Sigma’s ‘Art’ range of lenses has quickly become one of the most sought-after on offer, with the kind of innovation and performance that places it at the premium end of the market. Not content to rest on its laurels with the 18-35mm DC HSM Art – the world’s first zoom with an f/1.8 aperture – the brand has now launched the 50-100mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art to complement it. This medium-telephoto lens is designed for APS-C bodies, and offers an ultra-fast aperture for lowlight shooting and getting shallow depth-of-field effects.
It sports a film-equivalent focal length of 75-150mm – perfect for portrait and event photography. At £829 it’s competitively priced, particularly for those previously considering an investment in a selection of primes to cover the same range. But how does it fare in the field?
Features & Build
The first thing that’s striking about the 50-100mm is its size and weight. Measuring 171mm without its hood attached and weighing just under 1.5kg, the lens is closer in size to many 70-200mm models, than the average APS-C zoom. While it can comfortably be supported by hand, it feels better balanced on mid-range enthusiast bodies, than it does on smaller, entry-level cameras. With a rugged plastic, metal and Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) design combined with a brass mount, the lens has a robust feel.
There’s a tripod collar that will help to provide further stability when needed. This will prove useful in low light conditions, as there’s no image stabilisation system built in. A chunky zoom ring provides smooth control of focal length, and is complemented by a large focusing ring. Sandwiched between the two on the barrel is a distance window and a AF/MF switch. Focusing is achieved with a redesigned Hyper Sonic Motor (HSM) that is 30% slimmer than the old design. This motor will please videographers with its near-silent operation, and while it isn’t the fastest lens to find focus, it’s still respectably quick. Manual focus override is possible when the lens is set to its AF mode. Adjusting the focus or zoom rings of the lens doesn’t change its physical length and showed no signs of focus shift.
The construction features 21 elements in 15 groups and offers nine rounded aperture blades. These produce very attractive bokeh in out-of-focus areas. Compatible with Sigma’s USB dock for fine-tuning the focus, it’s available in Canon, Nikon and Sigma fits, and comes complete with a soft case.
At 50mm, the lens offers very good sharpness across the frame, particularly in the centre, even at f/1.8. Stopping down to f/2.8 it becomes even more impressive, and remains so until apertures beyond f/8 are selected. At this focal length mild barrel distortion is visible, though more noticeable is chromatic aberration. This isn’t pronounced however, and is easy to remove in processing. Vignetting can be seen when the lens is at its largest aperture, but it quickly subsides when stopped down.
In the middle of its zoom range (75mm), the lens is softer across the frame at f/1.8 than at 50mm, though its performance is still admirable for such a fast aperture. At f/4 sharpness improves to excellent levels, and the optic maintains this high standard until f/11. Chromatic aberration is less visible at 75mm, and barrel distortion seen at 50mm switches to mild pincushioning. Vignetting is a little stronger, and increases with longer focal lengths, though it never reaches levels that would be beyond correction in processing.
At 100mm, the lens maintains roughly the same level of sharpness exhibited at 75mm at the widest apertures. Its performance at f/1.8 is perfectly acceptable, but not as good as at the 50mm setting. It reaches the peak of its sharpness at 100mm across the frame at f/4-f/8. The effects of pincushion distortion and vignetting become more visible at this length, but neither are pronounced enough to be a real cause for concern.
Overall, it’s an impressive lens that performs slickly, with image quality to match.
With a focal range that covers many popular prime lenses and a super-fast maximum aperture, this lens is sure to appeal. For the cash, prospective buyers will get a well-built optic that can really perform when wide-open, particularly at 50mm. While its lack of image stabilisation and full-frame compatibility may deter some, it’s an ideal purchase for the aspiring portrait photographer.
- Street price £829 (As of August 2016)
- Fits Canon, Nikon & Sigma
- Full-frame compatible No
- Construction 21 elements in 15 groups
- including 3 FLD and 1 SLD element
- Angle of view 31.7-16.2º
- Diaphragm blades 9 (Rounded)
- Maximum aperture f/1.8
- Minimum aperture f/16
- Minimum focus distance 95cm
- Maximum Magnification 1:6.7
- Image stabilisation No
- Filter size 82mm
- Weight 1490g
- Dimensions (DxL) 94mm × 171mm
- Accessories Included: Lens hood, soft case, front and rear caps
- Visit www.sigma-imaging-uk.com
This review was first published in the August 2016 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.