Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens Review – Wedding Photographer

Here is my honest review of the Sigma 20 mm f1/1.4 Art Lens. This is a wedding photography review of the lens. The results: I’d rate the lens a 3 out 5 stars. It’s a really amazing prime lens with the most awesome effective wide range.
However, the Sigma 20 mm f1/1.4 Art Lens doesn’t check all the ticks in my boxes. Read on and I’ll tell you why?
Before we delve into the intricacies of the glass, here’s some background. I tested the Sigma 20 mm with a canon 70D body.
I picked this combination for two reasons. The effective focal length of the barrel on a cropped sensor camera would be 20 mm × 1.6 = 32mm which I felt was better than a 50mm lens, especially for wedding photography. Secondly, the lens would cause slight vignetting, chromatic aberration and softness around the edges on a full frame camera. And let’s face it, 20 mm is too wide a range to be practical for any kind of event. Leave alone a wedding. The horizontal line distortion will be quite severe as well which will make the edges too distorted and rather unusable.  So there was no point testing it out with the Canon 5D.

Image Quality

The lens is impeccable. I dare not complain! Compared to a normal kit lens, the quality of the images is crystal. The noise levels, even at low light, were well above my expectations. A noise removal filter in post production could easily fix the slightly underexposed and noisy images as well. The issue though is that we can’t compare it to a normal kit lens. At this price point, one would want to compare it to a luxury Canon Lens and the Lens does go head to head with my typical set of Canon L lenses, but not as good.

Focal Length

The effective 32mm focal length or focal range is a dream to work with. This is the best feature of this lens. Enough to capture a bunch of people, anywhere from groups of three to six folks in a frame effortlessly, without having to get too close or step back too far either. Remember, with a prime lens, the photographer would need to move in since there isn’t a zoom on the glass. Many times during a wedding reception or family event, a telephoto 70mm to 200mm lens could be overkill on a cropped sensor camera. You keep having to step back, this can be lousy for open air outdoor events at night, especially if you’re shooting in the dark and depend on speed lights. After shifting a couple of lenses, I found that my photographers preferred the Sigma 20 mm especially for its focal range and more points for being a prime lens.

Aperture and bokeh (shallow depth of field)

The Sigma 20 mm f1/1.4 sounds like a great recipe for some fancy bokeh. The truth is that most professionals don’t really want that much of a blurred separation between the point of focus and the background. The good news is that the shallow depth of field is not that severe unless the subject is really close to the lens. Typically we shoot around f1/3 to f1/4. We never really open up the aperture to f1/4. In case there’s low light we usually add more light or bounce a speed-light. The glass also created a lovely bokeh with 9 and 18 side geometrical shapes that give the bokeh a luxury lens look, rather than circular bokeh that you would get on a kit lens.

Distortion and Chromatic aberration.

With most of our practical tests on the field. The Sigma 20 mm f1/4 is a dream to work with. I hardly noticed much chromatic aberration during post processing. And the distortion was not irrecoverable or all that “fish eye” even. Moreover, at higher f-stops, flares were well under control and didn’t create any major haze on the image. The quality of the glass is truely premium.

Application

The 32 mm focal range is very close to the 35mm film range. This view should be close to getting some cinematic looking images. It would be great for street photography, wedding photography and corporate or family events. For sceneries, the lens would still be usable but you might want to go for something a little more wider, especially if you’re using a camera with a cropped sensor.

Why wouldn’t I purchase this lens?

Typically there are a lot of other lenses in the similar focal length range that are available at a fraction of the cost of the Sigma Art lenses. Although the 20mm is a piece of very well crafted glass; it doesn’t come very close to the canon luxury lenses. The build quality is pristine but still seems a tad bit delicate which isn’t ideal for run and gun type of work especially when you share lenses with your crew. The focusing is not the fastest I have seen either. There’s definitely a bit of hunting for focus in low light. In totality the lens will be on my wishlist, one of my dream lenses to have; but at the present price point, I don’t see enough value to divulge.
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