24mm f1.4 lens is a very attractive combination of focal length and aperture. It can be very useful on a crop sensor and it makes magic on full frame. This is not going to be a classic sharpness comparison of two lenses at 200% zoom. Rather I’ll share with you my real life experience with both lenses. Before this two lenses, I had Samyang/Rokinon 24mm f1.4. This lens is not good at f1.4, but if you are doing a video on a crop sensor with a limited budget, it will be a good choice. As an alternative, there is Canon 28mm f1.8 USM. Quite a decent lens for the second-hand price of 250 USD/EUR or less. But I will stick to the 24mm ART and Canon 24mm f1.4 II this time.
Sigma 24mm f1.4 ART
I bought this lens new at the end of 2015 for 650 EUR. It was first ART lens that I want to use. 50mm f1.4 ART is the too big lens for my taste and I had nice Samyang/Rokinon 35mm f1.4 for video use. I wanted have 24mm f1.4 lens more than autofocus on 35mm, so I bought Sigma 24mm f1.4 ART for photo and video. I also had 50mm f1.2 for photo and video.
Sigma 24mm f1.4 ART was interesting to me because the lens has similar size and weight compared to Canon 24mm f1.4 II.The lens feels solid in hands. But feeling hard and solid isn’t guarantee that lens is going to survive years of professional torture. We know that L lenses are going to be good in this situations. But we have to wait 5 or 10 years to see if Sigma ART lenses are going to be tough.
I am doing more video than photography, so I am always nitpicky about focusing rings of lenses. With Sigma ART lenses there is no consistency. Best focus and zoom rings from Sigma I saw on mine 18-35mm f1.8 ART. I tried 6-7 35mm f1.4 ART lenses and every single one has a different feel in focus ring. And there is no rule like the more used lens in MF is going to have a smoother ring. It is a just random condition.
Sigma 24mm f1.4 ART that I bought had decent focus ring feel, except one problem. You cannot achieve smooth start of focusing. During focusing everything is nice, but when you have to start or stop the process, it is bit sticky. The focus is not going to jump on video and most of the time you are able to control this. But you always have to think for a second about it.
When it comes to autofocus, definitely biggest problem of any third party lenses, Sigma is OK. But no more than that. Focusing speed is slower than Canon but not that much to be a real problem. The real problem was focus accuracy. I saw few reviews before I bought a lens and many of them say that focus accuracy is the same. Simply isn’t. You cannot speak about focus accuracy in a test on YouTube focusing on keyboard, book, plant and then again on keyboard, book, plant. As I believed one YouTuber that Sigma focuses as good as Canon. You have to go and do some real job.
The problem for me on Canon 6D was unpredictability during missing focus. You cannot say why the focus is missed. Sometimes is in front, sometimes is in back in the same scenario. In-house lenses will always miss focus in the same way. You can correct that or learn to avoid those tactics of focusing. With Sigma is just random. And that is the reason why I didn’t try USB dock because I couldn’t see consistency to be corrected.
Also, I found in the middle of the wedding that Sigma is going to miss focus on all low light pictures if you have AF assist turned on on your flash. You read that correct – you have to turn OFF AF assist to make focusing possible with Sigma lens and flash. To be clear, Sigma can be very useful in the slow paced environment. When people are going to wait for you. When you can check focus on display and possibly change the light or rotate subjects a bit. I am often in documentary one shot only situations and I appreciate better focus more than sharpness.
And speaking about sharpness, Sigma 24mm f1.4 ART lens is sharp as you can imagine. It is not sharp as 35mm or 50mm ART lenses. Not to mention 85mm or 135mm ART lens. But you can expect from very wide 24mm lens to be a bit less sharp. Still, it is very sharp lens even wide open. If you have a high megapixel camera and you have enough time to achieve in focus picture, Sigma is going to be great for you. This is also a lens with very high contrast. Maybe too much for my taste. To achieve better contrast Sigma ART lenses are using a heavy coating. This occasionally can make less desirable colors and sometimes you have to process photos in a different way. Overall, Sigma 24mm f1.4 ART is a very good lens, but it just wasn’t the right lens for me. So I sold mine.
Canon 24mm f1.4 II
I bought used Canon 24mm f1.4 II for around 850 EUR in the middle of 2016. After I receive the lens I felt that rear glass is a bit lose. I complained and received 50 EUR back which makes a total of 800 EUR for this lens. Not bad in Europe. I send the lens to repair immediately but received advice to continue to use this lens as is. Which was good advice, because I never had a single problem with this lens. Elements are aligned and focus is very, very good. Later I found that I probably exaggerated this “problem.” Because I tried many Canon used L lenses (even before mine) with “loose” element and never heard single complain about them. It is probably just “normal.” Some of these lenses are 5, 10 or even 15 years old.
Back to Canon 24mm f1.4 II. As I said autofocus of this lens is great. Fast and accurate. Even with “loose” element. I never needed to correct this lens in-camera. I can say that this lens focuses better than Canon 35mm f1.4 (first one), 50mm f1.2 and 50mm f1.4. Similar to the 85mm f1.8, obviously worse then 70-200mm f2.8 IS II and just a bit worse than 16-35mm f2.8. But we are comparing f1.4 with f2.8 here.
The sharpness is just a bit worse than Sigma, but actually very good. Feel of less sharpness is probably just because of less contrast. Even at 100% zoom details look nice at f1.4. You will obviously go to get more details with closed aperture, but also lose quickly a lot of shallow depth of field. That is why I use this lens at f1.4 all of the time. And even on 24MP 800D (T7i) crop sensor lens looks appropriately good wide open.
You can see a bit less contrast compared to Sigma and no chromatic aberration problem on either lens. The focus ring is good but I would like to be even better because I use this lens so much for video. The focus ring is precise and I don’t feel issues like with Sigma less. But the feel is a bit plasticky during rotation. More soft or rubber feel would be good, but it is just nitpicking as I said.
Sharpness: probably Sigma is better just, but without a clear winner. Both lenses are very usable wide open. I don’t care at all about corners, so I cannot comment.
Contrast: Sigma has more contrast, but that contrast can look “dirty” sometimes. If you need sharp and contrasty picture out of the camera, Sigma is a better choice. Canon gives a more suitable picture for edit and obviously goes better with other Canon lenses.
Autofocus: Canon is a little bit faster and much more accurate. It is simply reliable. Sigma will focus accurate eventually. In a fast-paced environment, you have to make much, much more photos with Sigma to be sure to get focus. Sigma is more suitable for posing and controlled situations.
Size and weight: virtually identical.
Focus ring: Sigma has a bit sticky focus ring when you have to start or stop rotation. Canon is more precise, but not soft as I wish. Overall, Canon is better.
Price: used Canon costs more than new Sigma.
If you like Sigma contrast then we have chess result of 3.5:2.5 in favor of Sigma. Even if you say there is draw it is still 3:3 result. So on paper Canon cannot leave Sigma in the dust in any way. But for me, Canon is a much better choice. I need reliable autofocus for unpredictabilities and Canon offers that. Sigma is more for controlled situations. Canon gives me better focus ring for video. Which is important for me because I am using 24mm for video handheld so often.
Canon is noticeably expensive used compared to new sigma, but I don’t mind that because this is the very important lens for me. If you plan 24mm f1.4 as an extra, sidekick lens than you maybe want to include the price in the decision. But for me, I just have to pay more for Canon and I don’t mind. And I don’t mind buying a used lens. Because even with a bit lose rear element, Canon still offers more consistent autofocus then Sigma. So reliability is not a concern for me.
Thank you for reading.
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