9. Handling & Quality
Zeiss Otus 55/1.4
Not much to say, except for the fact that I don’t like the missing autofocus. Handling is surprisingly good for this, because the focusing ring has a very low transmission, which means you will be able to focus more precisely, but it also means you have to turn the ring quite a bit: One full turn is from 12:00 to 8:30, speaking in clock face terms. Also, the focusing is at a good level of smoothness, not too strong, not too soft. After all, this is the only lens with a real, i.e. direct focusing ring transmission with no clutch in between as with modern AF lenses. Nevertheless: For reliable results, manual focus is just not sufficient, especially if you shoot wide open, which is the whole point of this lens.
What’s a little strange is the positioning of the focus ring, it’s too close to the bajonet, so when you mount the lens and don’t use both hands to hold it, you usually end up trying to fiddle it onto the camera by holding it by the focus ring. When shooting, however, it’s good to have the ring closer to the camera.
Sigma 50/1.4 Art
The haptical quality is excellent, the focus ring is smooth and does not have any tolerance between turning it back and forth. The AF/MF switch is very tight, which I think is a good thing, and as opposed to the tiny Nikon switches, it’s easy to see the switch status: White, as you see it on the left, means AF, black means MF. The lens is quite heavy – it feels heavier than the Otus, but it isn’t. Autofocus is fast, but then again, using only primes and “professional” zooms, I’ve never had any lenses where I didn’t feel this way.
It’s not true that it “feels like metal”, as you often hear: Some parts do, but the main part of the lens barrel feels like plastic. Although high-quality plastic. The design is very good for twisting the lens onto the bajonet, too. For a lens of this class, I’m not so sure about the plastic on the filter thread end, though, but meanwhile, this seems to be standard stuff – even the expensive Canon 24-70/2.8 L II has a plastic thread now.
Speaking of threads and plastic: Only a minor detail, but the Sigma lens caps are so good that many people replace the Nikon ones with Sigma caps. They’re tighter and at the same time easier to get off.
The expensive Nikkor 58/1.4G indeed feels a tad more high-quality, but only because of the wide focusing ring which feels a little tighter than with the 50s. But it’s still that “transmitted” feel of modern AF lenses – thats the price of the construction that the ring is not moving when AF is working, but you can still just grab the focus ring any time and interfere. When you twist the focus ring back and forth, there is no tolerance with the Nikkor 58/1.4G, and a fraction of a millimeter with the 50/1.4G and 50/1.8G. Other than that, they deliver about the same haptical impression, which is rather well-made. If you’ve ever used the Canon 50/1.8, you’ll be surprised with the high quality of the Nikon pendant.
There’s an issue with how the focusing happens with the 50s, but I’ll save on text here, as I’m mentioning that in the summary.
Go back to page 1: Introduction
Go back to page 2: Perceived sharpness, focus shift
Go back to page 3: Bokeh quality
Go back to page 4: Sensitivity to bright light inside/outside the frame
Go back to page 5: Vignetting, Coma, Sunstars, Color Rendition
Go to next to page 7: Summary