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Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S (Sports) Review

sigma_150-600mm_s_review01

Sigma has released some really good quality lenses recently, especially the 50mm f/1.4 ART and the 35mm f/1.4 ART which easily match the first-party lens image quality at a fraction of the price. So there were a lot of excitement and expectation when Sigma announced the new 150-600mm f5-6.3 Sports lens a few months ago.

So I received a big and heavy box a few weeks ago. And inside the box is this new super telephoto lens, the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports. And when I said a big and heavy box, I really mean it as this is one of the biggest camera box I’ve ever received! It seems the Sigma engineers are really not shy of creating some big and heavy lenses. Just the 105mm front filter thread alone is enough to tell you that the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports is one serious lens. And the weight of the lens? It’s nearly 3kg! That is almost as heavy as two Nikon AF-S 70-200 f/2.8 VR II combined.

Just like the recent Sigma ART lenses, the build quality of the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports is excellent. The metal construction makes the lens feel very solid. Hold the lens in your hand and it tells you this is a premium third party lens and not a cheap alternative that Sigma was once famous for. Things have really changed.

The Sigma 150-600 Sports lens has built-in optical stabilser with 2 different OIS modes. OIS 1 is for normal shooting and OIS 2 is for panning shots. The optical stabliser works pretty good and I can easily shoot at 1/100s at 600mm and get very sharp photos.

With the help of the optical stabiliser, I was mostly shooting handheld when reviewing this lens. But my hands and arms got sore quickly every time I held the lens in shooting position for more than 30 seconds. And I’m someone who would run around and shooting with a 70-200 f/2.8 whole day so anyone wants to shoot for extended time really need a tripod or at least a monopod.  But I’m glad to tell you that the lens comes with a really nice tripod collar. The tripod collar’s rotatable ring is nicely dampened and gives you a smooth premium quality feeling. The tripod collar is extremely solid so I don’t think anyone would need to upgrade it to an aftermarket one. Just remember that with such long focal length, you do need a very strong sturdy tripod as any tiny amount of vibration would greatly affect the image sharpness.

sigma_150-600mm_s_review02My Manfrotto 804RC2 head is not really strong enough. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Autofocus speed is reasonably quick when lighting condition is good. There is a focus limiter to help improve the focusing speed. Under darker lighting condition and the autofocus speed would decrease quite a bit. This is largely because the lens’s f5-6.3 aperture and it’s not any worse than other super telephoto zoom lenses I’ve used. So as long as there is enough light, you should be quite happy with the autofocus speed and accuracy .

If you want to optimise your lens for your specific usage, you can get the optional Sigma USB dock, and then create your own profiles with your preferred autofocus speed, focus limiter settings and then assign it to one of the custom settings. While I believe the default settings are very good and suitable for most users, it’s good to see Sigma is offering some extra features that even the first party manufacturers don’t offer.

In terms of image quality, just like the other latest Sigma lenses, this 150-600mm Sports performs very well. Sharpness at 600mm f/6.3 is better than my expectation. I won’t say it’s super sharp but it’s definitely good enough for 18” x12” prints.

 sigma_150-600mm_s_review06 ISO400  f/6.3 1/200s @ 600mm (Camera: Nikon D800)

sigma_150-600mm_s_review07And this is the 100% crop from the photo above.

Surprisingly, there is very little chromatic aberration. I notice very little purple fringing from all the sample photos. Bokeh is most of the time pleasant and only occasionally looks a little bit nervous.

There is a bit of barrel distortion especially at a few certain focal lengths. But it’s not unexpected for a 4 x zoom lens.

sigma_150-600mm_s_review08Barrel Distortion at 150mm

sigma_150-600mm_s_review09And at 600mm

Just like a lot of big zoom lenses, there is a lock switch that physically locks the lens at a particular focal length. And with the Sigma 150-600 Sports, you can lock the lens at quite a few different focal lengths, not just the widest and/or longest. But I’m not sure if it’s because the front element is just too heavy, there were a few times the lens suddenly unlocks itself when I was just walking with the camera pointing downwards.

There are a few things I don’t like about the Sigma 150-600mm Sports such as the size and weight of the lens, or that focal length lock switch that would mysteriously unlock itself occasionally. But there are a lot of things I really like about this lens. The build quality is great, the tripod collar is really solid, the wide open image quality even at 600mm is better than I expected, the lack of CA and the additional adjustability with the USB dock.
So yes the Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM | S (Sports) maybe not be a perfect lens, but consider the performance of the lens and the very reasonable price, it is really not a bad choice if you want a super telephoto lens that doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard

Richard is also a contributing writer for a few photography magazines. 

Some more sample photos:

(All photos were shot in RAW and adjusted to taste using Adobe Lightroom)

sigma_150-600mm_s_review14ISO400  f/7.1 1/640s @ 600mm

sigma_150-600mm_s_review10
ISO400  f/6.3 1/400s @ 400mm

 

sigma_150-600mm_s_review11ISO1000  f/7.1 1/1250s @ 600mm

 

sigma_150-600mm_s_review12ISO400  f/7.1 1/640s @ 600mm

sigma_150-600mm_s_review05
ISO400  f/6.3 1/250s @ 600mm

sigma_150-600mm_s_review13
ISO720  f/6.3 1/500s @ 600mm

sigma_150-600mm_s_review15ISO400  f/6.3 1/500s @ 600mm

 

 

 

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Nikon / Sigma 50 and 58mm lens comparison review

50mm-lens-comparison-review

If you have a DSLR, there is a good chance you have or had a 50mm prime lens in your camera bag,  After all, the 50mm standard prime lens is one of the most popular prime lens because of it’s close to human eye vision angle and it’s relatively affordable price.

There are quite a few different 50mm prime lens options available on the market.  So in this review,I am going to compare the three current model 50mm autofocus prime lenses available for Nikon DSLR:

  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G (Nikon 50mm f/1.4G)
  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G (Nikon 50mm f/1.8G)
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (Sigman 50mm f/1.4 ART, reviewed previously here)

We also included

  • Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G (Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, review here)

in this comparison test as the 58mm focal length is close enough for direct comparison.

So let’s start looking at the obvious things like size and build quality first.

 

Size and weight:

These are the four 50mm lenses (ok one is 58mm, but i’ll pretend it’s also a 50mm lens in this review), from left to right:

Nikon 50mm f/1.8G, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, NIkon 58mm f/1.4G, Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART.

50mm-lens-comparison-review-2

As you can see from the photo,  the two Nikon 50mm lenses are smallest and of very similar size.  The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and f/1.8 lenses both have fairly simple design (8 elements/7 groups and 7 elements/6 groups respectively). They are pretty light weight at 185g and 280g respectively.
The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is noticeably bigger than the two 50mm Nikons and has a slighly more complicated design with 9 elements in 6 groups. But at 385g, it still doesn’t feel too heavy.  The heavy weight champion definitely goes to the Sigma which weights at 815g. It is almost as heavy as all the three Nikon lenses added together. Actually the Sigma is only a little bit lighter than the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and the size is almost exactly the same as the Nikon AFS 24-120mm f/4 VR.  The reason why the Sigma 50mm f/1.4ART is so big is because it has a really complicated 13 elements in 8 groups optics design. 

Results:

1. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, Nikon 50mm f/1.8G (The f/1.8G is lighter but the f/1.4G is 2/3 stop faster)
3. Nikon 58mm f/1.4G
4. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART

 

Build Quality:

Just like most modern lenses, I didn’t find any build quality issues with any of these four lenses. The cheapest Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is clearly the most plastic lens out of the four and the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G has a more solid build than it’s 50mm Nikon brothers. But I just really love the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART’s build quality and design. I guess it’s 800g+ weight also help making you feel it’s a very solid lens as well.

[EDITED 21 Nov 2014] Our reader Guido points out an important fact that the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is the only lens that has weather seal.   Thanks Guido!

Results:

  1. Nikon 58mm f/1.4G
  2. Sigma 50mmf/1.4 ART
  3. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G
  4. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

 

Autofocus performance:

While Sigma have a reputation of inaccurate and inconsistent autofocus performance, surprisingly the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART’s autofocus accuracy is just as good as the Nikons and there is also the optional Sigma USB dock for fine-tuning the autofocus settings.
It’s actually the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G that I had some autofocus issues. Fortunately after a bit of AF fine tune adjustments on the D810 body seem to have fixed it.
Sigma’s autofocus speed appears to be slightly faster than the three Nikon lenses. The autofocus operation is quiet and smooth for all the four lenses.

Results:

1. Sigma 50mmf/1.4 ART
2. = Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
4. Nikon 58mm f/1.4G

 

 Maximum Magnification: 

magnification

All the photos above were took at the closest focus distance. You can see the Nikon  58mm f/1,4G is the last lens you would use if you want a small object to fill the frame. The two Nikon 50mm lenses have virtually same maximum magnification while it’s the Sigma that give you maximum magnification.

Results:

1. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART
2.= Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
4. Nikon 58mm f/1.4G

 

Price:

The easiest comparison in this whole review. All prices are based on local (NZ) price from official dealers
The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 is by far the cheapest lens out of the four. The Nikon 50mm f/1.4 is still quite cheap, but is approximiately double the price of it’s little brother. Sigma 50 1.4 ART’s price is almost the price of the two Nikon 50mm lenses added together. And last the Nikon 58 f/1.4, it is definitely the most expensive out of the four, and will cost you roughly the total of the three 50mm lenses (Nikon 50mm f/1.8G + Nikon 50mm f/1.4G + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART) in the review

Results

  1. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
  2. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G
  3. Sigma 50mmf/1.4 ART
  4.  Nikon 58mm f/1.4G

 

 

Next we are going to compare the image quality from the four lenses.  All the comparison photos were taken at each lens’s maximum aperture, which is f/1.4 for the all the lenses except the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G. This means the f/1.4 lenses has a 2/3 stop advantage or disadvantage over than Nikon 50mm f/1.8 depends on how you look at it.

Let’s start by comparing the image sharpness.

 

Center Sharpness:

centre-sharpness centre-sharpness2

 

(click on the photo to see it at original size)

Looking at the 100% crops, you can see the two Nikon 50mm lenses are softer than the Sigma and the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G. Between the two Nikon 50mm lenses, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is slightly sharper than the 50mm f/1.4G. But remember the photos were taken at each lens’s fastest aperture, i.e. f/1.8 for the Nikon f/1.8G and f/1.4 for the Nikon f/1.4G respectively.  If the 50mm f/1.4G stop down to f/1.8, the sharpness is pretty much the same as the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G at f/1.8.

For the other two lenses, there really isn’t much difference between the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART in terms of centre sharpness. Both are really very sharp.

Results:

1= Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, Sigma 50mmf/1.4 ART
3= Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

 

Corner Sharpness:

edge-sharpness

 

Once again, the two Nikon 50mm lenses are not as sharp as the more expensive Nikon 58mm f/1.4G and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART. The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G’s corner sharpness is really good, just marginally not as sharp as the monster Sigma. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART is amazingly sharp at the corner, almost as sharp as the two Nikon 50mm lenses at the centre. The amount of details the Sigma can capture at f/1.4 is really incredible.  That probably explain why the Sigma is such a huge lens with such complicated optics design!

Results:

  1. Sigma 50mmf/1.4 ART
  2. Nikon 58mm f/1.4G
  3. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
  4. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

 

 

Bokeh:

It’s not unusual to use 50mm prime lens to shoot portrait. You can easily create foreground isolation by blurring the background. The quality of the bokeh is an important characteristic of the 50mm prime lens.

Here are some 100% crops comparing the bokeh from the different lenses. All photos were taken from the exact same location at maximum aperture.

Centre Crop:

boken-center

At wide open, all the lenses creates smooth circular  bokeh. The bokeh from the two 50mm Nikon lenses has strong highlight around the bokeh edges which could make bokeh look nervous. The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G and Sigma f/1.4 ART are both much smoother and a lot more pleasant looking in comparison.

Note: The bokeh from the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is the biggest because of it’s longer focal length

And below is a crop near the corner:

bokeh-corner

The corner bokeh is quite different from all the four lenses. The bokeh from the Sigma 50mm f/1.4G still look almost like a circle,  while the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is a bit more distorted but still roughly a circle shape.  The bokeh from the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G and Nikon 58mm f/1.4G are both rugby shape/cat’s eye. Once again, the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G and the Sigma bokeh have a smoother transition around the edges while the two Nikon 50mm lenses have pretty strong edge halos.

 

boken-centerf4

Above is a comparing when the lenses aperture is closed to f/4. The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G look relatively smooth and have minimal halo around the edges. The bokeh from the Sigma turns slightly into a polygon but it’s the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G that looks really like a polygon with all the hard straight edges. This is because the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G only has 7 diaphragm blades while the other three lenses all have 9 blades.  Interestingly, it’s the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G that renders the best looking bokeh that is round with almost no visible halo around the edges.

Results:

  1. Nikon 58mm f/1.4G
  2. Sigma 50mmf/1.4 ART
  3. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G
  4. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

 

Chromatic Aberration

ca

Chromatic aberration is quite visible for all the four lenses at maximum aperture. But this is pretty common for most fast prime lenses anyway and it is usually not a huge problem unless you are shooting very high contrast scenes.

Out of the four lenses, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G appears to have the most visible CA. The 50mm f/1.8G is slightly better than the 50mm f/1.4G, but it’s the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART and Nikon 58mm f/1.4G that have the best overall CA control

1.= Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, Sigma 50mmf/1.4 ART
3. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
4. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

 

Flare Resistance:

flare

The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is the only Nikon lens that has the nano coating and the Sigma has something called “Super Multi-Layer Coating”. If you look at the comparison photos above, you can see the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G and the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART does have much better flare resistance than the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G. But surprisingly, there isn’t much flare visible in the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G photo despite it does not having any fancy coating on the elements.

Results:

  1. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART
  2. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
  3. Nikon 58mm f/1.4G
  4. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

 

 

Coma:

coma

One of the biggest selling point for the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is the lens is highly optimized for handheld night landscape photography because of it’s excellent coma control. And it does show in the comparison photo above.

Not as good as the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, but coma is still reasonably well controlled with both the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART and the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G.

Unfortunately, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G shows some pretty nasty  comatic aberration, it’s almost like the city was under attacked by lots of glowing bats!

Results:

  1. Nikon 58mm f/1.4G
  2. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART
  3. Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
  4. Nikon 50mm f/1.4G

 

Vignetting:

At maximum aperture, vignetting is quite obvious for all the four lenses. The Nikon 58mm f/1.4G has the least amount of vignetting compare to the three 50mm lenses.  But this is pretty common for most fast prime lenses anyway and can be improved by stopping down to around f/2.8-f/4.

Results:

1.Nikon 58mm f/1.4G
2. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART
3.= Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, Nikon 50mm f/1.8G

 

vignetting

 

 

 

Conclusions:

I was going to added up the result from each individual comparison and use the total score to rank the four lenses. But I decided not to do that in the end as even though they are all 50mm lenses, each of them were created with very different goals and requirements. So to pick the “best” lens, one must understand what are the pros and cons of each lens and depends on what is most important to you then you can find the most suitable 50mm lens for you.

 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G
The cheapest, smallest lens out of the four, and the only f/1.8 lens in this review. The price is definitely one of the most important design factor when Nikon was creating this lens. So it’s not really a surprise that this lens doesn’t give you the best picture quality or build quality when compare to the three more expensive 50mm lenses. But it’s sharpness is not bad at wide open and easily beat the three other lenses in terms of size, weight and price.  If you have a very tight budget and don’t mind a slightly plasticky lens, this is probably what you should get. For the best bangs for your buck, you can’t beat the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G.

 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.4G
The Nikon 50mm f/1.4G is an interesting lens. It is the cheapest f/1.4 lens in this review, and is also the smallest, lightest (current model)  f/1.4 lens for your Nikon DSLR. This alone is already a very good reason for you to get this lens. But on the other hand, the picture quality  doesn’t really stand out and you can even argue the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G gives you better overall image quality at the maximum aperture. One thing you need to remember is that the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G offer you an extra 2/3 stop of speed when compare to the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G . And with the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, you can always stop down to f/1.8 and get better image quality while you can’t do the reverse with the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G. This lens doesn’t have exceptional image quality, but it is exactly what a 50mm lens should be, small, light and cheap (for a f/1.4 lens).

 

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G
If you have read my Nikon 58mm f/1.4G review (here), you should know I absolutely love this lens. It renders picture beautifully and it is a lens with special characterisitc and look.  While the Sigma maybe a tiny bit sharper, the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G beats the Sigma in terms of bokeh, coma control, I think the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G is the best lens out of the four in terms of overall picture quality. Unfortunately it’s huge price tag means not many of us can afford this beautiful lens from Nikon.

 

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
The Sigma delivers exceptional image quality and is sharp like a Japanese sword. If you want the sharpest possible photo with your D810, you don’t need to look any futher, this is the lens you should get. (Unless you can afford the mega expensive Zeiss Otus 55 1.4)
Autofocus was one of the biggest problem with the old Sigma lenses, but it appears Sigma have completely nailed it this time in terms of autofocus accuracy and consistency.
Before Sigma announced their new ART series lenses, it was hard to imagine a Sigma lens that is more expensive than the equivalent lens from Nikon. But the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART is more expensive than the Nikon equivalent and by looking at the comparison photos in this review, you will agree the price is well justified. The Sigma’s picture quality is simply exceptional. Amazingly sharp, with decent bokeh (but not as good as the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G) and performs very well in pretty much every area. The biggest problem (no pun intended) with this lens is it’s enormous size and weight.  A 50mm lens that is as big and heavy as a med size zoom lens means the lens may end up sitting on your shelf instead of travelling everywhere with you.

 

 

So which is the best 50mm lens?

It really depends on what you want.  They are all good in some areas but none of them are perfect.

 

 

 

 

Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is a multi-award winning wedding/portrait photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand.  Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard

Richard is also a contributing writer for the D-Photo magazine and Pro Photographer magazine.

 

 

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Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART review

 

 

This review is also published on my gear review blog: http://photobyrichard.com/reviewbyrichard

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-01

Third party lenses are usually associated with words like “cheap”, “cost effective” but rarely you would think about excellent image quality or build quality. That is unless the third party lens is from some certain company from Germany.

Sigma is one of the most popular Japanese third party lens manufacturer. Their lenses are famous for affordable price but not necessarily the best optical performance.

That is until year 2012.

Kazuto Yamaki became the new CEO of Sigma Cooperation that year, and soon after that, Sigma announced some major changes to their products. One of the new product line is the ART series lenses. While they have rebranded some of their existing lenses with the ART name, the 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART was the first real ART lens with a 100% new design. And that lens surprised everyone. It does not only give you great price / performance ratio, but it also has excellent image quality and a brand new look.

Sigma has recently released the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART. It also is a brand new design and it’s quite an extreme design as well .

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-02

 

Design and Build

I said extreme, but how extreme is the design?

How about it’s 815g weight? That’s almost the weight of three 50mm f/1.4 lens from either Canon or Nikon (which is around 280-290g each). It’s a very heavy 50mm lens. The lens optical formula consists of 13 elements, including 3 SLD glass elements and 1 aspherical element. That is double the number of elements from a typical 50mm f/1.4 lens. And the size? At 100mm length, it’s nearly identical to the Nikon AF-S 24-120 f/4 VR zoom lens. And it takes 77mm filter too.

So yes it’s a pretty crazy and complex design for a 50mm lens. The only 50mm lens that is bigger and more extreme is the Zeiss Optus 1.4/55. (ok that’s not a 50mm, but close enough) Even the Canon 50mm f/1.2L is smaller, shorter, lighter and has less lens elements than the Sigma. That’s how extreme this new Sigma lens is.

I LOVE the new Sigma ART design. To me, the previous Sigma lenses have a “I’m a good quality alternative for budget users” look. Not true anymore for the new ART lenses. The new ART lens looks elegant and reminds me of the Zeiss lenses, maybe just a bit plasticky. But when I say plasticky, it’s only if you compare it to a Zeiss lens. The construction and material used to build the Sigma 50 f/1.4 ART is every single bit as good as the first party professional lenses. The build quality of the lens is really good and feel extremely solid. The only disappointment is that it’s not a weather proof lens

While the focusing ring is quite smooth and well dampened, the short travel tells you it’s not really designed for manual focus.

The lens also comes with a reversible lens hood and lens pouch. The lens hood is made of plastic but has a nice finish and design that doesn’t feel cheap at all.

 

Autofocus

One common criticism for the Sigma prime lenses is it’s autofocus accuracy and consistency or the lack of them. For a fast prime lens that has a shallow depth of field, it doesn’t matter how sharp the lens is, if the autofocus is off, even just slightly, then the photo would be soft, or even unusable.

A couple of years ago, I bought a Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.4G instead of the Sigma 50 f/1.4 EX DG HSM purely because I found the Sigma couldn’t focus consistently with my camera. Otherwise I would had bought the Sigma instead. So the autofocus accuracy and consistenency are my biggest concerns I had with this lens.

So anyway, some early reviews suggested the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART’s autofocus accuracy and consistency are much better than their previous lens. Now after using the lens for about 3 months and took hundreds if not thosands of photos with this lens, I can say the autofocus accuracy is just as good and consistent as my Nikon 50mm f/1.4G. While there are some occasional photos that the focus was not quite right, they are usually user error (i.e. me) or just the limitation of the camera’s autofocus system.

Even when under very low light condition, the autofocus performance is still pretty good. Just remember to find a high contrast object as your AF target or your camera may struggle to figure out what you really want to focus on.

In terms of autofocus speed, its quite fast, faster than the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G but not the fastest autofocus lens ever. Unless you want to shoot some extremely fast action with it then you should be happy with the AF speed.

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-06
Nikon D800 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art – f/1.4  1/30s  ISO 12800
It was pretty dark.  But the autofocus was still pretty accurate.

 

And if you do find your Sigma 50mm ART’s autofocus is slightly front or back focus, there is a special USB dock you can use (buy separately) to fine tune your autofocus settings. I haven’t use one myself as I’m pretty happy with my results. But this is definitely a good selling point as the USB dock give you a lot more flexible in  adjustement than what you can do on your camera (which is just one single AF fine tune setting).

 

Image quality

Look at the size of the lens, it’s pretty obvious this lens was created with one main purpose, image quality.

And have they achieve it?

The first thing you’ll notice is how sharp the photos are. Even with the most demanding camera like the 36MP Nikon D810, reviewing at 100%, everything is extremely sharp.
At maximum aperture, the sharpness is very good. And I’m not just talking about the center sharpness. Even the edges are pretty sharp at f/1.4.  I had some problems in the past with my Nikon AFS 50mm f/1.4G when I want to shoot at wide open and put my main subject in the corner, and the image quality was just not good enough. It won’t be a problem with the Sigma 50 ART.  And if you really want the corner to be very sharp, just stop down to f/2.

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-13100% crop from a photo took at f/1.4 with a Nikon D810

 

Colour and contrast from the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART are both very good. Sigma’s Super Multi-Layer coating may not sound as fancy as Nikon’s Nano Coating, but it is quite effective in reducing flare and maintaining contrast. I have to try really hard to get the lens to flare.

Coma is a common problem for most prime lenses, but it is controlled reasonably well with the Sigma. The Nikon AF-S 58mm f/1.4G has better coma control but the Sigma is a lot better than most other prime lenses such as the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G or Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G. (A detailed 50mm comparison review will be coming soon…)

 

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-03
It comes with a pretty lens hood that looks and feels good.

 

Chromatic aberration
Chromatic aberration is not too bad with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART. At f/1.4, there is quite a bit of CA especially near the corner (LoCA) but it’s not really a concern or any worse than most prime lenses.

 

Distortion
50mm lenses normally have very minimal barrel distortion and this is also true for the Sigma. Barrel distortion is minimal and shouldn’t be a concern at all.

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-10
Nikon D800 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART – f/4 1/800s ISO 100

Barrel Distortion? Yeah Nah, it’s just a little bit ….

 

Vignetting
At wide open, vignetting is pretty noticable. And it appears to be slightly worse when focus on close object. You have to stop down to f/2.8 to get rid of most vignetting.

 

Bokeh

Bokeh is quite an important character for a 50mm prime lens. The difference between a good and bad 50mm lens is quite often down to it’s bokeh, or the quality of the bokeh to be precise.  So, how does the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART perform in this area?

Fairly good I would say. Under most situations, the bokeh is nice, round and pleasant. When your focus is at close distance, you can easily melt the background into creamy painting and everything look great.  The problem happens when you shooting objects at medium distance say 10 meters away and the background is slightly blurred, quite often if the background has high contrast area then the bokeh could look quite nervous. It’s not terribly bad, but definitely not bokehlicious and is the major downside of this lens in terms of image quality

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-09
Nikon D800 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART – f/1.4 1/100s ISO 220
Bokeh is generally quite good

 

Conclusions
It’s obvious when Sigma was designing this new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART, the engineers were told not to worry about the size or weight of the lens and just focus on making the best 50mm lens possible. And they didn’t fail us as the result is an amazing lens. The image quality is just fantastic. While the bokeh could be a bit better, professional users or any photographer who want best image quality won’t be disappointed by this 50mm lens. Price wise, it’s not cheap, but consider the performance it still offers fantastic value. Autofocus used to be a problem for Sigma lenses, but I found this new ART lens focus accurately.

But before you go and buy one, make sure you go to a shop and try it on your camera. Hold it, have a walk and shoot a few photos with it.

Its extreme size and weight is really not for everyone. A lot of people like the 50mm prime because of it’s compact size, So if you want a small light weight lens that you can carry around easily, the Sigma is not what you want. It’s really a lot bigger than most 50mm prime lenses and heavier than some of the zoom lenses. But if weight and size doesn’t worry you much, then this is one excellent 50mm lens.

 

Pros

  • It’s sharp!
  • Build quality
  • Autofocus is accurate

 

Cons

  • It’s heavy and it’s huge!
  • Bokeh could be a bit nervous

 

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sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-07
Nikon D800 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART – f/1.4 1/1600s ISO 100
If you don’t mind the size and weight, it’s a really good street lens.

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-05

 Nikon D800 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART – f/3.2 1/800s ISO 100

 

 Nikon D800 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART – f/2 1/125s ISO 100

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-11
Nikon D800 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART – f/1.4 1/5000s ISO 100

 

sigma-50mm-f-1.4-DG-HSM-ART-review-12

Nikon D800 + Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART – f/1.4 1/100s ISO 320
Notice the tree branches bokeh in background looks a bit nervous

 

 

 

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Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM ART Quick Impression review

I had a chance to play with the latest Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM lens today. This is a lens that got some really great reviews including a Gold Award from DPReview.com. So while I’m not really planning to do a full review on this lens, I’m still very interested to find out more about this lens, and see if it’s really as good as what other people are saying.

It is really only a quick impression review as I’ve only played with the lens for about fifteen minutes, so anyway, my first impression? I really like the new Sigma “ART” design and finish. It feels so much better than the old Sigma lenses. It does not feel plasticky at all. It’s solid and dense, I kind of felt it’s heavier than my Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G (Just checked the specs, the Sigma’s weight is 665g, the Nikon’s weight is 600g) The manual focus ring is nicely dampened. I really like the new Sigma style and finish.
So how about the picture quality? With a D800, even when shot at wide open, the center of the photo is very sharp. The corner seems slightly soft, but only slightly and it is still pretty good for a f/1.4 lens. I then tried stop down a stop and the corner is now pretty sharp as well.
I didn’t really notice much CA. But all the test shots I did was indoor with no high contrast scene so I didn’t really test this area.
Bokeh is quite smooth and round at f/1.4. And it’s still pretty round when stop down to around f/2.8.
Next, the autofocus. It’s quiet! Very quiet! While i was not testing the lens at a very quiet place, i just can’t hear the AF motor noise at all. Also the AF speed is pretty fast, not Nikon 24-70 f/2.8, but it’s noticeably faster than my Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G. It doesn’t seem to hunt much as well. You press the AF button and it just snap into focus straight away.
Now AF speed is one thing, one thing Sigma is quite famous (unfortunately in a bad way) is it’s AF accuracy or lack of it. The last few Sigma lenses I played with all have a bit of AF issue. For example the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM. But it seems Sigma has finally found the solution, with the test shots we took at f/1.4, the AF is spot on in every single photo. That’s pretty damn good! I would probably love to take some more photos with this lens if I got a chance as I think the AF accuracy is probably the biggest issue with the fast Sigma lenses in general.

So, the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 does appear to be a very decent lens. At only half price of the Nikon AFS 35mm f/1.4G, the Sigma is now offering a good alternative especially for people who can’t afford the Nikon’s price. Even if you can afford the Nikon’s price, I would say you should check out the Sigma one as you maybe surprised by this 3rd party lens.

You can now order the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 HSM from your local camera shops, or you can always talk to our friends at Auckland Camera Centre http://www.aucklandcamera.co.nz/

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Reviewer: Richard Wong

Richard is an award winning wedding/portrait Photographer based in Auckland, New Zealand. Richard’s website is www.photobyrichard.com and his facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/PhotoByRichard
Richard is also a contributing writer for the New Zealand D-Photo magazine (www.dphoto.co.nz)

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