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Sigma has just announced the 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM lens, designed to be one of the most optically refined standard primes available. When designing this lens, Sigma set out to take the humble 50mm focal length and elevate it to be one of the company's most technologically advanced lenses available. Combining aspherical and Special Low Dispersion elements along with a large-diameter design and floating element system, this lens is poised to meet the demands of the ever-expanding user base of high-resolution DSLRs.
As part of the Art line in Sigma's Global Vision series, this lens is immediately contextualized by its prime focal length, large maximum aperture, and superior optical performance. With these attributes in mind, the 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM is composed of thirteen elements in eight groups, including one molded glass aspherical element and three SLD elements, enabling the lens to effectively correct for sagittal coma flare and axial chromatic aberrations and, in turn, realize imagery with a high degree of sharpness, consistent peripheral brightness, and notable contrast and clarity. This design is effective at reducing aberrations and distortions throughout the aperture range, too, which is especially advantageous when working with larger apertures and selective-focusing techniques. A rounded nine-blade aperture further accommodates shallow depth-of-field techniques by producing an aesthetic out-of-focus quality. Also enhancing image quality, a Super Multi-Layer Coating has been applied to lens elements in order to minimize ghosting and flare for maintained color fidelity and image contrast.
The larger-than-normal design of the lens, which houses the refined optical composition, also benefits the way the lens is able to suppress vignetting, color blur and other distortions. By utilizing such a large-diameter lens structure, the widest elements in its construction have been placed at the front-most position to attain even illumination and detail-rendering abilities from edge to edge—at any aperture setting. The lens elements are also organized within a floating system, which helps to limit the amount of movement required during focusing and provides a minimum focusing distance of 1.3' with a maximum magnification of 1:5.6.
I was elated to be able to personally test the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM. Today I happened to be carrying my Canon EOS 5D Mark III with my EF 50mm f/1.2L, my favorite street shooting lens. When I was handed the Sigma, I was pleasantly surprised with the heft and solidity generally, and how precisely tight- but not too tight- it mounted on my 5D. Like other lenses in the Sigma Art line, it features thoughtfully-positioned matte black rubber grips on the barrel and the matched lens shade, giving it a secure, confident feel in hand. The low-key matte and gloss black exterior is refreshing in that doesn’t scream for attention directly, but beckons gently and hints at quality which does not require a hard sell.
|Selective Focus On||Selective Focus Off|
On my walk around the neighborhood of the B&H Midtown office tower, I had opportunity to photograph details and architecture in the bright, contrasty midday light. Immediately I was pleased with the fast, accurate ultrasonic autofocusing which is comparable to the EF 50mm f/1.2L, if not faster. This lens' normal perspective was well-suited to use in a wide variety of conditions, allowing me to shift from distant subjects to close-up details in just the same manner your normal vision would perceive the scene. And its optical design enabled me to shoot wide open without experiencing a noticeable decline in image quality toward the corners. Right away there was something different about my captures on the 5D that I could see even out in the bright sun, but could not immediately put to words. Specular highlights on linear elements with dark backgrounds look particularly crisp even at oblique angles, and strong textures look more dimensional than usual. Simultaneous manual focusing is possible with Sigma HSM lenses just as it is with Canon USM lenses, and the 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM is no different: once autofocus is acquired it can be gently tweaked directly with the focusing ring without pausing to change AF modes. This made for fast, easy shooting around the neighborhood amidst the many working people and tourists taking in the warm sun and brilliant views.
The lens is constructed using metal components and a Thermally Stable Composite material, which provides greater precision and durability, as well as less susceptibility to variations in temperature. It is also fitted with a brass bayonet mount to ensure mounting accuracy and rigidity.