I have just purchased the new Sigma 50mm 1.4 DG art lens to replace my Nikon 50mm 1.4G. I did this because whilst the Nikon is a perfectly good lens it tends to be a bit slow focussing and it was always a bit soft towards the edges of the frame (not ideal for portraits as eyes end up out of focus if you are shooting quite open).
After initially putting the lens on the camera I couldn’t get focus on anything I pointed it at. I then decided to calibrate both lenses and did some rough and ready tests by locking off the camera and shooting my very exciting bookcase. Note: I had to make much bigger adjustments on the Sigma which was effectively unusable straight out of the box. Sigma – if you are listening then please make sure you calibrate your lenses properly before selling them…
A few comments on the aesthetics and functionality of the Sigma. The lens is a chunky hunk of glass. It is a heavy and large lens but it feels well balanced on the D800 and is pleasing to look at with a modernistic and minimalist look. It feels like quality and is beautifully made. The AF/MF switch is solid and the hood fits solidly – in all it feels like a pro lens although it is not weather resistant. This lens focusses a lot faster than the Nikon. It locks on quickly and seems to be as good in terms of accuracy as the Nikon.
As far as the differences that I was able to observe in sharpness and quality….the Sigma is not quite as sharp as the Nikon in the centre at 1.4 and the Nikon displays more chromatic aberration. As soon as you go to F2 everything changes right across the frame and its the same story as you move down the apertures. The Sigma outperforms in every department. The bokeh on the Sigma is buttery smooth and although the Nikon is no slouch its highlights are a bit crunchy by comparison.
As far as the cost/benefit is concerned…if you shoot professionally and you need critical sharpness then there is no comparison – Sigma have hit a home run with this lens. If you are on a budget then the Nikon is perfectly good for everyday work and in most cases you probably won’t be wanting. Shooting Fashion means that I am often shooting in portrait mode and I am a bit anal about sharpness throughout the frame.
I am not posting the full size files here but these are screenshots at 100% of various apertures to give you an idea of the quality and a few random shots I took to give an idea of the look out of camera – without adjustments. Sadly I didn’t have a real model to shoot when I wrote this so the Playboy Doll had to do….(dont ask how it came to be in my possession).
Random Shot (below)
Random Shot (below)
Bokeh Comparison Sigma on Left (look at the highlights)
I am writing this as I constantly get asked questions about my equipment and I hope to shed some light on my obsession. I admit it – I love cameras…period! I love looking at them; touching them and using them. My obsession is is partly aesthetically driven and partly functionally driven but the cameras that I end up having a “relationship” with are the counterintuitive ones. They are not the cameras that you would think a pro photographer would love. They are not the best performing or the highest megapixel count or the ones that other pro’s use either but they have something else….something indescribable…beyond language…a soul… Now I know that sounds a bit ethereal but bear with me…. Every camera I use has a particular purpose and raison d’etre. It serves some professional function and achieves what I want it to achieve to produce a particular piece of work. It does not necessarily follow that I enjoy using it. A Hasselblad or Leaf is great for slow and methodical work in good light that requires a considered approach and gives one the highest megapixels that certain clients require but these are both big systems that dont perform in low light. The Nikon D800 is capable of matching the lower end of the Medium Format systems and adds speed to the equation as well as a decent low light performance. It is good for fast paced studio and location work. The Nikon D4 is great for low light and action shots and low light work. As you can see there are specific purposes for all these cameras that I use. None of them are cameras that I pick up at home or when travelling or even when I am doing some personal work. None of them feel like comfortable cameras that I love to use. So, what is it that I have reached for over the last few years that satisfies my emotive connection with the equipment? Well….it is and has been for a number of years Olympus’s offerings. Olympus fans will not be surprised by this as they are privvy to a secret that all those photographers wedded to other systems aren’t. Olympus cameras just produce better images straight out of camera! There is something about Olympus files that without getting too retro are a bit more film-like and as a result have that “Soul” I was referring to earlier. Olympus has not been the easiest system to love as I am not sure that Olympus loves its customers as much as its die hard fans love it but Olympus engineers clearly love what they do. They know how to make a camera. They are the Apple of the camera world. The latest Micro Four Thirds offering from Olympus – the OMD EM-1 is a fantastic camera which, due to its size means that I can carry a whole lens system covering all my required focal lengths in a small canvas shoulder bag that weighs less than the D800 with a 70-200 attached. It has a great selection of lenses from Olympus and Panasonic and can be mated through adapters with just about any 35mm lens out there including Leica as well as the fantastic Olympus/Zuiko legacy lenses. The camera is as good as dust and waterproof with certain lenses and is built like a tank. Image quality is superb and in good light competes with larger professional offerings from other manufacturers. It is pretty good in low light and although this is its Achilles heal it is a non issue for me. I have made exhibition prints with the Olympus E1 (Their first digital pro camera – 6mp and terrible low light performance.) I am not going to carry on with this article as I am beginning to sound like a fanboy but you get the picture – excuse the pun. I love using this camera…..
Disclosure: I have not got any connection to Olympus and these opinions are solely mine.
Madderson London is a brand that was set up a couple of years ago by one of my clients producing glamourous Maternity wear. They are now branching out into a “daywear” range…being launched in the next few days for Spring 2014. Keep an eye on it….
Just thought I would show you a fantastic real wood iphone skin that I got for my new iphone 5s from the good people at Toast. If you are looking for something different then i can highly recommend getting one. The fit is immaculate and its really easy to stick on. Check them out. (and no, I am do not gain anything by putting this up…just really like it!)
You may well ask what the hell they are – they are exquisitely made imaginings of my very talented friend and collaborator Emma Winter. She has just exhibited at Tent London to great applause….. here are a few photos I took of them for the show.