A lens that rejuvenates creativity

Benedict Brain

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 160, F1.4, 1/1000s

Working exclusively with the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art and my SIGMA fp L, I have just travelled on a transatlantic voyage from Lisbon, Portugal to NYC, the USA visiting eight countries en route. The camera and lens combo proved to be ideal travel companions. The SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art is a delightfully versatile lens allowing me to slip easily between shooting urban topographies, landscapes and portraits without changing lenses. As a travelling photographer, size and weight are a significant consideration, however, I also have an uncompromising desire for the best possible optical performance – these factors don’t always go hand in hand, however, the new SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art offers both. It delivers the quality I’ve come to expect from an Art series lens but in a delightfully more compact form. The perfect combination!

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 160, F8, 1/320s

Much of personal practice is about seeing and looking. It is about mindfully considering the sense of place I feel and trying to express that using the language of photography. Often I like to contemplate a place before reaching for my tools. I like to use my other senses such as smell, thought and hearing to build an overall impression. However, the nature of this trip meant visits to the ports, cities and landscapes en route were fleeting and I had to explore them quickly and be swift in my creative decisions. Restricting myself to using nothing but the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art was an interesting creative challenge and the simplicity of my gear helped me to think quickly without a period of contemplation.

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 100, F7.1, 1/250s

24mm is typically a wider focal length than I would use for my work if I was just going to use one focal length, however, I soon found that my creativity was rejuvenated by the slightly wider field of view. After a relatively short period, my eye was accustomed to ‘seeing’ like a 24mm lens and I was away. In many ways, it was liberating, and I’d wholeheartedly recommend anyone trying this in their own practice as a way to create boundaries, which can in turn fuel creativity.

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 250, F5.6, 1/250s

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 250, F5, 1/80s

The 24mm focal length is often the ‘classic’ go-to focal length for landscape photographers. I enjoy making images in the landscape, however, rarely in the traditional way of capturing picturesque vistas. I approach the landscape with a documentary approach and draw my inspiration from photographers such as The New Topographics. I am just as happy, arguably more so, making images in the scrublands and outskirts of urban developments and less drawn to wild classic vistas. I like to consider and explore humanity’s relationship with nature with my camera. The SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art proved perfect for this documentary approach to working with the landscape.

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 200, F7.1, 1/250s

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 100, F4, 1/640s

In addition to the urban topographies, I also like to make portraits of people I meet on my travels. I think it’s fair to say that a 24mm lens is not the go-to focal length for most portrait photographers. However, this also proved to be a revelation for me and I enjoyed working with a wider focal length when photographing people. The superb optical performance of the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art meant that there was no distortion and that the image was tack sharp from edge to edge. It rendered the subjects beautifully. Perhaps more significantly, having to work closer to my subjects, who were typically strangers, created a more intimate experience which demanded a closer level of interaction. I feel this is reflected in their expressions and I will continue to use this wider focal length to create street portraits in the future.

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 160, F1.4, 1/1000s

* The images without photograph data have been created
with other lenses other than SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art.

The MFL function to lock the focus was a wonderfully welcome addition. Once I’d recalibrated my way of focusing, I found it an invaluable tool. The lock is perfectly positioned and ergonomically right by my left hand’s thumb. It soon became instinctive and second nature. The only challenge is that I will miss the feature on some of my other lenses. Such a simple but innovative feature that can make an incredible difference to my in-camera workflow while making images.

Naturally, the widest aperture of F1.4 got me out of plenty of low-light pickles. The nature of my travel assignment means I often find myself forced to work in challenging lighting situations. I have to react to the prevailing conditions and they’re not always perfect. Consequently, the wide F1.4 maximum aperture proved more than useful and I was able to make photographs without the use of a flash or a tripod. Neither of which suit working swiftly while on the move.

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 125, F5, 1/500s

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 125, F5.6, 1/500s

SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art, SIGMA fp L, ISO 250, F5, 1/200s

In addition to helping me out in low-light conditions, the wide aperture of this stunning fast prime produces beautiful bokeh. The blurred parts of an image, typically the background, are an often-overlooked characteristic of an image, however, they can be just as important as the subject. Needless to say, the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art in line with other lenses on the Art series delivers here too.

Ultimately it was the combination of superb optical performance in a relatively lightweight and compact lens that made the SIGMA 24mm F1.4 DG DN | Art is such a delight to use. Combined with a small, exquisitely designed and wonderfully small SIGMA fp L, it will, without doubt, be travelling with me everywhere. The combination of my fp L’s high-resolution sensor and the beautiful optical quality of the new flagship Art lens means I can make large prints to exhibition standard with complete confidence and this is vital to my work.

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