I am Ralph Elliott Starkweather, a professional photographer with over 40 years of experience and a customer of Samy’s Camera since they first opened their doors.
My goal with this and upcoming reviews will be to use the lenses or cameras that I am reviewing in the way that I would normally shoot rather than focusing too much on the technical detail. There are many people out there that will tell you how many elements there are in the coating and how the temperature affects everything. For me though, it really is that one picture is worth a thousand words.
My first impression of the Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art Lens – available for Canon and Nikon – is the size,build and glass. This isn’t just a lens. It is an art product too. Years ago, Sigma was an odd company making strange wide angle lenses and unusual cameras but they have been kicking butt in the lens world for the past 15 years now. This Sigma 20 mm 1.4 Art Lens continues that trend because slap one of these beautiful lenses on your camera and you would think you are shooting with a top quality Zeiss made lens.
If you want to go where others dare not go and try to shoot in low light, this Sigma 1.4 lens will allow you to go into cafes and pubs and take street portraits for clients. It’s great because you can achieve any effect shooting wide open at 1.4.. If you are shooting a subject, it will be in focus and the background has this beautiful creamy blurred look. I’d say it is like bokeh but I said I wasn’t going to use technical or buzz words in my reviews. Instead, I figure it is just better to look at the photographs.
Let’s start with the photographs made on Dia de los Muertos in Olvera Street, Los Angeles both of which were shot using the Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art Lens at a wide open setting. Look at the colors, sharpness and that beautiful background.
This is a 20 millimeter lens and you would expect huge amount of distortion. I’m just far enough away that it doesn’t exhibit distortion on the head and faces. It gives me that near far effect because it is a wide angle lens.
A word of caution since shooting at the 1.4 aperture: you must choose the area you want to be in complete focus. In the case of head shots like these, I choose the eyes and then moving in and out will change the very shallow plane of focus. The focus on the lens was quick and silent which helps to make adjustments without alerting the subject.
Sticking with the portraits, the next one is of a fellow named Jonathan who is a chef at Zinc Cafe in downtown Los Angeles. I chose to present this one in black and white since it has such beautiful tones and look again at that background how beautiful is that blur?
Here is a shot of Peter Fetterman, quite a dynamic seller of classic photography, inside his Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica, California. David Fahey,another long time gallery owner, also allowed me to take some shots of him using the Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art Lens. In his case, graciously posing inside the Fahey Klein Gallery in the La Brea area of Los Angeles.
Let’s move on from photographing people and onto an interior shot of Union Station in Los Angeles. This is a very difficult situation. You have very bright and very dark and constantly moving people.
The Sigma 1.4 aperture art lens helps in freezing the subjects walking along at such a fast pace, using a lower iso and resulting in very very sharp images.
Since this is a 20 millimeter lens, it allows me to go out and shoot tight shoot tight architectural scenes in situations when there isn’t enough room to capture the whole building.
Here’s some other random photographs I took while taking the Sigma 20mm 1.4 Art Lens for a test drive. Take a look at them and see if producing these kind of results suggests the lens will be the right one for you.