The two lenses that I’ll be looking at are the:
Sigma Art 18–35mm Cine EF Mount
Sigma Art 18–35mm Photo Nikon Mount
I’m using Blackmagic Design’s Ursa Mini 4.6K EF and using a Nikon to EF adapter. I’ll be differentiating the two lenses by the terms Cine version and Photo version respectively. In addition, this isn’t a scientific test, rather it’s just my thoughts and opinion. I would not consider myself as someone who is intimately knowledgeable about lenses.
I’ve had the Photo version of the 18–35 since October 2013 therefore it’s been through a lot and I’d consider it my staple lens. It’s one that I use probably 80% of the time due to its versatility and speed since a good majority of the things I shoot are documentary and live events (weddings). This is technically the first Cine lens I’ve owned (does the Rokinon Cine count?).
The Cine version costs $4000 while the Photo version is $799. Is it worth it to spend the extra $3199? [Full disclosure, I bought the Cine version used] Some people might hate this answer but, it depends. I’ll go over some differences and some scenarios below that some people might encounter.
The Cine version — as some people have mentioned — might have more strict QC and that might be one of the reasons why differences arise between the two models. Yet from the copies I’ve tried the optics are incredibly similar.
Below are a few sets of images. All of them wide open at this point. I did shoot the lens stopped down but need to reshoot that portion. I can’t compare certain apertures given that the Photo version of the lens is a Nikon mount (from the Speedbooster days). All the photos below were matched to the same tint (0) and same temperature (5600K) kelvin. There’s no filter on either one.
HERE you can find cDNG files and some JPEGS. I highly suggest viewing either the cDNGs or JPEGs in full resolution since there’s a noticeable difference versus viewing them online.
35mm wide open | RAW 3:1 5600K
Here’s another set.
35mm wide open | RAW 3:1 5600K
Below are both lenses at 18mm.
18mm wide open | RAW 3:1 5600K
You can match them quite well. Clearly wide open they let in different amounts of light, this is the same with the aperture all the way stopped down. I’ll update this soon.
Below are ones graded with a simple curve and nothing else. I’ve matched them to a tint of 0 and temperature of 5600K.
35mm wide open | RAW 3:1 5600K
Both versions seem to have the same/nearly the same optical performance. Sigma’s slogan of 100/100 is on point.
HERE you can find cDNG files and some JPEGS.
Below are some samples shot using the Sigma Cine and Tiffen’s Ultracon 1. My thoughts on the Ultracon can be found here.
Sigma Cine + Ultracon 1 on Letus Helix.4.6K RAW 4:1BUILD
There’s no doubt in my mind when I say that the Cine version has a significantly better build than the Photo version. This was noticeable the instant I opened the box and held the lens. It’s heavier, and with a significantly better housing. Having some of the letters glow in the dark is a nice bonus. The biggest difference for my use would have to be the increased focus rotation which I’ll detail below.
One of the biggest functionality difference for most would probably be the markings and the increased lens rotation. [Focus/Iris/Zoom have greater degrees of rotation]. For me the latter was probably the thing I disliked most about the original Photo version — focus was an immense pain. The Cine version rectifies this by increasing the rotation from 90 degrees to 180 degrees on this model. Thus it’s much easier to focus with the Cine version version the Photo version. While it might seem like an unimportant variable, in fact having greater control over lens rotations, be it focus, iris or zoom, reduces time and technical errors on set.
In addition, a large focus rotation is very useful on a gimbal paired with a wireless focus system, in my case the DJI Focus. Though you could always adjust the rotation on the wireless system itself, it feels different (from what my friends have told me) having a larger mechanical focus throw.
The reason that I’ve separated weight from build is that for my use, this variable plays an important part: if you use a gimbal, weight will come into play more so than when stationary à la tripod and sliders. I tested the Cine version on the Letus Helix (standard, aluminum and without encoded motors). The gimbal handled the weight well but without a support device, the setup quickly becomes incredibly tiring. The Cine version weights 3.19 lb (1447 g) while the Photo version weighs 1.78 lb (807 g). That’s a difference of 1.79X. This might not seem like much but it quickly adds up. With a support device, this is rendered moot.
Given that I don’t work in large productions with unlimited budgets, this variable is important since the most popular gimbals on the market handle between ~8 lb (Ronin M) and 16 lb (Movi /Helix) sans camera setup.
Of course a multitude of cinema lens are larger and heavier, but considering that there’s very little optical performance difference between the Cine and Photo, this variable might be the differentiating factor between getting one or the other.
Is the Cine version worth it over the Non-Cine version? The answer really depends on your usage. The biggest benefit the Sigma Cine has over the Photo version for me would be the markings and the focus rotation. But that being said, the extra weight needing is something I’m still figuring out. On a large production the weight discrepancies would usually be rendered null but with what I currently have, this isn’t true.
Besides weight, one of the biggest mark against going with the Cine version is if you have a limited budget and or the 18–35's attributes don’t play a major part in your arsenal. In other words, the benefits of the 18–35mm — namely it’s speed and versatility — isn’t used often then the difference might be better spent elsewhere. That’s because you could get a set of Sigma Art Photo versions or a few Photo zooms for the price difference (or really any other lens you might fancy).
On the other hand, if you use the 18–35mm often, then — in almost every respect (excluding weight)— the Cine version is an upgrade over the Photo version. I’ve heard the term “mini ultra primes” thrown around when discussions of the Photo series arise, and with the Cine version, they might live up to that. (Never used ultra primes thus you did not hear that from me haha).
Currently, I’m interested in seeing what the price of Sigma’s 35mm Cine will be along with the recently announced 24–70mm 2.8. And what are my final thoughts? I’m a big fan of the Cine version’s build. It is just a wonderful lens to hold (which was one of the cons against the Photo versions) and given the fantastic optics, it’s one of the best values in terms of budget cinema lenses (and especially zooms).