Hands-on with Sigma 50mm F1.2 DG DN Art


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Sigma 50mm F1.2 DG DN Art hands-on

Sigma’s 50mm F1.2 DG DN Art lens is a large aperture lens that incorporates many of the thoughtful design choices for which the Art line has become known. It is the company’s second F1.2 lens for the E and L full-frame mirrorless camera mounts and will be available on April 18.

Sigma says it designed its latest offering with the goal of full detail levels across all apertures. In creating our sample gallery we found results that seemed to confirm its claim. Take a look for yourself and see if you agree.

Size and weight

One of the first things you notice when you hold the lens is that it’s a little lighter than lenses of similar aperture and focal length. Coming in at 745g (1.6 lb) and 109mm (4.3″), Sigma says it’s the lightest AF 50mm F1.2 interchangeable lens for full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market. It’s also less than 1mm longer than the smallest of the major makers’ 50mm F1.2 lenses and appreciably narrower.

To achieve this, Sigma says it made each piece of glass as thin as possible, reduced the weight of mechanical parts and used a new dual ‘high-response linear actuator’ (HLA) focusing system.

This makes the lens smaller and lighter than its four main competitors in the fast 50mm space: the Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM is 778 g (1.72 lb), Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM is 950 g (2.09 lb), Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm F1.2 S is a whopping 1090 g (2.4 lb) and Panasonic’s closest Lumix offering, the S Pro 50mm F1.4, is 955 g (2.11 lb).

Sigma’s fast lens feels notable and suggests that it’s about as far as you can push a lens of this size using current design techniques.

Terms defined

In the name and along the barrel of the lens are some shorthand codes to pay attention to.

Sigma’s ‘Art’ badge denotes lenses the company says are built with a bias toward the highest optical quality. Most Art lenses are fast prime and zoom lenses, often with features such as aperture rings.

‘Art’ is one of three lines of lenses Sigma produces. In 2012, the company announced it was establishing ‘Art,’ Sport’ and ‘Contemporary’ lines because it “Simplifies the lens selection process for photographers,” said CEO Kazuto Yamaki at the time. “We’re empowering them with more control over their equipment, while furthing our commitment to them by establishing a higher expectation for the quality of the lenses we produce.”

DG denotes a full-frame lens, and DN means a lens designed for mirrorless bodies. When DG and DN appear together, this lens is made specifically for full-frame mirrorless cameras.

External controls

There are three switches and one button along the barrel of the lens. Of course, one of them is an AF/MF switch. In manual mode, the focus ring (the wide band closest to the front element) has a nice steady rotation that isn’t too fluid or firm, helping users avoid accidentally moving the ring mid-shoot.

Below the AF/MF switch is an auto-focus lock button (AFL), helpful if you want to prevent your focus from shifting once you’ve set it. The AFL button can also be assigned custom functions on cameras that support the feature.

Just behind these buttons is an aperture ring that allows users to switch between auto mode and manual aperture control via the ring. To prevent errant shifting between auto and manual aperture modes, a lock switch to the right of the ring allows users to lock themselves into one mode or the other.

A ‘click’ switch is also included for the aperture ring, giving users the option for how they’d like to step up/down f-stops.

Lens hood

The lens comes with a petal-shaped hood. Typically, we wouldn’t call it out; it’s a lens hood, and they’re not complex objects, but the hood here is very well designed with small, thoughtful choices that felt worthy of a shout-out.

First, it’s not flimsy like many lens hoods we come across. Thanks to a thicker base that houses a hood release button, it has a little heft to it. The thickness also limits how far the lens can flex, and while we haven’t tried to break it, it does feel like you won’t accidentally break it by dropping something on it.

The hood locks into place with a satisfying click, and the button keeps it there until you press it to release it.

Another nice touch is a subtle gray hashmark that can be used to visually align the hood with the correct orientation on the lens. The hashmark corresponds with a white dot on the base of the lens.

Optics

The lens comprises 17 elements (four of which are aspheric) in 12 groups. Sigma says the lens is designed to give full detail levels, even at maximum aperture. Looking at Sigma’s published MTF plots does suggest that its image quality should be at least competitive with its peers.

There are thirteen rounded aperture blades, which should produce rounder bokeh across a wider aperture range and more points on sun stars.

The minimum focus distance is as close as 40cm (15.8″), on par with comparable lenses from Sony and Canon.

Focus is achieved by twin focus groups driven by new linear motors that are smaller and lighter.

Weather sealing

Sigma has said the lens is dust and splash-resistant and has special front lens coatings to repel water and oil, which allows “photographers to shoot without concerns even in harsh outdoor environments.”

However, it’s always good to be reminded that ‘resistant’ does not mean ‘proof’ and Sigma isn’t claiming you’ll have complete protection from the elements in every situation. They’ve called out that extra caution must be taken when bringing “the lens in contact with a large amount of water. Water inside the lens may cause major damage and even render the lens unrepairable.”

Summary

Sigma’s 50mm F1.2 DG DN Art is a lot of lens in a smaller package than its comparable peers. With a wide aperture, clickable aperture ring, nice build quality, and the IQ focus and thoughtful design reputation of Sigma’s Art lens line, there don’t seem to be any obvious trade-offs when comparing the lens to comparable OEM lenses.

For L-mount users, it’s lighter and faster than Panasonic Lumix’s F1.4 lens and comes in $400 cheaper. E-mount users can opt to save $600 over Sony’s lens.

Sigma says the lens will be available from April 18th at an MSRP of $1,399.