We sort of missed the new Sigma 50mm lens in the sea of recent announcements. And we should not have. Because, despite that, like its predecessor, it is very heavy by 50mm f/1.4 class standards and very big, this is not an old lens in a new frock. The Sigma 50m f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is a completely new and very complex design. Worth your attention? Perhaps, if you are into the classic fifty. And, if recent Sigma lenses are of any indication (Nasim adored the 35mm f/1.4 Art), it should be extremely good.
1) Overview and Specifications
The first thing that I noticed about the new lens is that it weighs a bit less than the old 50mm f/1.4 DG EX HSM. Mind you, 815g (vs 505g of the old lens) is a lot when a Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G lens weighs just 280g. The second thing you notice is the lens’ sheer size. It is a whopping 100mm in length – that is nearly 50% more than the already massive predecessor! In fact, it is bigger than the Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G lens. But then, as soon as you look at the optical formula, things begin to make sense. The optical design consists of 13 elements in 8 groups, whereas the old lens had 8 elements in 6 groups. As you would expect, the lens has aspherical elements, but also super-low dispersion glass (SLD). According to Sigma, the lens is supposed to be sharp corner to corner and well corrected for any optical imperfections, such as distortion and CA. We will see if it performs as well as Sigma would have us believe, but the complex optical design is indeed impressive.
The rest of the specifications are pretty simple. There are 9 rounded aperture blades for circular out-of-focus highlights and it can be stopped down all the way to f/16. The lens can focus down to 0.40m (15.75″) and has a floating focus system to ensure high performance at all focus distances. Focusing is completely internal, but there is still no weather sealing. Here is a short list of key specifications:
- Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet, Canon EF, Sony A, Sigma SA
- Focal Length: 50mm
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Format: FX/35mm
- Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.18x
- Lens Elements: 13
- Lens Groups: 8
- Floating focus system
- SLD and aspheric lens elements
- Diaphragm Blades: 9
- Autofocus: Yes, ring-type ultrasonic
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Minimum Focus Distance: 1.31 ft. (0.40m)
- Focus Mode: Auto, Manual
- Filter Size: 77mm
- Is 3.94″ (100mm) in length and 3.35″ (85mm) in diameter
- Weight (Approx.): 1.04 lb (815g)
And here are the MTF charts with the new 50mm Art lens at the left and the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G lens on the right for comparison purposes:
The advantage of the new Sigma lens (at least based on the MTF charts) is very apparent – it should be quite noticeably sharper across the frame. Unfortunately, price has not yet been revealed. The old lens was slightly more expensive than its most direct competitors and now costs around $400. I think it is safe to expect the new lens to be somewhat more expensive and if Sigma is not pitching it against the likes of Nikkor AF-S 58mm f/1.4, it will hopefully cost around $450. Or is that wishful thinking?
2) The Slight Problem
We admire the way Sigma changed so quickly. Time and time again we’ve said that the manufacturer’s most recent lenses are up there with the best and, in some cases, even beat brand offerings. They even look good nowadays, much more serious and purposeful. Yet the size bothers me a little… I can understand why the Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G is so big. It is a specialized lens, as is the Zeiss Otus. But if this new Sigma is to compete with regular 50mm f/1.4 class lenses, that size is not going to prove to be an advantage. One of the best things about a cheap fifty is its small size – it is a lens you can always carry with you. Sigma, on the other hand, is pushing it a little. Where mirrorless seem to be going for small size and weight – a welcome change – Sigma keeps getting bigger. I am sure this is something that will turn a few potential buyers off, and that is a pity. It should be a great lens otherwise – we certainly hope to get a copy for a review as soon as possible.
3) Official Press Release
Here is the official press release for the new Sigma lens:
A | Art Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM
In 2008, Sigma released a large diameter standard lens designed for digital SLRs, “SIGMA 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM”. At that time, products for film cameras were prevalent, yet we spent enormous effort to set a new benchmark for the 50mm lens that optimizes the characteristics of digital cameras, such as compensating peripheral brightness, controlling the point images in the corners, and improving the image drawing, not only around the focusing point, but also other areas in the image.
In recent years, as the DSLR evolves, development of image sensors for higher pixel size has created the photographers’ desire for the lenses with superior performance. In 2012, Sigma has announced the “Art” line that achieves unsurpassed expressive performance to fulfill the higher requirement of photographers. The first lens from the “Art” line “SIGMA 35mm F1.4 DG HSM [A 012]” sought for uncompromising performance, and it resulted in great reviews as well as a lot of awards from all over the world. Based on the accumulated wisdom and know-how to establish the standard for our “Art” line series, we are proud to announce the development of the new high performance standard lens with a large diameter for this new era of superb image quality.
Corresponding AF Mounts: SIGMA, Canon, Sony and Nikon
Accessory: Case, Petal-Type Hood (LH830-02) supplied.
* The Appearance and specifications are subject to change without notice.
1. Art line delivers high-level artistic expression
SIGMA is organizing all its interchangeable lenses into three product lines; Contemporary, Art, and Sports, where each line has a distinctive concept. Designed with a focus on sophisticated optical performance and abundant expressive power, our Art line delivers high-level artistic expression. With the astonishing rendering performance that meets the high standard, along with landscapes, portraits still-life, close-up, and casual snaps, they are perfect for the kind of photography that unleashes the inner artist. Ideal for studio photography, they offer just as much expressive scope when capturing architecture and starry skies and many other scenes.
2. Astonishing rendering performance
Utilizing know-how and the latest design technology accumulated through the past developments, it corrects the aberration thoroughly and achieves high resolution and astonishing rendering performance even near the edge of the image.
- Achieving both high resolution and beautiful bokeh
While pursuing a high level of resolution on the focused point, bokeh in front and behind the point of focus is carefully maintained to have soft rendering. Aberrations including sagittal coma flare and color distortion that affect the image quality are thoroughly corrected. From open aperture, high-definition rendering without blur is achieved. Moreover, by ensuring vignetting at the minimum and preventing color blur around the front and back of the focus point, it also achieves natural bokeh.
- Excellent correction of sagittal coma flare
It is ideal for a wide aperture standard lens to have a high rendering performance from open aperture throughout the entire image. For instance, the molded glass aspherical lens elements provide excellent correction to sagittal coma flare. It is perfect for astronomical photography and shooting of illumination because of the reduced blur on the point light sources near the edge of the image. It also creates an attractive bokeh in portraits and indoor shooting.
- Correction of axial chromatic aberration
For axial chromatic aberration that is hard to correct even during the image processing, SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass elements are incorporated, ensuring high image quality throughout the entire focusing range. The lens achieves sharp and high contrast image rendering.
- Minimized distortion
It is not possible to compensate for distortion just by changing the aperture values. Thus, the lens development stage was vital in ensuring minimized distortion. The “SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG HSM” has positioned each glass element to optimize the power layout at respective positions, and succeeded in minimizing distortion.
- Rich peripheral brightness
It secures very rich brightness in the peripheral areas, which can be a common problem for a lens with a large diameter. By positioning wide elements in the front group, it has improved the efficiency at large apertures. Since it is capable of minimizing vignetting, very clear depiction across the image is ensured.
- Designed to minimize flare and ghosting
Flare and ghosting were thoroughly measured and monitored from the lens development stage to establish an optical design which is resistant to strong incidental light such as backlight. The Super Multi-Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting and provides sharp and high contrast images even in backlit conditions.
- Minimum focusing distance of 40cm
The lens incorporates a floating system that adjusts the distance between lens groups while focusing, thereby reducing the amount of lens movement required. This achieves a minimum focusing distance of 40cm and maximum magnification ratio of 1:5.6. As there is less variation in aberration at different shooting distances, the lens delivers high rendering performance throughout the entire focusing range.
3. Hyper Sonic Motor ensures High AF Speed
The HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) ensures a silent, high-speed AF function. Optimizing AF algorithm, smoother AF is achieved. It also enables full-time manual focusing capability which allows sensible focus adjustment by simply rotating the focus ring.
4. New Customizing Option added to “SIGMA USB DOCK”
With the optional SIGMA USB DOCK and the dedicated special software “SIGMA Optimization Pro”, you can update your lens firmware, or adjust focus points by attaching this lens to a SIGMA USB DOCK connected to a computer.
Incorporating Rounded Diaphragm
The 9 blade-rounded diaphragm creates an attractive blur to the out-of-focus areas of the image.
With the new product lines, supplied hoods incorporate rubber for the connected part. Lens caps and AF/MF switches are also newly designed in order to improve usability. For the parts inside, metals and a new material called TSC (Thermally Stable Composite), which works well with metals, are located to achieve products with high accuracy. The lens barrel includes the year of release, engraved for users to recognize when the lens was released.
Brass made bayonet mount
This lens incorporates a brass made bayonet mount which has both high accuracy and durability. A special treatment to reinforce its strength is applied to the surface giving it greater strength and making it highly resistant to long-term use.
Evaluation with Sigma’s own MTF measuring system “A1”
We used to measure lens performance with MTF measuring system using conventional sensors. However, we’ve now developed our own proprietary MTF (modulation transfer function) measuring system (A1) using 46-megapixel Foveon direct image sensors. Even previously undetectable high-frequency details are now within the scope of our quality control inspections. The SIGMA 50mm F1.4 DG FISM will all be checked using this “A1” before they are shipped.
“Made in Japan”
All Sigma’s manufacturing – right down to molds and parts – is carried out under an integrated production system, entirely in Japan. We are now one of the very few manufacturers whose products are solely “made in Japan”. We like to think our products are somehow imbued with the essence of our homeland, blessed as it is with clean air and water, and focused, hard-working people. We pride ourselves on the authentic quality of Sigma products, born of a marriage between highly attuned expertise and intelligent, advanced technology. Our sophisticated products have satisfied professionals and lovers of photography all over the world, because our manufacturing is based on genuine craftsmanship, underpinned by the passion and pride of our experts.
Applicable for the Mount Conversion Service
As an experienced lens manufacturer that has been creating a diverse range of interchangeable lenses, we have started the innovative chargeable service “Mount Conversion Service”. With this service, the mount of your current SIGMA lenses can be changed to another mount of your choice. It gives a new life to your favorite lenses when you wish to use it on a different camera body.
* This “Mount Conversion Service” is different from a normal repair. In order to apply for the service, please contact your nearest authorized subsidiary / distributor of SIGMA.