Dirty Thirty vs the 35 1.8.. which is better all-around lens?

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Feb 25, 2008
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So I personal own the 30 1.4 which at the time of the purchase was the only lens available for low light shooting. Now that the 35 1.8 has been out for a while and I have seen some pics on it....I am starting to wonder... which is the all around better lens?
And if anyone has both it would be great to test the actual low light abilities of both. I would suggest with a auto iso set up on the camera, and set but lens at f/2. Then record the readings of the auto iso output, and keep opening it up more till it goes to 1.8 and 1.4 and this should tell if the Sig 30 1.4 actually has a low light advantage over the Nikkor 30 1.8?

So what do you vote for the better lens to own?
 
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By "all around" I don't think about the lens as just a low light lens. All around to me means being good at low light, but also being able to stop it down to get a nice landscape while walking around.

An auto ISO test actually won't work because each lens meters slightly differently. But yes, the Sigma definitely goes to a lower light level.

I own both now and my conclusions are still forming. But generally:

- The 35/1.8 is somewhat sharper at equivalent apertures in the center, with higher contrast.

- The 35/1.8 is significantly sharper in the corners at any aperture.

- The 35/1.8 rendering looks like "a modern Nikon lens." Vivid colors, contrast. The Sigma has a different look. There's almost a reddish/warmish cast in some photos.

- The Sigma has better bokeh and less CA. I don't think the Sigma slam-dunks the Nikon in bokeh because the Sigma can produce some bad bokeh in some circumstances. But it's definitely better than the Nikon.

- The field of view is noticeably wider on the Sigma. 5mm down to 30mm on a DX camera makes a significant difference.

- The Sigma is f/1.4, the Nikon isn't. That's obvious but there is a definite difference there.
 
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I don't think of just low light abilities with this comparison, but I am curious since I read some odd personal review on the net saying that they could get better low light iso performance out of the Nikkor over the sigma.... and thanks very much for your view.
So just to know are you saying you can get a lower iso level in low light situations with the sigma over the Nikkor?
 
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... So just to know are you saying you can get a lower iso level in low light situations with the sigma over the Nikkor?
Yes. It's only been a few weeks but the Sigma still seems to be the low-light champion. It almost seems like I get an extra third of a stop because usually I use exposure compensation about -0.3EV less than the Nikon (e.g. a situation where I would shoot the Nikon at -0.3EV, I'd shoot it with -0.7EV on the Sigma. However, I think this may be as much of a vagary of the metering with the lens than with actual exposure differences.

It also depends on the lighting, though. With the Sigma's wider field of view, I can pull in "too much" of the surroundings, including backgrounds that are too bright. The Sigma's wider field of view and its longer minimum focusing distance usually makes me think a little differently than the Nikon which is a bit narrower and focuses closer. That said, even if the Sigma could get closer, it'll have even more perspective distortion on closer subjects.
 
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if people want to post some pics to show there decisions please do!
here is one of myself, my wife took the picture...
(Edit: feels like I am reaching out of the picture on this one....)

@ f2.2:
Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
 
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Sigma acquires focus a bit faster, but I think that focus tracking once acquired is pretty similar if not favoring the Nikon.

The real issue is focus accuracy. Shooting at large apertures always brings some perils, but I seem to be getting more keepers from the 35/1.8. E.g. when I shoot both the Nikon and the Sigma at f/2, I seem to get more shots nailed with the former.

I just bought a Nikon 50/1.4G AF-S. That gives me a third 1.4 lens. I've had some thoughts of just keeping the 35/1.8 instead of the 30/1.4. Due to overall better sharpness/contrast, more "modern Nikon" colors/contrast, versatility as a stopped-down lens, significantly less weight, and possibly greater focus accuracy.

But I plan to do some more shooting with both before deciding. The Sigma still can produce a nice ethereal quality that the Nikon doesn't seem to match.
 
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and I imagine the 50 and the 35 must be close in all around look (saturation, contrast..) so would I think make a better pair (photo editing wise)
 
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The 35/1.8 matches very well with the 17-55 I use a lot, and also the 70-200. Same kind of modern Nikon look. Some will say "digital look."

My 85/1.4 has "the classic look" to it but I treasure that lens too.

The Sigma is of course different than any of the others, so that is a consideration.

While the Sigma has a more ethereal bokeh and it's better than the 35/1.8's, I don't think it has exceptional bokeh either. Stop down just a little to f/2.8 and you get hexagons, not round points of light. Sometimes with onion bokeh too. That detracts from it being an "all-around" lens. Not every Sigma shot I take is going to be at f/1.4 to f/2.0.

The Nikon's bokeh does suffer from CA outlining, e.g. green edges. Post-processing fixes it to a degree.

Of course, neither of these lenses is long and can never be expected to match, say, an 85/1.4 (which is awesome even when stopped down to f/4 -- aperture blades hold a round shape).
 
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hmm, I was pondering the same thing not too long ago......

I'm pretty happy with the siggy(after a trip to sigma of course), it's far from perfect though..........it's not the fastest focusing lens, and that wouldn't be a problem if it didn't hunt so much.......the hunting is what has me thinking about the Nikon(my 50g is fast and locks focus confidently time after time.)....I want to see how the 35 1.8 behaves on my camera, soon as BH has them in stock I'm picking one up.
 
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f1.4
 
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David's photo shows the nice-but-not-perfect bokeh of the lens, and what I like -- and don't like -- about it. Look at the bright point of light in the upper right corner. It's not round, and it has a distinctive outline. Not only is there an outline, that point of light may have an onion-structure in it ("onion bokeh"). Hard to tell at that resolution.

The quality of the blur is excellent, and one of the truly endearing qualities of the lens. The Nikon 35/1.8 can't quite render the blur in as pleasing a way.
 
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I took a picture tonight with my Nikon 35 1.8 G at near minimum focusing distance, ISO 400, f/1.8. The first pic is a close up, 100%, crop, and the second is the full image. I think it is quite sharp, likely sharper than the 50 1.8 and certainly sharper than the 50 1.4 D at 1.8. The bokeh is pretty nice, though not quite up to the 35 1.4 ai, ais.

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Dave Harris
 
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I think the 35/1.8 is a more versatile lens but the 30/1.4 is better at what it does best. I guess it all comes down to whether or not you place more emphasis on dreamy, mostly-OOF photos.
 
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I've not used the Sigma tho it's what I wanted...till I bought the Nikon. For me, all the complaints I see about so many Sigma lenses mean the small differences in perceived sharpness, color rendition or AF speed are just not enough to make me want to go through the hassle of buying, testing and possibly returning (and doing it all again) one of their lenses. Yes, I have the 10-20, but I wanted an inexpensive wide angle and the choices were fairly limited - when you take into account availability.

It's my contention that the 'differences' we discuss are often small and inconsistent. If they were bigger or more obvious, we'd see more of a general agreement on 'which lens is better', don't you think? I'll agree that some part of it is personal preference, but I feel in many cases it's more of perceived preference. When I used to spend a lot of time on the home theater sites, there were endless debates on speaker cable performance and sound differences - but the truth was no measurement tool could show those differences. I think the same is true of some lens comparisons. I'm not saying all, that would be silly.

The bottom line is, for me, the hit-and-miss QC of Sigma isn't worth any small difference in the IQ the lens may offer. If I spent my days printing 20x30 posters, I might feel different and who knows, maybe you all do that. When you can buy the Nikkor and just start shooting, I say that's a difference worth having.

<donning flak jacket>
 
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I have the Sigma lens and I agree with you NorCalAI. If I was buying it now, I would buy whichever was cheaper, because money IS an object for me. I'm happy with my Sigma, but the difference is minor.

However, as someone who has two Sigmas, two Tokinas and a Tamron lens, I can tell you that the same sort of overblown nature on forums regarding image quality differences also applies to reports of quality control issues. I have never had any problems with any of my third party lenses. I think you can chalk a lot of that up to sampling error. Most folks don't post about a lens unless they are having problems with it. Thousands of people who have no problems don't see a reason to post. They just shoot pictures.
 
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