When I first heard about the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM ART lens, my immediate thought was that this could be THE lens for astrophotography.
It ticks two boxes from the off. The 14mm focal length is very popular with astrophotographers. Tick. Then there is no getting away from that unmatched f/1.8 fast aperture of this new lens. Tick again, perhaps the biggest tick of all.
Maximising light intake is paramount to high-quality, vibrant night images. No other lens at such a wide-angle accepts so much light as the Sigma 14mm ART lens.
What got me even more excited is that this lens is part of Sigma’s ART series, which has quite rightly built up a solid reputation. I have owned the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art for some time now and it’s my go-to-lens. If I was to have only one lens for a DSLR, that would probably be it.
Most other lenses as wide as 14mm have a maximum f/2.8 or f/4 aperture – that’s at least 1 1/3EV less light. (Exception being the Samyang 14mm f/2.4 – that’s 2/3EV less light.)
That wide maximum aperture brings multiple benefits which are explained below. Yet it comes at a cost in two ways, both literal and in physical weight.
In the hand, this is one mighty lens – it positively dwarfs a mid-size full-frame camera and is virtually twice the size of a lens like the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero-D. More so, the Sigma lens is heavy – there is some serious glass inside.
Then there is the price, being $1,599 new. Relatively speaking that is a good value, but it will still price out many interested in the lens.
Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ART: Image quality
As for the quality of the pictures I could make, well the fast aperture makes all the difference. Under a full moon, I could shoot at ISO 200 and still get the stars nice and sharp – that’s not been possible before. Normally the ISO sensitivity needs to be cranked up to ISO 800 at a minimum.
A technical note – at 14mm it is possible to use a shutter speed up to 30 seconds before the stars begin to blur because of their movement in the night sky. (That’s the 500 ÷ focal length = maximum shutter speed rule for sharp stars.)
The 1 1/3EV extra light intake not only makes for more vibrant images but also ensures you get to use the sharpest apertures sooner. Use the widest aperture of any lens and it’s not at its best. Lens distortions and fall-off in edge detail are present in this Sigma lens like any other.
Yet, stop down the Sigma 14mm to f/4 and these distortions have totally gone away (while other f/2.8 and f/4 lenses still show distortions at this aperture setting).
That’s why us photographers get excited about fast aperture lenses like this one. More light = better performance at like-for-like wide apertures than other lenses.
It ain’t cheap. It ain’t small. But the Sigma f/1.8 Art lens is good, oh so good and should find itself as the lens of choice for astrophotography (if you can afford it).
Top 5 reasons to love the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ART
- Its unrivalled fast f/1.8 aperture
- Excellent control over most lens distortions at f/4
- Best image quality of any ultra-wide angle lens at like-for-like wide apertures
- Sharp detail in centre and corners
- Quick and quiet AF
What’s not to like about the the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 ART
- Large and heavy
- Not officially weather-sealed
- It’s cheaper than proprietary bands, but it still is not cheap
- No easy option to attach lens filters