In September Sigma shocked the world with not only their announcement of the NEW Sigma 500F4 Sports, on top of the NEW Sigma 85F1.4 Art, but also the announcement of the NEW Sigma 12-24F4. Why is this a big deal? Well as usual Sigma has followed the lead of the competition in Canon and Nikon who have a 11-24F4 and 14-24F2.8 respectively. Wide angle optics have always known to be difficult to product which is why most previous offerings from all companies about 10 years ago were either only ok, or mediocre at best. Enter 2007 when Nikon announced they had achieved optical excellence with their at the time new 14-24F2.8. Nobody saw it coming. Neither Canon or Sigma had anything that could compare (Canon’s widest zoom was a 16-35F2.8 and Sigma had a 12-24F4.5-F5.6 but as 10 year old Sigmas go it couldn’t compare to the Nikon at the time). Obviously Sigma and Canon weren’t going to sit and take it so Canon released their 11-24F4 last year with a staggering $2800 price tag ($3300 at launch). Now it’s Sigma’s turn to offer their version of the wide angle zoom and they elected to go with a 12-24F4; closely related to the 12-24 they previously had, but optically about a thousand times nicer than the previous version.
As usual I’ll mention that I am not being paid by Sigma or Roberts Camera to write this review. Sigma was gracious enough to send me this lens to give them feedback and to let the world know what I think, and Roberts Camera Rental department was kind enough to loan me a 1Dx to write this review with.
With that out of the way I’d like to point out a handful of qualities about Sigma’s NEW 12-24F4 lens that make it stand out. First off is that there is very little vignette at F4. You can shoot wide open all day and have minimal darkening around the edges. There is a little bit of distortion as you can see by Joe’s arms in this photo below but it’s only a little bit of elongation at 12mm so GOSH. My Nikon 14-24 performs similarly but you have to consider that you are looking through a bubble element, and as far as distortion goes it’s easily within realm of expected results. An example of unacceptable results would be the results out of the original Sigma 12-24mm from 10 years ago or so. With the Sigma that I had about 10 years ago everything on the edges appeared to be moving at warp speed… While Joe’s arm in the below photo does appear a little long, it’s not blurred, or unsharp in any way.
(Canon 1Dx, 100ISO, NEW Sigma 12-24F4@12mm 1/80th@F4)
The lens Autofocuses really well, even when something is small in the frame like the goal marker in the end zone below. Yes, some of the autofocus performance is the camera, but in reality the lens is what is providing positive feedback to the camera and the AF module so regardless of how sensitive the whole system is in this ballet of electrons the lens is still what determines how much light gets there and what that light looks like. This is someplace that the NEW Sigma 12-24 really shines at $1600 because from what I could tell it was easily comparable to my Nikon 14-24 and the Sigma is normally $500 less (I say normally becuas at hte time of this writing we are about to head to black Friday where there are always crazy rebates and deals ect). The Nikon is a F2.8 vs the Sigma’s F4, but at that wide it’s relatively easy to hand hold in low light either way. With the $500 price difference as it comes to features it’s very easy to see the Nikon and Sigma as equals. The Sigma is 2mm wider which is where the extra mm helps, and the Nikon is F2.8 I personally prefer F2.8 but then again I already own the Nikon, and with today’s magical space camera technology and photon gathering super sensors the $1600 for the Sigma 12-24 makes itself a very strong argument. What can you buy with an extra $500? You could get a Nikon WT-5 or WT-6 for example. Or you could get yourself a couple of 6TB hard drives. Or you can take your significant other away for the weekend. I digress. Where things really lean in favor of the Sigma is when you bring Canon’s offering into the mix. Canon’s 11-24 is 1mm wider again on the end where each mm gives you the most bang for your buck. The Canon is also a F4, so I beg to ask this question: is the Canon 11-24mm’s extra 1mm of wideness worth the extra $1300? Is the Canon 11-24mm $13oo sharper than the Sigma? Are you really even going to consider this?
(Canon 1Dx, 160ISO, NEW Sigma 12-24F4@12mm . 1/5000th@F4)
If you are thinking about buying the Canon 11-24F4 do yourself a favor. Don’t. That’s not to say that Canon doesn’t make good glass, because they make some of the best glass. That’s saying that their 11-24 is what I consider to be unacceptably expensive. That’s totally my opinion and some of you could say you’ll take two for that price which is fine. That’s how opinion works. If I were you, I’d take that $2800 and get yourself a Sigma 12-24F4 AND a Canon 100-400F4.5-F5.6. Ok so maybe those two combined is a hair more than the $2800 for the Canon but it’s close and as I mentioned before, rebates are coming soon. Actually the Canon’s $2800 is already with a rebate so that could be even closer! Plus everybody I know who has the Canon 100-400 says it’s absolutely amazing, and these are full time Pros, not soccer moms shooting their kids. These are friends who work at USA Today and Getty Images that have used it to shoot football. It’s that good. These are all a much better use of all that money if you ask me.
(Canon 1Dx, 160ISO, NEW Sigma 12-24mmF4@12mm. 1/250th@F4)
Hands down the Sigma 12-24F4 is a beautiful piece of glass, especially for the $1599 asking point. In reality the lens is just now getting out of pre-order status. That means that if trends hold true, the price of the lens will drop in a few months with things like rebates and ect making it an even better deal. I’ll be totally honest here and say that if anything ever happened to my Nikon 14-24 I’d consider jumping into the Sigma without a second thought and that’s not because they have been kind enough to send me lenses to demo; my NPS membership would allow me that if I ever wanted it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. It’s because if you ask me Sigma is gunning for Nikon and Canon in terms of the quality end of it and it really shows. Not shows in a its kind of close kind of way, it shows in a 10 years ago I had sigma lenses I would have paid to get rid of and now I’m selling old Nikon glass to replace with NEW Sigma lenses. Sounds to me like they are succeeding. In fact my 85F1.4 Sigma is on its way as I type this and my Nikon 85F1.4D is headed onto the shelf for a nap before likely heading to the world of a friends camera bag, Ebay, or the Roberts Camera used department.
(Canon 1Dx, 2500ISO, NEW Sigma 12-24F4@14mm. 1/200th@F22)
So there you have it. In the real world the Sigma 12-24F4 handled itself with all the gusto as it’s Nikon or Canon Counterparts would at an incredibly attractive price point. We live in a golden age of photography today and it’s awesome to see such incredible options come out of all manufacturers. I have a friend that mentioned at one point he did not like some of the Sigma offerings because they were not all weather sealed, but when I asked the Sigma rep about this a few weeks ago at the Roberts Camera Anniversary sale I was informed that Sigma is starting to weather seal ALL of their lenses including previously released lenses like their original 35mm Art and 50mm Art. I’m not exactly sure when that change takes affect, but I would assume any lens you buy new starting soon will be weather sealed whether it is the Art, Contemporary or Sports. All the more reason to start looking at Sigma as a high end option in the world of glass as it comes to your photography whether for fun or for business. As always if you’re looking, why not look at Roberts? More soon.