Hands-on With Sigma's 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for Nikon

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Sigma's latest entry in its Art lens family is a fantastic addition to any Nikon shooter's kit.

We see a lot of cameras and lenses here at Reviewed.com, but it's not everyday that we get so excited about a lens that we want to tear it out of the box and begin shooting right away. But when the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens came through our doors the other day, we just couldn't resist.

To understand why the Sigma 50mm is so special you have to rewind to this past October when one of Sigma's competitors, Zeiss, announced its amazing new 50mm f/1.4 Otus lens. Described as a lens free of compromise and without peer, the Otus costs $4,000 and is manual focus only. Fast-forward to this past January and Sigma announced its own 50mm f/1.4 lens—with autofocus—with a street price of just $949.99.

And while the Otus has lived up to its reputation as one of the best lenses ever mass produced, the Sigma has admirably kept pace so far. Not bad for a lens that costs 1/4th the price and includes autofocus. The Sigma may still be more expensive than similar first-party 50mm f/1.4 lenses from Canon and Nikon, but we can already tell it's a killer performer. After taking the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 (for Nikon) for a spin, we have some early impressions to share.

While we'll have a full performance review out of our labs as soon as possible, enjoy our unboxing and sample photos.

Hand-on Impressions

We'll have a deeper dive when our full Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG Art review goes live, but our initial impressions are that this is a lens built for shooters of any level. The construction is as solid as any pro-grade Nikon or Canon lens, with a very reassuring heft and a large, finely ribbed focus ring. There's also an autofocus switch on the side and a focus scale that moves from 0.4 meters to infinity.

SIGMA-50MM-NIKON-SAMPLES-FULL-6.jpg
The new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is a nice natural focal length for street shooting, even on full frame.

The focus ring is obviously the highlight feature here, given that it's a prime lens. While it doesn't have hard stops at either end of the focus scale, there's a very noticeable click that happens once the internal lens element has moved as far as it can go. The focus is done entirely with the internal group, so the front element doesn't move an inch when you're focusing on subjects.

As a pretty basic 50mm lens there just isn't that much to talk about, but there's also almost nothing to complain about. It's a little bulky and hefty for a 50mm f/1.4, but you're paying for quality. This feels like a lens that will outlast not just your current camera, but probably a camera or two after that. If you still look at Sigma and think of a company that makes anything other than first-rate lenses, the 50mm f/1.4 Art will go a long way toward changing your mind.

First Samples

Below you can check out a few of the the shots we got with the Sigma 50mm so far, as well as links to download the full resolution versions. All the shots were taken with a Nikon D700 with level adjusted in Photoshop CC, so there's certainly even more resolution that can be pulled out of this lens. There's also a gallery at the bottom of some other samples that aren't available in full resolution yet (sorry), but they're worth checking out. Either way, we encourage you to check out the shots at original size to understand just how sharp this lens really is. Pixel peers: Enhance to your heart's content.

SIGMA-50MM-NIKON-SAMPLES-FULL-1.jpg
Even at f/1.4 the sharpness of the Sigma 50mm lens is remarkable.
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Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 1/800
ISO: 200
Download original size version


SIGMA-50MM-NIKON-SAMPLES-FULL-2.jpg
We encourage you to open this shot up at full resolution, where you can see the very fine detail that comes out at f/4.0.
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Aperture: f/4.0
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 1/200
ISO: 200
Download original size version


SIGMA-50MM-NIKON-SAMPLES-FULL-3.jpg
Once you stop down, you really begin to see the sharpness capable with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens.
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Aperture: f/8.0
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 1/100
ISO: 200
Download original size version


SIGMA-50MM-NIKON-SAMPLES-FULL-4.jpg
The bokeh from the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 isn't bad at all, with very pleasing disk characteristics.
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Aperture: f/3.5
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 1/3200
ISO: 200
Download original size version


SIGMA-50MM-NIKON-SAMPLES-FULL-5.jpg
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 on full frame provides pleasing depth of field and sharpness when stopped down to f/3.5.
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Aperture: f/2.0
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 1/3200
ISO: 200
Download original size version


SIGMA-50MM-NIKON-SAMPLES-FULL-6.jpg
The new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is a nice natural focal length for street shooting, even on full frame.
View Larger

Aperture: f/10
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 1/200
ISO: 200
Download original size version


SIGMA-50MM-NIKON-SAMPLES-FULL-7.jpg
The Sigma's depth of field is shallow and very pleasing when attached to a full frame camera like the Nikon D700.
View Larger

Aperture: f/1.4
Focal Length: 50mm
Shutter: 1/250
ISO: 200
Download original size version