Michael Topham puts Sigma’s latest wideangle zoom to the test and finds out if it lives up to the promise of producing zero distortion
Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art review – Build and handling
Slip off the lens cap that’s a good, tight fit, and you’re greeted by a monstrous aspherical glass element. Its bulbous shape isn’t too dissimilar to Canon’s EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens and just like its peer, it features a fixed petal-shaped hood that shields the front element from glare and lens flare. This also doubles up as a way of protecting the large and expensive element from any scuffs that could be caused by knocking into something when the lens cap isn’t attached.
There’s no getting away from the fact that what we’re looking at is a fairly big and heavy lens, though it’s actually slightly shorter in length than the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM, Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD and Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 G AF-S ED. By combining such large glass elements in as many as 11 groups, you get the sense that Sigma has focused all its efforts on image quality and has prioritised this ahead of practical convenience. The first time you pick it up, you quickly realise just how heavy it is. Weighing 1,150g, it definitely lets you know when you’ve packed it as part of your kit, and it works out at 50g heavier than the mighty Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 SP Di VC USD.
From the rear of the lens looking forward, you’ll notice how the barrel tapers out slightly before you reach the zoom ring. Although it’s not the largest zoom ring we’ve come across in terms of how far it extends down the barrel, it’s easily located from behind the camera. It’s consistently smooth across the focal range, but does require a bit more force to shift the heavy internal optics than you might be used to. Best of all, you can get from 12mm to 24mm and vice versa very quickly with less than quarter turn. Beyond the zoom ring you’ll notice the lens is embellished with the letter A in a silver circle, indicating that it’s part of Sigma’s Art series. To one side of this you have the AF/MF switch that juts out slightly from the side of the barrel and right on top you’ll find the focus distance window that displays its information in feet and metres. The AF/MF switch offers a satisfying click when it’s used and the white background that’s revealed behind the switch when it’s set to AF acts as a visual reference of where it’s set to in low light.
Just ahead of the focus distance window there’s a steep step up to the focus ring, which is considerably larger in diameter than the zoom ring. This differentiates the feel of the both the zoom ring and focus ring from behind the camera and means you’re never in doubt of what you’re adjusting. The smoothness of the focus ring can’t be faulted and it offers just the right level of fluidity.