Time and again I read on photo forums that the 35/85 prime combo is ideal for covering all angles in a shoot that requires versatility; others swear by the 24-70 and 70-200 zoom lens combo. Still others claim that a 24/50 prime lens combo can cover anything. At the wide-angle side of this debate we have the dilemma of "24 or 35?" Is the 24 too wide an angle for individuals or couples shots? Is the 35 not wide enough for groups? It is hard to know what to do sometimes, without carrying 3-4 camera bodies just to access wide apertures. We sometimes shy away from the 16-35 2.8 zoom option because we want something faster than a 2.8 when shooting full-frame at these focal lengths. And if you're shooting in challenging light conditions, every stop counts.
I have found a lens that is a near-perfect solution to the wide-angle prime dilemma: the Sigma 24-35 F2 Art. Yes, F2 in a zoom. This full-frame lens has surprisingly been flying under the radar since its release last year, and as such has not been popping up in many conversations. I know that some of you are thinking that there is not enough of a distance from 24mm to 35mm to justify a $1,200 lens, but you have to remember that with this lens you have two (three if you count 28mm) fast primes in one. You may also think that there is not a lot of difference between F2.8 and F2; however, optically you can really notice the difference in depth of field, particularly at 35mm.
I do a lot of publicity work for bands, and this lens has come in very handy for wide-angle work that really pops. The featured photos here are all shot with the lens in question, both at the 24 and 35 focal lengths. (The band is Fairgale from Newfoundland, Canada.)
I initially bought the popular Sigma 35 1.4 Art about 18 months ago when I was looking for a fast wide-angle prime. But soon enough I was running into situations where I needed something slightly wider. Another thing I noticed I was doing with the 35 prime was stopping down to F2 quite a bit when shooting multiple people. About a year ago I went to my local Henry’s Camera and happened upon the Canadian Sigma rep, who had a 24-35 F2 Art in his hands. It had just been released. I mounted it on a body and tried it out. I was immediately impressed by its sharpness, even at F2. But what really surprised me was the isolation of subject and background; it was impressive everywhere between 24 and 35. I assumed that I’d be compromising going from F1.4 to F2, but that was not the case. I bought the lens and sold my 35 prime. I knew I wouldn’t need it after seeing what the 24-35 could do.
Alas, no lens is perfect. The Sigma 24-35 Art is heavy in comparison to other lenses in its range. It is also larger than most zooms in this range. Only my Canon 70-200 2.8 II is heavier, and we all know the weight of that lens. For exact specs you can visit any tech review of this lens, but take my word: it is not a lightweight lens. You’ll feel it on a long shoot. At times it has made me ponder returning to the 35 Art prime or going to the 24 Art prime. However, I immediately realize that I would be giving up too much versatility having two of these lenses in one. And, as I mentioned before, I don’t miss the few extra stops when shooting this wide. I couldn’t really deal with a 2.8 wide-angle, but the F2 for some reason makes all the difference. So if you’re caught in the “24 or 35” wide-angle dilemma, the Sigma 24-35 F2 Art may just be the lens for you.