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Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens: Portrait Powerhouse

Canon 1DX Mark II, Sigma 50mm, Sigma Art Lens, 50mm, 50mm 1.4, 50mm f/1.4, Art Lens

Over the past few weekends, I’ve been shooting A LOT with a new lens that I recently purchased – the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art Lens, which I’ve tried out both on my 1DX Mark II and my 5D Mark IV.

Ever since I visited the Sigma factory in Fukushima Japan this past autumn, I’ve been talking about Sigma Art lenses A LOT on my different social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram. I have a bunch of friends who have been asking me all sorts of questions about Sigma Art lenses in general, so when I posted a photo of my new 50mm 1.4 Sigma Art Lens, naturally I received a bunch of text messages and DMs on Instagram!

This being said, I thought it would be a good idea to do a writeup on the website so that I wouldn’t have to repeat myself via text message over and over and over and over and over again. Haha! 😀

While I was shooting photos at the Fabulous Fords event at Knott’s Berry Farm (for the @V8BUILDS Instagram feed), I took the opportunity to shoot some photos of model Constance Nunes using my Sigma 50mm Art lens with my Canon 1DX Mark II.

Here’s a few sample images:

Constance Nunes, Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art Lens, Canon Full Frame

PORTRAIT POWERHOUSE

This image was shot at around 2:30pm on a super super super bright sunny day, at a car show (Fabulous Fords event at Knott’s Berry Farm) with a concrete blacktop on the floor.

I was wondering what it might look like if I took a super close portrait, and forced the lens to shoot almost completely wide open at f/1.8 even though it was super bright outside. This was shot at f/1.8 with a shutter speed of 1/1600 and a 200 ISO.

My main priority was to expose correctly for her face, so I didn’t mind the blown out background for this photo. IF we had more time together, I would have walked with her over to an area that had a darker background, but the booth she was at had no walls. It was just wide open on all 4 sides, so our background was just a car show, which you can see in the blurred background.

Even though the background on this pic is super bright and blown out, you can still see the quality of the bokeh circles in the background, which are super smooth and creamy like smoked salmon chowder from Ivar’s in Seattle. (If you don’t know, look it up on Yelp.)

Okay, now let me crop in and show you what the image looks like when it’s zoomed in at 100% scale. Here you go:

Constance Nunes, Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art Lens, Canon Full Frame

Duuuude. Hey creepers (Lance from Hawaii), you can zoom in on this and save it as the lock screen on your phone, or print it out or something. LMAO. Just kidding – Constance would be like… WTF.

SHARP AF

Dumb jokes aside, let’s get back to the photo. At full size, her eyelashes and her skin are sharp AF. I’m not talking “sharp autofocus,” I mean sharp AS F*CK! Super sharp… maybe her skin is TOO sharp. This lens brings out her pores and whatnot. I find this lens to be very contrasty and it brings out sharp details that you can’t even see in real life, in person! This can be great for shooting a portrait of a man, but I think for the most part, women don’t wanna see their pores. (Am I right, ladies?) Either way, they can just Facetune the sh!t out of the photo – they all do it on their social media channels anyway. (Let me roll my eyes here.)

BACKFOCUS ISSUES?

Here’s one thing to think about – when I was posting up photos of my new lens, one of my good friends from the Midwest commented on Facebook, “throw those Sigma Art lenses in the trash. They have massive backfocus issues.” I argued with him for a bit, but here’s the thing. Take a close look. I focused on her EYE. At full size (above), the focus looks like it landed on her EYELASH.

Is that an example of the backfocus issue? I don’t know. My friend from Ohio said he bought several Sigma Art lenses, and even bought the calibration dock, but still had issues with his lenses.

For me, I don’t necessarily know. I won’t blame this slight focus shift on the lens right now. It’s been a while since I shot with a 1.4 lens like this. I used to have a Canon 35mm 1.4L but to be honest, I sold it years ago so I don’t remember what it was like to shoot it wide open at a 1.4 or 1.8 aperture. Maybe I need to try the Canon 50mm 1.4 version of this lens (which is only $350 or so) and do a side-by-side test.

I have a friend with a Canon EF 50mm 1.2L lens (which runs about $1250 or so) also. Maybe it’s worth testing all three of these lenses out together.

I watched a bunch of YouTube videos about these lenses, but to be honest, I had to take them with a grain of salt, because I didn’t think the people who expressed their opinions in the videos were the best photographers, in my opinion. My intent is not to diss them, but just to say that people should take ALL opinions (even mine) with a grain of salt, and TRY THINGS for themselves to find their own truth and see what they like.

CLOSER FOCUSING DISTANCE THAN OTHER 50MM LENSES

Anyway, one of the things I really liked about the Sigma 50mm 1.4 is the fact that you can focus while standing real close to your subject (like the pic of Constance above).

Apparently from what I’ve been told, the Sigma 50mm Art allows you to focus at a closer distance than the Canon 50mm 1.2L, Canon 50mm 1.4, and Canon 50mm 1.8 lenses. I should probably test this myself also.

MEDIUM FOCUSING DISTANCE SAMPLE

Here’s a sample of a medium length photo, with Constance sitting in a car. Again, I focused the shot on her eye (ALWAYS focus on the eye).

Constance Nunes, Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art Lens, Canon Full Frame

Notice the sharpness on her eye and eyelashes? YES! Looks great! I decided to bump up the aperture to f/2.2 with a shutter speed of 1/1600 instead of shooting it at 1.8 aperture like I did on the close up portrait.

The reason why? I wanted the focal plane to be bigger or possibly deeper, depending on how you view it. Hey, hey, get the dirty thoughts out of your mind – I was referring to the size of the focal plane. By bumping up the aperture to f/2.2 instead of shooting it wide at f/1.8, I was able to get more of her face in focus, while keeping the foreground (look at the Mustang’s rear quarter panel) and background (look at her arm and everything behind it) nice and blurry.

Speaking of the background, check out the bokeh quality – it’s super super creamy and smooth. LOVE IT!

Okay, now let me crop in and show you what the image looks like when it’s zoomed in at 100% scale:

Constance Nunes, Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art Lens, Canon Full Frame

Again, check out the sharpness on her face, and also the smooth, creamy bokeh blur starting on her right arm, the steering wheel, the Autometer gauges, and of course everything else you can see through the windshield. I love the contrast between the creamy bokeh to the super sharpness of the eyes and lips!

I still have more testing to perform with this lens, but I love it so far.

I’ll keep updating the site with more samples and my thoughts, so stay tuned to MotorMavens for CAMERA musings, not just car stuff!

Since the photography related posts on MotorMavens are relatively new to the site, please share your thoughts and feedback with me! I’m not one of those pixel analyzing nerds who spend all day staring at chromatic aberration and purple fringing in photos and all that. That’s not my style at all. Instead, I prefer to see photo samples and provide some real world experience with the equipment that I try out!

Thanks in advance for reading. Please chime in with feedback on what you like, or didn’t like about these photography posts! Also, add in to our Automotive Photography Group on Facebook!

:: Antonio Alvendia

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