Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN – first impressions

27 April 2021
Maciej Latałło

2. Build quality

The following chart presents basic parameters of several fast Sony FE 35 mm devices equipped with autofocus. As you see the new Sigma is just a tad less optically complex that its oder and much bigger f/1.2 sister. It is also smaller and physically lighter than the A 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM model designed for reflex cameras that comes with a Sony FE mount adapter.

Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN – first impressions - Build quality

When you compare the new Sigma to the much more expensive Sony G Master, you have to admit it is loses. Why? The Sigma is bigger, heavier, and features a longer minimum focusing distance. However, it is able to win the duel with the Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.4 FE – here it is smaller for a change and weighs exactly the same, even though it comes with a far more complex optical system.

In the photo below the new Sigma lens is positioned between the Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM with the Sony A mount and the Canon EF 35 mm f/2 IS USM.

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Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN – first impressions - Build quality

In this case comparing physical dimensions is once again not favourable to the mirrorless Sigma. The new model is significantly longer than the Sony A device while still remaining as heavy. Why might it be a problem? Currently Sony cameras bodies are significantly smaller than many reflex camera lenses. It's enough to say you have to hold them with just three fingers because there is no space for the fourth, small finger on the grip. As a result a long and quite heavy lens like the Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN is able to outweigh the whole set, dragging it forward. Holding the whole set in your hand for a longer period of time can hardly be called comfortable. Small mirrorless cameras definitely would perform better with constructions such as the Canon 2/35 we show in a photo above; still producers of modern optical devices decided to go in a quite different direction. As a result you often get small, mirrorless bodies to which you have to attach big, heavy lenses. Mind you, it doesn't concern only Sigma products, other producers seem to follow the same tactics. Have you ever played with any Nikkor Z f/1.8 lens (not mentioning the huge Nikkor Z 1.2/50)? If yes, you know what I am talking about.

The tested lens starts with a metal mount that surrounds contacts and a rear element, 29 mm in diameter, that doesn't move. The rear element is hidden inside an inner tube less than 1 cm deep. The area around it is black, quite matt, and ribbed so from this side everything looks very well indeed.

Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN – first impressions - Build quality

A sleek, black ring made of metal is the first part of the proper lens body; it increases its dimension smoothly and very quickly. On that part you can find a white dot, making an alignment with a camera easier, „021”, marking the model year of the instrument, an inscription „MADE IN JAPAN”, and also the focusing mechanism range:„0.3M/0.98FEET – ∞”.

Then you see an aperture ring as wide as 13 mm, the majority of its surface taken by ribbing; on the ring you can also find aperture marks covering values from f/16 to f/1.4, and an „A” value (meaning automatic control of parameters). The ring moves every 1/3 EV step but you can also make it clickless. Its performance is very comfortable, generally without any reservations.

Further on you find a part that is covered by plastics with the company's logo, the name and parameters of the lens, its serial number, some fine ribbing, an 'A' letter meaning the lens was qualified as an Art line instrument, and a whole batch of switches. The first of them – AF/MF FOCUS – allows you to choose the focusing mechanism mode. The second – AFL – recalls a specific autofocus position but you can allot it also other functions. The third switch, marked as CLICK OFF/ON, controls modes of the aperture ring.

Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN – first impressions - Build quality

On the opposite side of the lens there is another button, used to block the aperture ring. You can lock either the A setting or any other setting from f/1.4 to f/16.

A manual focus ring is the biggest part of the lens's body. It is as wide as 44 mm, most of its surface ribbed; it doesn't feature any distance or DOF scale. The ring is a focus-by-wire construction, its performance smooth but properly damped. In order to go through its entire range you have to turn it through an agle of 270 degrees if you move it quickly and even about 600 degrees when you move it slowly. These values certainly allow you very precise settings.

Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN – first impressions - Build quality

The barrel of the lens ends with a short, immobile ring that turns into a hood mount, and the hood is added to the box with the lens. The front element is 50 mm in diameter, quite flat. It doesn't move and is surrounded by a non-rotating filter thread, 67 mm in diameter, notably less than 82 mm of the Sigma A 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN.

The lens is sealed, splash- and dust-resistant. The front element is covered by hydrophobic layers that reduce potential adhesion of dirt , dampness, and grease.

Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN – first impressions - Build quality

When it comes to optical construction you deal here with 15 elements positioned in 11 groups. Among them you can find two elements made of low-dispersion SLD glass (marked in blue) one element made of ELD glass (marked in green), one FLD element (marked in yellow), and two elements doubly aspherical (their aspherical surfaces we coloured red). Inside you also find a round aperture with 11 blades that can be closed down to a value of f/16 at the maximum.

Buyers get in the box with the lens: both caps, a petal-type hood, and a solid case with a dedicated strap.

Sigma A 35 mm f/1.4 DG DN – first impressions - Build quality