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Start Gear & Galleries 2D Cameras & Lenses Most adorable 50s - UPDATED: Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG HSM Review

Most adorable 50s - UPDATED: Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG HSM Review

Article Index
Most adorable 50s - UPDATED: Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG HSM Review
Portraits / bokeh at open aperture
Night bokeh
Landscape / Sharpness
Charts / Sharpness
Conclusion
All Pages


Since a couple of chart based reviews of the new Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 on a Canon 5D Mk3 claimed, it comes close to the majestic Zeiss Otus 1.4/55, this lens has drawn my attention. If you have read the article about the "Most Adorable 50s", you may remember my conclusion that the Zeiss Otus is currently the reference for me in the range of 50mm lenses, providing results on a 36 MP sensor comparable to current medium format cameras and that the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 1.8/55 was an "Otus light" for me. Time for another REAL WORLD comparison!

The candidates this time tested on a Sony A7R:
  • Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM (Nikon mount version)
  • Zeiss FE Sonnar T* 55mm f/1.8
  • Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH
  • Zeiss Otus Apo Distagon T* 55mm f/1.4

As pricewise the Sigma Art 50/1.4 and the Zeiss FE 1.8/55 are closest to each other, this test focuses mainly on a direct comparison between these lenses but some aspects are compared in similar settings with the Summilux and the Otus as well.

Although the Sigma Art was designed for DSLR cameras, there are options to use the Canon EF-mount version with autofocus and aperture control also on the mirrorless A7 / A7R using a Metabones Mk III or IV or the A-mount version using a LA-EA4 adapter. The A-mount version is expected to come later this year. The Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG HSM is a complex optical construction with 13 lenses, the aperture has 9 blades and it weighs about 815g.


Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM with lens hood and quiver

It is about 155g lighter and a bit smaller than the Zeiss Otus but (including an E-mount adapter) compared to the 281g Zeiss FE 1.8/55 it is still quite huge:



Sigma Art 50/1.4 with lens hood and E-mount adapter compared to the Zeiss FE 1.8/55 with native E-mount

If you mount it to the Sony A7R, the balance is not perfect but still acceptable:


Sigma Art 50/1.4 mounted on the Sony A7R

In the first part of this comparison review we will use the lenses in real world situations where they are best suited for:




Portraits / Bokeh at Open Aperture


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F1.4 slightly cropped to a viewing angle of a 55mm lens (click on image fo full resolution)


Zeiss FE 1.8/55 @ F1.8 (click on image for other resolutions)

A comparable view taken earlier with the Leica Summilux-M on Leica M 240:


Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH @ F1.4 (processing by "Rocco", click on image for other sizes)

Crops:


Crop from the Sigma Art 50/1.4


Crop from the Zeiss FE 1.8/55


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F1.4 (slightly cropped to a viewing angle of a 55m lens; click on image for other sizes)


Zeiss FE 1.8//55 @ F1.8 (click on image for other sizes)

A comparable view shot earlier with the Leica Summilux-M 50/1.4 ASPH  on the Leica M 240:


Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH @ F1.4 (processing by "Rocco", click on the image for other sizes)


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F1.4 (slightly cropped to the viewing angle of a 55m lens; click on the image for other sizes)


Zeiss FE 1.8/55 @ F1.8 (click on the image for other sizes)

A comparable setting (but different lighting) taken earlier with the Leica Summilux:


Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH @ F1.4 (click on the image for other sizes)


Zeiss Otus APO Distagon T* 1.4/55 @ F1.4 (click on the image for other sizes)


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F1.4 (click on the image for other sizes)


Zeiss FE 1.8/55 @ F1.8 (click on the image for other sizes)

Crops:


Crop from Sigma Art 50/1.4


Crop from Zess FE 1.8/55

Model: Merle Köpcke.

As you can see from the examples above, all lenses are able to deliver a smooth and silky bokeh and excellent sharpness already from open aperture. When you peep at pixel level you may determine some slight but easily correctible CA in the samples from the Sigma and the Zeiss. On the Sony A7R the Leica Summilux does not provide the level of sharpness outside the center compared to the other lenses due some astigmatism and it suffers from some field curvature. In these daylight examples I like the bokeh of the Leica Summilux and the Otus most but the Zeiss FE and the Sigma come pretty close.



Night Bokeh

The following shots are strictly out-of-camera JPEGs and should give you an impression about the bokeh quality at night when you have highlights in the background:

F2.8:


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F2.8 (click on image for other sizes)


Zeiss FE 1.8/55 @ F2.8 (click on image for other sizes)

F2.0:


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F2.0 (click on image for other sizes)

F1.8:


Zeiss FE 1.8/55 @ F1.8 (click on image for other sizes)

F1.4:


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F1.4 (click on image for other sizes)

Model: "The Pavillion", Chardonnay Semillon 2013, Boschendahl (delicios!)

In the night bokeh comparison (shot only with the Sigma and the Zeiss FE), the Sigma is the winner for my taste. It renders the circles of confusion from the highlights very even and neutral and keeps them quite round even when the aperture is stopped down to F2.8. In the circles of confusion rendered by the Zeiss FE, you see a slight tendency to "onion rings" and even at F1.8 you see a little bit the shape of the aperture blades. I compared several samples and all showed the same effect of not perfectly round circles.



Sharpness (Landscapes)

As lenses may perform different in close distance compared to far distence shots (like in landscapes), we start comparing the sharpness at distances close to infinity. The samples are strictly out-of-cam JPEGs, for pixel peeping you can open the full size views by clicking on the images:

Sigma Art @ F1.4:


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F1.4 (click on the image for other sizes)

Zeiss FE @ F1.8:


Zeiss FE 1.8/55 @ F1.8 (click on image for other sizes)

F5.6:


Sigma Art 50/1.4 @ F5.6 (click on the image for other sizes)


Zeiss FE 1.8/55 @ F5.6 (click on the image for other sizes)

Given the samples taken at F1.4 and F1.8, it is quite sensational which quality is delivered by modern lens designs already at open aperture compared to legacy lenses. At F5.6 these lenses deliver a resolution that exceeds the capabilities of a 36 MP sensor even in the edges (the Otus reaches this level already at about F2.0 as you may see later).



Sharpness ("Chart Test")

As mentioned earlier, lenses optimized for subject isolation and background blur at wide open apertures are higher appreciated for smooth bokeh then for delivering crispy details of landscapes at the borders or edges. That said - meanwhile you can get both in one lens! Which of these lenses can also be taken into a studio e.g. for perfectly sharp fashion shoots or for landscape work where you expect them to deliver tons of details and high contrast across the whole frame? The following "chart test" series might give you an idea how the lenses perform in those situations. This was the setup:


The distance to the wall was about 1.8m (approx. 6 ft.), the shots were taken from a tripod and triggered with self timer. With a mirror I made sure that the camera was pointing perpendicular to the wall. The test target was a news paper, this is an example (Sigma at F8.0):



The targets were focused manually with 14.4x magnification in the center as well as in the upper left edge. To give you an impression of the field curvature produced by the lens, the following charts also contain crops taken at F1.4 (F1.8 for the FE Sonnar 1.8/55) with focus on edge. For each aperture setting, one crop from the center, one from about half way between center and edge ("midframe") and one from the upper left edge are shown.

Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM:



Leica Summilux-M 1.4/50 ASPH:



Zeiss FE Sonnar T* 1.8/55:


Zeiss Otus Apo Distagon T* 1.4/55:

You can find a collection of albums (one album for each lens series) here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hh-tests/collections/72157639334640424/




Conclusion

  • All candidates produce a very smooth bokeh and good to excellent center sharpness already at open aperture.
  • The Leica Summilux suffers a bit in the midframe and border areas due to higher astigmatism compared to the other candidates. It also shows the strongest field curvature - at least when used on the Sony A7R. You can see the impact when you compare the photo of the fisherman with that from the Otus and the similar view with the Sigma. The Summilux produces a very nice background blur around the separated fisherman but at the borders the background gets sharp again. In fact, it is no "edge smearing" as ofthen stated, instead it is the result of field curvature as demonstrated with the test charts and the edge focused crops as well.
  • The Sigma Art 50/14 delivers a very good center resolution already at open aperture as well and sigificantly better midframe (half way between center end edges) and edge results than the Summilux, it also shows less field curvature when used on the 36 MP sensor of the Sony A7R. But the quality is not as consistent across the whole frame (especially in the edges) as the results shown by the Zeiss FE and the Zeiss Otus.
  • The Zeiss FE 1.8/55 delivers a surprisingly good result already at open aperture accross the whole image frame and shows only little field curvature. The only disadvantage of the Zeiss FE 1.8/55 is the missing 2/3 aperture compared to the f/1.4 lenses. Already at f/2.0 the Zeiss FE 1.8/55 begins to produce moiré in the reproduction of the rastered print what can not be accused to the lens. It is an indication that already the resolution of the AA-filterless 36 MP sensor is reached here.
  • Both - the Zeiss FE and the Sigma Art - show some minor, but easily correctible CA. The Sigma produces nicer "bokeh balls" from highlights in the out-of-focus area.
  • On the 36 MP sensor of the Sony A7R the Zeiss Otus outperforms all other lenses in a significant degree. Even at open aperture it already reaches an edge resolution that the other lenses can not deliver before stopped down to f/4.0. Field curvature is negligible and edge resolution almost reaches the sensors resolution already at F2.0. At f/2.8 resolution and contrast are on a level that practically can not be raised anymore when attached to a 36 MP sensor. It seems that this lens is already designed to challenge sensors with 100+ MP.

Summarized I would say that the Zeiss FE 1.8/55 still delivers best value for its price when used on mirrorless full frame E-mount cameras like the Sony A7 / A7R in a very light and fairly compact package. Sometimes you may miss the 2/3 additional aperture but it shows extremely good performance across the whole frame and makes additional points with its AF capability (but the others can be manually focused with better feedback). For me it is stil the "Otus light".

As the Sigma Art 50/1.4 DG HSM is primarily designed to be used on DSLRs from Canon, Nikon and Sony, here it will be a very attractive choice outperforming the previously available selection from the camera manufacturers.

The Otus still marks the reference for me. With its incredible detail, contrast and smooth bokeh across the whole image frame, it is a lens without any optical compromises but you will think twice before putting it into you photo bag due to its weight, size, price tag and lack of autofocus.

Finale

Some more samples from the Sigma at open aperture, just for pleasure:




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