Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review: Sigma AF 50mm f/2.8 EX DG macro

As you might remember me saying, summer is a very busy period for me. Amazingly, I found time for this review, although it was a bit of an accident. This is a lens I... didn't know I had! As I was cleaning and reorganizing my closet, I found it lying in some unmarked box. I do recall buying one some years ago, then leaving it aside because I didn't have much use for it. Oh well, let's see if I missed anything...

With stationary subjects, when you can take your time to setup and consider the light, it can deliver

+ optically superb, as it should be. Absolutely no complaints of any sort.
+ small, light, dependable. Again, as it should be.
+ 1:1 macro (although, read on)

- if you want to get 1:1 magnification, you're way too close to the subject. Impractical.
- AF speed fine for macro, but slow-ish if you want to use this (also) as a general-purpose lens
- extends a lot for focusing.

Intended Users
Great for:
  • FX users looking for a compromise between a macro and a normal lens
  • "casual" macro users: flowers, small items, rocks, etc.
  • learning about macro (see point above) while also having a very competent normal lens

Not for:
  • true macro work. The minimal macro distance will frustrate you.
  • obviously enough, not suitable for 1:1 shots of bugs or living things.
  • although f/2.8 is fast, it's more than a stop slower than the 50mm f/1.8. If you don't need the compromise, prefer the 50mm f/1.8
With other kinds of subjects, things get complicated. This isn't the shot I wanted, because having to be too close to the spider severely increased my workload, to the point I lost focus (literally!) of the composition.

Final Verdict
This is a brilliant lens - but taking into consideration its scope: a compromise between a normal lens and a macro lens; a lens that combines aspects of both, and does both very competently, but not as well as the specialized lenses. To put it this way: The Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro is a brilliant choice for someone who wants a faster, better lens than their kit lens, and they want this lens to give them extreme close-ups. But if low light or true macro is very important to you, consider something like the Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4 or the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 respectively.

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