Imaging Resource and SLRGear are the first two websites to having received the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art. They tested it right away with Canon cameras 1Ds, Mk3 and 7D and compared the new lens to same-league lenses from Canon, Nikon and Sony (50mm f/1.2L USM, 58mm f/1.4G AF-S and 55mm f/1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T*). Unfortunately, they did not have a Zeiss Otus available, the Art’s direct competitor. However, according to this initial testing, the 50mm Art seems to live up to the expectations indicated by Sigma staff in an interview at CES in Las Vegas.
Although, according to Sigma Owner and General Director Kazuto Yamaki, the last bit of sharpness was sacrificed for the sake of a better local contrast, the SLRGear review didn’t find any flaw in resolution. All lenses are with the widest aperture already very sharp in the middle, but where the Sigma outperforms the other contesters is at the picture’s borders. Even the much acclaimed Sony 55/1.8 has to admit its defeat to the Sigma regarding sharpness away from the middle of the picture.
Chromatic aberration is the only discipline where the Art is slightly lagging behind in comparison to the other lenses tested: the 58/1.4 and the 55/1.8, but not the 50/1.2, which is worse than the Art. Although CAs in this case are slightly better visible with the Sigma than with the Nikkor and the Sony, they remain on a generally low level.
Regarding vignetting, the Sigma beats the Canon and the Sony by far, but has to give way to the Nikkor when set at widest aperture. When stopped down to f/2, though, even the Nikkor can’t keep up with the Sigma. Stopped down even further, vignetting should not be an issue with any of the four lenses.
Lens distortion is not really an issue with any of the four lenses. The Nikkor shows the highest rate with 0.5%, but that actually is quite a low level and does not affect practical use of the lens. The Sigma clears the test of all lenses within the 50ies range with a rate of 0%. Therefore, architecture photographers will probably like the Art since it is one of the few lenses that show no lens distortion at all.
Altogether, the guys from SLRGear seem to be quite enthusiastic about this new lens. Here’s their conclusion:
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is the most exciting lens we’re likely to review this year. All competing lenses from Canon and Nikon fell short when compared to the resolving power of the 50mm Art. We haven’t (yet) tested the very best from Zeiss, but we are confident Sigma will trounce it in one key area: price. This difference is likely to be a yawning chasm. Our expectation for pricing on this lens is for something at least a bit less than Canon’s 50mm f/1.2 L, which goes for $1,700; despite a variety of rumors and no official price for the Sigma yet, we’re expecting it’ll be less than that.. Even if the price is ‘merely’ even with the best of Canon and Nikon, this lens is easy to recommend. Put simply: it trounces any similar model available for less than $4,000. If it comes in significantly cheaper than the best of Canon and Nikon, Sigma will have made a friend of every full-frame shooter in the land.
And here’s another extra little piece of info for you: Sigma-Rumors is expecting the recommended retail price by next week. Taking into consideration the high imaging quality, which actually tops that of other contesters in the €1.000-1.600 price range, the 50mm f/1.4 Art will probably not be sold for little money. But I hope that Sigma keeps up with its very good price-quality relation, a fact that the company is well known for. :)