Last week I picked up the highly anticipated lens from Sigma – the 50mm f/1.4 "Art" Series from LensProToGo and got to play with it the whole weekend. This lens caused some major spark and excitement ever since Sigma decided to do battle with Zeiss' highly respected 55mm f/1.4 Otus ($4,000). Zeiss being the Rolls Royce of camera lens and Sigma, well... lets just say any American car manufacture; I had small hopes they could deliver and keep the price tag competitive for consumers.
Priced at under $1,000, Sigma's 50mm "Art" lens seems a lot to fork over for a standard size and commonly used lens, but at a fraction of the price compared to the $4,000 you pay for the Zeiss, seeing the examples I shot below, I'm sure you'll see the quality this thing can produce. Just a minor disclaimer, I haven't tested the Otus to the Sigma, but other respectable online reviewers have placed these two equally top-of-the-line lens.
I will go through some of the specs, but I'm not going to pixel push it like the other guys do because really, "who the hell cares if you have to get down to the last grain of salt to find imperfections?" This is a beautiful lens. Enough said!
Just look at it! Is that NOT the biggest 50mm you ever seen? I call it the "Hercules" of 50s with a diameter outreaching the span of my hand. The diameter and length stands at a whopping 3.4" x 3.9" (without hood attached) and weighs slightly under 2lbs. Yes, it's massive, but felt very comfortable attached to my D600.
The body of the lens is rock solid. Very professional feeling in my hand. Filter size is 77mm with a 9 blade diaphragm behind the front end of the glass. Lens construction is 13 elements in 8 groups. Okay, enough of the boring technical mumbo jumbo. On to the visual results.
Bokeh (the sexy, buttery glory)
This was my first time shooting at f/1.4 and once you go down this far, you never wanna come up. The out-of-focus elements transitioned smoothly at the higher apertures (f/1.4 - 3.2). Shooting your subject with strong light shapes in the background felt like a unified ensemble, dancing throughout your frame.
I didn't stop with static subject matter, I wanted to test this on people. As I began shooting at f/1.8 and all the way down to f/1.4, the images brought on a 3 dimensional look to it. The sharp focus areas of the faces really jumped and displayed an eye-appealing portrait.
Comparison: Nikon 50mm f/1.8 vs Sigma 50mm f/1.4
Now, these two lens are on the opposite side of the spectrum of price, but both are sharp. I own the Nikon 50mm (left), it was my first real lens. I love it, but compared to the Sigma, I just want to chuck it out of my bag. Check out the two compared shots below and see for yourself..
This is my good friend, Rachel. Better known as the "Ginga Ninja" (her title, not mine) and she was kind enough to let me take a few shots of her. Thank you Rachel!
Okay, both images above are right out of the camera, no adjustments whatsoever. You get a rare glimpse of my naked files. I shot both at the same shutter and ISO (1/640th @ ISO 640) to compare their exposures and I decreased the depth of field on the Sigma up to f/1.8 to match Nikon's aperture.
As you can see, the colors on the Sigma (right) are more vivid than the Nikon. Winner Sigma. Since I shot these both at the same ISO and shutter speed, Sigma pulls away again as the light appears brighter, explaining how good the glass is. The bokeh on the Nikon at 1.8 isn't as smooth compared to Sigma's. Now lets take a closer look at the sharpness.
Here it is cropped in at 100%. Do I need to pick a winner here? I thought the Sigma did a far better job at 1.8, as more of the area on Rachel's face was sharper than on the Nikon.
I know this isn't the most critical review for this lens or even fair to the other 50s out there, but it's safe to see, this lens is tack sharp! The only downside to this lens (and small) was it was a little slow to focus once I tried to get in closer to my subject, but that may be more of the camera's fault. Would I recommend this lens? Well depends, if you already own a f/1.4 lens from Nikon or even Canon, I really don't think forking over another $300 - $400 to get it is a practical choice. By all means, if the funds are available or you are already looking to dip your toes in the 50 market, then yes, invest in the extra $$. I guarantee you'll see the results and money well spent down the road. Myself, I'm going to eventually grab this for my concert/portraiture work...since I do need an upgrade from my current 50mm.
Check out the additional shots below from the Sigma 50mm!