I've had this lens a week~ now and feel I have used it enough to post a review on it and say a few words on whether it is worth the extra cash (£379) over the standard Canon and Nikon 50mm 1.8 lenses which cost less than half that.
I've been a 50mm 1.8 users for many years now and it's always been a good lens to have in the bag, the depth of field is excellent as is the low light capabilities, as you'd expect from a prime lens really.
The Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX DG HSM has a lot of acronyms after the name but all you need to know is how it compares to the cheaper prime lenses out there and how it feels to use, no? Build quality & Design
Immediately out of the box the build quality grabs your attention. It's not a textured matte finish like some other Sigma lenses (24-70 2.8 EX DG, for example) but is still matte and tough to the touch/tap. The weight will catch you off guard as well because it has some heft to it. smaller bodies like the Nikon D40~/Canon 450/550D series etc will been weighed down at the front but it's quite well balanced as it's a short lens, just pretty fat.
The front of the lens is completely plain, I really like this and it's something Nikon have used for ages. It gives a more professional and clean look and it stops people from attempting to read the writing when you're taking their picture
It comes with a good quality hood but the lens cap can be easily knocked off if you catch the end of the pinch release on something, some kind of recess at the end would have been good but you can also buy 3rd party caps on eBay for little money and use them instead I guess. The inclusion of a hood is excellent as canon only bundle hoods with L lenses and want you to pay £20+ for one on anything less.
It also comes with a very nice padded zip top pouch should you wish to carry it around in your rucksack with other kit and so on.Technical comparison vs Canon 50mm 1.8 mkII
I have used the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 AF-D lens on the D300 before and found it to be better than the Canon 50mm 1.8 mk II but only slightly. I don't have that to hand any more so this comparison will go directly with the Canon lens.
(size compared to the Canon 50mm 1.8 mkII on the right)
At 1.8, the Sigma is not only sharper but the bokeh is smoother as well. CA and flaring is also better controlled although these can be fixed in editing later anyway.Image Quality & Bokeh!
The above sharpness test is something I don't normally like to do because all lenses of the same model can differ slightly, some are sharper than others but for piece of mind I wanted to know that mine wasn't faulty or anything as some older forum posts on other sites said they had sharpness and focus issues. mine has no such issue, maybe Sigma fixed this I don't know. Either way though you have a 3 year warranty so all should be good
At 1.4 you can get some very sharp results but it all goes down to how steady your hands are because if you move an inch then the depth of field will be off and you'll lose focus. Such is the way with wide aperture lenses
Below are some examples I shot during the first few days:
Let's move on to some real world examples of what this lens is capable of when you get composition and exposure exactly how you want it:
(shot from a moving car at f/2)Final Thoughts
Paying the extra premium for this lens over the 1.8 counterparts or even the 1.4 competition (Canon 50 1.4 USM as an example) does provide some benefits but I guess at the end of the day. The Sigma has better flare and CA control over both canon 1.4 and 1.8 50mm primes but then again it should do as it's much newer technology. It is sharper at the same apertures and the bokeh is far nicer at the same apertures as well but the best thing is that the widest aperture of f/1.4 is still very sharp and provides an excellent opportunity to be creative with your images and give them that extra punch to make subjects stand out.
not only that but it looks damn cool on whatever body it's attached to
Whatever lens you buy though I would seriously recommend /a/ 50mm prime to everyone who owns a DSLR. These lenses force you to be creative and move to get the shot instead of standing there zooming in and out. Of course have other lenses but there's quite nothing like a fifty!