The usual course of events when eyeing up a prime lens is to check out the same-as-camera-brand offerings. This route makes sense for ultimate compatibility and peace of mind, but the third-party manufacturers like Sigma have really stepped up their game in recent years.
Sigma offers lenses that are equal or better in optics and features in exchange for a respectable amount of money. This is the main reason for bringing you the best Sigma prime lenses under $500.
We are playing with a specific budget today, but an affordable lens under our top price point is easily achievable, especially with Sigma’s contemporary line, which provides good lenses with top-line features. For our chosen budget range, it’s a good idea to stick to prime lenses, mainly to pour all your monetary resources into the quality of one focal length.
1. Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary (Overall Winner)
The Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary has a near the standard 50mm view, while on crop sensor camera bodies, it provides an 84mm focal length. The lens is reasonably compact and lightweight, coming in at just 280g. This makes it a good lens choice for lightweight travel or as a walkabout option.
Optically, this lens comprises of 10 elements arranged in six groups. It features one special low dispersion element, two aspherical elements, and a Super Multi-Layer Coating to reduce line anomalies and increase image definition. A stepping autofocus motor provides reasonably quick and quiet operation, which will also be of benefit to the video people.
The very useful f/1.4 aperture works fantastically for achieving shallow depth of field shots. Plus it has loads of light gathering ability for indoor photography.
Considering that this lens can be picked up for less than $500, it provides wonderfully sharp images to a very professional standard. Essentially, if you’re looking for a prime lens that is a great all-rounder for anything from portraits to landscape work, the Sigma is a great solution.
If you need to venture into the wide-angle side of things, the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary is a good choice. Even on APS-C format camera bodies with a 24mm focal length, the lens still provides enough width for landscape shots or even architectural work.
Just like the 56mm f/1.4 DC DN lens above, the aperture comes in at f/1.4 which coupled with the short focal length provides great workings in low-light conditions. The 16mm f/1.4 DC DN has a good deal of optics inside, consisting of 16 elements in 13 groups. This is accompanied by two special low dispersion, three F Low Dispersion, and two aspherical elements to correct for the likes of chromatic aberration, while also providing increased sharpness.
Just like Sigma’s Art series range, this is quite a large and weighty lens, coming in at 405g. But as with the aforementioned, Sigma has poured all their efforts into the optical quality, making the slightly larger dimensions a small price to pay for increased image quality.
For less than $400, the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 is a wonderfully sharp lens, providing great image definition, color and deep contrast.
One of the nice side benefits of diving into a third-party lens offering is that it provides focal lengths out of the norm. The Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art offers a slightly wider view than a traditional 35mm prime, while also providing a 48mm viewpoint on crop sensor cameras. This focal length is just a touch wider than the other standard of 50mm.
While the 30mm looks reasonably compact, it still weighs in at 435g due to all that glass contained inside. Optically the arrangement consists of nine elements in eight groups, with one aspherical element, plus Sigma’s Super Multi-Layer Coating for increased image quality.
The Hyper Sonic autofocus motor, as found on the rest of the Art series, has been included, which is quick and quiet enough for both stills and video use. The system provides a manual focus override, with a very smooth-to-turn focusing ring.
The 30mm f/1.4 is exactly what you would expect from the Art series, providing great sharpness at the widest apertures. Used as a general walkabout lens, the 30mm f/1.4 with a slightly widened viewpoint is great for environmental shots and a great way to capture sharp street photography.
4. Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro (Budget Winner)
The weird thing about the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro is that depending on where you shop, the lens can be picked up for a cheap price or one that falls over our budget limit. We found a tasty example for under $400, which is a good price point if you need a short telephoto lens. A handy bonus is that this lens also offers macro abilities.
When the lens is strapped to crop sensor camera bodies, it provides a 157.5mm equivalent focal length. Weight-wise, the lens comes in at 725g, which is not exactly lightweight. But considering it’s doing two jobs in one package, the weight-bearing is a small factor in its overall usage.
The glass arrangement consists of two special low dispersion elements, with the usual super multilayer coating for increased image quality, with all the individual elements wrapped around a floating element system to maintain image quality. One other nice inclusion is an optical stabilization system, which helps out for those distant images. While the lens barrel isn’t waterproofed, it feels solid enough for careful regular use.
The macro side of things provides a reproduction ratio of 1:1, with a close focusing distance of 31.2cm. This in itself is a great solution for capturing the smallest of subjects. If you need a lens with a reasonable stretch that can also cover macro photography, this lens will provide you all the quality you need within this budget zone.
Zeroing in on the Best Sigma Prime Lenses Under $500
As originally stated, if you’re juggling with a budget of $500, a third-party prime lens from Sigma is a great starting point. It may initially feel counter-intuitive to not have zoom ability, but what you gain in the areas of added sharpness and increased aperture widths, more than makes up for having to walk forward and backward a few times.
As shown by the Sigma prime lenses under $500 above, these lenses don’t just come in at a cheap price point, but also offer great optics that will provide years of fun. Sigma’s Art range may be considered the best quality versions, but don’t discount the Contemporary line as a second-best, as all the lenses in this range still provide great use in the field while being extremely good value for the money.