This blog seems fitting since today is the 1 year anniversary of me getting the Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art Lens. I have been wanting to do this blog for a while and today it just seems right. Some of you know that I already have the Sigma 14mm, 20mm and 24mm so you may be asking why does he have/need the 14-24? Great question and I am happy to explain. It wasn’t really a matter of need but more want the lens. My goal was to find out if this 1 lens could replace all 3 primes. Some of you are probably reading this and think I am crazy. That’s good.. I kind of thought so too. While I do focus most of my work on Landscapes and Nightscapes, I also consider myself a fairly general photographer. If you were to see a lot of the work that I never post to my socials you would see what I am talking about. Nonetheless, my purpose was to test this lens in all areas and see if it was right for me. I will break this down into 3 sections. Landscapes, Astro/Nightscapes and City Photography.
Various regions will require various focal lengths to get the right composition. I find myself using super wide and wide angle lenses when I am up close to my subjects and want to put an emphasis on the foreground as well as create depth. This works well for waterfalls, reflections and when your subject is fairly close to you. When I first moved to Colorado I found that most of the scenery I was shooting required a longer lens or I needed to find ways to get closer to my subject.
One thing I love about the Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art lens is that it covers 3 popular focal lengths for landscape photography. Because I already have 8 lenses in my bag, this lens pretty much lets me eliminate 2 of those. I have never been a photographer who shoots my lenses wide open. It’s sure great to have the option to shoot at 1.4 or 1.8 but it’s rare that I would ever do that. For landscape photography I also would never shoot a scene like this at 2.8. So the need for a super fast lens for landscape photography isn’t something that I personally need. I will talk about the benefits of these lenses in the next section. Making sure your image is in focus all the way through the scene is important so shooting at F/stops that range from 7.1 – 16 and sometimes 18 and 22 is what I mostly shoot with. Also I don’t generally shoot images that would be easy to focus stack so I rely more on hyperfocal techniques to get my images sharp.
With super wide angle focal lengths as long as you are 4ft or so from your subject you should not have any issues getting the image sharp from front to back. This scene of a thermal pool was shot at 14mm from the boardwalk and I am only about 7ft away from the edge of the pool. Had I shot this with even a 24mm lens and did verticals to stitch into a pano, I don’t think even shooting at F/16 would have got it in focus from front to back. Having the versatility of 3 lenses in one is incredible and lets me focus on my work rather than trying to decide which lens I need to use next.
Getting close to my subject is key sometimes to create the mood or feel to an image. The Sigma 14-24mm has a minimum focusing distance of just under a foot. At 10 inches it allows me to get down and dirty to get the right angles when needed. I do believe that I was right at the 11-12 inches when I shot this image. I remember getting a little too close and not being able to focus so I backed up and zoomed in just hair to end up shooting at 19mm just to eliminate some of the super wide angle distortion that I normally like.
There is beauty in putting a lens on your camera and knowing that you may not need to take it off all day. Thus the case on a recent trip to the east coast where I was shooting waterfalls and creeks all day long. This image was shot around noon on a very overcast and damp day. I was able to get right out into the water with the camera and lens just above the water surface. Knowing that I was going to blur the water with my shutter speed, I decided that I wanted the big foreground to fill the lower portion of the frame and that it did not need to be tack sharp. With my camera and lens about 6 inches above the water I knew that it was too close to focus on so by focusing on the rock where the water was cascading over I was able to create depth in the scene with it appearing sharp throughout by using an f/stop of 18.
Sometimes a shoot happens that doesn’t involve much planning. This particular location is super closet to my house and it’s a place I like to visit when the conditions are right. Snow being one of them. For this shot I wanted to make sure that the entire reflection was in the image and that I did not give the viewer that “looking down” feeling. I set my camera up right at the waters edge only a few inches above the water and by doing this I was able to get more of the reflection of the trees and clouds. The sharpness of the Sigma 14-24mm is incredible and I hope you can see that in this image.
As a night photography instructor for the last 7 years, it would make sense that I suggested to students to bring a super fast lens to shoot with. Sigma makes AMAZING Super fast primes, there is no doubt about that and not even something I want to question or debate. The real question here is can a 2.8 zoom lens take the place of a 1.4 or 1.8 prime lens for night photography and I will get right to the point and say yes. Yes it can. Part of this stems from the quality of the lens and part of it stems from the processing of the images.
It wasn’t long ago that photographers with digital cameras who were shooting the night sky were doing so by shooting 1 single image. This meant we needed super fast lenses to let enough light in that would allow us to use a short enough shutter speed to make sure we did not get star trails. With the advancement of various processing tools and stacking software 2.8 is plenty fast and often times I will shoot at F/3.2 or F/4. We can now shoot at much higher ISO’s at greater DOF’s and use shorter shutter speeds to get amazing results by stacking images.
I’ll be very honest in saying that I no longer care about what ISO I am shooting at at night. If I need to crank the ISO up to 12,800 ISO to get a 15 second shutter speed instead of a 30 second shutter speed at 6400 ISO I do it. I know that the noise is now irrelevant when shooting because I can remove it later. Stacking images is the key to noise removal when you don’t have the option to shoot a single long exposure for your foreground. We can talk about the techniques all day long but I want to keep the focus of this blog on the Sigma 14-24mm lens and how well it performs. It’s my opinion that the sharper the lens and the better the focus you can get in your image, the less noise you will notice in a well exposed image. A sharper image will also allow you print larger.
When an image is super sharp and well focused at night the noise is often mistaken for detail. At smaller sizes this is not noticeable but when you print larger images over 30 inches it becomes a crucial element in the entire process. If you have an image that is even the slightest bit out of focus, enlargements are pretty much out the window. Having a lens that you can get razor sharp focus with will allow you to see details in your images you have not seen before. Image quality should be a major concern to you as a photographer and your image will only be as good as the lens that lets the light into your sensor. I can say this with confidence because we did a test in one of our workshops with a student who had a Nikon D3400 and a Sigma 20mm and we compared that to one of my images that was shot with a Nikon D810 and a Sigma 20mm lens. Even though her camera produced more noise to begin with the final images were 99% identical in terms or how little noise there was. Razor sharp focus is key! I can’t repeat this enough.
Having the ability to use 1 lens all night is, as I have said before, a wonderful feeling. You would be surprised at how many subjects and compositions you can get between 14mm and 24mm. Being able to get your composition right in the camera at the time of shooting is another element I wish more photographers took seriously. This was shot at 18mm which falls between that 14mm and 20mm length. I prefer not to crop my images because I like to retain the native file sizes the best I can. I want to make sure I can include everything in the image I want and not have to crop in later or cut something off that may be important to the scene. As with the tree on the far lower left..
While I don’t do a lot of urban or city photography on a regular basis, I did have the chance to use the lens and do some while on a trip to Tallinn, Estonia. Again, and I feel like I am repeating myself, it was nice to be able to walk around the city and not have to worry about changing lenses. 14mm is wide enough and 24mm was telephoto enough to allow me to get a lot of shots I wanted without having to change lenses in the rain or snow. The added benefit to this is that the less you change your lens the less likely you are to get dirt or debris on your sensor.
People who shoot with me on a regular basis know that I have a bad habit of changing lenses a lot. I like to capture the same scene with lots of focal lengths and compositions. With the 14-24mm I can eliminate a lot of that. This was a particular scene that I needed the 14mm. I could not go back any further without including a bunch of junk in the image. A 20mm or 24mm would not have allowed me to capture this image the way you see it here. With just the right amount of sky and arch with the open doors this scene came together very well at 14mm based on the fact that this was my only vantage point to capture it from.
I’ve talked about the uses of this lens and now I want to finish up by talking about the quality of the lens. For starters it’s built like a tank. You are not getting some chuck of plastic. This lens is built to endure whatever you throw at it… Just not a bucked of water probably. I have shot with this lens in the rain and snow and it works without problem. It does come with a built in lens hood so filter options are limited. I don’t personally use filters so that is not an issue for me. The lens provides wonderful edge to edge sharpness in both landscapes and astrophotography. It has a very small amount of distortion that is only noticeable at the 14mm range and is easily corrected in ACR or LR by using the Lens Correction panel. Minimal chromatic aberrations and color fringing throughout the zoom range for improved clarity and color accuracy. If you do happen to be shooting a super contrasty subject and you get some CA, it’s super easy to fix with one click in ACR and LR.
If you are a photographer that REALLY needs that extra couple stops of light then by all means grab the Sigma 14mm, 20mm and 24mm primes. I still own the 14mm and the 24mm 1.4 lens and they each have their own unique purpose at the wider Fstops. After a full year of shooting with the Sigma 14mm-24mm 2.8 I can now honestly say that If I only take that lens and leave the 14mm prime and 24mm prime at home, I’ll be ok and my image quality will not suffer one bit. It should be noted that I am also not in my 20’s anymore and while I am still very active and healthy, I am trying to be more aware of the stress I put on my body. Because these lenses are so well built and do have a bit of weight to them, only needing to carry one lens can be a nice rest for your back.
This lens fits all my needs in terms of image quality and focal lengths at the wider angles. If you are looking for an amazing lens that can do it all at the wider angles then I highly suggest you check out the Sigma 14-24mm 2.8 Art lens! You wont be disappointed.
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