Review Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art
Not long ago, we were completely bowled over by the extremely high quality of the Sigma 35 mm 1.4 Art. That applied for both image quality and construction quality. This lens shows what enormous progress some lens manufacturers have been able to achieve in design and production of lenses for digital cameras. It almost can't get any better.
Now (April 2014), a Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art has come to market as the successor of the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 EX from 2008. How do the two lenses compare to each other? At 470 grams, the 50 mm version is 2 ounces lighter than its 35 mm older brother. The suggested retail price at 879 euros is also 75 euros lower. For us, it's naturally about the construction quality and the image quality. Which Sigma Art lens is the best?
Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Canon 5D MK3
|A bright lens doesn't only mean a faster shutter time, with which you can take more photos without flash. You also maintain in low light a beautifully clear viewfinder. Further, you of course have enormous freedom to play with the focal depth.Move your mouse over the image above.|
Construction and auto focus
The Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art is available in Sigma, Canon, Sony and Nikon mounts. We tested a sample with a Canon mount. Sigma is one of the few manufacturers where the products are completely "Made in Japan." Sigma thinks that's important because it's easier that way to guarantee as high a quality as possible. And they're right: the construction of the Sigma 50 f/1/4 Art is of the very highest, professional level. The design is reasonably complex: it consists of 13 elements in 8 groups, including an aspherical lens and 3 SLD glass elements. The 77 mm filter size is impressive, but it's not unusual for a bright lens, certainly not on full-frame. On the lens, there is a switch for AF/MF. Manual focusing goes very well and is precise: the focus ring is perfectly muted. AF is lightning fast and silent.
The Sigma 50 mm 1.4 Art can be connected to the optional Sigma USB dock for updating firmware or optimizing the focus. This lens is also suited for Mount Conversion Service. That means that you can have this Sigma Art lens with a Canon mount fitted with another mount, if you switch to another brand's camera.
The Sigma 50 mm 1.4 Art is a relatively large lens, with a filter size of 77 mm. The great volume of glass that is applied ensures that there is little vignetting and that as much light as possible hits the sensor. There are also no bright lenses that have no vignetting at full opening on a camera with a full-frame sensor. And that applies as well to the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art: at full opening, there is visible vignetting present. It is not disturbing in most cases, and if needed, it's simple to correct with software. Sigma lenses have very precise lens correction profiles in Lightroom and Photoshop. At the time of our test, the lens correction profile for the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art was not yet available.
Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art @ 400 ISO, 1/4000 sec F/1.4 This lens offers an astonishingly beautiful run from sharp to blur and a fantastic bokeh without disrupting color bokeh.
For lenses with a fixed focal length of around 50 mm, we often find distortion of around 1%. Most lenses with a 35 mm focal length, including the Sigma 35 mm f/1.4, show even more distortion. The Sigma 50 mm 1.4 Art does, also on this point, remarkably better. The distortion is 4 times as low so that even in critical situations you won't have any trouble.
For those who regularly read our tests, it's no surprise that we encountered very little flaring and ghosts. Even in a night shot of a street light, the flaring is very limited, and there is just a ghost observable. Here, the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art – just like the Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 Art – has a lead on the competition.
At full opening, the sharpness is both the center and the corners is extremely high. At f/4 the highest center sharpness in our Imatest measurements is reached, and at f/5.6, the highest sharpness in the corners. Actually, that's an academic discussion: where sharpness is concerned, it doesn't matter in practice which aperture you choose between f/1.4 or f/11. That is really particularly unusual, because the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art is a very bright lens.
Bright lenses show – also in the center – as a rule just a slightly less sharp image at full opening. If you want a super-sharp image, then with other lenses you have to stop down two stops. But with this lens, the only reason to stop down is a creative one: because you want to play with the background blur.
|This time we see an exceptional graph for the Imatest measurements for chromatic aberration. They are spectacularly low! With the Sigma 50 mm f/1.4, you will not have any trouble with blue and red edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the image. Most bright lenses (<f/2.8) show color bokeh: magenta and green edges for subjects in front of and behind the point of focus. But this aberration is also controlled exceptionally well, as you can see in the practice shot below. With many bright lenses, you would see ugly magenta and green edges on places where the white dandelion is out of focus. Color boken is troublesome to correct with software and disrupts the bokeh. Here you find none of it.
||Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 Art @ 400 ISO, 1/4000 sec F/1.4
We compared the bokeh from a lot of test shots by the Canon 50 mm f/1.2L at f/1.2L with the Sigma 50 mm at f/1.4. The first thing you see is that the bokeh of the Canon is much less round, as a consequence of vignetting. The extra brightness of the Canon doesn't result in an even more beautiful bokeh: we often had difficulty in practice shots distinguishing the bokh from the Canon at f/1.2 from the Sigma at f/1.4.
|In the test of the Canon 50 mm f/1.2, there were V-shaped light sources (sagittal coma?) visible in some shots. This property is incredibly important for astrophotography, because then points of light no longer show as round, but as V-shapes. I think this is important for other photographers as well, because it has a negative impact on the bokeh. The Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 does much better on this point.
Conclusie Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art test with Canon 5D MK3