First Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens review: “it trounces any similar model available for less than $4,000”

The first Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens review was published by SLRgear and the upcoming Sigma lens was described as the second best 50mm full frame lens available today after the $4,000 Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon T*:

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 big question remains the price. SLRgear speculates that the price tag of the new 50mm Art lens will be under $1,700. This is the price range for the currently best offerings from Canon (the 50mm f/1.2L is $1,619.00) and Nikon (the 58mm f/1.4G is $1,696.95) but SLRgear also promises that the new Sigma lens will be a better performer (see MTF charts).

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  • Sigma is doing it right.

    The new Nikkor 35/1.8 is actually a bit sharper than the Sigma in certain circumstances but makes me yawn when I use it. Sigma has that magic something. I hope the 50 has it too.

    • jvossphoto

      What do you think about Sigma’s reputation for build quality Mist?

      • Before last year? Meh.

        The new series A/C/S are fantastic. A big turnaround.

        • jvossphoto

          Thanks Mist.

  • Camel

    This title is total horse shit!

  • Sigma is magical at breaking w/ the slightest drop, I’ll give you that.

    • zev

      you will know this from your extensive period of time using the lens?

      • BP2012

        Once again, my Sigma 70-200 autofocus lens is still working perfectly after 26 years. Is that long enough?

    • Jeroen Wijnands

      Yeah, I know. When I take my totally rubbish 150-500 out bird watching I keep it rolled in two layers of bubble wrap at all times.

  • Guest

    $1700?? No thanks. I bet the Nikon 58mm f/1.4 will have better bokeh, at the expense of whatever clinical sharpness Sigma was able to draw out of their Art lens. Maybe at $600 I would be interested.

    Personally, the older, slightly less sharp Nikkor optics that have superior bokeh and rendering are my preferred lenses.

    • LOL

      Nikon optics is crap BTW, love Nikon’s rendering ≡ bad (I mean BAD) taste.

      • Henri De Vreese

        You came to troll?

        • LOL

          I came to tell the obvious

  • AM I Am

    30 years from now, the Zeiss will be working fine.
    30 hours from now, the Sigma, we don’t know.

    • CanadaDry

      You’re comparing apples to oranges here. The Zeiss is manual focus and the Sigma is autofocus, and even then your statement has no basis because there’s still autofocus lenses from the early 80’s that are still working fine.

      • AM I Am

        That doesn’t change anything that I wrote.
        Sure, there may be some lenses in working conditions and so many… well most likely not. Sigma has always been a gamble. With the new series, we don’t know, only time will tell.

        • Hehe, you’ve exaggerated.

          I bet you a million dollars that my Sigmas are still working 30 hours from now.

          Anyway, the only problems I’ve heard with Sigma are exactly related to AF.

          • Eric Calabros

            and thats why Zeiss doesnt bother AF. when a Japanese optic company couldnt figure out how to make AF fully compatible with Japanese camera makers DSLRs in decades, its near impossible a German company could

    • Pellevin

      You live in then past. Sigma had so and so quality control in the past when they mostly did budget lenses. Their new lenses is stellar. I am a D600 user and the lenses where my AF is struggling is the Nikons. Brand snobbery is just ridiculous.

      • AM I Am

        I would say that I think about the future. History has proven that the chances that a Zeiss, Nikon, or Canon lens will be working 30 years from now are much higher than the chances the Sigma lens will be.
        Again the new Sigma fArt series is pretty young so as to say that now Sigma solved all their quality and reliability issues. Only time will tell.

        • rt-photography

          exactly..where the fuck where they till now. and they still have AF issues. look at the 50mm in every review they talk about its inconsistency..the same with the 18-35. dont have af issues with any of my 8 nikon lenses. but always had with every sigma I had. I hope they price this right. I hope they get their QC together. I hope they fix their AF issues. I hope theyve fixed their camera compatibilities but truthfully, I doubt it. I give them credit for putting in an effort. from finally waking from their coma. time will tell if this keeps going. I hope so. competition is great for us the consumer.

          • Dpablo unfiltered

            As much trouble as they are, I kind of like the company. Who else makes a 12-24? Who else makes a 300-800? On a good day you can get a photo that looks like someone painted over your Nikon photo with some really thick dull yellowish clear coat. They are so CLOSE. I can FEEL it…

          • rt-photography

            theyre a good company and have the capabilities to offer stellar products. they chose not to till recently. i all for it. but crap theyre raising their noses up too high with that 50 price tag. so what its a sharp lens. so is their 35 ARt. they still sell it lower than nikon/canon at $900 vs $1800.

            im not saying they have to sell the 50 much lower than the nikon/canon but fuck $900 or $1700 as some guessed is crazy. $600 is the perfect price for this lens. if not then theyre doing me a favor and saving me money but forcing me to get the nikon. im not paying anything over $600 for a boring 50mm prime lens. I just want a 50 in my bag for times I may need it.

        • vasras

          “Past performance is no guarantee of future profits.”

      • Dpablo unfiltered

        Brand snobbery might be ridiculous, but some of what you are hearing is no such thing.
        I started wanting to get the best lenses I could for however little I could pay and I started with a pile of 10 dollar old screwmounts with names that I had never heard of. I initially beat them just a bit with some pre AI lenses that were five to ten times more. Then I beat some of those with some good zooms, initially the 75-150 and then the 50-135 and the 80-200 f2.8. When I tried the better lenses I was initially not impressed. I realized that they gained both sharpness and consequently a longer functional depth of field by opening them to f5.6 from f8 where I had been using them. Lenses like the 135 f2 and the 105 and 85 f1.8 are what it takes for me to not zoom.
        With auto focus and zooming I had to compromise. I didn’t want the old plastic 18-35 and didn’t see myself affording lenses to replace 15, 18, 20,.24, and 28, much less than carrying them all with the longer stuff. So I looked back to cult classics and photodo and bought some copies of the sigma 21-35, the tokina 20-35 variable aperture, and I also rebought the tamron 20-40 f2.7-3.5.
        I took some pictures and had them processed and thought the film was bad. Finally I shot a roll and included some Nikon lenses in my test and noticed that the Nikon produced vibrant colors and that the machine at that grocery store wasn’t up to the task of milking any right color out of the others. To say they looked bad was an understatement. They kind of looked like the cover of the first Black Sabbath album. A lot. They also looked like I had taken a bad photo and ran it through a bad color copier and then copied the copy a few more times. So I tried a processor that cost twice as much and saw that every lens was able to make at least some images that were acceptable, if not good.
        The thing is, and the reason I initially sold the Tamron, (which easily beats the other two) is that sometimes you can take the Tamron and point it at something expecting to get a photo showing all the interplay of various colors and wind up getting a photo that shows basically one color with no hint of the detail that you were trying to photograph. People have told me that the lens “flares.” While it is as sharp as my 35-70 and basically indistinguishable on a good day I never really know what I am going to get with it.
        The difference is the coatings, and in the case of the Tokina, the paint they should have used on the inside of the lens. I suppose the design can also make a difference. Most of the third party lenses gave colors varying from a dull ugly blandness to an overly greenish/ yellowishness to a bright pastel appearance that, while pleasant, did often not resemble much reality. I would say that ninety percent of the third party lenses “miss” rather than “hit” and some are more aggravating and hit and then miss. The Nikon lenses almost never miss. The color of their lenses looks like a well saturated oil painting done by an artist that exhibits good taste. And if you have a bunch of them you can be certain that the color will be consistent between them if you are changing focal lengths. And then there’s the build quality. I also need to stress that the third parties and even Canon seem to know that their colors need retweaked because they are constantly changing. If one were to make a kit with lenses from all one brand they would still find less consistency than from Nikon or Zeiss, especially if the lenses were not all from the same generation. That all said, things are better than before with everyone. Everyone seems to be moving to bring their colors more like Nikon’s. Tokina is toning down the bright pastel a bit and with the better optics the true colors can easily be realized. Tamron is handling the flare and losing the muddiness. Sigma is losing that yellow brushed on look and starting to look much like Nikon most of the time and Tamron when the light isn’t the best.
        The Sigma that I have and actually use is the 100-300 f4. It’s like the Tamron 20-40 but works about 85 percent of the time rather than a little over half the time like the Tamron. The off brand stuff that I will keep includes those two lenses, a “bokina,” some other macros, a fish eye and a few lenses which are almost as good as what replaced them. Eventually I will either buy a 28-70 or a 17-35 so that I won’t have reason to use the Tamron outside in the daylight. There’s nothing snobby about it. Sometimes I carry my stuff around in a grocery bag. Silly.

    • Bollox

      LOL true.

    • Mike

      The old Sigma’s had 10 year warranties. The new ones 7. So conceivably, the clock could reset on AF units in 7-10 years.

      • AM I Am

        Wow. So, in the past Sigma produced low quality and low reliability products and gave 10-year warranties.
        Now, Sigma claims that their lenses are much better in quality and reliability but they reduced the warranty time. That’s what I call confidence in their own products. LOL.

    • BP2012

      I have a Sigma 70-200 autofocus lens made 26 years ago. Still working perfectly. Comparisons can’t be made because Zeiss simply don’t have so old AF lens.


        I have a Sigma 28-70 (Nikon) that works fine after 20+ years, bought together with a push-pull 70-210 that has fallen apart years ago. A 100-300 I have for Pentax is as good as new after 7 years of use, but a cheap 35-70 I bought a year later has literally disintegrated (plastic mount). My 105 macro is in prefect shape after 4 years.
        I guess it’s a hit n miss, but overall it’s closer to the”hit” part…

    • You didn’t think this through, did you? Even before buying the Zeiss’ AF doesn’t work. Sigma’s might work for 30 hours or 30 days or 30 years. Either way, the Sigma wins.

    • asciiArt

      I don’t have great opinion of Sigma as a company, just remember SD1 blunder. Fortunately, I did not buy it.

    • nikclick

      Even though ur statement might be true @ money spent on high quality , its no right to put down a company which is trying to do something different & at their best & i high spirits to keep a balance with quality & price. And lets not forget Sigma is the only company which provides an usb dock. And Sigma always provided chip upgrades for old lenses to work with new camera Lets no forget good things while we make a flat compassion.

      • Dpablo unfiltered

        Um… REALLY??????
        I have some old sigma lenses that will never ever get rechipped unless it is by a hack somewhere.

        I like Sigma. Let’s not get carried away…

    • Rrisk

      I have the first full frame ART lens from Sigma, the 35mm f1.4. It exceeds the performance of both the Nikon and Zeiss equivalents in all of the parameters measured by DXO. My personal experience with it has been exceedingly positive. Sigma is a company which is rapidly changing the marketplace for high quality lenses. When their new 50mm 1.4 ART lens hits the marketplace everyone will be paying closer attention to them. Their CEO has made quite clear the company’s objectives and goals. You would be making a big mistake not to re-evaluate their lenses.

  • Thomas

    It feels unserious that Sigma hasn‘t named an official price yet – or better since month.
    It‘s like “let‘s see how the hype is and then we‘ll make it very close to Canon and Nikon fifties.
    But in general I‘m happy about a well build, fast and sharp 50mm lens as the 50/1.4 Canon is made of plastic (great optic) and the 50/1.2 has issues at close distance.

    • loulou

      My bet is that Sigma waits for the lenses to be ready to ship and then they’ll announce a price that is gonna kill the other brands’ fifty’s… a bit like they did with the 35mm ^^

  • Alex

    Based on my experience with the Sigma 35 (Nikon), I’m guessing it’ll be technically better than all the other 50s, but the Nikon 58 will have nicer color rendition. Tough decision, unless the Sigma ends up way cheaper than the equivalents :/

    • Remedy

      So in other words You don’t give a shit about the image quality/characteristics, all You care about is the price. Make up Your mind son.

  • sperdynamite

    Great another review with no image samples, and we still don’t know when we can buy it and how much it will be. What is the hold up here?

  • Geoff

    I would hope it’s significantly less than $1700. I was thinking less than $1000. Based on the review, the $1000 Sony FE comes pretty close to the Sigma. Over $1000, wouldn’t consider it.

    • Dpablo unfiltered

      I don’t know anybody who charges more for their 50 than their 35. I guess this one does have quite a few elements, but still, I don’t think it will cost that much…

  • Inzajeano

    I wonder how many of you work for Canon or Nikon;)
    I predominantly shoot medium and large format but when I shoot digi I do so with a 35mm Sigma Art lens on my D800e or on my Sigma dp2. They blow away any glass I’ve used from Canon or Nikon. The dp2 is actually one of the best digital cameras I’ve used and the 35mm Art lens is lush.

  • Panchoskywalker

    A picture is worth a thousand words.

  • Johnny Dough

    A local retailer here in Aus has a pre-order price of $999

  • LOL

    They haven’t tested the Otus yet, so how they decided the Zeiss is better?

    • EnPassant

      That is the conclusion from the admin here.
      NOT what SLRgear claim.

      • Did you even read the review?

        • EnPassant

          Yes! And nowhere do SLRgear claim the Zeiss OTUS is the better lens. They are only saying the Sigma ART 50/1.4 to be better than every other similar lens cheaper than the OTUS. That is not the same as claiming OTUS is better. The only thing SLRgear claim is SIGMA ART 50/1.4 to be the best lens of its kind below $4.000,- (or 3.990,- as it sells for at B&H) they so far have tested! I therefore think you should edit your introduction! ;o)
          Because with the logic used here one could as well claim the Leica Summilux 50/1.4 (Selling for $3995,- at B&H) is a better lens. However it clearly tested worse at SLRgear!

          • It is obvious that they talk about the Zeiss Otus lens when they say “it trounces any similar model available for less than $4,000”. This is their quote – I did not make this up.

          • EnPassant

            Of course they are! I never questioned that!

            But that quote is not saying that the OTUS or other lenses for around $4.000,- or more are better, just that lenses clearly cheaper than that are not as good as the Sigma Art 50 /1.4 lens. I just brought the Summilux 50 lens into the discussion just to show how wrong it is to make the assumption SLRgear claim OTUS is the better lens. 

            Therefore I question the conlusion: “Sigma lens was described as the SECOND best 50mm full frame lens available today after the $4,000 Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon T*” which led to LOL’s comment “…so how they decided the Zeiss is better?” which was the reason of my original post.
            It’s a matter of logic. That SLRgear say Sigma Art 50 is better than all lenses except OTUS doesn’t mean they are saying OTUS is better than Sigma.
            They simply say so because they have not yet tested the OTUS and therefore can’t claim Sigma Art 50 being the best lens. They, just as we, from other tests done, know the OTUS also being better than every other lens below $4.000,- EXCEPT the Sigma Art 50.
            Which one of those two lenses is the best still remains to be tested!
            Whatever I think it is safe to claim the Sigma Art being the best 50/1.4 lens while Zeiss OTUS is the best 55/1.4 lens!

          • Chairman of The Bored

            The best “50” I’ve tried is my Pentax DA*55. Lenstip MTF figures put it right up there with the Zeiss from about f/2 on IIRC. I have the Sigma 50/1.4 on my D800E’s though it’s a nice lens but soft at the borders until f/8. The new unit will no doubt be much better and create more interest in Sigma products.

          • EnPassant

            Good you are happy with your lens and put quotation marks around 50. Because as you know that is a lens for APS-C sensor cameras. Unless one plan to use the Zeiss Otus 55/1.4 on APS-C cameras it is an apple and orange comparance.
            Besides it is the performance at the widest aperatures that make the Otus and new Sigma stand out. Stopped down many lenses are very sharp, even if they may not quite resolve as much and be as well corrected.
            Comparing the graphs at LensTip what I can see the Pentax lens is only close but not quite equal in the central measurements at f4.0 and 5.6. At the APS-C edge Otus is clearly better at every stop. So while DA 55 is a good lens it is no match with the Otus.
            Looking at the tests at SLRgear the new Sigma 50/1.4 Art seem be even better than the already highly acclaimed Sigma 35/1.4 Art lens. So a too high price will be the only thing stopping it from being a similar success.

          • Chairman of The Bored.

            As I said IIRC.

            The DA*55 IS a FF lens. That has been proven on Pentax Forums.

          • EnPassant

            Well, you did not recall correctly!

            SLRgear did also test the DA 55. While they not yet tested the OTUS the new SIGMA 50 Art is better than DA 55 at every stop. The DA 55 need to be stopped down to f2.0 to compare to Sigma at 1.4.

            Photozone also tested the DA 55 and come to the same conlusion as everybody else; It is a good, above average lens. That does however not make it comparable to Zeiss Otus or Sigma 50 Art.

            The DA 55 is everywhere described as a lens for APS-C cameras and comes with a hood for a short tele that will caus vignetting on a full frame sensor. B&H sell it as a Telephoto lens.

            Not being invested in new Pentax gear I took the official information for granted. But after some googling it seems you are correct about the full frame capability of the DA 55. I even found a new test of the lens on the Sony A7R:

            Problem is Pentax doesn’t yet have any camera with a 24x36mm sensor for full operation of the lens.

          • Steve Griffin

            The DA*55 is “marketed” as an APS-C but it is a FF lens. I prefer Lenstip tests to most sites as they seem unbiased whereas DxO tests of Pentax glass are completely suspect based on my persoanl experience of the lenses tested. Here’s a few comparative MTF’s from Lenstip which shows the Pentax DA*55 up there in the best 4.

          • tristan Rhodes

            The DA*55mm is a really excellent lens! I’m primarily on a d800, and wish nikon made a reasonably priced 50 that was on par with that pentax (technically it is a crop lens, but it can be used FF). Very excited about the new sigma 50 as the 35 art is a pretty great lens

  • Ruud

    Based on what the sales rep told me at proffesional Imaging 2014 (NL), the lens will cost less than 1000Euro.

  • rt-photography

    $1700..fuck that. I dont care how much its better. Ill take the canon or nikon. im certain there are many who have had a lot of bad experience with sigma and would not buy again. it has to be a really tempting offer for some to try sigma again. just because they released 2-4 good lenses as of late (mazal tov they woke the fuck up!) doesnt meant they have a great reputation. what about the garbage they sold (and still sell) for many years. I dont turn a blind eye to that. I know. I did have many sigma lenses when I started photography. what a mistake that was.

    the shitty af accuracy on all their lenses. the compatibility issues with newer camera. the bad resale value. the low contrast at f/2.8 on the zooms.

    I personally would spend no more than $600 for this lens. otherwise the nikons are just fine. they are great lenses and they work fine. Im not paying $1700 (or even $900) for a boring uninspiring bullshit ass 50mm 1.4 lens. forget that. you have got to be smoking. sure there will be those who buy. but they will sell truckloads if they take a bit more than the nikon .more money because more elements and better sharpness. but not giving more than $600 because of resale value. af accuracy. and crap its a sigma.

    their current 50 sells for less than the nikon. so now they want 4 times the price of the nikkor 50 1.4g? cmon sigma..sure there will be those that buy but they are smoking something if they want anything more than $600 for this. its a 50 for christ sakes. so 50mm is the new “creative lens”? cmon. a 50 is a 50. boring, but a must have lens in every photogs bag.

    for me anything over $600 and ill just get the nikon 1.4 g and be happy.

    • Andrzej Lukowiec

      Yeah. I can send you the AF Fine Tune adjustments numbers for different distances, for apertures to and from 2.8. You will be much happier 😉

      • rt-photography

        thanks buddy 🙂

    • AM I Am

      I concur. Those who buy Sigma are because they’re on a budget. No more, no less. All that BS about how Sigma has improved and blah, blah, blah, is nothing but mere excuses to justify that purchase.
      I find kind of hilarious all those guys who say that their Sigma is so good that Nikon or Canon need to learn from them. Yeah, right. All that means is that deep in their hearts, they would have preferred to buy the Nikon or the Canon if they could have afforded it.

      • rt-photography

        I agree. now sigma puts out 4 very stellar lenses and theyve changed their image in everyones eyes? they think their Zeiss? where the hell were they till now? selling crap to the public with no guilt whatsoever. sure they have their market. but now they raise their noses up like some elite brand. asking $1700 or even $900 for a lens?

        the nikon 35 1.4 and canon go for $1700+ and sigma 35 ART goes for $900. thats fine.

        the nikon 50 1.4g goes for $440 and the current sigma sells theirs for $400. so now they want to go head to head with the 58 1.4g and sell them for $1700+? being a little chutzpa I think. if they sell it for $600, they would sell them in truckloads, but $1700? hell no would I buy it. not even for $900. not when nikons is $440 and just a stellar lens. I dont care that it has more elements and is sharper. no 50 is worth that much. take an extra $200 for the extra glass, otherwise give me the nikkor.

        they have some way to go before theyre considered elite in my eyes.

        nikon and canon need to learn from them. lets not talk about the other 98% of their lineup that they need to learn from nikon and canon.

        I give them credit for finally waking up and putting in the effort. I hope they continue to make nikon sweat a little.

        Im really looking forward to see the 24-70 f/2 OS. IMO, even a sharp 2.8 will be welcome because every single 28/24-70 2.8 they put out is very soft/low contrast at open aperture and most times even at f/4

        im looking forward to the rumored 135 f/1.8

    • I’m sorry gentlemen, but Sigma IS better than Nikon or Canon with the latest primes.

      Keep waving your yellow and red flags if you like, but it’s a fact documented by … well, everybody.

      • rt-photography

        you are correct the 35 50 and 18-35, optically are better. but crap AF on the 50. Im all for sigma to wake up, put some effort in and give people a cheaper alternative to nikons high prices. I welcome anything new sigma brings with the ART line. all the rest sucks ass.

        but, they have a long way to go. and 3 lenses doesnt mean their better. the nikon offereing (17-55 vs 18-35 ART) are no slouches. and lets not forget all the rest of their lenses that really isnt elite but nikons standard.

        my budget for the 50 is $600. anything more, I will just buy the nikon 50 1.4g. I dont need anything really stellar.

  • preston

    Admin – just to be clear, the review absolutely did not say that this Sigma lens is the second best 50mm lens after the Zeiss Otus as you say it does. They say multiple times in the review that they have not tested the Otus yet so can’t say how the Sigma compares to it. Their conclusion is that this Sigma is better than all the Canon, Nikon, and Sony 50’s. They only bring up the Otus because they say that if you are looking to spend much less than $4,000 you should get this Sigma because it trounces the competitors in that price category.

  • PW

    Between $899 and $999 at three Australian stores. These prices have been confirmed by the local distributor CR Kennedy to these stores.

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