First Sigma 50mm Art Lens Review Claims Nikon and Canon Aren’t On the Same Level


When Sigma announced their 50m f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens, they included some extremely dramatic statements. Not only did they say that they wanted to beat out Canon and Nikon, they intended to blow them out of the water, stating that they were aiming to make the lens as good, if not better, than the $4,000 Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon T*.

Last month we shared a somewhat shady review of the lens, which came with plenty of skepticism, so today we’re sharing with you a review from a much more reputable source, SLR Gear.

SLR Gear got their hands on the first of these beauties to hit US shores and have confirmed both what the initial test shared, as well as what Sigma stated at CES — namely, that this lens is an absolute optical beast. Here’s a snippet from SLR Gear‘s conclusion:

The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is the most exciting lens we’re likely to review this year. All competing lenses from Canon and Nikon fell short when compared to the resolving power of the 50mm Art. We haven’t (yet) tested the very best from Zeiss, but we are confident Sigma will trounce it in one key area: price. […] Put simply: it trounces any similar model available for less than $4,000. If it comes in significantly cheaper than the best of Canon and Nikon, Sigma will have made a friend of every full-frame shooter in the land.

The only question left is how much the 50mm Art lens will set buyers back. SLR Gear says it’s likely to come in at under $1,700, which is around the price range of both Nikon and Canon’s best 50mm options. But, with the Sigma outperforming both of those options across the board, the overall value/dollar is substantially better.

The price and availability info is expected to drop this month, and we’ll be sure to share it with you just as soon as it’s official. In the meantime, prepare your wallets for a hit and head on over to SLR Gear to read the detailed, glowing review for yourself.

(via Imaging Resource)

  • Jacob Dole

    I’ve got the 35mm f1.4 Art, and while I know everyone says it rocks, mine isn’t great. It under exposes, sharpness is ~ok and the bokeh is hideous. I have no brand loyalty.

  • cjyphoto

    Your lens underexposes? Everything after that is BS.

  • Daz

    lens underexposes ?

  • Pete Charlesworth

    no weather sealing? ill pass….

  • Jacob Dole

    Yes fool… for a given aperture and exposure, the Sigma comes out darker than a Canon lens with the same settings.

  • Ross

    Sigma is creating some lovely glass like their 35mm and their pin sharp 180mm macro … I placed my order to mount on my Canon X’s with the lens cost in Australia of $900 … arrival end of April.

  • Chris Pickrell

    Tell that to Scott kelby who says gear doesn’t matter. And the only people who care about noise are photogaphers and actually suggests that cheap lens aren’t that cheap really. He doesn’t strike me as a hobbyist.

  • Chris Pickrell

    If I was shooting a billboard, I would still use my 50 1.4. Better quality than the 1.8, none of the cost oft the 1.2. The only people I see talking about gear, price and quality, are bloggers and commenters and hobbyists who read them.

  • Theo Lubbe

    The sensor has plenty to do with the resulting images’ sharpness. Both the bayer and anti-aliasing filter will contribute to it, while the pixel density and resolution will also.

    You’re also working with a completely different field of view when comparing a 50mm on crop against full-frame.

    Then there’s the image circle; in using a ~30-35mm lens to emulate 50mm on FF, if using a FF lens on the crop body you’re only using a part of the lens’ image circle for the same field of view, which means you don’t have corner sharpness/CA issues nor as much vignetting to deal with.

    So, no, it’s not a valid comparison at all.

  • Theo Lubbe

    Sony still has a relatively small market share in terms of full-frame camera usage, especially compared to Canikon, which might be why they didn’t include it.

  • Theo Lubbe

    Sony ZA lenses are licensed Carl Zeiss optical designs manufactured by Sony, so Sony aren’t Zeiss, they just use their optical designs in some of their lenses.

  • Zos Xavius

    lots of lenses have differences like this. use the exposure compensation fool.

  • Zos Xavius

    The FA is a much older design. I’m a huge fan of the pentax 1.4s, but my gut tells me that the sigma resolves more.

  • Zos Xavius

    The K50 1.4 is better, so is the takumar. The FA was never pentax’s best 50.

  • Keiran Blackwell

    Kelby’s an amazing photographer, but if he turned up at a big budget commercial shoot with sub-par gear then I think he’ll be adding challenges and complications that just don’t need to be there. I’m not saying he won’t do a good job, or at least that he couldn’t do a good job, but better gear is just a tool to make the job easier and to produce better results, even if the client doesn’t entirely understand why it’s better.

  • Zos Xavius

    And you are also sacrificing resolution since the lens was designed for a larger format. Since you are hitting the sweet spot, the loss might not be bad, but you are still not utilizing the full potential of the lens by far.

  • Zos Xavius

    Yeah, I’m sure kelby shoots with a rebel and 18-55. He might say that gear doesn’t matter, but deep inside he knows it makes a difference otherwise he would stand by what he says and shoot with a holga.

  • Zos Xavius

    what’s the point? do you realize how low resolution billboards actually are? a point and shoot would easily suffice

  • Pixelschubser

    Hm ok…my Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art is one of the best/sharpest lenses i own…great, well built lens with fine colors

  • Pentax Man

    Pentax lenses, nevermind their cameras, are legendary. Canikon’s marketing is all they have going for them.

  • Ian

    Looks really great, but I’m still waiting to see the bokeh, which is what makes up for the softness on my Canon 50 f/1.2. If it’s as good as the other measurements, they might have a real winner on their hands.

  • Miles

    Price is not confirmed, $1700 is being bandied about because that’s the approximate cost of the high level 50mm offerings from Canon and Nikon. I’m hoping it’s around the same street price as the Sigma 35mm, which was £600-£700 in the UK.

    Whatever the price it is not competing with the Canon 50mm f/1.4. That is a ‘consumer’ market lens and, as much as I love mine, it’s not in the same league optically or in build quality as the Art range from Sigma, which competes with the Canon L series, at least optically.

  • Miles

    No one knows the price yet. The Sigma 35mm was announced at about $1350 if I remember correctly but you could buy it for $900. So if the 50mm is announced at $1400ish the ‘street’ price should be less than a grand.

    I’m hoping they’re equivalent in performance and build, that should make the price similar.

  • Miles

    It’s true they’ve got that reputation, I’ve had a couple of older Sigma lenses over the years that needed changing, but these new lenses are part of a re-branding effort by Sigma to change their public image. I have the 35mm Art lens and I know several people with them, no one has had an issue with them. At least with these new lenses I think they’ve got quality under control.

  • Stephen

    Check your camera settings. Maybe the body is miscommunicating with the lens regarding aperture settings. Alternately, maybe your lens is broken and ‘responding’ incorrectly to the aperture settings you input.

    A lens shouldn’t “underexpose.” If you’re having a problem, it’s something specific that is malfunctioning…not just that the lens “underexposes.”

  • Alex C

    Canon actualy at this price has the 1.2 L series lens. Can’t get the reason why this 1700$ lens is value for money.

  • R.S.

    Nikon wanted to put all their R & D into that crap serie 1 that nobody wants and has fallen behind big time with their lenses. I always said i would not buy Sigma (Tokina, etc) But now i own the Sigman 105mm Macro and the 16mm and they both blow Nikon’s out of the water. Keep it up Nikon!!!

  • R.S

    On billboard i would use medium/large format…bye bye Zeiss…

  • Jacob Dole

    The Sigma is the only lens I have that does this, also mine’s slightly wider than 35mm ~32mm.
    The build quality is great, and it feels really nice in the hand. I can fix the under exp. in post, but my biggest gripe is “I” find the bokeh just messy, I haven’t taken any photos with it that I feel like sharing.
    I got mine before most reviews were out (2012-11-28).

  • Hari Seldon

    The DA*55 and the current Sigma 50/1.4 are both sharper than the FA50 already.

  • Zos Xavius

    if it’s off it should be a fixed amount. like 1/2 stop under or something. you could just offset it with ev comp. I have a pentax 35-105 that tends to cause the camera to overexpose. usually the difference is when the camera thinks the aperture is smaller or larger than it is in reality. The lens just feeds an aperture number to the camera to calculate exposure. If that number is not totally accurate, well there you go.

  • Chris Pickrell

    I’m sure you think so.

    I doubt he would charge what he does and just tell everyone to shoot with crap cameras. Also, why’d you immediately jump to a Rebel?

    Regardless, gear is not the end all be all.

  • Chris Pickrell

    Lots of professionals say that gear doesn’t matter, just results.

    I’m not saying point and shoots will become the new professional camera. But you don’t need top of the line to get great images.

    if you did, everyone would be fighting to get a PhaseOne or Hasselblad.

  • solomonshv

    you are right, you DO NOT need the most expensive glass to get good results. but the Sigma, which will be priced at about $800, is no where near being the most expensive. the canon 50mm 1.2L costs twice as much and Ziess 50mm lens goes for $4000.

    you can be the greatest photographer to have ever walked the face of the earth, but that wont magically make your $400 lens super sharp. your $400 lens will still be a $400 lens no matter how well you arrange the lighting and camera settings.

  • solomonshv

    key phrase there being “When Pentax releases an FF camera.” i don’t follow pentax or camera developments in general, but from the sound of that statement it looks like you acctually CAN’T compare the pentax to the Sigma.

  • solomonshv

    yea, lets all go spend $4000 on a manual focus lens instead because it has a better brand name

    having said that, there is nothing wrong with getting a manual focus lens, but at $4000 they should at least make AF an option.

  • solomonshv

    i had to replace my $2200 Canon 24-70 2.8L II twice due to faulty AF system that was making grinding noises. this is a well documented problem with many AF canon lenses made between summer of 2012 and until fall 2013. but obviously since it didn’t happened to you then it never happened to anyone.

  • solomonshv

    i’m a convert too!!! i replaced my canon 35mm 1.4L with the sigma 35mm Art and love it. i never had a 50mm prime but probably going to get the 50mm Art. having said that, you will have to pry my Canon 85mm 1.2L from my cold, dead hands. I don’t think Sigma, or anyone, will be topping that lens anytime soon.

    sigma supposedly also has a 24-70mm f/2.0 Art in the works. i will definitely consider replacing my 24-70 f/2.8 II is that lens tops the canon. i don’t give a s—t about the “pro” reviews. before replacing ot buying anything, i’m going to rent the lenses and test the hell out of them.

  • solomonshv

    yea. why did i buy a porsche when you can get a honda civic with the v-tech 4 banger for under $25k? what a stupid comparison.

  • solomonshv

    sharpness is just ok? i think you are doing something wrong. or you got a lemon. i have the 35mm Art and have a canon 70D and a 5D Mark III. on both cameras it is ridiculously sharp. even people that don’t know diddly squat about photography compliment the sharpness of the photos i take with that lens.

  • Jacob Dole

    I’ve ordered the USB dock… it’s front focusing <40cm

  • solomonshv

    yea that’s a common issue. i had it too. i took it to B&H (it is 1 block away from where I work) and they told me to get the dock and do a firmware update. that did the trick. if you call sigma they say the same thing, either send the lens in or get the dock to do the update.

  • Mike

    Good gear does not make a good photographer, but a good photographer needs good gear. It is the result that matters, but you can always make the result better by using better tools.

    The whole argument that ‘gear does not matter’ was made to point out that skill matters more than gear, not to say that there is no value in better gear.

  • DafOwen

    There’s a quality difference – the Canon and Nikon 50mm’s are essentially budget primes.

    Compare the Nikon 50mm 1.4 ~£278 to 58mm 1.4 ~£1,449

  • Jeremiah True

    I have the older 50 1.4 and would like to upgrade to this as I have had some focus issues with my 7D. Not for that price though.

  • Uncle Wig

    Only if you can use the Sigma on an autofocus film body of some kind. But yeah: at this time comparing the FA 50 to the Sigma is kind of pointless.

  • trolololol

    no coffee either

  • Adam Cross

    that lens is already big enough, add AF and not only will it be bigger but you can add another $1k or more onto the price

  • byoung328

    That’s kind of funny, just because people use to say the same thing about Sigma.

  • Me

    A terribly long time ago, I splurged on a heap of Nikon D series lenses. This was in the early to mid 1990s. Well, now after two dozen years, I’m beginning to experience mechanical failures.

    So, I need to go through the expensive exercise of replacing several lenses at once. Now, remember, these D series lenses were bought a long time ago, and have served me in all weather and in multiple jobs. I can’t be more pleased with the investment.

    These tough D series lenses made it easy to decide what their replacements were going to be. There was no doubt in my mind: I went with their younger siblings, the G series. That should pretty much be it until I retire.

    Don’t just look at one feature, look at the total cost of ownership and operation. I’m sure the Sigma products are fine but what’s the operational lifespan for daily use in all conditions?

    Finally, people who talk about sharpness really need to learn more about photography. It’s one aspect of lens performance, and useless without the others. That it happens to be the most measurable doesn’t make it the most important, but it does make it the most blathered about on Internet discussion sites.