Hands on: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art ignores Canon L, Nikon glass and targets Zeiss Otus. No, really. (UPDATED)


posted Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 8:21 PM EST


UPDATE (04/08/14): We've completed our reviews of both the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art and the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus lenses, and the results were nothing short of amazing. Does the Sigma stand head-to-head with the $4,000 Zeiss monster? Head to SLRgear to see for yourself!

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We got some hands-on time with the two new Sigma lenses we previously reported on: the 50mm f1.4 Art and the 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Contemporary. While both lenses might seem like 'just a rebadge,' they are in fact complete redesigns, according to Sigma. The details we learned (and our experience with Global Vision glass thus far) would seem to bear this out.

The new 50mm f/1.4 Art lens underwent a complete overhaul to add significantly more glass elements. The new lens has 13 elements in 8 groups compared to 8 elements in 6 groups from the predecessor. The lens felt significantly beefy -- this is no 'nifty fifty' -- and the build quality is superb. While we didn't have the older 50mm f/1.4 EX GD HSM lens to compare side-by-side, it's surprising to note that initial specs indicate the new lens actually weighs less than the outgoing model.

But the most impressive information we gleaned? When discussing their goals of image quality and sharpness for the lens, Sigma mentioned they're confident they'll surpass competitive products from Canon and Nikon and are instead gunning for Zeiss's new 55mm Otus lens. It's a serious claim. The Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus lens -- with its $4000 price tag -- is squarely aimed at high-end professional shooting such as fashion, advertising and editorial work. 

While pricing is not yet available on the new 50mm, Sigma has recently become known for stellar glass on a budget. If this new lens can perform similarly to -- or even out-perform -- the Zeiss 55mm Otus lens, it should provide some serious competition for photographers looking for a fast, razor-sharp portrait prime.

It's also worth noting that a Sony Alpha mount version of this lens will be available. That speaks to a lot of confidence on Sigma's part because the new Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 is a superb lens. So good that it was runner-up for this year's lens of the year award. Curious to know which lens beat out Sony for top honors? That would be Sigma's 18-35mm f/1.8