I'm looking for a wide aperture wide angle lens to use with my 5D III body. I'm planning to use this lens for reportage shots in low light conditions.

After doing some research, I'm trying to decide between Canon 35mm f/1.4 and Sigma 35mm f/1.4.

If you trust the tests, Sigma seems to perform better than Canon in the fair light.

Some time ago, I've tested Zeiss 100mm f/2 at f/2 vs Canon 50mm f/1.4 at f/1.4 in low light conditions, and I felt that the Zeiss actually performed better. I think this is because of the quality of the glass used in those lenses. That's why, despite that both lenses have f/1.4, I'm really worried if Sigma is going to be at least as good as Canon in low light.

Did anyone compare those those two lenses in low light conditions? Also, are there any other reasons (except no weather sealing on Sigma) why I shouldn't get the Sigma lens?

UPDATE What I meant with better performance of Zeiss is the amount of light transmitted.

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    Keep in mind that the Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM isn't weather sealed, so that's no different from the Sigma. – Håkon K. Olafsen Feb 17 '13 at 9:10
  • well, this looks interesting: amazon.com/review/R90LRWO9H0HO8/… On the copies I have, the sigma offers no increase in sharpness or image quality when compared to the canon, a substantial step or two down in terms of vignetting, and requires approximately 1/3 of a stop slower shutter speed to expose the photo equivalently to the canon. Looks like a deal breaker for me (( – Arsen Zahray Feb 17 '13 at 15:57
  • Vignetting is quite easily fixed in post though, and it looks like it's only an issue at f/1.4, and gone by f/2.0. Compare it to the Canon here: the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/… – Håkon K. Olafsen Feb 17 '13 at 16:46
  • well, i'm going to be using it at f/1.4 a lot. no point in buying a f/1.4 lens to use it at f/2. And the deal breaker for me is that it appears to eat less light than the canon as I feared (this is extremely important to me) – Arsen Zahray Feb 17 '13 at 17:20
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    @Arsen: Yah, I missed that about the Zeiss. If you're defining performance as actual light transmission rather than image sharpness maybe you should edit the question to reflect this. I think most of the answers are assuming you are looking for the sharpest lens. – Michael C Feb 19 '13 at 17:44

I'm in the process of choosing a 35mm myself, and I think I'm leaning towards the Sigma (need to look into how the Bokeh looks on both the Sigma and Canon).

If you look at Roger's take over at Lensrentals it's clear that they think the Sigma is the superior lens. The Digital Picture also seems to have a liking for the Sigma, so does dpreview.com, it seems that most agree that the Sigma is superior. If you look at when they were released (2012 for the Sigma and 1998 for the Canon), I'm not too surprised that the Sigma is better.

You might want to consider the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM Lens as an option if you're mainly concerned about shooting hand held in low light. You might benefit from the IS. According to The Digital Picture the image quality of the 35mm f/2 IS rivals that of the Canon 35mm f/1.4L, which doesn't sound too unlikely, since the design is so much newer (2012). Of course the IS only helps if the subject isn't fast moving, but then 3-4 stops from the IS might be more useful than the difference in aperture.

  • I'm personally of an opinion that no amount of IS can compensate for reduced aperture in a lens. And the f/2 is a non-L lens, meaning that the quality of the image is going to suffer. Thanks, but no, thank you – Arsen Zahray Feb 17 '13 at 8:45
  • Made an edit to add some info about the quality of the EF 35mm f/2 IS. – Håkon K. Olafsen Feb 17 '13 at 8:57
  • ) ok. what I'm deciding between is canon L and sigma lenses, and to me canon f/2 won't ever out-perform the canon L lens, so it's out of the equation. I simply don't think it's up to the task. I'm not considering sigma because it's cheaper, only because it might be better – Arsen Zahray Feb 17 '13 at 9:04
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    This is speculations, but an old design might be more expensive to produce. By using newer techniques and materials, you might be able to reduce the cost, but maintain (or increase) the quality. – Håkon K. Olafsen Feb 17 '13 at 12:03
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    That plasticky version is a LOT sharper too! – Michael C Feb 18 '13 at 0:53

Lens performance is linear, the quality of the projected image at f/1.4 in good light is exactly the same as the quality of the projected image at f/1.4 in poor light. The sensor is what matters for low light performance.

Secondly you can't really compare a 50mm to a 100mm lens, you get very different images.

To answer your question, the Sigma is optically far superior to the Canon, which is 15 years old now I think. Canon will come out with a much better version this year, probably better even than the Sigma but will charge around $2000. If I were you I'd get the Sigma now.

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    The oft rumored EF 35 f/1.4L II is being talked about again. We’re told an announcement for the new “L” prime will only happen once the new EF 24-70 f/2.8L II begun shipping in decent quantity. That would put the announcement sometime in 2012 with availability probably being in early 2013. One patent for the optical forumla has been around for a while. The rumor has come and gone many times already – Arsen Zahray Feb 17 '13 at 11:09
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    @ArsenZahray it's by no means certain that Canon replace the 35 f/1.4L this year, but I think the release of the Sigma 35 f/1.4 is going to give Canon the hurry up. – Matt Grum Feb 17 '13 at 12:50
  • well, it's about time, and for 50mm f/1.2 too. – Arsen Zahray Feb 17 '13 at 16:45
  • Fast lenses like that can behave quite differently from another especially in low-light, brutal contrast scenarios - flare, astigmatism, coma. Even worse if deciding to accept severe overexposure of point light sources to favor darker parts: A flare that is 1% the brightness of the light source can become a huge, fully exposed ghost that way.... – rackandboneman Jan 24 at 22:55

On your behalf I've done some review reading and pixelpeeping of the 35mm choices.

If I were to choose and money was no issue, the only two I would consider is Sigma 35 1.4 or Canon 35 F/2 IS (not the non IS). I agree that IS is a marketing gimmick, except for telephotos, as it only helps with static scenes and the IQ is better keeping it off. So my evaluation applies to keeping IS off.

Those two lenses are the only ones that has nice bokeh rendition and sharpness. Canon f/2 IS wins on bokeh, and Sigma wins on sharpness. Also, if you need faster than F/2 then Sigma 35mm 1.4 is the only option.

So I think it is just a matter of "add to cart" on the Sigma page.

Pixelpeep here:


Compare bokeh here:


  • I used to also feel there was no need for IS at less than about 70mm focal length. Long before IS existed (at least on 35mm camera lenses) I could handhold and beat the 1/focal length rule by 2-3 stops with enough consistency to do it back when you didn't see any results until the film was processed. I'm twice as old now as I was then. Since buying the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS mostly for the reach as a walkaround lens I'm discovering IS can be very useful at shorter focal lengths at times when a tripod isn't practical or even possible. On the other hand, f/1.4 is a full stop faster than f/2. – Michael C Feb 19 '13 at 17:58
  • but in a dynamic situation it does more harm, and only going for a large front glass help with that :) – Michael Nielsen Feb 19 '13 at 18:41
  • Not every scene is dynamic, is it? f/2 and a Tv of 1/8 allows twice as much light to reach the sensor as f/1.4 and Tv of 1/30 sec. In general when we are talking about low light we are not concerned with exposing too far to the right, so the more light we can allow to fall on the sensor, the higher the quality of the image will be. Reportage shots may include static subjects as well as dynamic ones. For instance the mangled remains of a vehicle involved in an accident are static. Even with people in the scene they may be static enough for the slower Tv. – Michael C Feb 19 '13 at 19:14
  • I agree that there are times when only a large objective lens will do. But don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Even at wider focal lengths IS is useful in many situations. Many of the world's most famous news photos were taken, due to the constraints of the technology of the time, at much slower Tvs than we like to use now. In many cases IS is just the modern equivalent of the photojournalist's tripod from a century ago. – Michael C Feb 19 '13 at 19:23

DigitalRev did a comparison of Canon, Nikon, and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lenses that you may find helpful:

Battle of the Bokeh - Canon, Nikon Sigma 35mm f/1.4

It doesn't address low light specifically, but as Matt Grum points out above, lens performance doesn't depend on the amount of light.

  • ens performance doesn't depend on the amount of light well, that's something new to me ) – Arsen Zahray Feb 19 '13 at 13:07
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    @Arsen: If you're defining performance as actual light transmission rather than image sharpness maybe you should edit the question to reflect this. I think most of the answers are assuming you are looking for the sharpest lens. – Michael C Feb 19 '13 at 17:46
  • in what way does light affect lens performance? I thought the lens did the same thing to one single photon as it would billions of photons? Maybe the heat from the light will slightly bend the glass so it changes the performance? – Michael Nielsen Feb 19 '13 at 18:34
  • @MichaelNielsen: Arsen seems to be referring to overall light transmission rather than sharpness when he uses the word performance. No lens is exactly the indicated aperture at any given setting. His original question is in no way clear at this point, however. – Michael C Feb 19 '13 at 18:54
  • The lens still performs the same with 1 photon and billions, letting through p % ;P – Michael Nielsen Feb 19 '13 at 19:01

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