Sigma @ CP+ 2017: Hands-on with their new DSLR lenses
posted Friday, February 24, 2017 at 2:50 AM EDT
Having announced four new lenses ahead of the CP+ trade show in Yokohama, Japan, I was able to get some brief hands-on time with all four new lenses, including the all-new 14mm f/1.8 Art prime lens.
Starting with the 14mm, as mentioned in our earlier coverage, this lens is currently the world's only ultra-wide-angle f/1.8 lens, and if our earlier reviews of Sigma's Art series lenses are anything to go by, this 14mm is likely to be a top performer. We'll need to get one of these in the lab to know for sure, but for now, in the hand at least, this is one impressive feeling lens.
Like other ultra-wide angle lenses, the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art features a very large, bulbous front element. Not only does this prevent the use of any screw-on filters (the lens also has a built-in hood, as well), it also makes the lens quite front heavy. Mounting the lens to Canon 6D body, the combo certainly requires a solid hold, as it feels a little off-balance, but not extremely so. Like other Global Vision lenses, the 14mm f/1.8 feels incredibly solid and very well built, with high-quality construction using Sigma's Thermally Stable Composite material and a very smooth focusing ring. The lens is also fully weather-sealed, including a gasket around the lens mount.
The next lens I tried was the revamped 24-70mm f/2.8 Art lens, the only lens of the bunch that's not a completely new design. A staple lens of Sigma's lineup, this updated 24-70mm zoom lens is a classic workhorse lens, but features some nice improvements to operability as well as featuring built-in image stabilization -- something not all major manufacturers offer for the 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses.
In the hand, the build quality, again, feels excellent. I was surprised, that while the lens is very wide, it's surprisingly small and lightweight, despite the zoom design and constant f/2.8 aperture. It definitely feels much more compact and less bulky overall compared to the classic 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses from the big DSLR lens makers. Zooming action is extremely smooth and doesn't require a lot of effort to rotate, which is very nice. Also, zooming in to 70mm also doesn't extend out by very much, which makes it nice and balanced on the camera, no matter the focal length.
Speaking of zooming... While talking with Takuma Wakamatsu, Sigma's Product Manager for Cine Lenses, and the one who also oversaw the development of these four new lenses, he pointed out that the new 24-70mm's zoom direction is opposite to that of their 24-105mm f/4 Art zoom, for example. The new 24-70mm Art lens zooms in the same direction as Canon zoom lenses, while the 24-105mm Art lenses mimics Nikon's zooming direction. Takuma Wakamatsu says this was in response to videographers, who are more accustomed to zooming in to telephoto by rotating a zoom ring counterclockwise. The new 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary also follows this same zoom direction, and Wakamatsu states that Sigma has adopted this zoom direction as a standard, so expect future lenses to follow the same pattern.
Sigma's new "light bazooka," the 100-400mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary, is yet another highly versatile telephoto zoom lens, following in the footsteps of the pair of 150-600mm lenses. Unlike both the Sport and Contemporary 150-600mm lenses, which were more professional or enthusiast-oriented, the new 100-400mm aims to be a more consumer-level lens.
According the Wakamatsu, the lens is designed for the "soccer mom" (and dad, too, I suppose!) who want a lightweight and compact lenses to capture sports and action photos of their children from the sidelines, for example. Despite the consumer focus, this lens feels very well built just like other Sigma lenses, as I had expected, and is indeed quite small for such a versatile zoom range; much more compact than the Canon 100-400mm, for instance.
Another interesting technical tidbit described to me by Takuma Wakamatsu and Akiko Adachi, Chief Clerk, Marketing Division, is the unique dual zooming mechanism. The 100-400mm allows for both a rotating zoom ring as well as push-pull zooming. The removable lens hood has a special indentation around the base to act as a grip to help push or pull the lens barrel in and out. Sigma says the zoom mechanism of the lens was specifically designed to allow for this dual functionality. In other words, pushing or pulling the lens barrel in and out quickly will not damage it. The feel of the zooming action is very pleasant and doesn't take much effort to zoom, either by rotating the zoom ring or using the push-pull method.
It's also worth pointing out that unlike the 150-600mm lenses, the new 100-400mm does not have a tripod foot or a tripod socket. Despite being fairly long, the lenses was designed to used handheld; another factor that speaks to the more consumer nature of this lens design. The lens overall is not very heavy, but should you want to use a tripod, a sturdy tripod head would be recommended.
Lastly, I tried out the new 135mm f/1.8 Art lens, a classic portrait focal length. This lens is big and bright, but like the new 24-70mm, it's not as heavy as I would expect for such a physically large lens with that bright an aperture. It's certainly not compact, though; it's very girthy (like the 24-70, in fact) and can be quite long when you snap on the lens hood! As expected, this Global Vision lens feels amazing -- very solidly built, with a buttery-smooth focusing ring.
That about wraps up my hands-on look at these new lenses. It's worth noting that I was not able to capture any photos with the new lenses or nor was I really able to make any substantial assessment on autofocusing speed -- though all lenses seemed to acquire focus and make focusing changes very quickly when mounted to a Canon 6D. We'll anxiously await our review copies to see how they truly perform!