SIGMA 50MM ART LENS ON THE JOB REVIEW BY RICKY FLEMING

INTRODUCTION

I was delighted to be asked by my friend Kris Rae to shoot some promotional portraits of of him for his new project "The Eccentric Beggar". The singer and multi-instrumentalist has recently recorded a new E.P. which is set to be released by R'n'R Records in June 2017. I have known Kris for a number of years and have worked with him on a number of projects in the past, and knew that this shoot would inevitably be followed by a hangover.

DISCLAIMER

It is my job to ensure when reading the following that you are aware that this is just MY opinion. What you read below is (as always) subjective, as what I like in a piece of kit, you may not, but I hope that sharing my experience of using it will be of use to some readers, particularly those who are interested in buying this lens. If you're a total geek/anorak/nerd (delete where appropriate) then you may be better served with a fully technical review featuring pictures of walls and bookshelves posted elsewhere as I review any equipment solely from my perspective as a professional photographer.

I have been using the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art lens prior to the shoot for some time, so decided to share my thoughts on the experience. All shots with Kris were taken at my studio R'n'R Studios Ltd using a mixture of ring lighting and 500w simple 2-strobes set up. My camera for this shoot was "old faithful", my Nikon D800, Not the D800e, or the D810... other variables include the lack of heating and the huge consumption of Stella Artois.

LENS INFORMATION

  • Lens Construction 13 Elements in 8 Groups
  • Angle of View (for SD1) 46.8 degrees
  • Number of Diaphragm Blades 9 Blades
  • Minimum Aperture F16
  • Minimum Focusing Distance 40cm / 15.8in.
  • Maximum Magnification 1:5.6
  • Filter Size Diameter 77mm
  • Dimensions Diameter 85.4mm x Length 99.9mm / 3.4in. x 3.9in.
  • Weight 815g / 28.7oz.

THOUGHTS

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM, as with all the Global Vision range, is a well built, solid, prime lens aimed for use on full-frame DSLR cameras. The lens is comprised of 13 elements in 8 groups and features a rounded 9 blade diaphragm which creates an attractive blur (Bokeh) to the out of focus areas of the image. It has a Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) for smooth, quiet and accurate autofocusing, Super Multi-Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting, a minimum focusing distance of 40cm / 15.8in and a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:5.6. The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM ships with a good quality soft case and strap and also a plastic petal-shaped lens hood. It accepts 77mm filters.

Weighing in at 815 grams and measuring 9.9cm in length, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM it's not light. Of course most of the Sigma Global Vision range of lens are regularly noted as being on the heavy side... but I personally like that, as there is definitely a feel of quality craftsmanship when you pull out any of the Sigma GV lens to use. Its simply an excellent lens to work with... and to look at. As with all Sigma Global Vision range you get a nice padded cover for your lens, however I tend to find that I have my Sigma collection proudly on display out of their covers, like trophies on a mantel in the editing suit of my studio. No 2nd prizes here.

Focusing is internal and manual focusing is possible when set via the focus switch on the lens barrel. Full-time manual focus override is also available at any time simply by rotating the focus ring. A clear distance scale in both metric and imperial runs from the lenses closest focusing distance of 40cm / 15.8in to infinity.

Lets go back to the obvious exception with this lens, its lack of a built-in Image stabilisation, Personally I've always found Sigma's Optical Image Stabilisation to be really beneficial in a lot of low light shooting situations. Do I miss it on this lens? - Of course I do, anyone who says otherwise, is off their head, however... I will say this, for this shoot I was shooting high speed sync for the majority of the night so, when shooting at 1/1250th of second, there was no way an image would have suffered from movement or shake. As mentioned (by everyone and their granny) it is a hefty bit of glass so if you're not rock steady when shooting at slower shutter speeds images may exhibit slight blurring due to movement, or so I expected. For me on this shoot, it didn't seem to be an issue. When we started shooting through the ring light, I had asked Kris to sing me a couple of songs. Now, Kris likes to move when he sings... alot, but auto-focus and shooting between 1/40th and 1/60th of a second, there wasn't any noticeable movement.

So to summerise, although I think weight of a lens is important, in this situation balance was key. I prefer the weight to be towards the camera body, for example, My camera is around 900g, this lens is 815g, so the weights at the back and better balance, however, for an example the Sigma 85mm Art is a whopping 1130g and is heavier than the camera body therefor front heavy, making it, to me, unbalanced and more difficult to control when shooting for long periods of time. These larger lens should really have image stabilisation. However, although the 50mm is heavy, I think its really well balanced on my Nikon D800. Deliberate by Sigma's engineers or nice coincidence, you can decide.

FOCUSING

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM lens has a really comfy and wide focus ring. There are hard stops at both ends of the range, making it easier to set focus at infinity. Circular Polariser users will be pleased that the 77mm filter thread doesn't rotate when focusing.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the lens was a great performer, it was fast, consistent, and reliable on both D800 and D810 bodies. I didn't experience any "hunting" when focusing in both good and bad light, with the lens focusing accurately on all occasions with no exception. The 50mm Art is also a quiet performer, thanks to the built-in Hyper Sonic Motor.

SHARPNESS

This lens is insanely sharp, getting fed up hearing this? tough, these are well built lenses, pleasant to look at and a pleasure to use, what they are doing with the glass elements and grouping at the Aizu factory is almost magical. On this lens, centre sharpness is outstanding from f/1.4 to f/11, above this until f/16 becoming adversely affected as diffraction increases. The edges are highly commendable too, being almost as sharp as the centre. Apertures from f/2.8 to f/11 produce the sharpest results.

BOKEH

As touched on previously, Bokeh is a word used to denote the blurred, out-of-focus areas in a photograph. It is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth/creamy or harsh. In the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM lens, Sigma have employed an iris diaphragm with 9 rounded blades, which has resulted in great bokeh in my view. However, bokeh evaluation is somewhat subjective, I love the bokeh from the frets.

CHROMATIC ABERRATION

Chromatic aberration also known as “colour fringing” or “purple fringing”, is a common optical problem that occurs when a lens is either unable to bring all wavelengths of colour to the same focal plane, and/or when wavelengths of colour are focused at different positions in the focal plane. This is typically seen as purple or blue fringes along high contrast edges in a photo. Chromatic aberration is none existent in the shots I've taken with the Sigma 50mm Art lens. However other reviews do note that there is some purple fringing but only noticeable when viewing images at 200%

VIGNETTING

With the lens set to its maximum aperture of f/1.4, there is some (not much) light fall-off in the corners. Stopping-down to f/4 virtually eliminates this.

CONCLUSION

In my humble opinion, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM lens is a truly outstanding lens. When sharpness is compared directly, there's no doubt that it's better than any counterpart from Nikon or Canon I have used in the past, in fact, your probably better comparing this lens to the likes of Zeiss, and i don't mean the Milvus, we're talking £3000+ Otus. The sharpness and contrast straight out of the camera is outstanding. Yes, I wish it had Optical Image Stabilisation. I don't think it would add much in terms of weight, but maybe there's another underlying reason why its not there, however as mentioned the Sigma 50MM F1.4 DG HSM lens is a beautifully balanced lens when paired with the Nikon D800/810 and although I would have OS on all the Sigma GV range, on this shoot, it wasn't required.

Canon and Nikon 50mm f/1.4 primes are considerably cheaper, however aren't in the same league when it comes to image quality and build quality. Instead I would group the Sigma 50MM under "Premium" lens with the likes of the Zeiss Otus, which, of course, is a better performing lens (although, without auto focus) but only slightly and not £2500 better, in fact if you unbranded these lens in a "Pepsi Challenge" kind of way, fired it onto the same camera body and asked 100 photographers which they liked more the Zeiss or the Sigma 90% would say Sigma, purely on the basis of having auto focus and that the difference in sharpness being soooo negligible with the Zeiss that your pixel peeping at 200% to notice it. One other reviewer made a great point and mentioned that if you put the Sigma 50MM art on a "DSLR with an APS-C sensor, it becomes a great 75mm (equivalent) portrait lens and you will benefit from corner-to-corner sharpness with little difference across the frame." Something to think about if you own a Nikon D500

Straight out of camera.

PRO

  • Excellent build quality and epic image quality
  • Super sharp.
  • Great Bokeh
  • Fast, reliable AF.
  • Price (When compared to other premium lens manufacturers)

CON

  • No Image Stabilisation
  • Price (If you are talking on paper for a 50MM f/1.4 and don't care about build and image quality)

The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM lens is currently available for £571.00 at Wex or Calumet

©2017 Ricky Fleming | website | social media

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.