The 35mm Lens
The 35mm focal length is the sweet spot between the wider perspective of a 24mm lens and the shallower depth of field of a 50mm lens.
If your in the market for a 35 there are numerous choices you can make. With every major camera company and lens manufacturer producing some form of fast 35mm, your a spoilt for choice.
But not all 35mm lenses are created equal.
Every lens renders an image differently. Often people compare things like sharpness, colour or contrast but this alone doesn't tell you everything you need to know. Some of the softest lenses available have such a unique look, that it's worth putting up with their limitations (I'm looking at you Canon 50mm 1.2).
The beauty of the Sigma 35mm is that it has both technical performance and a strong character. The lens has a pleasant neutral signature for both colour and contrast and the images are crisp with an airy fresh feel. If your looking for something with a clean and crisp look, this lens is the holy grail.
Unlike lenses of old this Sigma 35 is no slouch when it comes to handeling on a DSLR. It's fantastic autofocus and modern lens design makes it a perfect pairing for a high resolution sensor in fast paced situations like a wedding reception.
In fact the lens is so sharp that I can use my camera at a much higher ISO and apply heavier noise reduction without ever feeling like the images lack detail.
Its incredibly difficult for a lens to give both beautiful background blur and remain razor sharp but sigma have struck a balance between tack sharp infocus areas and smooth yet still defined background blur.
I'm so enamoured with the character and clarity of lens that I actually try to find more ways to use it both at weddings and on portrait shoots.
The Not So God
There is nothing bad about this lens. I defy anyone to fault the technical performance of this marvel. That doesn't mean that it's perfect for every situation.
Photography isn't always about getting a perfectly sharp photograph with realistic colour. There are times when the look you want is something that disconnects you from reality and makes your photo feel like another world.
On occasion I find myself wishing that I had a lens with a less than perfect rendering of the in focus area to help make the background blur truly exceptional, something a little softer especially during portraits and more restful moments. As a work around I slightly defocus the lens to get the softer look I need.
The weight of this lens is also off putting, all 35mm 1.4 lenses are large and heavy so this isn't unique to sigma but if your looking for an everyday lens be prepared to carry this beast to get the results you crave.
Who should buy this?
If you're in search of a technically amazing lens this is for you. If you want a lens that has a clean crisp character this is for you. If you want a lens that makes your scene look magical this may still be the lens for you.
It's not my first choice when conditions are good (I would usually prefer something with a softer character) but if you shoot in low light without a flash this lens is worth it's weight in gold. This is THE lens for dancefloor shots and for environmental portraits for me.
In truth, I don't think anyone would regret buying this lens. There are so many great things about this 35mm wonder that even though the rendering isn't always to my taste, owning it will never be a bad choice. Even if I get another 35mm lens for a different character, this lens will still be in my bag for shots like these.