The just-released Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DGDN is the newest member of the L-Mount Alliance. It joins their 35mm and 65mm DGDN compact prime lenses and the older 45mm DGDN (previously reviewed here). Besides the new Sigma 24mm, I happen to own the Leica Elmar-M 24mm f/3.8 ASPH lens and both the Leica SL (601) and Leica CL bodies (both 24MP). I thought I’d share my first impressions of the new Sigma 24mm and a few sample images taken with the SL (601), which will be presented as SOOC JPEGs. The only processing was reducing the size of the images for web viewing.
Admittedly this is an unfair fight. Can we really compare a $2500 Leica lens to a $549 Sigma lens? Yes, we can. Their maximum apertures are almost identical and both are full-frame lenses, constructed entirely of metal and glass. They both utilize aspheric lens components. The DG DN Sigmas are designed from the ground up for mirrorless full-frame sensors. Leica M is the original mirrorless platform, so I’d say they are quite comparable. Build quality in both lenses is top-notch.
Traditionally, the Leica rangefinder user was limited by frame lines spanning the 28-90mm range. 28mm is a natural wide-angle view, without too much exaggeration. Noticeably wider than 35mm. Perfect for reportage, landscapes, etc. But what if we want more? Enter the EVF Leica.
Suddenly that moderate and sensible wide-angle 28mm frame line limitation is erased. EVF-equipped cameras offer an SLR-like WYSIWYG experience. Want to go wider? Slap on an 18mm or 21mm. No problem. If you want to shoot wide, but not ultra-wide, 24mm may be your goldilocks lens. That being said, wide-angle lenses can be a challenge to use effectively. Even moderate wide-angle lenses are more difficult to use than a 35mm or 50mm. One has to compose far more deliberately.
The Sigma’s AF stepping motor is fast, with close-focusing down to 10.8cm. Keep in mind that Sigma is referring to the distance from the film-plane (sensor) to the subject, not from the front of the lens. You would have to remove the lens hood to photograph that closely. The manual-focus Leica Elmar-M 24mm is limited to 70cm, as are most rangefinder lenses. Through the EVF, manual-focus lenses do benefit greatly from the option of focus-peaking, and with the Leica SL, the option to zoom to 100% at the click of a button. I was truly astonished by just how close the Sigma was able to focus on this license plate:
The following images show the practical benefit of a close-focusing lens and the warmer tones produced by the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DGDN. It is a great advantage never having to be conscious of close-focus limitations. Almost any composition you can imagine is within the capabilities of this little Sigma prime.
The Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DGDN is perfectly balanced and compact when attached to the Leica SL. Manual focus is available (by wire) with the knurled ring in front of the aperture ring. There is an A setting on the aperture ring (see below) which allows for full control from the camera body or simply dial-in the preferred aperture manually in 1/3 stop increments. The latter technique provides visible feedback of the f-stop chosen whether the camera is on or off.
The metal tulip-style hood clicks on solidly and Sigma includes both a standard plastic pinch-type lens cap and their new magnetic cap. When paired with the 45mm DGDN lens (below), together they tip the scales at only 439g. (less than a pound) and share a 55mm filter thread. Very convenient.
Image Quality and Lens Coatings
Both the Leica 24mm and Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DGDN lenses are modern optical designs with excellent IQ. Full stop. One subtle way they differ is in their proprietary lens coatings. This is something to keep in mind when building a lens collection, as it affects image color/continuity. My test images were of normal everyday subjects in harsh winter sunlight with fixed daylight white balance. No AWB. Fixed ISO 50. There was quite a bit of difference between the two lenses, with the Sigma producing a decidedly warmer image. See below:
Bokeh, or is it bokay?
Many of my test shots were done at f/8, the sweet spot for any lens. Obviously, if you’re the type of person who shoots everything wide-open, neither of these relatively slow wide-angle lenses may be your cup of Earl Grey. But you could. I saw little improvement in sharpness over the apertures tested. The following images were captured handheld and wide-open at their respective apertures. How about the character of the out-of-focus areas of the images?
Both the Leica and Sigma 24mm lenses are designed to cover the full 24x36mm image format, but they can also be used on APS-C Leica CL/TL cameras. The 24mm lens yields a 36mm equivalent FOV on an APS-C sensor. Corner-sharpness would be wasted on such a setup, but this particular combination is perfect for street use. With AF, one can quickly grab images with just one hand. This is of exceptional value for the clandestine street shooter. With a retail price of just $549, the little Sigma 24 compares very favorably to Leicas 23mm Summicron-T at $2195 USD.
Leica CL with Sigma 24mm DG DN (36mm equivalent FOV)
As a raving fan of the Sigma 45mm DGDN lens, confirmation bias may be present here. But these compact Sigma primes are fast, effective, and just plain fun to use. They have virtually no close-focus limitation. Point and shoot. Done. They are solidly made and the image quality is outstanding. If you can live with f/3.5, you won’t be disappointed with the Sigma 24mm f/3.5 DG DN!
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7 thoughts on “Sigma 24mm vs. Leica 24mm a Mini-Review – By JK Lockwood”
I’ve had this lens on my TL for the last six weeks and I love it. Does the angle of view match exactly with the Elmar 24mm? I’ve read that the Sigma is nearer to 26mm in practice, but not seen a definitive measurement in any reviews.
I used to have the 24mm Elmar on my M240 a few years ago and loved it so I’m hoping the Sigma will be every bit as good when I pick up an SL body later in the year.
You will love the Sigma 24mm on the FF Leica SL. Most of these shots were taken from a tripod. The building exterior that is ivory with blue trim is probably the best example that illustrates the Sigma’s slightly longer focal length. Sigma lists the angle-of-view as 84.1 degrees. Leica still lists the tech specs on their website for the Elmar-M. The angle of view is 84° / 74° / 53°, diagonally, horizontally and vertically.
I personally have the 35mm DG DN one, and I love it! I love the fact that the compactness of the lens does not compromise the build quality and the image quality of the lens at all. I use it on my Leica SL2, which is a heavy camera, but having this lens is very delightfully light compared to the SL APO 50mm Summicron that I have lol
Agree. The overall size and balance is just right on these Sigma Contemporary lenses!
I am a big fan of this line and use the 24, 35, 45, and 65 on the SL2 and CL. From my perspective, the LEICA SL lenses have a way better optical quality, but the sizes of these lenses (still having an excellent optical quality) are outstanding. Finally, a set of lenses for full-frame mirrorless cameras makes the SL usable for daily life shootings. I love them and can’t wait for a 21/20mm and hopefully a 13/14/15mm lens to come.
Agree, how do you like the 65mm? I was hoping for a small 85mm f/2. Panasonic offers the 85mm f/1.8, may have to give that a go!
I have the 45mm 2.8 for Sony (My first ever Sigma). I love it. The aperture ring seems like a small detail, but in practice keeps me focused on keeping the DOF that’s best for the subject. It’s not a pancake, but not huge either and I’m using it all the time.
I also have the Tamron 24mm 2.8 and 35mm 2.8. Both fantastic lenses and the Tamron 35mm 2.8 is sharper than the Sigma 45mm 2.8 . Especially wide open outside it’s 1:2 macro MFD. However, the Sigma 45mm 2.8..the final images are just lovely.
I’m thinking about switching out the Tamron 24mm 2.8 now for the Sigma 24mm 3.5. Solely due to my fondness now of the 45mm and the sublime shooting experience. The only issue is the 24mm 2.8 Tamron isn’t exactly fast to focus. It’s not quite small either. IQ though, I have zero complaints. It’s actually quite good. I hope the Sigma 24mm 3.5 comes down in price, because I think it’s arguably the best balanced 24mm (non 1.4) that is available for Sony and for that reason, I could see using it a lot.