Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art – Full Review

Gear Reviews April 16th 2014 8:30 AM 35 Comments

This post is the final part of our series of reviews and comparisons related to the new Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens. Below you can find links to the rest of the content in this series. Enjoy!

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art – Full Review

Well, that went by way too quickly. Alas, my time with this beautiful lens is done. It is time to put pen to paper and give you my full review on the Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art.

I already talked about my thoughts on the build quality in the Initial thoughts post, so go back and check that out if you missed it. I will just add that my opinion has not changed, this is a very well built lens.

Sharpness & Vignetting Test

This lens is incredibly sharp, even wide open this lens is sharper than many other “sharp”  lenses stopped down. It does suffer from a bit of vignetting around the outer edge wide open at F/1.4, but it is not too bad, and is gone by F/2.8.

Here is a shot of some gravel, you can clearly see the vignetting around the outer edges. This was shot on my Canon 6D wide open at F/1.4.

Click on the images for a larger 1200px wide image so you can inspect better on your monitor. 

Sigma50mm-Art-review-3215Here is the lens stopped down to F/2.8, and as you can see, the vignetting is completely gone.

Sigma50mm-Art-review-3216

I think it is pretty clear to see that the lens is sharp throughout, but if I had to peg it, I would say it achieves maximum sharpness around F/5.6, maybe F/8.

Sigma50mm-Art-review-3219

Above is F/5.6, Below is F/8. Sigma50mm-Art-review-3220

Bokeh

Personally, I really like the Bokeh that this lens produces. Though I know from the comments on the comparison posts that many of you are disappointed by it. But, that is the thing with bokeh, it is very subjective.

So, rather than blabber on about how I think it’s awesome for this reason or that, I’ll just share some sample shots so you can see for yourself.

Sigma50mm-Art-review-3206 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3214 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3275 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3196

Sigma50mm-Art-review-2838

Here is a quick video example of the different aperture settings, and the associated bokeh that you may see:

Additional Handling Notes

This Sigma 50mm is both quick to focus and very accurate. All three of the other lenses that I compared this lens to had AF accuracy issues, while the Sigma was very accurate. It its worth noting though that the AF does have a little trouble in low light, but that could have been a combination of the lens and my Canon 6D. Overall, I am very happy with the AF.

This lens have no image stabilization or weather sealing. I can live without the IS(or OS as Sigma calls it), but the lack of weather sealing is a bit annoying. For a lens build as well as this one is, and costing as much as this one is (when compared to other 50mm f/1.4 lenses), I would think that weather sealing would be a good feature to have. Its not the end of the world, but if it were up to up me it would have had it.

Quick Pro/Con Recap

So you have read my initial thoughts, saw the comparisons to other popular 50mm lens options, now here is a quick recap of it all in one place.

Pros

  • Extremely Sharp
  • Good Contrast
  • Very High Build Quality
  • Quick and Accurate AF
  • Incredible Image Quality
  • Creamy Bokeh
  • Price (inexpensive compared to the Canon 50mm f/1.2 and Zeiss Otus)

Cons

  • Price (Yes, I put this in both pros and cons. It is quite pricy for a 50mm F/1.4)
  • Slight Vignetting at F/1.4 (Easily corrected in Lightroom, but still worth noting)
  • Slight CA/Color Fringing (Controlled well, and in most cases easily correctable.)
  • No Weather Sealing
  • No Image Stabilization (though no 50mm prime has this, yet)

More Sample Images

How about some more sample images? I know you all love to pixel peep, so the RAW files will be available for download at the end of the post. In the meantime, you can click on the images below to open a larger 1200px wide version for better web scrutiny.

Sigma50mm-Art-review-3107 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3132 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3141 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3150 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3151 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3159 Sigma50mm-Art-review-2561 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3203 Sigma50mm-Art-review-3207Sigma50mm-Art-review-2834

Final Thoughts

I have been thoroughly impressed by this new Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art lens. In my testing, I found that I preferred it over the Canon 50mm f/1.2 as well as my old Sigma 50mm f/1.4. The weight, which I have heard a lot of noise about, was a non issue.

Seriously, if you shoot with a 70-200mm at all, this lens will feel like nothing to you. The weight has been made a much bigger deal than it is. The length on the other hand, is something I can see some people legitimately being concerned about. Again though, in my case, I actually preferred the length. It balanced well with my Canon 6D and felt good in my hands. That is all I can ask for from a lens.

Based on all of my testing, and my experience with the lens over the last 5 days, I am very happy to give this new Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art lens a full 5 out of 5 stars. It offers superior image quality to any other 50mm lens, expect maybe the Zeiss Otus (but even then, the Sigma is close). The only turnoff to some may be the price, but look at it this way, it’s saving you ~$500 off the price of a Canon F/1.2, and you get better performance.

SLRL_Review_5_Stars

You can download the RAW files used in this review here (268mb).

Purchase Information

If you liked what you saw in this review and would like to go ahead and preorder your copy of this new Sigma, you can do so by heading on over to B&H via this link. It helps support this site and makes more of these kind of reviews possible.

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Anthony Thurston

About

Anthony Thurston is a portrait and sports photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area as well as a senior writer here at SLR Lounge. You can check out some of his work on his Website. You may also connect with him via Email, Google Plus, or Facebook.

35 Comments

  1. S50mylove

    What about the AF?
    Thank you for this review, I want it now!

    3
    • Anthony Thurston

      I mentioned the AF in the post. It is quick, and accurate, but does have some trouble in low light.

      3
    • S50mylove

      Sorry I missed it. Thank’s again for your reviews! You did a really great job!

      2
  2. SchultzPhoto

    So this lens is targeted as cheaper than the new Nikon 58 & probably better or just as good optically. The Otus is beyond compare so I won’t even bring that up. I’d love to see how the Nikon version does on the D800.

    3
    • Matthew Saville

      Unfortunately the Nikon version of this lens will come later, however we’ll certainly be seeing how it measures up against the likes of the Nikon 58 1.4, 50 1.4, and 50 1.8 G!

      I suspect that this lens’ performance, for Nikon at least, will shine the most wide open at f/1.4. I have had very little issue with any of the Nikon ~50mm lenses by f/2.8 or f/4, in fact I almost prefer the older Nikon lenses for their prettier sunstars when shooting landscapes at f/16. Heck, even my $200 Nikon 50mm f/1.8 G is flawlessly sharp by f/2.8 or f/4.

      Like I said though, we’re still waiting on a Nikon mount version of this lens. Stay tuned!
      =Matt=

      1
  3. Quentin Decaillet

    Another “disadvantage” of this lens over the Canon’s or Nikon’s ones is you don’t get CPS or NPS.

    1
    • Anthony Thurston

      That is true. Though, I doubt this will matter to most people. The value of CPS is not what it used to be..

      5
    • Matthew Saville

      To be quite honest, having years of experience with these repair services, I’m actually looking forward to seeing how Sigma’s new “Global Vision” handles service for working professionals. It always seems to be the under-dog who goes the extra mile and works harder to make folks happy. Nikon and Canon seem to have slacked off in the recent years WRT professional service.

      =Matt=

      3
    • Dave Kai Piper

      If the service in the US is anything like the team in the UK, that will not be a problem, the UK team are just amazing to deal with.

      Not sure the weather sealing is a con here either Anthony – if you look into how Canon and Nikon do claim the weather seal it is nothing more than a tiny rear rubber muck stopper. I have put Sigma lenses though hell and they are tough as nails, esp the new themo-composite bodies which cope with very cold and very hot weather far better than the bodies of the Canons or Nikon’s do. – http://www.sigma-photo.co.jp/specialsite/18-250mm/four_key_features_tsc.html

      0
    • Rob

      Having worked at a large camera retailer here in Canada, I would say this is an advantage. In Canada Sigma’s warranty blows Canon and Nikon away in terms of length and service. 5 business day turn around, CPS and NPS don’t touch that.

      0
  4. J. Cassario

    Great review Anthony! I loved the original and from what I’ve seen from your samples, this is better. I don’t think it’s going to have anyone selling their Canon 50mm f/1.2L lenses, but for all the 50mm f/1.4 lens owners, I think this will be a good upgrade. For Nikon, I personally think the 58mm f/1.4G is a better option, but more expensive. Great job covering everything you could in such a short period of time, I’ll be interested to see how this lens does after some extensive use.

    3
    • Anthony Thurston

      Yeah Jay. I probably wouldn’t sell my Canon 50mm F/1.2 nor my Nikon 58mm to get the Sigma (unless I needed some money), but like you said, the Sigma is a worthy alternative to both for people who may not have either the Canon or Nikon yet.

      2
  5. Wil Davis

    I am anxious to see reviews of this lens after they are released. I have always heard rumours about Sigma’s quality control. I’m sure the lenses they sent out for testing and reviews were thoroughly checked over and inspected.

    0
    • Mark

      Every new Sigma lens is thoroughly tested before being shipped. I have only heard of zeiss doing this other than sigma

      0
  6. drasko

    Plesse compare it with the sigma 35mm f1,4 Art wich is very very sharp and has more usability with 35mm in my opinion

    2
    • Matthew Saville

      Drasko, what’s to compare? They both offer the same incredible build quality, practically flawless sharpness, and everything else. Honestly so far in our experience, the only difference is the focal length! If you like 35mm more than 50mm in general, then go ahead and buy that one. They’re both absolutely stellar performers that cost hundreds less than their name-brand counterparts which they both beat in many respects.

      =Matt=

      0
  7. Steve

    We have so many great 50mm lens to choose from now. I think the nikon 50 mm lenses are all stellar performers and I see it very hard for Nikonians to stray away to this lens. Sigma should have come out with a standard 35-70 f 1.8 zoom or a 24-70 mm f/2.8 weather seal with optical stabilisation.

    1
  8. Francisco Salgueiro

    Anthony,
    Great review. I have the Canon 50mm 1.4 and it has lots of problems AF in the dark (low light). You said that this lens also has trouble in low light. Are these troubles similar (ie: not getting focus at all, or taking toooo long)? Thanks,
    Francisco

    1
    • Anthony Thurston

      In my experience it was a little on the slower side in the low light, but not so much so that I would say that it was bad in low light. As for accuracy, it was very good, even in low light.

      0
    • Matthew Saville

      Fransisco, the main thing to note is the amount of glass that has to be moved. The more glass in a lens, the less “snappy” its AF will be. (Except for the honkin’ big 300mm and 400mm primes, but that’s because they have MASSIVE AF motors)

      Simply put, the likes of the Sigma 50 ART will not be able to compete with the sheer speed of, say, a 50mm f/1.8 lens. HOWEVER the Sigma, in most lighting conditions, will win hands down for both precision and consistency.

      The only problem that Sigma lenses may have versus the name-brand AF systems from Canon and Nikon is this: In extremely, extremely low light, they may “choke” a little bit more frequently. Meaning they’ll miss focus every now and then.

      Personally, I think the best solution to this problem in general is to get something for AF assist. Canons don’t have built-in AF assist lamps unfortunately, so your best bet is something that has the red light beam such as a flash. This is a good idea in extremely poor light anyways, because the minute a Sigma lens starts to choke, a Canon or Nikon lens will probably start to choke too even if it is slightly less frequently. In other words, you can’t win 100% so don’t let the slight difference hold you back.

      Honestly though you could definitely also consider the old Sigma 50 EX too, it’s still much better than the Canon 50 1.4, and you won’t have to pay that much more $$$!!

      =Matt=

      2
  9. Rob

    I am really curious to see this lens compared against the Sony 50mm 1.4 Zeiss. The price difference is not huge, I am curious to see if there are differences.

    2
  10. Mike

    Thanks for the review especially the video demonstrating the images as the lens is stopped down. You might like the bokeh but creamy it is definitely not (if by creamy you mean smooth as butter). It’s OK up to f/2 then it shifts quite dramatically at f/2.8 and by f/4, I find it very busy/nervous. It’s strange because this is not the look I am accustomed to coming from a Sigma prime lens that is mostly aimed at portraiture. I was expecting the lens to be better than its predecessor in every way but hopefully have similar bokeh characteristics. I was expecting too much perhaps.

    0
    • Dekun

      I think the Sigma lens renders a single defocused light point without any obvious local maxima/minima (a.k.a onion ring bokeh). The bokeh demonstration video was shot on a pretty busy background, so f/4 things don’t natural blend together as much, perhaps that is business/nervousness you were seeing?

      0
  11. Jim

    No comparison to the Canon f1.4?

    1
    • Anthony Thurston

      No, sorry. As I have said a couple of times now, I was not able to get my hands on one before having to send the Sigma back.

      0
    • Son of the Morning Light

      i think that comparison would have nailed the review. where i live, this Sigma 1.4 is about double the price of the Canon 1.4 and almost half the price of the Canon 1.2. currently i use a Canon 1.8 and if i was to upgrade, the affordable choice is going to be the Canon 1.4, and the Sigma 1.4 would need to be twice as good for me to consider it. so a comparison is crucial for people like me. if i already had a Canon 1.4 and was thinking of upgrading then this review would have sold me on the Sigma 1.4 ‘cos the Canon 1.2 is almost twice the price.

      1
  12. NancyP

    I am glad to hear that you think it balances ok on a medium-sized camera, the 6D, which is also my camera. The weight and size seem to be major disadvantages in some uses (street; backpacking with multiple prime lenses); fortunately there is the Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM for those applications, and the Canon is cheap (200.00), so it could be feasible to own both if you have need for both a compact normal lens and for “the ultimate more-or-less-affordable f/1.4 normal prime”.

    0
  13. Jay

    Any idea when the Sigma 50 will be shipping? Has anyone received theirs yet? I ordered mine on April 16 and still haven’t heard anything.

    0
  14. Manuel Bachmann

    My Order should be deliverd @ 15.06.2014 (Nikon mount)

    0
  15. Tom

    Bokeh doesn’t even come close to the Sony Zeiss 50mm 1.4. I’m not the only one commenting on this dissapointing bokeh. It also has had some back focusing issues but that remains to be seen after more people get those user reviews in. Any 50mm is practically razor sharp at 5.6 so no suprise there. Need to wait for the hype to subside and we’ll see.

    1
    • Jonathan

      I am curious to know what it is you don’t like about the bokeh in these images

      1
  16. G.W.

    I tried 3 copies in past 5 days with my 5D3 and everyone of them needs Micro Focus Adjustment (MFA) of +13 to get sharp photos (very, very sharp photos at f/1.4) from MFD to infinity so I decided to return it. Yes, I have tried them with the USB Dock and it does not fix the issue (from -20 to +20). Why return it and not live with MFA? Because I also want to use it on any cameras that does not have (MFA). The sales person snap these same lenses onto a 6D and they focus beautifully in every shot! Maybe it needs a firmware update; however, until Sigma get it right I will not buy it. Interesting thing is that I read people who also has 5D3 and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art also require adjustment of +13 in MFA to get sharp images.

    1
  17. Ritchie

    Hi Anthony,

    Nice review and photos. Can you add night portrait photos in the street for a bokeh samples. It would be great to have those as sample images in this review.

    Thanks,
    Ritchie

    0
  18. Justin Berkovi

    Had mine for a few days – some very honest comments and why I’m sending it back. The lens is incredible optically – it has such low levels of distortion and such sharpness that other lenses cannot compete with it. But unfortunately these are not the only qualities that render beautiful shots. The bokeh is hugely flawed with this lens – it does not offer enough of a real contrast between the subject and the blur is busy. It’s a very strange bokeh in that you cannot immediately discern the blocky elements that are prevalent in lower cost lenses but all the same it just does not have the dreamy smoothness of some of Canon’s L glass.

    This means that it’s often a struggle in post to produce images that evoke real emotion other than providing a superbly crisp image. The other issue is colour – it doesn’t pack a big beautiful colour punch like a lot of Canon’s L glass.

    So whilst this lens has been hyped a lot recently and is superbly sharp and distortion free it cannot provide the intimacy with what I would like to shoot with.

    1
  19. André Hostombe

    nice review.

    0

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