Mike Kobal

April 11, 2013

35mm f1.4: a classic rules again:Sigma, Rokinon compared: part one

shot wide open at f1.4

After unpacking it, I was thoroughly impressed with the finish and feel, unprecedented for a Sigma lens, I had to look twice to make sure they didn’t send a Zeiss ;) more
after the break

First thing I did was set the aperture to 1.4, mount it on the D800E and headed out to shoot wide open at different distances from close to far away, covering a practical range appropriate for 1.4 – all shots below where shot wide open-click on the image to check out the full size files



Why do we lust after 1.4 lenses? A relict desire from the analog days when ISO 400 was the 3200 of today, back then it gave us a brighter viewfinder image and made manual focusing a lot easier. Today, a brighter viewfinder is nice but not necessary because we mostly have state of the art af in DSLR’s and EVF’s in mirrorless cameras.



Today we are looking for bokeh. Focusing a FF lens at 1.4, even a standard wide angle like the 35mm and nailing it, isn’t as easy as one would expect. Phase detection approximates the distance, which, in most cases works out fine, except when shooting wide open at 1.4, even the smallest focusing errors will produce blurry results. The slightest camera or subject movement can shift focus to the ears instead of the eyes.



The Sigma 35mm f1.4: The copy I received for testing only needed a -5 focus calibration adjustment and this value didn’t change throughout the focusing range, I was able to nail focus at every distance wide open. Very fast and unprecedented af accuracy at 1.4. AFAIC, a first for Sigma. My experience with the 50mm 1.4 a while back was quite the opposite.
The front element does not rotate and internal focus keeps the physical size of the lens constant.



I am thoroughly impressed with this lens, absolutely incredible already wide open, really the best aside a 6k Leica lens.

If I would have to pick only one standard/universal lens for my D800e (or any high end FF), this one would be it!
You can get the Sigma 35mm 1.4 in Nikon mount, in Canon mount and in Sony Alpha mount.

Sigma 35mm mounted on the D800E:




Rokinon 35mm mounted on the D800e



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Filed under: Gear Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — mike.kobal @ 9:16 am


  1. Amazing sharpnes and colors.

    Comment by John Valliant — April 11, 2013 @ 11:12 am

  2. the big issue for me with the Rokinon 35mm is that even without the AF it is huge , almost, even a bit bigger than the Nikon and almost reaching to the size of the Zeiss 35mmf1.4,which I sold because of the annoyingly huge barrel size.

    I personally prefer the Zeiss 35mmf2ZF2 over any of the off brand 35mm f1.4 lenses, maybe it’s just me , though.

    Comment by derek — April 11, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

  3. I forgot to say I loved all your photos here especially the boys, it is a very cool shot!
    and thanks a lot for your time.

    Comment by derek — April 11, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

  4. Hi Mike, just read your review on the Sigma 35mm 1.4. Thanks. Could you please tell me briefly what your simple technique is for assessing front/back focus on a lens like that, and fine tuning the AF. Just buying a D600 next week – my first camera that can do this. Thanks, Steve.

    Comment by Steve Greig — April 11, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

  5. Hi Steve, I use a large ruler and put a narrow piece of electric tape on it, similar to this device, just home made, I usually check it for the distance most common for my subjects. On a precision lens like the Sigma it was easy, after that, everything was always tack sharp. It could be problematic with cheaper zooms, when the calibration for the wide and tele vary.

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 11, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

  6. thanks Derek! I agree about the size, both lenses are big and heavy. I liked the Zeiss also until I tried the Sigma, seriously, if you have the chance, go to a store and mount it and take a few snaps.

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 11, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

  7. Thanks John, this lens totally rocks.

    Comment by mike.kobal — April 11, 2013 @ 8:50 pm

  8. Thanks Mike for that AF calibration :)

    Comment by Steve Greig — April 11, 2013 @ 10:47 pm

  9. The Sigma looks good.

    A note about the 400 film being 3200 of today. On medium format BW film you can shoot ISO 3200 film just fine and with grain about the same as noise on 2008 era DSLRs RAW file at the same ISO.

    Comment by Mike — May 15, 2013 @ 11:15 pm

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