Ultra-wide lens with zoom capability. Very sharp. Solid edge performance. Available for multiple camera systems.
Big and heavy. Doesn't support front filters. Barrel distortion at wider angles. Dimmed corners at 12mm.
- Bottom Line
The Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art is a full-frame zoom lens with an ultra-wide field of view and f/4 aperture. It's very sharp, and it's less expensive than competing lenses.
Ultra-wide lenses are speciality tools that often come with large price tags, especially if you want one that captures sharp detail right to the edge of the frame. The Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM Art ($1,599) is wider than most zooms with full-frame coverage, and about half the price of its closest competitor, the $3,000 Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM. It's not quite as wide as the Canon, but competes with it in sharpness, and betters it at the edges. If you want a wide, wide lens for your full-frame SLR it's a stellar performer, and an Editors' Choice pick.
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The 12-24mm is a big, heavy lens. It measures 5.2 by 4 inches and weighs 2.5 pounds. You can't use front filters—the front lens element is bulbous—and the hood is integrated into the barrel. Sigma includes a slip-on lens cap, which slides over the hood to protect the lens.
Zooms of this type are typically weighty. Wide-angle SLR lenses must be designed to accommodate the mirror box that separates the lens mount from sensor. Because of this both the Sigma 12-24mm and Canon 11-24mm (5.2 by 4.3 inches, 2.6 pounds) are massive. It's one of the areas where mirrorless cameras have a huge advantage—the Sony FE 12-24mm lens for its full-frame mirrorless system weighs just 1.2 pounds and measures 4.6 by 3.5 inches.
But a mirrorless lens won't do you any good if you use an SLR, or a mirrorless camera that simply uses an SLR lens system, which is what Sigma offers now in the form of the dp Quattro and dp Quattro H. The Sigma 12-24mm is available for cameras that use Canon EF, Nikon F, and Sigma SA lens mounts. It's an especially appealing option for Nikon owners, as the widest full-frame lens the company offers for its SLR system is the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED.
There's no image stabilization—it's a feature you don't typically see on lenses this wide. Tamron makes a 15-30mm f/2.8 with stabilization, also sold for Pentax SLRs under the Pentax brand, but you won't find a full-frame zoom wider than that with a stabilized design. It's not a feature that you typically need at extreme wide angles for photography, though it does steady handheld video.
The lens doesn't have much in the way of physical controls. There's the zoom ring, of course, and a manual focus ring. A cut-out window shows the set focus distance in feet and meters. Aside from that, you just get a toggle switch to change between manual and autofocus operation.
The zoom can focus as close as 9.4 inches, which delivers a 1:4.9 magnification ratio at 24mm. It lets you get pretty close to subjects, so you're free to compose shots without having to worry about backing away from what you want to shoot.
I tested the 12-24mm with the 50MP Canon EOS 5DS R, the highest resolution full-frame SLR on the market today. At 12mm f/4 the lens puts up very good numbers, notching 3,295 lines per picture height using Imatest's center-weighted average analysis. We look for 2,200 lines at a minimum when working with a high-resolution camera, and the very, very best lenses can record a bit more than 5,000 lines when paired with a 50MP sensor.
The average score is solid, competing with the Canon 11-24mm at 11mm f/4 (3,317 lines). As you'd expect, at 12mm f/4 the Sigma is sharpest in the center third of the frame (4,244 lines). The score drops off as you move to the middle third (2,626 lines) and outer third of the frame (2,399 lines), but scores are still acceptable there. That's more than you can say for the Canon, which shows drops to around 1,600 lines at the edges of the frame when shooting at 11mm f/4.
If you have more light available, you'll want to stop down a bit to improve sharpness across the frame. At 12mm f/5.6 the Sigma's average score jumps to 4,165 lines, with a center that tops 5,000 lines and the remainder of the frame delivering scores in the 3,500-line range. That's an outstanding score at the center, and excellent resolution up to the edges, especially when you remember just how wide 12mm is on a full-frame system.
Diffraction sets in a bit early with the 5DS R—its high-resolution sensor has a lot to do with that—but you can still feel comfortable shooting at f/8 (3,974 lines) and f/11 (3,666 lines). I'd avoid f/16 (3,122 lines) and f/22 (2,346 lines), however.
At 18mm the lens resolves 3,138 lines at f/4, with most of the frame showing better than 3,000 lines and the edges hitting 2,500. At f/5.6 the edges hit 3,100 lines and the average score improves to 3,500 lines. Image quality peaks at f/8 (3,732 lines) and f/11 (3,666 lines), before dropping a bit at f/16 (3,233 lines) and more at f/22 (2,392 lines).
Zooming all the way to 24mm nets about 3,000 lines at f/4, with solid edges that are just a little soft at 2,125 lines. Center resolution is excellent (3,695 lines) and the middle area of the frame is very good (2,736 lines). You'll get more consistent quality at f/5.6, where the average score is 3,142 lines, which holds up through most of the frame, with edges that show about 2,550 lines. The entirety of the frame tops 3,300 lines at f/8, with the average hitting 3,416 lines, and the best quality is at f/11 (3,501 lines). There's the expected drop in resolution at f/16 (3,198 lines) and f/22 (2,519 lines).
Barrel distortion is always a concern with ultra-wide lenses. At 12mm we see it, as expected. Imatest measures about 6.4 percent, which draws a straight line with a noticeable outward curve, just a little bit more than the Canon 11-24mm at 11mm. The distortion disappears as you zoom in. For wide-angle shots you can apply correction using software to straighten lines, but as this is a third-party lens you won't enjoy the benefits of in-camera distortion correction.
Vignetting is also typically controlled in-camera (for JPG shooters) with a first-party lens. Wide-angles are prone to showing some corner dimness, and the Sigma doesn't avoid that. At 12mm f/4 we see corners that lag behind the center in illumination by about 2 f-stops (-2EV), which is actually fairly well-controlled for a lens this wide. Stopping down to f/5.6 cuts it to -1.5EV, and it settles in at -1.2EV at f/8 and narrower settings. You're always going to notice some dimness at the periphery of the frame at 12mm, but you can correct with software.
The vignette ls lessened as you zoom. At 18mm f/4 it's -1.1EV, and it drops to -0.8EV at f/5.6. When the difference is less than -1EV we consider it negligible in real-world shooting. At 24mm f/4 you get about -1.3EV, but it drops to -0.7EV at f/5.6 and is even less at narrower f-stops.
The Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM is a fantastic option for full-frame Canon and Nikon owners who want an ultra-wide zoom that doesn't break the bank. It's solidly built, boasts a strong optical design, and is affordably priced when compared with the competition. Yes, it's big and heavy, but that's a fact of life when it comes to an ultra-wide zoom for an SLR—if you want something smaller, consider switching to a mirrorless system.
The competition is obvious on the Canon side of the fence. If you feel that 12mm isn't wide enough for your needs, you'll pay a premium for the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM. Nikon owners don't have anything nearly as wide to choose from, though an argument can be made for the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 or the Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 if you're not happy with an f/4 zoom. Ironically, the lens is a less compelling option for the small number of Foveon sensor fanatics, as Sigma doesn't sell a full-frame camera. But if you've got an SLR with a 24 by 36mm image sensor, and want a wide, wide, wide lens, the Sigma 12-24mm F4 DG HSM is the way to go based on its price and performance, and earns our Editors' Choice recommendation.
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By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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