Lens Gear Review: Sigma 35 mm DG HSM Art

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The Sigma 35 mm f 1/4 lens is the archetypical telephoto lens that is widely used on Safari, to something a little more, well, little. In the wilderness, it’s not all about the tight close-ups of eyes, or the head-shots of beautiful big cats. Sometimes we need to take the whole landscape into consideration, or focus on the little things that cross our path. Variety is the spice of life, and today we are spicing things up with a review of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art prime lens.

Nick Kleer headed out into the bush with this lens to play.

Amanda Ritchie: Being used to using the larger telephoto lenses for shooting wildlife photography, what was your first impression of the Sigma 35mm? Did you do anything differently as a result?

Nick Kleer: I paired the Sigma 35mm for Canon with my Canon 7D Mark II . It has been interesting using a short lens as I have never shot with one before. It has forced me to use my imagination a little more and has resulted in a few shots that I would normally not take.

AR: Being a smaller lens, how did it feel out in the testing conditions of the bush?

NK: I was happy with the feel of the lens as it is light enough to shoot free hand and felt sturdy enough to take a couple of knocks out in the field too.

AR: With an aperture of F/1.4, we would expect great things from this lens in low light. How did it perform?

NK: This lens performed really well in low light, letting in lots of light through the wide aperture. Similarly, it is also very effective at isolating subjects from the background due to shallow depth of field, beautifully rendering background highlights, also known as “Bokeh”.


This shot of a leopard tortoise approaching me as I lie on the ground shows a great soft blur with one of my guests in the background. ISO 400, F1.4, 1/8000


Another great example of the shallow DOF, and a beautiful soft blur as a spotted bush snake caught and ate a gecko on Varty deck one morning at breakfast. ISO 400, F1.4, 1/8000.


This is a good example of how my take on the wild changed using this lens. Again, this shot illustrates the typically shallow depth of field (DOF) one would expect from this lens as I captured a scorpion under UV light, glowing due to a reaction in its exoskeleton. ISO 2000, F1.4, 1/80


Here, you can see how well the lens does in low light. This was taken after sunset at a drinks stop. The amount of light and clarity that it was able to capture is impressive.  ISO 320, F6.3, 1/15.


This shot shows the low-light capabilities again, but in a slightly different way. It’s not just at night that we are conscious of low light. Overcast days, where there is little (or flat) natural light is also a challenge for some lenses. The 35mm lens captured this low angle shot of the Munghene youngsters on an overcast day. The shot actually came out slightly overexposed, which I took further in post processing to accentuate the high-key effect ISO 1000, F1.4, 1/8000.


Here is a shot of the same lions put into black and white without being overexposed when shooting. You can clearly see how much light the lens was able to let through, even at an F-stop of 2.5. ISO 1000, F2.5, 1/8000.

AR: It seems that the Sigma 35mm lives up to expectations when it comes to DOF and definitely lets in lots of light.  Not everyone wants to post-process their photos, so capturing the colour accurately is important. What was your experience?

NK: I found that the lens captured colour beautifully. It seems to capture colour extremely accurately and for that reason you really wouldn’t have to do much processing at all, if any for that matter.


I also wanted to show off the cameras abiity to pick up colours in this shot of the Munghene pride on a late sunny afternoon while they were out on the hunt. ISO 250, F1.6, 1/8000.

AR: Were there any other interesting things that struck you about this lens, or about the different ways you used it out in the field to capture scenes differently?

NK: I am a huge fan of close up shots and have always enjoyed zoom lenses, so having the opportunity to use a lens that has a much wider angle was both challenging and a lot of fun. It was nice to be able to capture the environment around the animals I was shooting rather than just close ups. The lens I found was fantastic at it and forced me to take shots that I would not normally take.


One of the Matimba males was recently mating with a Tsalala female in the Manyaleti and I found this lens was great at capturing a scene rather than just the animal. ISO 320, F1.4, 1/5000.


We were fortunate enough to have wild dog pups playing around the vehicle before they settled for a while below my feet. From this close distance the wide angle allowed both animals to fit into the shot and I would have never have been able to take this shot otherwise. ISO 800, F3.2, 1/5000.


The Mashaba young female lying up in a Marula tree. Once again the wide angle painted a beautiful scene for this shot. Normally it would have been a close up shot with her face on her paws, which can be a gorgeous photograph but I found that having the whole tree in this photo created something different. I  chose to do a high key post process and a colour shot just to show the contrast the lens does provide.  ISO 800, F5, 1/1250.


Once again the Mashaba young female lying up in the same Marula, this time showing a beautiful contrast of colour. ISO 640, F6.3, 1/1000.

AR: Final verdict?

NK: Overall I found the lens a pleasure to use and would highly recommend it in any camera kit. It takes clear, sharp and rich pictures and is very fast focusing as well. The shallow depth of field is also fantastic and provides an incredible effect and never allows the background to distract from the focal point of the picture. It was an absolute pleasure working with this lens!

Written by Amanda Ritchie, Photography Studio Manager and Nick Kleer.

Photographed by Nick Kleer

Lens Provided by SIGMA

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