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Marc Lebryk

The New Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art...


You would be surprised how often I get asked what lenses are good lenses to buy for folks either beginner or Professional. It's almost a daily occurrence actually. Not that I mind, because I don't. In fact I'm in middle of a three part series called "the right l ens" that I'm doing for Robert's Camera's blog. (See the first part here, subsequent parts are on the way). It means that people seem to trust my judgment, and I'm honored and humbled by that. I'm especially honored and humbled when someone like Jody Grober calls and says he's got a new lens that everybody's talking about and he wants me to take a couple days to see if it's really all that. In this case he called and said he had the new Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art lens. Now at first you think 50mm F1.4, these have been around for forever what could be so different about this lens? What could be so new about this lens? Also, a Sigma? Yes. Yes, a Sigma. In fact anybody who reads my blog regularly knows that I was asked to do something similar with Sigma's 35mm F1.4 last year when it made all kinds of waves in the Photo world. Sigma's 35mmF1.4 blew me away back then, and in fact to this day is still a lens that I really want. So my big question was how would this 50mm change how I thought about my Nikon 50mm equivalent? Let me just begin by saying DAMN.

IMG_9997

(Canon 5D Mark II, 100ISO, Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art Lens. 1/5000th@F1.4)

As usual I'll now add in here that I'm not being paid by Roberts Camera or Sigma to write this review. If something is wonky about this lens, I'm going to tell you at the risk of being flamed on the internet. (It's happened) No money is changing hands for this opinion, so good or bad you can take it as far as you trust my judgment.

With that now said I'll say that this 50mm sets a new standard for 50mm F1.4 lenses in my book. This is where things get a bit sticky in my opinion though. I've never shot with the Nikon 58mm F1.4 lens, and I've never shot with the OTUS 55mm F1.4 lens that sets the bar for 50mm lenses (I'm actually not allowed to even see the OTUS due to its expense). I have shot with a Canon 50mm F1.2 and 50mm F1.4 lens, as well as obviously my own Nikon 50mm F1.4. Thing is this. Do I condone spending $4,200 on a 55mm F1.4 lens? Not a chance. Everybody dreams of owning that one lavish silly item. A Zeiss OTUS is not that item for me, and I can imagine very similar for lots of people. What about a Nikon 58mm F1.4? Nah, it's not on my shopping list. If Nikon decided to make me an Ambassador and/or loan me one for a while, I'd probably use the hell out of it, but as far as I know, that's not on the horizon so the $1700 Nikon 58mm will stay at Roberts when it comes to my Camera bag. Wait, I thought this review was about the Sigma Lens.... Why am I mentioning the OTUS and the Nikon 58mm? Because the rumors are that the Sigma 50mm F1.4HSM Art Lens is just as good if not better than those much higher priced competitors. After a few days with the Sigma: I believe them.

_M4S8459

First off, the Sigma is much larger than I expected. I think of the 50mm as a Street photography lens, but honestly I didn't feel very inconspicuous with it. In fact, if you look at the above image you can see what I mean in regards to how big it is.... Yea, and that's without the hood. Side note, my Nikon 50mm F1.4 is kind of beat up... I kinda use the crap out of it,so what?. Anyway, I wouldn't be caught with the hood on my Nikon 50mm, but Sigma you wouldn't (and didn't) catch me dead without the hood on it for fear of that large 77mm Front element. The 77mm Filter is amazing though because most of my lenses take 77mm Filters and now that's one less extra filter size I'd have to worry about with the Sigma. In fact the only lens adapter I own for my Formatt HiTech GND filter holder is the 77mm so It meant that I could use those with the Sigma as well. I didn't have the Nikon version of this lens, but instead a Canon version on a Canon 5D Mark II. Just like Sigma's 35mm F1.4 last year, the 50mm didn't really ever hunt for focus even in low light. In the lowest of lights there were slight focus inconsistencies, but there's no telling if that was because of the 5D, the Sigma lens, or because it was darker than I should have been shooting in the first place.

_MG_0010

(Canon 5D Mark II, Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art lens, 1/160th@F1.4. Nikon SB-900 Zoomed to 200mm shot up into its built in bounce card, set to 1/32nd power from camera right. Speedlight triggered by Pocket Wizard Plus X from in the camera's hot shoe)

I took this photo of my love Shannon at the Light Painting workshop that I gave for Roberts Camera last weekend. The lighting isn't perfect but I was pleased with the image considering I shot it with a bare bulb Nikon SB900 triggered by a Canon Camera with a Pocket Wizard... (In fact you can even see the speedlight a bit in her glasses, but that's what I get for doing it quickly in two frames, as opposed to setting something up). The Bokeh, or out of focus portions of the image were really beautiful. The colors were right, and the edges seemed full with little vignetting. Honestly though, I don't normally keep my subjects at the edge of the frame, so if there's a little vignette or a tiny bit of edge distortion it doesn't bother me. I saw little to no Color fringing or Chromatic Aberrations though, which really impressed me. Even my Nikon 50mm F1.4G on my D4s will have those from time to time, and while minimal and easy to fix; they are still annoying. Most of the time you can only see things like that when zoomed in at 100% though, so a majority of shooters won't even worry about them anyway. Out of focus backgrounds though appeared very pleasing to the eye whether they were intentionally a large part of the image or not.

_MG_0088

(Canon 5D Mark II, 800ISO, Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art, 1/320th@F1.4)

Most of my time with the Sigma was spent at either F1.4 or F2 because I'm a firm believer in having a lens like this for a purpose. If I wanted to shoot 50mm F8, I'd use my 24-70 at 50mm F8. You'll tell almost no difference in image quality between the twi lenses that way. Same goes for any lens I own that has a F1.4 Aperture. If I wanted to shoot at 85mm F10, I'd use my 70-200. The real reason to buy a lens with a F1.4 Aperture is to shoot at F1.4 or F2. Otherwise known as that place where other lenses can't go. With that I should mention that at those "regular" settings, this lens really shines too.

_MG_0081

(Canon 5D Mark II, 2000ISO, Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art, 1/60th@F5.6)

Even on a Canon 5D Mark II, I never felt like the new Sigma 50mm F1.4 was going to let me down. There are plenty of occasions where I've not had faith in my Nikon 50mm F1.4, but I've gotten used to the circumstances that cause any trouble I may have and know how to avoid them. With the Sigma, I felt confident across the board. That may be the whole "it's a new toy" syndrome, or the fact that this lens is twice as expensive as my Nikon Counterpart. This may be a good time to address that in fact. Yes. My Nikon 50mm F1.4 is only $490. The Sigma is $1,000. The Sigma is easily twice as good as the Nikon 50mm F1.4 in my opinion. Super sharp, super fast, and very accurate with Sigma's version of the Silent Wave Motor where as the newest Nikon 50mm F1.4G has been tested to be a tiny bit slower than the old Nikon 50mm F1.4D. Do I feel like Canon's 50mm F1.2 is twice as good as the Sigma? Definitely not. What about The Otus? Is it worth 4 times as much? (4 TIMES AS MUCH???). Seriously? Not a chance.

_MG_0164

(Canon 5D Mark II, 100ISO, Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art, 1/8000th@F1.4)

What Sigma has done here is given "ordinary" folk the ability to own the cream of the crop. While as even a pro I'd love to own a Zeiss OTUS, it'll never happen and that doesn't keep me awake at night. The Sigma however? Absolutely. I'd love to own one. (Not to mention that 35F1.4 that I raved over last year). Not owning the Sigma 50mm doesn't keep me awake at night but I do know that not only would I own it but I'd use it quite a bit. It would most likely end up in the condition of my Current Nikon 50mm lens after not too long and that's fine because these things are meant to see and photograph different things, even if those things mean they get a little dinged up. You should see some of the stuff my 85F1.4 has seen. I know that I am someone who very eagerly awaits an 85mm F1.4 ART lens, especially if it is of this quality. I bought my Nikon 85F1.4D for $700 on ebay about 6 years ago, and the new Nikon 85mm F1.5G costs around $1700..... If anybody from Sigma reads this, call me, or call Jody Grober at Roberts because my money is waiting for a new 85mm F1.4HSM Art Lens.

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(Canon 5D Mark II, 250ISO, Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art, 1/160th@F2)

AAAAAAND there is the ever so ubiquitous cat photo. What do you expect, there are lots of available subjects, but none are as readily available or as sleepy as the cats. As you can tell, there are very few issues in background bokeh, or on the edges in terms of vignetting. This image is obviously back lit and the lens and camera had very few difficulties with this combination. Even if you may not think of a 5D Mark II as an old camera, it is, and there were no issues here. In fact, as I recall it was a fraction of a second "Auto Levels" in photoshop to achieve that uncropped image above. Could I have done that with my Nikon 50? Taken the photo maybe, but not had as little editing to do. That's what you pay for...

_MG_0058

(Canoon 5D Mark II, 100ISO, Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM Art, 1/1600th@F1.4)

So yea, wow. Sigma has once again impressed me beyond belief by what they have produced in a prime fast aperture lens. So much so that as as I said above. Sigma. Call me. My money is ready for a 85F1.4 Art lens. I don't know what made you decide to step up like you have, but you have put Canon and Nikon on a run for their money and I like it. Sigma Nailed this. Nikon and Canon have the camera bodies and Sigma has added a helluva contender to the lineup of lenses to let the photographers shoot the way that THEY want to shoot. When students ask what to buy when the Nikon or Canon equivalent is a bit out of the price range Sigma is now my go to answer. I challenge Tamron and Tokina to prove me wrong. Everything I've touched or seen out of Sigma in the last 2 years has not only met but far surpassed my expectations from not just the Sigma name, but the Nikon or Canon name as well. If you don't own a 50mm lens (and I am a firm believer that everyone should have a 50mm prime of some kind in their bag) then the Sigma is more than just an option; This time it's the cream of the crop.

If you're looking for a Sigma 50mm F1.4 lens, get one HERE at Roberts Camera here in Indy. I buy about 95% of my gear from them. They are good people, whether you're local or not.

Otherwise as usual. More Soon.

 



Phil

New Nikon Coolpix A and Coolpix 330. A predictable entry and a big WOW!


We got a treat yesterday when Jeff Penn, our Nikon rep, brought in two new cameras that will soon be in stock at our stores.

The Nikon Coolpix A is a camera that many folks are salivating for.  My first impressions of it were good, but I was hoping for a little faster auto focus.  But first the good;  The camera is very small and easy to handle.  In terms of a smaller point and shoot with a true APS sensor, it has the competition beat as of today.  The controls are easy to get to.  Coming from the P series Coolpix cameras, the layout is very similar.  The manual focus control is very easy to manipulate and offers you many levels of electronic zooming to allow for precise focus.  The images are very sharp, color is spot on.  It is supposed to have a sensor in it very similar to that of a Nikon D7000 SLR.  I believe it.  My only reservation is the speed of the auto focus.  Not quite up to snuff.  If SLR image quality in a point and shoot is what you are after, I would still seriously give this one a look.  Pricing will be $1099.95

coolpixA

 

The Coolpix 330 was the real surprise for me.  Way to go Nikon!  This one you got exactly right.  I was expecting to be wowed by the Coolpix A, but the 330 is the one I would love to have for myself.

First, the speed.  Wow.  This thing is very fast.  As fast as many SLR's out there.  The screen resolution is very high.  Colors pop off the screen.  It's not an APS sensor like the Coolpix A, but it does have a larger, 1/1.7 in. CMOS sensor that dwarfs it's predecessor in the P310.  They added RAW capture to this one.  Finally.  The close focus macro is the best that I have seen in a Nikon to date.  GPS and 5x optical round it out.  At $379.95 this will be a big contender.  It will give those Canon S110's a run.  I can't understate how impressed I am with this one!

coolpix330

 

We should start to see these beauties by the end of this month (March 2013).  Can't wait!



Derek

Marc Lebryk Reviews Fuji XPro-1


 

Whew, busy day over here at Roberts blog central. Now the news is that Indianapolis-based photographer Marc Lebryk has finished up a hands-on review of Fuji's hot new X-Pro 1 we were able to wrangle him for a weekend. With it's uber-retro form factor and its clear aims at eroding some of Leica's digital rangefinder market, the X-Pro 1 was probably the most hotly anticipated mirrorless compact we've seen announced since Panasonic and Oly created the market a few years back. And if you're one of those people with the itch, but not the scratch (see what we did there?), you can read Marc's thoughts to help ease the sting for a while. Or maybe convince yourself to take the plunge. Either way, your reading enjoyment is at the link below.



Derek

EOS 5D Mark III Puts Canon In DXO Mark's Top Ten


 

While we wait on Canon to get back to us about it's going to do about the pesky light leak, how about some shop talk about the EOS 5D Mark III's technical prowess under the hood? Luckily, that's exactly what DXO is giving us the ability to do, with another of their infamously objective sensor test barrages. The final word? The EOS 5D Mark III ranks highest of any Canon sensor to date, with 24 bits of color, 11.7 stops of ISO range, and capture details uncompromised by ISO all the way up until 2293. Not a bad show, we think you'll agree. Now, it's just back to waiting to see what happens with more of the new Canon king getting sent out...

Check out the full DXO break-down via the link.

Results By DXO Labs



John

Fuji X-Pro1 Amazingness and Other Such Goodies


Hello Readers,

I dont know about you, but ever since Fuji announced the X-Pro1 in January i have been anxiously waiting to put it through its paces.   This is my extremely cursory upfront first impression review.

WOW!  Wowsers!  Yep...speechless.  Almost.

I have seen some great shots from this camera out there on the internet.  The tonal value of the black and white images have especially impressed me.   Unfortunately, the internet can't tell you everything you need to know about a camera.  It can't tell you how it feels in your hands, how well it balances or if the dials move smoothly and precisely.  Fuji nailed it.  This camera is more friendly to operate than the little brother and award winning X100.  I was up and running at full speed within 10 minutes of first holding the camera.  Its EASY.  For the nostalgic, old school, rangefinder photo bugs, you will be right at home.

read more



Derek

Local Derby Shooter Marc Lebryk Talks D4


Photo by Marc Lebryk

Following up hot on the heels of the last D4 love post, we have one of our favorite local photogs today getting his initial thoughts about Nikon's new D4 up. As a long-time Nikon shooter for his personal work, and a Canon shooter for his day job, Marc Lebryk is often a pretty good source for balanced thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of both systems. And, after burning in excess of a thousand frames with a D4 in his first weekend with it, his review seems to stop at nothing short of glowing. But, don't take our word, go on over to his blog to see his exact thoughts, some high-iso crop samples, one full-size high iso shot from a Derby bout, a video sample, and more.

 



Derek

Nikon Cleans Up At DXO Mark's SensorParty


So, you might be aware Nikon has recently released two highly anticipated cameras, the top-pro D4 and the compact pro D800. And as always with new cameras, the pending question have been: can they improve upon the image quality of the last generation? This is especially true in the somewhat controversial D800 with it's massive resolution which is criticized online for challenging one of the common rules of digital imaging: the smaller your pixel, the more noise you'll have. Considering it's predecessor was one of the low-light kings, people have been waiting with some anticipation, we feel, to see how such a drastic change is going to affect the legacy Nikon's been building in low-light performance.

And now, DXO Mark, makers of analytic sensor evaluation software, have finished their purely empirical analysis of Nikon's two new sensors. Their conclusions? Nikon has nailed it.

DXO's Results For The Nikon D800

The D800 is a runaway success by their measure, and is now their top-rated sensor of any type. Yup, any type. Even medium format. And in case you skimmed that graphic up there, I invite you to go back and pay attention to that reported 14.4 stops of dynamic range. Now that's impressive. For you low-lighters out there, ISO performance is rated at the point where image noise begins to compromise detail and resolution. So, the D800 doesn't quite rule the way the D3s did (it made it up to 3253 ISO in that measure), but it does best the D700, which only made it up to 2303. Not bad for a camera with more megapixels than I have years to my name, right?

And, what about the D4, you ask? Well, it's apparently no slouch either, and currently sits at the third best sensor they've ever reviewed, below only the D800 and Phase One's IQ 180 back. None too shabby there. High ISO performance here edges really close to the D3s (which remains the highest-rated low-light shooter in their database), falling a mere .15 stops lower in exchange for those extra megapixels.

So, you Nikon folks shouldn't have any worries about the new generation of cameras left except one: do you need more resolution, or do you need a machine gun that can fire shots fast enough to assemble a zoetrope from the results?

For you Canon folks, we're still waiting for results on the EOS 5D Mark III, we'll report back once they're in. For everyone else, why not go ahead and get on our preorder lists for Nikon's two new champs, or hit the links below to check out DXO mark's full reports on them?

D800 Preorder

D4 Preorder

 

DXO Mark Analysis for D800

DXO Mark Analaysis for D4

DXO Mark Sensor Rating Chart



Derek

Engadget Reviews Casio Tryx


The Casio Tryx is something of an odd product. It's a point-and-shoot, and maybe a bit of a Flip alternative. No worries there. But it's got this trick, you see, where the body with the LCD hinges and swings and swivels out from inside a metal frame so you can... something. Prop it up on tables, use it like a handle, do those... other extreme things. And, it's got all of two buttons, the rest being done through a touch interface. So, it's an interesting product, to say the least. And, now you can read what popular tech blog Engadget thought of it. Yup, they've posted their own hands-on thoughts about Casio's most original little camera. What'd they think? Why, hit the link below to find out.



Derek

Engadget Talks Frankly About Nikon's D3s


Is it fun to watch $5,200 evaporate from your savings account? Hardly. But being able to elevate your game to new heights can only be good -- nay, great -- for business, and if you've had the D3S on your mind, we can't say a single word to stop you from pulling the trigger. Any minor annoyances that might irk you -- the lack of a 1080p movie mode, a smaller-than-desired 12.1 megapixel sensor and the dearth of inbuilt wireless flash support are the only ones that come to mind -- pale in comparison to the stellar low-light images you'll be able to acquire, and we'd surmise that your worries of spending too much on a camera would all but vanish the first time you capture a noise-free, blur-free handheld shot of a couple's first kiss... at ISO 10,000.

-Darren Murph, Engadget

Read their in-depth thoughts about ISO performance and handling niggles via the external link, but that excerpt was too good to pass up.



Carel Struycken

User Review: Sony A550 Image Gallery


Note : "original_from _raw.jpg" is a straight conversion from raw. This image was converted to 16 bit tif and then adjusted with PS Shadow/Highlight, which produced "with_Shadow-Highlight-adjustment.jpg" By comparison, "in_camera_DRO.jpg" was shot at the same time, using in camera DRO set the maximum level.

Read the full review here