From budget alternatives to some of the best lenses ever made. The renaissance of Sigma. Where hobbyists fear to tread.

This is the newly announced Sigma 50mm f/1.4. Big, brutal and beautiful? Well I think so. From an article by Imaging Resource there is this :- 

'But the most impressive information we gleaned? When discussing their goals of image quality and sharpness for the lens, Sigma mentioned they're confident they'll surpass competitive products from Canon and Nikon and are instead gunning for Zeiss's new 55mm Otus lens. It's a serious claim. The Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus lens -- with its $4000 price tag -- is squarely aimed at high-end professional shooting such as fashion, advertising and editorial work.'

And from what they are achieving these days with lenses like the 18-55mm f/1.8 and 35mm f/1.4 ART lenses who is to say they won't succeed. I went out yesterday with my 35mm on my Sony A7r and once again I was thrilled to return home with yet more 'no compromise' images. Proving once again that Sigma have made the jump from budget 3rd. party providers of affordable, great value, but mostly inferior alternatives to marque lenses to the innovative creators of some of the best lenses we have yet seen for digital photography. Certainly my 35mm f/1.4 is spectacular and the best lens I have ever used or owned, bar none. If that 50mm is only equal to the quality of the 35mm then I'm having one. And yes it will involve carrying around something like this.

There are I guess people who think this is an ugly unwieldy combination, but I actually love it. I love using it and I think it looks just great as well. The A7r + grip + Sigma 35mm f/1.4 isn't a set up for fashion victims but for photographers who want the best and as far as I'm concerned that is what this is. I used to think that the the Nikon D800e was the best digital camera ever but now I think the A7r beats it. Because it's files have that little extra sharpness and colour depth that just tips the balance for me. And yes medium-format probably has better low ISO image quality but in every other respect the A7r is the more useful camera.

And that is where the 'hobbyist' photographers and I part company. And by 'hobbyist' I'm not talking about non-professionals, I'm talking about part-time would-be photographers  who care more about the cameras they use rather than the pictures they take and who are more concerned about their personal comfort than producing work that will stand the test of time both technically and aesthetically. They are people who are more interested in impressing their peers on the photographic internet by their gear purchases than impressing people with the creative and technical abilities to produce images that should be what seperates photographers from snapshooters. And I was going to write that they are people who think the Olympus E-M1 is the best camera of last year, but on reflection I don't think I will.

I wish the combination above wasn't so heavy. I wish the A7r's shutter was quieter and I wish I didn't have to use the LA-EA4 adapter, but if that's what I have to do to get the images that light up my screen, then that's OK with me. Besides the A7r is still lighter than any high-end FF DSLR and the adapter works really well and lets me use those cheap, high quality Minolta lenses that actually aren't anywhere near as bad as I thought and are in fact rather good. And yes many professionals and serious committed photographers will go that extra mile for those special photographs and those who won't leave the house without image stabilisation, 39 point AF, wi-fi and all the other irrelevancies of modern photography just don't get the point. Our gear will come and go but it's what we produce with it that will endure. And in the years to come that's what I will value over any short-term pleasure I derive from owning and using any camera or lens no matter how many plaudits and 'gold awards' it gets.

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