I have to admit that I am quite partial to a Sigma Art lens these days. Like many, I love high-end same-brand lenses, but the Sigma Art series simply won me over for the image quality they provide for the price.
Sigma lenses may not have the full weather-proofing of some brands, but in every other respect, the optical quality is up there. Thus, my excitement of trying out the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art.
A 50mm lens will always be a great happy-medium focal length, useful in many different scenarios from portraits to landscapes and everything in between. This is why Sigma’s offering in this department is worth a closer look.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is not a cheap offering as it’s built to rival high-end lenses from the most popular makers out there. This means that this should be a lens that will provide you years of use.
So without further ado, let’s explore this not-so-little 50mm lens and how it stacks up against the rest.
First up is all of the technical stuff, which adds up to the overall optical quality. If you’ve ever grabbed hold of one of these Sigma Art lenses they are not exactly lightweight, with this one coming in at 815g. It’s not exactly small, with dimensions of 85 x 98mm, but the heft and size add to the feel of quality.
Internally, the optics comprise of 13 elements arranged in eight groups, with a molded glass aspherical element, three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements, and a Super Multi-Layer coating. The optics are based on a floating system to limit the amount of element movement and improve close focusing, general magnification, and detail.
Autofocusing duties are covered by the integrated HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor), with full manual override. There’s also a nine-blade rounded diaphragm to produce all those lovely background blur effects. There is no image stabilization with this lens, but arguably none of the competitors have this feature either.
The barrel of the lens is made from thermally stable composite (TSC). This may not have the ultimate weatherproofing or rock solid feel of a full metal construction, but it still feels hardy enough for general use. On the plus side, the mount is made from brass and there are rubber seals for extra peace of mind.
Another nice benefit of owning the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is that it syncs up with the Sigma USB Dock for firmware updates and lens tweaking. Plus Sigma provides the service of swapping lens mounts, just in case you change camera body brands.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art in Use
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art focuses quickly and quietly, which means it can also be a great solution for video applications. There were a few instances in very low light conditions where the autofocus had to hunt a little, but this was also pushing the boundaries, where normally you would use a strobe.
One thing that really bugs me about my Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art lens is that there are obvious amounts of chromatic aberration in the form of magenta and green fringing at f/1.4.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art displays the same results, needing to be stopped down to f/2.8 for the cleanest results. As I am fully aware of this phenomenon, I shy away from shots against high contrast backgrounds as it’s nearly impossible to get rid of this in post-processing.
As for overall sharpness levels, the center sharpness is very good at f/1.4. There is only slight edge softening but clears up by f/2.8. For the overall sharpest results, the lens becomes super sharp at f/5.6, being comparable to other similar price lenses. In other words, center sharpness is up there with the rest, only being beaten out ultimately by the far more expensive Zeiss Otus.
Testing out the lens at f/1.4 produced wonderfully circular bokeh balls, without any onion rings. The lens also provides a nice transition of colors, moving from sharp subject focus to creamy backgrounds. In this aspect alone the Sigma is an excellent performer.
Overall, this lens produces stellar image quality, with excellent sharpness for both close and far-off subjects. Images show a pleasing level of contrast, color rendition, and saturation.
How Does It Compare?
As the 50mm focal length is such a popular choice, there are plenty of options on the market. Cheap versions are readily available, but it’s more the higher-end offerings which are pertinent comparisons here.
On the Canon front, there is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, which has the same width of aperture, but if you want to go even wider, there is the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM. The later provides a wider aperture, but the Sigma is equal in sharpness at f/1.4 and quite a bit cheaper in cost.
Nikon has their own high-level lenses in the form of the AF-S 50mm f/1.4G and AF-S 58mm f/1.4G. All of these options are much more expensive but are every bit the high-quality offerings you would expect.
For the more budget level of things Samyang has a very capable AF 50mm f/1.4 FE for the Sony E-mount or for the same platform, there is the more expensive Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA.
If price isn’t a consideration, then there is the manual only focusing Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4. You can buy a bunch of the 50mm lenses above for the same price as the Zeiss, but you won’t get the overall sumptuous image quality which this lens provides.
In other words, the Sigma is a nice happy medium between all of the above, providing excellent image quality for the money.
|The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art||Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM|
|Optics||13 elements / 8 groups||8 elements / 6 groups|
|Diaphragm Blades||9 rounded||8 rounded|
Lined up against Canon and Nikon’s own 50mm f/1.4 offerings, the Sigma is definitely more cost-effective, with an equal amount of optical performance. In the case of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, this may be the standard high-quality 50mm lens in this range, but the Sigma is definitely snapping at its heels.
For an increase in optical performance, you will have to jump to the more expensive Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4. However, at nearly three times the price, you would expect the Zeiss to deliver far more and it is a manual focusing only lens.
Therefore, considering the level of optics you get for the price, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art is a wonderful lens and a great all-rounder which is only beaten out by far more expensive lenses.
Then again, the Sigma, at nearly $1000, is up there with the top performers, which means it does have its own set of exclusive rights.