Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art vs. Nikkor AF-S 35 f/1.8G ED (FX) on a D800

Update!  This comparison was far from conclusive, so I did a two-day real-world test with (in my opinion) much better photography and a solid conclusion.  Check it out here.

I’ve been on the quest for the lightest FX kit I could find.  As I see the world in 35mm framing, I decided to give the new FX 35mm f/1.8G ED a try and see how it stacks up to the much heavier Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens.

I’ve been publicly critical of the new Nikkor, calling it “uninspiring” after some preliminary shots, but do I have to eat my words?  Was my first reaction because I’ve been under the weather with the flu.

I decided to test and find out.

Here is the Nikkor at f/1.8:

Nikkor 35mm f1.8G ED (FX)
Nikkor at f/1.8

and the Sigma at f/1.8:

Sigma at f/1.8

At f/2

Nikkor
Sigma

Again at f2.8:

Nikkor
Sigma

Closeup and Bokeh:

Nikkor Closeup and Bokeh Test at f/1.8
Sigma Closeup and Bokeh at f/1.8

I think the Sigma pulls away at close distances and has nicer bokeh. Do you see any other noticeable difference, other than the Sigma goes to f/1.4?  Maybe at the edges of the frame, the Sigma has some advantages, but I may have to eat my words – the Nikkor is a good performer!  I’ll be shooting it a lot over the new few weeks and I’ll keep this space updated with my findings.

20 thoughts on “Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art vs. Nikkor AF-S 35 f/1.8G ED (FX) on a D800”

  1. Nikon 35 mm f/1.8 G AF-S is a marvelous piece of sheer optical finesse which comes at low price and scores high on performance. If you know what you are doing then, you will not need anything more than this. What one can achieve with this lens is surpassed rarely by a few lenses. Nikon 35 mm f/1.8 G AF-S lets you do what a photographer should do, be the man in the arena and compose. I will never crib about its limitations, every lens has boundaries. For this glass they are overshadowed by its qualities.
    Read More >> http://pixelarge.com/nikkor-nikon-35-mm-f1-8-g-af-s-dx/

    1. One can argue convincingly that the Nikkor is sharper at these apertures.

      I lack the ability to quantify why, but the Sigma still has a certain something that I like better. The out-of-focus areas are rendered much nicer. The Nikkor has some kind of smearing that bugs me.

      Thanks for the comment.

      1. Thanks for the work.
        So, is it worthy to be in your bag? I have been looking for a light weight 28-35mm primes. I have tried the sigma and love it on my d800 except for the weight & size. The cheaper price on the nikkor is a bonus.

      2. I’m keeping both. The Nikkor has been in my bag the last several weeks.

        If the Nikkor rendered like the Sigma, it would be a no-brainer. However, like you said, the weight difference of the Nikkor is substantial.

        I own both and can’t make up my own mind! But probably, I’ll shoot the Sigma on the D800, the Nikkor on the Df.

  2. I am thinking about to get Nikkor one, Sigma lens is a bit too big and heavy, and of course that I have to trade f/1.8 with 1.4. Thanks for the testing anyway :)

  3. Thanks for testing, I think I am going to get the Nikkor one, much prefer the smaller and lighter one, even I have to trade off f/1.4 to f/1.8.

  4. Back when in 2012, Sigma reinvented itself with its art series for professional-consumer( pro-sumer) photography needs, I didn’t gave it much thought considering the bad quality controls from Sigma and second grade stuff I knew it for( I admit to being unnecessarily obnoxious there).

    But then I overheard praises for this glass from a variety of colleagues and friends which prompted me to borrow one and test for myself. After spending a month with it, I have come to agree that this Sigma is indeed a lens worth consideration among the big boys.
    you can read more about this amazing glass at http://pixelarge.com/sigma-35mm-f1-4-dg-hsm-lens-review/

  5. Hi. I am thinking of replacing my 24-70 with primes (I already have the 85mm 1.8 which I am very happy with. I was wondering if you have the 24-70 and what your thoughts are between it and the new 35mm (both at f2.8 and at 35mm of course). Would be very interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks :)

    1. Hi Aly. When I’m shooting events and sports and need the flexibility of a zoom, I still use my 24-79/2.8. Primes, for me, are for creating casual art and lightness. Personally, I need both.

  6. The Sigma 35mm is sharp at all apertures. I purchased the Sigma to use with my D800E because I always use a 35mm prime (see above) in my photography. However, I wasn’t willing to pay the tariff for the Nikon 35mm 1.4 especially since its reviews were so-so at best (it’s softer than the Canon wide open but sharper than Canon by f/5.6). Given the Sigma’s bargain price and its good reviews, I purchased a copy. I have not been disappointed. The lens is better than all 35mm lenses I have used. It is sharp wide open and just gets sharper as the lens is stopped down. The color and contrast is on par with the Nikon 85mm ( basically, amazing). Vignetting is well-controlled, only noticeable wide open. More importantly, CA, unlike the Canon L, is well controlled. It simply isn’t a problem. You can read my Review at http://bit.ly/1gHIDZx

    1. Hi Phillip. That’s a fantastic review, thanks for sharing it. I’m still on the fence about the Nikkor. I’m currently in India and I took only the Nikkor to see if I can live with it. I like the smaller size and weight but the rendering is not impressing me yet. When I get home, I’ll switch back to the Sigma for a couple of weeks.

  7. Am I the only one who noticed that Nikon is 2/3 slower at the same aperture?
    Check the shutter speed on those photos – @ f1.8 Nikon’s shutter speed is 1/13, where Sigma’s 1/20. That’s 2/3rd of a stop difference, add another 2/3rd difference from f1.4 to f1.8, and you’ll have a lens that’s 1 and 1/3 slower, not just 2/3rd. May sound like nothing, but in low light situations that’s an unnecessary ISO increase.

  8. What is your latest assessment of using the new nikon lens on the DF? Like many people, we’re looking for an excellent and lightweight prime for our DF cameras. Thank you.

      1. Aye, that’s where I’m stuck. I want a 35mm prime for my DF, but nothing stands out as the clear winner if I want something that’s light and small with some wow. The sigma’s too big. The new nikon FX doesn’t have wow. The older f2/d definitely doesn’t have wow, but it’s so small and cheaper. Manual focus (old Nikon or Zeiss) probably won’t work with all the pictures I take of my kids. What to do? :)

  9. I tried the Sigma but returned the lens as had to adjust the AF with +18 for the short distances and +8 for the distance 2m till infinity. Was not impressed and bought the Nikon 35mm 1.8G ED. Very happy with this lens and quite a bit better then the Sigma. No doubt i had a bad copy of the Sigma. The smaller size on my DF is a bonus.
    Many thanks for your comparison, very useful as not many reviews are available for the Nikon 35mm FX version

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