[Noob Review] Sigma 50mm Art Lens: Just toss whatever you're using and buy this.

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CreeDo
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[Noob Review] Sigma 50mm Art Lens: Just toss whatever you're using and buy this.
4 months ago

OK, maybe that's premature. Sell your fast prime, don't throw it away.
And hang on to it, if it's the Zeiss Otus.

But otherwise, this is the 50mm prime to get. It's probably the 2nd sharpest 50mm in the world behind the Otus, and it's 1/4th of the price and has autofocus.
Autofocus means I might buy this lens over the Otus even if I didn't care about money.

But I do care about money, so why did I pay over double the going rate for a 50mm prime?
Well, it's like the old joke about why divorce is so expensive: Because it's worth it.

This is one of those cases where I wish I'd known then what I know now. If you're thinking of getting one of the 400 primes out there, save up for this instead. Trust me.*

*Full disclosure: I'm still a noob, only been doing photography for 3 months. Using an entry level Canon Rebel T5. But I'm a quick study and I spent enough time with both 50mm lenses to spot the difference.

A while ago I bumped into some pros shooting a commercial. I timidly approached and talked gear with them, and asked "what's the next type of lens I should get?" ...the guy said "Get a fast prime, like a 1.4 50mm. It'll change your life." I took that advice and got the original Sigma 50mm, the EX DG HSM.
That lens is sharper in the center by a hair than the equivalent Canon or Nikon version, but fuzzier in the corner. Price was the same.

It didn't change my life. I kept seeing all these flaws, especially wide open. Glaring CA, visible even without magnification on 3" camera LCD. The sharpness just wasn't there and autofocus struggled and missed all the time, not to mention loud and chattery.
Now I realize, what he was talking about is a NICE f1.4 prime.
Not the Sigma EX, which isn't even in the same ballpark.

My buddy at the pool room. Notice the funky green color of the cloth in the background. If your shutter happens to come down with unlucky timing, you get the fluorescent light at the wrong moment when it's flickering yellow. This makes the blue cloth turn green. This is fully processed with tweaks to brightness, color balance, and sharpening.

100% crop of the above. I nailed focus on his eyes. One thing I love about this lens is that having so much sharpness means it can tolerate plenty of noise reduction. Here I have maybe 25% luminance noise reduction, and 70% color. Then 100% sharpening, 2 pixel radius. It almost creates a slight painterly effect... you don't see grain or pixels, just thin consistently colored lines. Reminds me of the PS oil paint filter with max detail and minimal stylization.

OK but what about without sharpening and all that processing? This is almost SOOC. I only tweaked contrast a hair. Zero sharpening applied.

And here's an unsharpened 100% crop. Nice.

100% crop of a cell phone tower. I dunno the height. No less than 50 ft, no more than 100. Looks like I used a telephoto doesn't it?

7 bracket HDR made in photomatix. Processed in ACR but not in photomatix. Sharpening etc. was applied.  This is at the lens' sweet spot, which is definitely f/4. I focused on the statue face, and the shallow depth of field means the building in back is not impressively sharp. But I liked the detail I got in this pic anyway.

This is what I love... Even with heavy noise reduction (30 luminance for each bracket, 70 for color), all these stacked images still make something nice and sharp at 100%. There's more of that 'painterly effect' because I prefer that to the usual slight grain you get if you choose not to reduce noise. In the past I settled for the grain because I felt like I lost details using noise reduction. With this lens though I'm not afraid to use it. Check out the spider web to the left of his neck.

I of course took some shots right in the camera shop after purchasing.

Wide open in low light.

Here you can see (barely) slight chromatic abberation. A hint of green here, a hint of magenta there. Almost nothing. I'm shooting through a shop window. It's SO much better than the old Sigma EX 50mm. The shallow depth of field only got a little of this stone in focus but you can see from the specular highlight that it got some very small texture details. That's where autofocus landed, which is not incorrect, but in retrospect I shoulda focused a little deeper to get the base of the stone and setting sharp. Not the highlight on its face.

So sum up:
• Way way way better than the Sigma 50mm EX, which was maybe a hair better (at least in the center) than the Canon or Nikon 50mm. At over double the price, the Art lens should be. If you're thinking of getting a 50mm prime, get this one, don't cheap out and get the $400 lenses out there. It's a world of difference and this lens should last you many years. If you're thinking of trading up, just go ahead and do it. The sharpness is unreal.
• Weight is a lil heavy, but who cares. Build quality is rock solid. Plenty of metal. You get the case and lens hood. This feels like a professional, precision instrument, because it is.

• Autofocus accuracy is great. Speed is not the fastest. A lil better than the Sigma EX. Will hunt in very low light but does better than the EX did, in 'semi low' and 'moderate' light (think typical office lighting).

• If you don't like the autofocus, for $60 you can buy a dock that lets you fine tune it on this and any other Sigma Art lens with the same mount.

• "Intangibles" like color and bokeh all seem fine to me. I'm not fussy about that stuff but I love the color I'm getting and don't see any flaws.

 CreeDo's gear list:CreeDo's gear list
Canon EOS 1200D Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 IF ED MC Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD +1 more
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