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Nikon's, Sigma's and Canon's 24mm f/1.4 lenses side by side

The three 24mm f/1.4 lenses side by side (and approximately to scale). Click for larger.

The contenders:

  • Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED ($1,999.95, released in 2010)
  • Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art ($849, released in 2015)
  • Canon 24mm f/1.4L II USM ($1,649, released in 2008)

I used Sigma’s geometrical (theoretical) chart, since Canon and Nikon themselves only show theoretical measurements (the differences with the diffraction chart are almost nil anyway). I tried to make the comparison easy by making the charts roughly the same shape and size, and removing distractions, including Canon’s measurements at f/8.

So this reveals basic lens performance (contrast and resolution), as well as optical issues such as field curvature and astigmatism. To make it simple, the top pair of lines represents the contrast, and the lower lines show the resolution – from the center (0 mm) to the full-frame corners* (21.6 mm). Higher is better.

Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED (f/1.4) Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED (f/1.4)
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (f/1.4) Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (f/1.4)
Canon 24mm f/1.4L II USM (f/1.4) Canon 24mm f/1.4L II USM (f/1.4)

The Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is ahead by some margin here. It appears to be consistently sharper and more contrasty than its two rivals, with the Canon faring the worst. See the lines curving up and down? This is pronounced field curvature – a scourge when shooting distant scenes.

Even with the usual sample variance (not all lenses can be created equal), the extra pop and bite of the 24mm Art wide open seem significant enough to be noticeable in any well-made, real-world comparison between the Sigma lens and its competitors.

Let’s recall that MTF charts don’t tell the whole “image quality” story though. Distortion, coma, flare, chromatic aberration, bokeh, sharp/unsharp transitions… are aspects of image quality that matter to anyone after a super-fast 24mm prime lens, but can’t be assessed here.

Okay, I see you like MTF charts nonetheless, so have a look at how the new Sigma 24mm f/1.4 Art compares to the discontinued 24mm f/1.8 EX.

Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (f/1.4) Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (f/1.4)
Sigma 24mm f/1.8 EX DG (f/1.8) Sigma 24mm f/1.8 EX DG (f/1.8)

At f/1.4, the 24mm Art bests its older sibling at its widest aperture of f/1.8. Of course, the Art lens must be given extra credit in this match, as the performance shown here is achieved at a more extreme aperture setting (f/1.4 vs f/1.8). It’s supposed to be even better when stopped down to f/1.8.

* With Canon’s APS-C sensors (1.6× crop), the far corners are at 13.4 mm from the center. With 1.5× APS-C sensors, the far corners are at 14.2 mm from the center.

  • Jimmy
  • Jedy

    Looking forward to the new Sigma 24mm and reading full reviews. Not sure I’d have the money for it just yet. I’ve gone a bit anti-red ring of late. Not that I hate L lenses, just that Sigma’s ART lineup have a much more subtle design without that silly ‘red ring lust’ that accompanies gear whores. ART lust anyone?

    • Stéphane.B

      ART lust here !

  • SimenO

    Try comparing the 24/1,8 and 24/1,4 to Sigma 18-35/1,8 ART. I plan on using that on FF later on. The zoom has a image circle equaling about 1,25x crop.

  • David Burren

    “With Canon’s APS-C sensors (1.6× crop), the far corners are at 14.2 mm from the center. With 1.5× APS-C sensors, the far corners are at 13.5 mm from the center.”

    Wrong way around. 1.6x == 13.5mm, 1.5x == 14.2mm.

    • Florent – SigmaRumors

      Thanks, corrected!

    • Florent – SigmaRumors

      Oops. Corrected!

      • Is it not 13.3mm though?

        • Florent – SigmaRumors

          Actually, it is 13.41mm.

          • Haha. You know I did a bit more reading on this and as it turns out, Canon have used 3 different sized APS-C sensors over the last few years. Hence the confusion of information out there. At one time or another, 13.3, 13.4 and 13.5 are all correct answers… Who knew?! I certainly didn’t.

          • Florent – SigmaRumors

            I didn’t either. For what it’s worth, Wikipedia says the diagonal for Canon APS-C sensors is 26.82mm. Perhaps that’s for current models.

  • Stéphane.B

    Sigma 24mm ART already won the price battle… and it looks like it will win the image quality one too !

  • Russell Ferris

    With a 14-24 in my bag buying a 24mm prime would be redundant, especially at such a niche range. Tamron’s 15-30 looks like it’s blowing everything away in this range.

    • SimenO

      Both are two! stops slower.

      • Pittsburgh Kid

        Tamron has OS so effectively as fast, if not “faster”

        • Russell Ferris

          Exactly my point on the new tamron

        • Florent – SigmaRumors

          I see your point, but it would be better not to say the Tamron is “as fast or faster” as the 24 Art, since stabilization doesn’t enable fast shutter speeds like a large aperture does. And you know how useful fast shutter speeds can be 😉

          Besides, the Tamron is of no help to those who enjoy the look of wide-angle shots made at large apertures. It’s really something special.

          That said, this lens can certainly be used handheld where the 24 Art can’t (2 stops faster than the Tamron, but the Tamron’s stabilization offers at least 3 stops of stability). And using f/1.4 by necessity won’t always result in a satisfactory image.

          • Russell Ferris

            24mm is much too niche to be investing money into, get an ultra wide zoom. I’m sure this prime lens is really nice but at this range zoom really helps. Just like why I chose sigma’s 120-300 over a 300mm prime, flexibility and that is invaluable whether on a tripod or not.

          • true

            primes aren’t niche. There are plenty of people who are using 20/24 , 28 and 35 primes in their bag.

          • Russell Ferris

            I didn’t say primes are niche, I did say 24mm is. There are too many strong lenses that overlap this focal range.

          • true

            Do you mean 24-70? Isn’t the distortion quite high @ low end of the lens?

            If you mean wide angle zooms, I can’t recommend 16-35 to anyone, 18-35 might be better, but only the recent Tamron 15-30 seems to be something that is actually “good” without breaking the bank for a 14-24.

            With this perspective, I don’t see many lenses overlapping the 24. Not without adding strong distortion atleast.

          • Russell Ferris

            The Tamron is cleaning up, if the 14-24 didn’t hold it’s value it would be gone for the tamron in a heart beat. I picked up a beautiful used 14-24 for $1480 and can sell it for the exactly the same, just try to sell a 24mm 1.4.

        • Just Me

          OS only allows you to hand hold for longer shutter speeds. I like IS/OS, but if I am buying a 24 mm prime, it will be for shots where I am almost exclusively using a tripod. Either nightscapes or landscape shots where I want extreme corner to corner sharpness.

          • Pittsburgh Kid

            Tripods are a no-no in many museums (as is flash)

            Hence the need for a large aperture or OS.

            Street and discrete architecture also benefits.

        • SimenO

          Fast is about shutter speed, not steadyness.

          Besides, Even the Sigma may be image stabilized when Pentax FF is out and Sigma make a K mount version.

        • Annoyed

          You will still have to use a shutter speed two stops slower, which is tolerable for some subjects, but not for others.

          And OS doesn’t help with depth of field.

  • Pittsburgh Kid

    Is there an MTF chart for the Carl Zeiss Distagon T 25mm f/2 ZF.2?

  • animalsbybarry

    Florent
    Do you have a best guess on relese dates/avalability for the differrent versions/ mounts of the 150-600
    Also do you think we might see 1.4x for Sony.
    I am trying to buy one plus a new high res camera asap,
    But with not knowing release dates, and no news on new Sony or Nikon high res cameras this is a very difficult decision.

    • Jeffry De Meyer

      sony and nikon have the highest resolution FF cameras you can buy.
      Nikon has the superior Auto focus system, true 14bit colors and has third parties making all kinds of stuff for them.

      I don’t see what the problem is in making your decision, you want the Nikon d810.

      • animalsbybarry

        I want one of the new 50+ mp cameras that are coming out, Nikon A F is actually AF slower than Canon or Sony, none of these nrw lenses are currently avaiailable, Sport is better lens but will not be mm ade for Sony, nor will 1.4x
        And neither Sony or Nikon have anounced their new high mp camera.
        Canon d5s r will not be available till July.
        That is whyvit is so difficult to choose a lens / camera combo..now you know.

        • Jeffry De Meyer

          Nikon is only slower in video AF, in stills Nikon is way faster than Sony.
          Yes Canon is better than Nikon for AF but they are as you noted quite horrible in making images.

    • EarlFargis

      Any interest in preordering the new Canon 5DS/5DS R? Yep, it’s pricy and Sony is hinting at something a bit cheaper but it’ll undoubtedly be mirrorless which leads to klugy adapters to mount any Sigma 150-600.

      Sony obviously is positioning itself for its own ~50mp response but Nikon’s future in this space is really fuzzy to me. Unclear what or even if Sony will offer them a new hi-rez sensor.

      • Jeffry De Meyer

        They can make more money selling trough nikon

      • animalsbybarry

        I will preorder it but I need to know what Sonikon will comeout with before actually getting it…plus I will miss most of this years photography season.

        • EarlFargis

          You were smart to cancel your Sigma 150-600 Sports order. I’m sticking with mine in the (vain?) hope it’ll all work out and seriously can’t stomach getting at the end of another Sigma preorder list. I’m fully expecting to miss Spring.

          When you toss in bodies as a variable I have to agree with you. You can forget-about-it. You might get it all sorted out and into your hands by Fall. I’m not really keeping up with SAR’s silliness (as tired of SAR as Sigma preorders ;^) ) but it’s safe to say with Sony’s CP+ being a predicable bust, previous rumors of a 1st quarter release are fading fast. Sony is hinting at undercutting Canon’s 50MP bodies in price but I suspect it’ll still be ~$3k. Add hundreds more if you want a mirror and a body with “Nikon” painted on it. Sony likes to discount their bodies fairly quickly so maybe there will be a price cut around Christmas depending when their Canon killer body comes out. Nikon discounts – assuming a body even comes out this year? Forget-about-it.

          BTW, if you didn’t see it, I mentioned in another comment thread that Tony Northrup and his wife (plus some assistant) have done a wonderful video comparing the Sigma 150-600 Sports to the Tamron 150-600 plus some Canon lenses: The 100-400 II and the 400 f/5.6 (plus they used the 500 f/4 as a benchmark for control purposes). He did a double-blind comparison so his image comparisons are unbiased atypical of many reviews. The quick take is there isn’t much difference sharpness of any of the lens, weight is the Sigma’s biggest shortcoming, and there’s no difference in the AF. They don’t delve much into teleconverters and I can’t recall if they tried Sigma’s new 1.4x (or the older model) but his wife didn’t think they were any better than cropping. This is an old argument. My personal view is 1.4x teleconverters are useful, longer not so much. So I’m not dissuaded that buying the new Sigma 1.4x was a good move thought I can’t prove it yet.

          • animalsbybarry

            I have actually preordered both the Canom and Nikon Sport versions…even though I am not yet sure what I will actually buy.

          • EarlFargis

            Didn’t you have one or both Sports preordered at one point and cancel them or am I confusing this with something else? Have you gotten any delivery estimates? Amazon USA is telling me late February through mid June for an order placed at the end of October. Given Sigma’s factory quality control woes which I have no clue if they are fixed yet I don’t even have faith in getting mine by July but I’ve turned totally sour and cynical on Sigma watching their Keystone Cops rollout.

            The Canon won’t come out until June and I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes into backorder Hades like the Sigma 150-600 Sports, Tamron 150-600, pick your crazy demand with lousy supply example because Canon fans have been suffering for many years with sensors lagging the pack. The pent up demand must be humongous for a huge leap in megapixels skipping the previous Sony/Nikon 36MP benchmark. I assume you’ve pre-order this as well? Did you go for the R?

            I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony tries to steal Canon’s thunder with a May release but it’s all window dressing. I can’t find much to sink my teeth in on the new Canons. I’m suspicious of the 5DS’s dynamic range and practical FPS given my experience with 36MP sensors and their massive, unwieldy file sizes. I have to be a bit careful buying Class 10 SD cards because some aren’t up to the task. I suspect 50MP will be crazy. Editing workflow in DxO can be painful at times too. Clean up a RAW file with Prime noise reduction and expect several minutes to process each picture on my aging Intel I7 with an ATI 5800 series card.

          • animalsbybarry

            I preordered Nikon, canceled it , and prordered both sports versions again.
            TheCanon camera is a long way off.
            If I get the Nikon before they release a camera I can get a d5500 or d810 temporarily.
            If Sony anounces a high mp camera I will knowNikon will eventually.
            I have a few concerns about Canon.
            The sensor is actuall a 2007 sensor…if you read the original 2010 Aug press release about the 120mp sensor they also describe having a 50mp sensor since 2007.
            The low pass filter is not removed for the 5ds r….instead they have added another compensating element in addition to the low pass filter.
            As for ISO I am no too concerned with that because performance up to 6400 should be comparable to a higher iso sensor at the same iso, and 6400 should be sufficient for the 150-600 with 1.4x shot wide open in daylight.
            The Nikon d5500 seems like a reasonable inexpensive camera for temporary use if I know a high mp one will eventually come out…or a d810. Would be better but to expensive for a temporary camera, plus it shoots tiff…if I can get the Sport lens soon enough…perhaps the mass of cancellations for the contemporary version will move me up on the list.
            I could even consider the contemporary for Sony but I would miss to much shooting season while waiting.
            I also wonder if the Nikon Sport or Contemporary version will arrive first.

    • Florent – SigmaRumors

      For the 150-600mm C, Sigma UK says: Estimated availability Canon March 2015 and Nikon May 2015. Sigma and Sony TBD.

  • Vladimir Khudyakov

    Fanastic…Waiting for new Sigma for my collection 🙂

    • Carlo M.

      Collecting lenses, are we?
      Lens makers love people like you.

      • Vladimir Khudyakov

        Art 35 mm, Art 50 mm, Nikkor 16-85 – it’s collection? :))

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