Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART Lens: imposing its own look on your images?

sigmaCES_1I just picked up the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART lens this morning and had a chance to play around with it a bit this afternoon. When attached to a Metabones Speed Booster XL and mounted on a Lumix GH4 shooting C4K, it becomes a 75mm f/0.95 full-frame equivalent (or thereabouts), making it the fastest lens in my growing arsenal. I chose this lens over Sigma’s 24mm and 35mm f/1.4 ART series lenses because those focal lengths are already well provided for in their 18-35mm f/1.8 zoom, and I was looking for something that would allow me to get up close and personal. Because their lenses are not equipped with any optical stabilization, anything longer than 50mm will most assuredly require some sort of rig. When viewing the clips on my iMac, I couldn’t help but notice the same astounding sharpness and color I’d gotten from Sigma’s rightfully acclaimed 18-35mm f/1.8. However, because of the short focus throw (a paltry 90 degrees), pulling focus with the 50mm is much trickier than with any other lens in my kit, meaning that it very well might not be the first choice for independent filmmakers. I had already seen a review warning about this unfortunate characteristic of the lens, but decided to buy it anyway because of its excellent optics and construction, as well as value for money. Should the Zeiss Milvus 50mm ever make it to these shores, it will probably cost at least $400 more. For professional photographers and videographers, the lack of breathing, all-metal construction, longer focus throw (225 degrees vs. 90 degrees), greater edge sharpness and weather sealing of the Zeiss will justify the expense: but I am just a hobbyist. Curiously, in the same review, Joseph Cha of SLR Lounge complains that when he looked at the images in Lightroom, he was reluctant to change them at all, and that he felt Sigma’s signature look was dictating his style. To me, there could be no higher praise.

[Update 5/11/2015] Samyang/Rokinon has just released a 50mm f/1.2 manual focus APS-C lens for mirrorless cameras that is apparently equal to or even superior to the Sigma for just USD $549]

Thu Sings

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 9.18.51 PMHere’s a recent video I shot using the Lumix GH4 with a Metabones Speed Booster XL and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens. I absolutely love shooting with this setup, but at times, especially if I’m doing a lot of wandering around, it can get quite heavy. After years of shooting like a stills photographer – starting and stopping between takes – I just let the camera roll as I changed camera angles, framed shots, adjusted exposure and refocused, enabling a far greater percentage of usable footage. This is only made possible by a sensor that doesn’t overheat and incredible battery life, just two reasons why I would choose the Panasonic over the latest Sony A7 cameras, which cost three times that of a single GH4 body. It is also the very first time I’ve intentionally gone after a relatively high-key, cool color palette, though the B-roll still retains the warm tones I’ve tended toward ever since I began processing color film in the late 1970s. The clip was shot in the late afternoon in a fairly dim room, with natural light coming from a window facing the subject and one behind her, as well as from the 27″ iMac. I don’t believe I ever closed the aperture down to more than f/3.5. A couple of shots were captured with the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 lens, which, while it can’t rival the resolution of the Sigma, is a bargain at USD $400. Apparently, the newer, slightly more expensive Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 has even higher resolution and greater resistance to flare. FilmConvert was used in post. Please forgive the poor sound: the shoot was entirely unplanned; had I known I’d be recording voice, I would have brought out my Sony PCM digital recorder and Rode microphone. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. In the clip, Thu is just singing along to YouTube videos while recording herself on her iPhone.