February 14, 2013

'Battle of the Bokeh' Beauty Contest Blind-Tests Canon, Nikon, and Sigma 35mm F/1.4 Lenses

When considering lens options for purchase or rental, certain criteria may stand out to you more than others. This depends on what you shoot most often, or what a project demands. Perhaps as a run-and-gun doc shooter, you simply need the extra stop you get with one 85mm lens for the same price as another that doesn't vignette as badly. Or you gave up a contrast performance you really preferred in favor of the IS lens of greater overall value. But what if money were no object, and focal length and speed were matched? An aspect you'd find yourself evaluating closely is the way each handles its bokeh, or de-focused areas of the image. DigitalRev's latest Battle of the Bokeh is a comparison between Canon, Nikon, and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lenses in precisely this spirit -- with some unexpected results.

Getting right to the video (via CanonWatch, video contains some NSFW language):

Aside from being very entertained, I was genuinely surprised what the lens community-voted as 'Best in Bokeh Show' -- especially since the Canon and Nikon cost $1350 and $1600 respectively, while the Sigma goes for $900. Granted, bokeh represents an aspect of optics that is a bit more subjective, rather than something more concrete and measurable like MTF performance. There's such a thing as 'good' and 'bad bokeh,' to the extent judging such a thing is possible -- but very few of your audience members will be detracting points for 'poor out of focus performance.' This is because bokeh, by definition, is the area out of focus (read: the part you're not supposed to be looking at), so it gets a bit more leeway than the other optical byproducts.

Still, though -- really? Sigma? Shame on me, I guess, for not watching the comparison with a completely open mind! (Let us know if you guys agree below). While we're on this bokeh-rific subject, there's plenty more viewing you may do on the subject from DigitalRev. Here's a few more of the offerings from Battle of the Bokeh, featuring the following lenses:

Were you guys surprised by the results of the first Battle at all? To what lengths have you gone to achieve superior or more-pleasing bokeh? Is sub-par de-focused performance a deal-breaker for you, or a less-than-vital consideration?

Link: Battle of the Bokeh - Canon, Nikon Sigma 35mm f/1.4 -- DigitalRev

[via CanonWatch]

Your Comment

19 Comments

I got the SLR Magic 50mm/T0.95 CINE, partly for the bokeh.

February 14, 2013 at 6:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Simon Falkentorp

I wasn't surprised at all at the results. The sigma is a much newer optical design and sigma seems to make lenses with good bokeh in general.

February 14, 2013 at 6:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ola

not surprised at all the sigma has got very good reviews:
http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/sigma-35mm-f1-4-dg-hsm

February 14, 2013 at 8:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sam

Sigma lenses generally are very inexpensive because of poor auto focusing components (doesn't matter on most DSLRS that are manual) and they have moving parts that extend out of the body (you focus or zoom and the lens extends or retracts in length). For whatever reason I've noticed that my cheap poorly autofocusing sigmas always have superior bokeh to my Canon lenses and even my Tokina 11-16mm f 2.8, I think it must be from these internalized movements causing some sort of loss of bokeh quality on the higher end lenses. For instance my opening shots on my film trailer for "Full Metal Creeper" are shot with a 70-300 sigma with 4.6.-5.6f and people always assume I'm using an extremely expensive camera/lens (It was a T2i).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Vec5CsY1Hg

February 15, 2013 at 3:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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i get the fish-eye metaphor, but how does it relate to the/a theme?

February 16, 2013 at 8:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I think that is how Samyang full manual lenses can be so cheap but sometimes have better quality than some Canon L's. A lot of money goes into AF and weather sealing with Canon L's, it seems

February 22, 2013 at 6:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Heiko

Seems that Sigma has currently optically superior 35mm design to other manufacturers http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012/11/sigma-35mm-f1-4-arrives-announce...

February 15, 2013 at 4:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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PeterK

You missed the samyang 35mm 1.4

February 15, 2013 at 11:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Pablo Saldana

I love my Sigma 50MM 1.4 lens. Got it in 2011 and have been in love with it since. I will buy Sigma again, unless there is absolutely something that a Canon lens will give that a Sigma simply can't...which right now I don't know what that might be. I mostly use my Sigma for my filming work as I like the blurred backgrounds when talking with my subjects.

February 21, 2013 at 4:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I have a Sigma 18-50 f2.8 and a Tamron 17-50 f2.8 - actually I wanted to replace the Sigma with the Tamron because the Tamron is sharper and has better contrast. But then I found out that the Sigma looks much better when filming.
The Tamron is too punchy and sharp for the Eos 7Ds video, it makes all the problems like aliasing and moiree even more of a problem.

So now I kept the Sigma for filming and use the Tamron for still photography. Although when I need a nice bokeh more than sharpness and contrast, I might also use the Sigma for stills.

February 22, 2013 at 6:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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