My Week With The Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art Lens

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A few weeks ago I rented a Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens.

I have decided this is going to be my next lens purchase. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to get one now, but I can afford to rent it for one week to see if it’s going to be the right choice.

If you read my blog, or have been following my photography for any time, you know I am a prime lens evangelist. For many years I have only owned prime lenses, and I love most everything about them. However, the one large downside is the inconvenience of changing lenses all the time. Which is why I want my next lens to be a zoom. I guess I’m getting lazy.

Why this specific lens?  It came down to two different considerations; the type of zoom lens I need, and the price.

There is a lot of variety in the zoom lens market; by the type of zoom, and by manufacturer. There are wide zooms, standard zooms, super telephoto zooms…it gets complicated. You have to know what you want to shoot, and get the appropriate zoom.  All I want is a walk-around zoom.  I’m not selling my prime lenses, at least not all of them.  For my portrait work I’m definitely keeping the 50mm f/1.4 and the 85mm f/1.8.  But, for the rest of the photography that I do, specifically the urban and suburban landscape stuff (that I need to shoot more of), I honestly don’t need everything bleeding-edge sharp.  Flexibility is much more important.

The most common standard zoom, especially if you are going to shoot portraits, weddings, and other commercial photography, is the 24-70mm.  Many also use a 70-200mm lens, but I don’t need a 70-200mm, because I don’t normally need that length of telephoto.

Now comes the price.  Nikon’s top of the line Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR Lens runs about $2,400.00.  That’s no bueno for a budget minded photographer such as myself. Even the next tier Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G lens, which is still a great lens, runs around $1,700.00.    Yes, there is always the used market to consider, but I would much rather get my main lens new and under a warranty.  Yes, there are 3rd party offering to consider, but even the Tamron runs $1,300, and the others are hit and miss in terms of quality.

Nikon’s normal “kit” lens for their full frame camera is a 24-120mm, which is a very good lens, don’t get me wrong.  And, as I see there is a refurbished lens currently being offered at a very reasonable price, all this might be for naught, and I might just get that lens instead.

The reality is that, for $900.00, the Sigma might be the best bang for your buck in lenses right now.  Sigma has been exceeding expectations and hitting home runs with their Art lens line.  And, at 24-105mm, I like the extra length it gives me over a standard 24-70mm.

When the lens arrived from LensRentals, the first thing that struck me was the size.  Not overly huge, but being used to smaller prime lenses I noticed the weight immediately.  I used to make fun of people switching to Sony A7s because they didn’t want the weight and bulk of carrying around a heavy DSLR.  Bro, do you even lift? Now I know what those people were talking about, they were all using zoom lenses instead of prime.

The first test I wanted to do was see how sharp the lens is.

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Straight out of the camera, with only some exposure and color balance tweeking in Lightroom. These look fine.  Very good, actually.  Better than I was expecting.

Over the week I was able to do my normal car spotting,

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got in some urban landscape work,

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headed out to the desert and got some killer off-road pics,

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and even did a paying gig as a family photographer!

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All in all, the Sigma 24-105 Art lens performed brilliantly.  It did everything I asked of it, and did it extremely well.

Do I have some complaints?  Sure, the vignetting can get a bit strong at times, and while the center is plenty sharp, it can get a bit squishy on the edges.  But, those are mostly things pixel-peeping photogs like myself would notice.  The weight slowly became a factor after carrying it around for a few hours, but that’s just me being a wuss. In the real world, this is truly a magnificent all around lens.

I cannot wait to get it for real.

At the top I said that I want a zoom because I’m getting lazy.  That’s actually not true.  I want a zoom because my priorities are changing.  For a long time now my concerns have been mainly technical; getting images sharp, learning everything I can about Photoshop techniques and off camera lighting. I can honestly say that, while I’m not on a professional level with any of these, I’m comfortable enough in my abilities that I’ve become more interested in pursuing my vision and expression as an artist, and also expanding my brand as a paid photographer.  This one lens will be a huge part in making any and all of that happen.

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