The Sigma Corporation is pleased to announce the new large aperture 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM standard lens.
This is a large aperture prime lens with a standard focal length of 50mm, ideal for all digital SLR cameras. This lens has superior peripheral brightness even at the maximum aperture and corrects a possible sagittal coma flare. This lens is perfectly suited for a wide range of subjects enabling outstanding, sharply defined images against a nicely blurred background. The fast, F1.4 aperture makes this lens desirable for use with Digital SLR cameras. This lens effectively becomes an 80mm medium telephoto lens on digital cameras with APS-C size image sensors. The optimum optical design and molded glass aspherical lens elements provide excellent correction for all types of aberrations. The super multi-layer lens coating reduces flare and ghosting. Superior optical performance is also ensured throughout the focusing range. This lens has a minimum focusing distance of 45cm (17.7”) and has maximum magnification of 1:7.4. It creates a very attractive blur, even when a small aperture is used.
This lens incorporates HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor), which ensures a quiet and high-speed AF as well as full-time manual focus override.
When Sigma first announced the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM in March, our story headline (courtesy of our news editor and punmeister-in-chief) was ‘A new standard?’, and this has turned out to be remarkably prescient. This new lens essentially redefines its class, and for once the results really live up to the marketing hype; compared to previous designs, we see significantly improved sharpness at large apertures (presumably due to a reduction in aberrations through the use of an aspherical element), and substantially lower vignetting due to that that oversized lens barrel. Chromatic aberration (both axial and lateral) has been impressively minimized, and distortion is low – in optical terms there’s simply little to fault.
The Sigma is bigger and heavier physically. Optically, the two lenses are close cousins in terms of performance. If central performance and bokeh (e.g. portraits) is most important to you, I’d slightly favor the Sigma. If overall performance is most important to you, I’d slightly favor the Nikkor. Autofocus performance is slightly faster on the Sigma at the expense of manual focus precision.
The new Sigma AF 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is a refreshing alternative in the long-ignored standard AF lens market. The lens is fairly big and heavy due to unusually big glass elements but thanks to the design efforts it is already capable of delivering very sharp images straight from f/1.4 and the resolution is truly impressive at medium aperture settings. Distortions, vignetting as well as CAs aren’t overly relevant in field conditions. The bokeh can be a bit nervous at f/1.4 but it’s smooth and buttery from f/2 onwards. The build quality of the lens is excellent. The HSM AF drive is very fast and virtually silent. All-in-all – highly recommended but watch out for focus accuracy problems.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is a monster.
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens has proven very inconsistent for me in the focus accuracy department.
The unreliable focus performance is a big disappointment, because otherwise, Sigma has delivered us a very nice lens in the 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM.
Initiating AF causes the lens to reasonably quickly make a focus adjustment, but frequently a second adjustment is made – effectively doubling the autofocus time.
Overall build quality of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens is very good (I can’t afford intentional torture testing to prove this of course). Lots of glass densely packed in a moderately-small sized lens helps create this feeling, but still, I like the build/feel of the lens.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens is somewhat soft/dreamy wide open and becomes sharp in the center at f/2 – and extremely sharp in the center at f/2.8. Corners are noticeably softer than the center at all apertures and need an f/8 aperture to be sharp. Part of the reason for the soft corners is that radial and tangential lines are in focus at slightly different focus distances as can be seen in the following f/4 example.
The Canon f/1.2 has better corners at some apertures, but the Sigma makes up for this with better control of CA.
Inconsistent focus accuracy is definitely the downside of this lens. It is possible that another copy of this lens would focus more consistently, but my guess (helped by feedback from others) is that my lens is representative of this model. Thus, unless you are primarily using manual focus or shooting at narrow apertures (f/4), I suggest buying the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens instead. While it may not be as nice of a lens as the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens, it will focus more accurately and therefore delivers much better image quality. It costs noticeably less as well. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens is a really nice lens, but it is going to burden your wallet significantly more and will not deliver image quality much or any better than the Sigma (with AF considerations removed). If you happen to get a properly/consistently focusing Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens, you have received a good value for your money.