

  • Sigma 20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art | $899 | Available at Adorama, Amazon
  • Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art | $949 | Available at Adorama, Amazon
  • Sony a7R II Full Frame Mirrorless Body | $3,198 | Available at Adorama, Amazon
  • Metabones Smart Adapter Mark IV for Canon EF lens to Sony E-Mount Camera | $399 | Available at Adorama, Amazon

Location – San Francisco Ferry Building

Address: Ferry Building Marketplace, One Ferry Building, San Francisco, California 94111



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