Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 has been quite a popular lens among many photographers ever since it got introduced to the market. As you have seen earlier, the lens is the biggest of the 50mm bunch that I tested and has some impressive features that sets it apart from the competition. It is a large aperture f/1.4 lens with a quiet autofocus motor, a large front element with a 77mm filter thread (which is unusual for a 50mm lens – even the Canon 50mm f/1.2 has a 72mm filter thread) and is available for all major DLSR mounts including Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sigma. I decided to do a thorough comparison of the Sigma against the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, so let’s see how it performs. It is important to point out that the Sigma 50mm has a wider field of view compared to Nikon 50mm primes – equivalent to approximately 45mm in focal length. I had to move my setup about 6 inches closer to the target in order to get a similar field of view.
We can see that the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is not a very sharp lens, particularly at its widest aperture. Here, the 50mm f/1.4G beats the Sigma easily. However, once stopped down to f/2.8, the Sigma shows much better sharpness in the center and in the mid-frame – the difference is very obvious. Stopped down to f/4 and smaller apertures, both lenses perform very well, but the Nikon clearly excels in the corners.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Vignetting
As I have pointed out before, the Sigma’s strength is in the low amount of vignetting, due to the large front lens element and lens barrel. As you can see below, the vignetting levels wide open are like the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G stopped down to f/2.0. Sigma leads all other 50mm lenses in terms of vignetting here:
It is also worth noting that vignetting is even less pronounced on DX sensors – all of the above tests were performed on an FX sensor.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Distortion
Barrel distortion level on the Sigma is low in comparison to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G:
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Conclusion
While being the largest, heaviest and the priciest of all 50mm lenses I have tested, The Sigma f/1.4 EX DG HSM simply fails to deliver. Its high levels of purple fringing and low sharpness in the corner frame are disappointing. Longitudinal chromatic aberration levels are the highest as well, and as you have seen earlier in this review, the bokeh just looks ugly in comparison to Nikkor primes. In addition, the Sigma f/1.4 I tested was the only lens in the group that was heavily front-focused, which shows just how bad the QA of third party manufacturers can be. I would personally send it back to Sigma for readjustment and calibration right away, but I did not bother, since it was loaned to me for a month anyway. Sure, its vignetting/distortion levels and AF performance (when properly calibrated) are impressive, but those are the only positives I can think of. Considering the size and weight, it almost feels like an 85mm prime rather than a 50. Its corner sharpness looks better on a DX camera, but not by a huge margin.
Don’t waste your money on this lens – it is simply not worth the $500 Sigma is asking for.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.8G
I have already pointed out earlier that the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is in many ways a better lens than the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G. Although I have been using the 50mm f/1.4G ever since it came out and I have been extremely happy with its performance, I was surprised to see the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G outperform it in sharpness, vignetting, distortion and flare/ghosting tests, as seen below. Here is the comparison of both lenses in terms of MTF:
Without a doubt, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G delivers much better overall performance compared to its bigger brother. You can see here that the 50mm f/1.8G outperforms the 50mm f/1.4G at every aperture, especially in the center frame. It is able to resolve details on high resolution 36 MP+ sensors, whereas the 50mm f/1.4G cannot.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.8G Vignetting
While the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G has a very heavy amount of vignetting at f/1.4, the effect of vignetting is less pronounced at f/1.8 when compared to the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G. Similar to the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D, vignetting is heavily reduced at f/2.0 and completely disappears by f/4.0:
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.8G Distortion
Again, it is not a big deal – small amounts of distortion as above can be quickly fixed in post-processing software like Lightroom and Photoshop. Enabling lens correction in Lightroom or Camera RAW painlessly fixes distortion issues on both lenses.
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 50mm f/1.8G Conclusion
Once again, it is shocking to see the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G outperform the supposedly better and more expensive 50mm lenses, including the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G that Lola and I have been heavily using for our photography. As you can see from the above crops, the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G is sharper than the 50mm f/1.4G at pretty much all apertures in the center and at largest apertures in the corners. The two-thirds of a stop difference between the lenses is simply not worth the price difference. I do not know what Nikon was thinking when they released this lens – the sales of the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G will be severely impacted by the 50mm f/1.8G once everyone figures out that the latter is a better buy. Although the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G has a 7-bladed diaphragm versus 9 on the 50mm f/1.4G, the bokeh it produces is very comparable to the bokeh on the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G (thanks to the rounded blades). So, it is not like the f/1.4G renders a much better background either. In addition, LoCA seems to look worse on the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G.
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