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Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN ART and the 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN ART lenses

We have recently changed camera systems, moving from Panasonic Lumix Micro Four Thirds to Sony full frame and APS-C format cameras. It was not, even in the tiniest way, something we did on the spur of the moment - this was a long and very deliberate process. We were pretty heavily invested in the M43 system and moving across to Sony would be at considerable expense, so the pros and cons were carefully considered. In the end we decided to make the move but, rather than buying Sony’s 24-70mm and 12-24mm lenses we decided to go for the Sigma equivalents - the 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN ART and the 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN ART lenses.

Both lenses are designated as DG and DN lenses, which means they have been optimised for “ultimate in performance on cameras with full-frame sensors” and optimised for mirrorless cameras.

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN ART on the Sony A1. It has a gorgeous "feel" and the zoom and focus controls, as smooth as butter.

The Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN ART on the Sony A1. It has a gorgeous "feel" and the zoom and focus controls, as smooth as butter.

At the time, the decision to go with Sigma was based mainly on cost but, having paid out good, hard earned cash for awesome cameras, it made little sense to go for inferior quality lenses, and in any case, they would have to be really excellent if they were to be any good on a 51MP camera. There are those that say, and I buy into this, that lens quality is more important than camera quality. Here’s the thing: If you’ve got rubbish lenses, no matter how good your camera is, you’ll get rubbish image quality. So, much research was done, many fellow photographers were spoken to and many, many YouTube videos were watched.

We’re a few months into the change now - so how has it been? Well, the cameras (an A1 and A6600) are simply awesome - way exceeding our expectations.

And the lenses?

Well, them too. We have no optical benches, no lens charts and no scientific instruments - what follows are real world shooting experiences based on having to bring back useful, excellent quality images that clients can use for a variety of purposes - from social media to the production of high quality, printed marketing material. For more technical details there are many scientific reviews on the web - Google is your friend…

The 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN ART lens - a little smaller and lighter than the 24 - 70 but  just as beautifully made and oh so very sharp.

The 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN ART lens - a little smaller and lighter than the 24 - 70 but just as beautifully made and oh so very sharp.

The 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN ART lens

Sigma’s reputation for producing excellent quality products is well known but I did wonder about Sigma Global’s claim, on their website, describing the 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art lens thus: “Best-in-class performance and large-aperture standard zoom lens that offers high resolution throughout the entire zoom range”. Would it be able to live up to this?

First impressions were a little startling. Remember, we’d been shooting M43 for the past 5 or 6 years and we were used to using the tiny Panasonic 12 - 35 f2,8 lens (equiv. to 24 - 70 on FF camera) on our GH5 bodies so, when we hauled the 24 - 70 out of its box, it’s bulk was, shall we say, unexpected. Of course in reality, it’s very similar in size and weight to the 24 - 70 f2,8 lenses from Canon, Nikon and Tamron and is, in fact both smaller and lighter than Sony’s OEM lens. I must say that once fitted to the A1 body the rig felt really well balanced and over the next few shoots I got to enjoy using it, the weight helping to stabilise the outfit in my hands.

We had just been commissioned to do a commercial shoot at Jock Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park when the Sigma lenses arrived just a few days prior to us leaving. A few hurried test shots were taken amidst the packing and sorting of camera gear for the trip and these looked perfect, but just how would these lenses work under hot, humid, stressful working conditions?

It's not often you get this close to an elephant, the 24 - 70 capturing both the elephant and the gorgeous evening sky. Don't try this on your own - we had a very experienced guide with us.

It's not often you get this close to an elephant, the 24 - 70 capturing both the elephant and the gorgeous evening sky. Don't try this on your own - we had a very experienced guide with us.

Well, just fine, it turns out. Obviously we used both the 24 - 70 and the 14 - 24 mainly for the lodge interior and exterior pics as well as for those we shot of the “guest activities”. For our wildlife photography the Sony 200 - 600 on the A1 and the 70 - 350 on the A6600 were the “go to” lenses. Except on one occasion:


While heading back to camp late one afternoon, with a storm brewing to the west over the Mpumalanga Drakensberg escarpment, we came across a couple of very relaxed bull elephants very close to the road. We stopped to have a look and one ambled over to get a closer look at us. I did a quick change of lenses, from the 200 - 600 to the Sigma 24 - 70, switching the A1 to silent mode - just as well as our  guide asked us to keep completely quiet - this was not the time to be blazing away with a noisy camera. No-one, least of all the elephant, knew I was shooting pics. I’m thrilled with the results, shot at 24mm, so sharp you could cut yourself with them, while the incredible dynamic range of the A1 ensured that we had detail in the shadows and the highlights.

The 24 - 70 got a fair bit of use - the only negative is that it “zooms” in the opposite direction to the Sony 200 - 600. You soon get used to it but it would be nice if the controls were the same.

River Dinner at Jock Safari Lodge. The 24 - 70 is a very useful all round lens and that f2,8 aperture helps in these low light situations .

River Dinner at Jock Safari Lodge. The 24 - 70 is a very useful all round lens and that f2,8 aperture helps in these low light situations .

Specifications

- Focal Length: 24 to 70mm

- Maximum Aperture f/2.8

- Minimum Aperture f/22

- Lens Mount Sony E

- Format Compatibility Full-Frame

- Angle of View 84.1° to 34.3°

- Maximum Magnification 0.34x

- Minimum Focus Distance 18 cm

- Optical Design 19 Elements in 15 Groups

- Diaphragm Blades 11 Rounded

- Focus Type Autofocus

- Image Stabilisation None

- Filter Size 82 mm (Front)

- Dimensions (ø x L) 87.8 x 122.9 mm

- Weight 835 g

The 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN ART lenses

Used for many of the interior and exterior shots we did of Jock Safari Lodge, the 14 - 24 has a wonderfully useful range of focal lengths and the build quality is right up there with the 24 - 70. A little lighter, thinner and longer than the 24 - 70, it still feels really good on the A1.

At it’s widest, the lens is extremely wide offering a 114° angle of view and one needs to be a little careful in some situations that you don’t include your feet in the photograph. At these focal lengths it pays to make sure that you have strong foregrounds to hold the pic together and, if you do, you’ll end up with some pretty interesting images.

The main deck and dining area at Jock Safari Lodge. Shot at 15mm, not quite at its widest, the 14 - 24 is wonderful in tight locations like this.

The main deck and dining area at Jock Safari Lodge. Shot at 15mm, not quite at its widest, the 14 - 24 is wonderful in tight locations like this.

We do quite a bit of work shooting people engaged in some sort of activity - from tourist activities to conservation work to game capture and this is where the lens really works like a charm. Its extreme wide angle range allows you to get right in there with the action resulting in a more inclusive, participatory feel to the photographs rather than a more removed, spectator perspective. This lens is certainly not going to have an easy laid-back life with us, that’s for sure.

Indoors, shooting game lodge interiors, is another place it shines. One doesn’t need to always use its widest setting but it was a pleasure using this lens to shoot Jock Safari Lodge when we did need the 14mm setting from time to time.

Shot at Jock Safari Lodge's sister lodge in the Karoo, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, the 14 - 24 is great when working with people in these situations.

Shot at Jock Safari Lodge's sister lodge in the Karoo, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, the 14 - 24 is great when working with people in these situations.

On the downside, it too zooms the “wrong” way and, alas, there is no provision for fitting a filter to the front of the lens. There is a mount at the back of the lens to add a filter to the rear and this mitigates things to a degree but I must say that it would be nice to be able to fit a polarising filter to the front of the lens for shooting forest interiors for example (which would remove the reflections from wet leaves) or a variable ND filter for our video work.

Specifications

- Focal Length 14 to 24mm

- Maximum Aperture f/2.8

- Minimum Aperture f/22

- Lens Mount Sony E

- Format Compatibility Full-Frame

- Angle of View 114.2° to 84.1°um Magnification 0.14x

- Macro Reproduction Ratio 1:7.3

- Minimum Focus Distance 27.94 cm

- Optical Design 18 Elements in 13 Groups

- Diaphragm Blades 11, Rounded

- Focus Type Autofocus

- Image Stabilisation None

- Filter Size Gel Filter (Rear)

- Dimensions (ø x L) 85.0 x 131.0 mm Weight 795 g

A strong foreground when using 15mm is everything, otherwise you just end up with empty space.  In a beach environment like this,  keep an eye on the waves - they can come in really close and you don't want to drown the camera.

A strong foreground when using 15mm is everything, otherwise you just end up with empty space. In a beach environment like this, keep an eye on the waves - they can come in really close and you don't want to drown the camera.

Conclusion

We’re thrilled with both these lenses and after using them for a couple of months have no regrets at all about investing in them. They are both incredibly sharp, have good contrast and focus very quickly. Neither have any form of stabilisation, but then the Sony A1 and many other modern full frame bodies have In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) that goes a very long way to keeping things steady. Would it be better to have optical stabilisation as well as IBIS? Sure it would but according to Sigma, “Adding OS would add cost, size, weight and also make the optical design more complex in order to achieve the same level of performance”. I get that.

We can highly recommend these two lenses and, now, having the benefit of hindsight, would certainly invest in them again. At R20 195.00 for the 24 - 70 and R22 995.00 for the 14 - 24 (at the time of writing), from Orms Direct in Cape Town, they represent exceptional value for money.


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Photography and stock images of wildlife, travel, conservation, lodges and lifestyle in Africa.

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