Naming and categorization are important to make a lens line clear and guide users according to their needs.
I frequently get questions on what exactly is hidden behind the Global Vision labels: Art, Contemporary and Sports. So here’s what Sigma says (in italic), along with a couple of thoughts.
Designed with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and abundant expressive power, our Art line delivers high-level artistic expression.
→ Large-aperture prime lenses, wide-angle lenses, ultra-wide-angle lenses, macro lenses, fisheye lenses and more
Lenses designed with no weight and size savings in mind. With the 24-105mm f/4 Art being a notable exception (more on this below), Art lenses offer a large aperture and/or are specialized. Additionally to Sigma’s examples, we can assume that tilt-shift lenses would go into this category.
Featuring the very latest technology, and combining optical performance with compactness, our high-performance Contemporary line covers a wide range of needs.
→ Standard zoom lenses, telephoto zoom lenses, high-magnification zoom lenses and more
Since compactness is a goal, using smaller and less glass elements − and, subsequently, compromising on optical performance to some extent − is necessary. The 150-600mm f/5-6.3 variants, one Contemporary and the other Sports, show what it’s like to design two lenses with the same focal length range and aperture but with different quality goals.
Mechanically, Contemporary lenses should be just as good as the others (barring weather resistance in some cases). TSC material and metal parts are used, and as every Global Vision lens, they are individually tested.
While offering sophisticated optical performance and expressiveness, our Sports line lenses deliver high action-capture performance, enabling photographers to get exactly the shots they want.
→ Telephoto lenses, telephoto zoom lenses, super telephoto lenses, super telephoto zoom lenses and more
That one doesn’t need much explanation. Well, things were really clear until the 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sports came in. A “high action-capture performance” implies a large aperture for motion-freezing purposes. With the Global Vision categorization, this was the only way for Sigma to differentiate the two 150-600mm lenses, and it sure adds a bit of confusion.
Regarding optical performance, the Sports line aims at the same quality goals as the Art series.
A word on the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 Art
Note that the Sigma 24-105mm f/4 is not even in the list of possible lens types for the Art line. As a standard zoom lens, it should have been labeled “Contemporary”. That won’t spoil anyone’s shooting experience, but it raises the question of what we can expect from it, and from the Art series in general. For instance, the lens could have been made bigger, to achieve higher performance and to clearly outperform the 8-year old (as of its release) Canon 24-105mm f/4 L.