Headshot Photography 101 Launch Sale - $99!

Head2Head: Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art vs. Canon 50mm f/1.2

April 13th 2014 3:52 PM

This post is part of our ongoing 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!

Head2Head: Sigma vs Canon 50mm f/1.2

I am still hard at work on my full review of the Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art, but I wanted to take a quick break and do a comparison to the Canon 50mm f/1.2. The Canon is widely considered the best 50mm you can get for Canon (manual focus Zeiss not included) and so I wanted to see how the new Sigma stacks up.

20140413-IMG_3164

All of the following shots were shot on a Canon 6D with an aperture of F/1.4. (Afterall, the whole point of a prime with F/1.4 is shooting wide open, so that is where I focused my attention with this comparison.)

Scene 1: The Dandelion

The first test scene of the day was a nice dandelion in some shade. In this scene, I specifically was looking for bokeh and sharpness. Before I tell you my thoughts on how they compare, take a look at the two shots yourself. Which one is which?

Canon-3104 New-Sigma-3100

Ok, the first shot was the Canon and the second shot was the new Sigma. Web sized like the two images above are, it is hard to tell which is which right off the bat. My initial thoughts though are that the Canon’s bokeh is slightly more appealing, the Sigma’s seems to be a hair more “busy” but overall they are very similar.

[REWIND: My Initial Thoughts & Unboxing Of The Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art]

As far as sharpness, in this scene it was a bit of a wash. In my opinion anyways, maybe the Sigma was a tad sharper. But they are both pretty close. (Plus a dandelion like this is somewhat hard to focus on in the first place.)

canon-100-crop sigma-100-crop

Scene 2: The Tree Trunk

The next scene on my comparison tour was the tree trunk just off the walking path in the city park. For this scene in particular, I was really looking for the the sharpness of the bark and the bokeh of the park behind the tree. Just as before, here are the two shots, can you tell which is which?

20140413-IMG_3113 20140413-IMG_3119

Again, hard to tell right off the bat from these small web sized images. So let’s punch in on the 100% crops and you will see a big difference. Just to head off you Canonites, these shots were focused in live view, on a tripod. So “perfect” focus was confirmed prior to taking the shots.

canon-s2-100crop sigma-s2-100cop

For me, the Sigma looks a tad sharper again. The Canon has a little bit of a “haze” going on. But still looks pretty good.

The Test

Ok, now that I have walked you through a few scenes. I have a test for you. Can you tell me which of the shots below are the Sigma, and which are the Canon?

A:

20140413-IMG_3129

B:

20140413-IMG_3132

C:

20140413-IMG_3138

D:

20140413-IMG_3142

E:

20140413-IMG_3150

F:

20140413-IMG_3152

G:

20140413-IMG_3159

H:

20140413-IMG_3156

Which Letters Are The Sigma Shots? (Select The Letters That Correspond To The Sigma Images)

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

In Conclusion

Overall I feel that these two lenses are pretty similar, but if I had to give the edge to one lens, I would personally go with the Sigma. The Canon does have the advantage of being able to go to F/1.2, but in the real world, the difference between F/1.2 and F/1.4 in your shots will be negligible.

If you would like to check out the images above in their RAW form, I have stuck them all in a Zip folder that you can download (258mb) and play with (Try this second link if the first is too slow). Feel free to take a look and let me know your thoughts comparing the shots on your own screen full sized.

What are your thoughts here? Do you agree with what I am seeing from these two lenses or do you think that the Canon edges out the Sigma?

Update:

Some of you requested some portrait shots. The best I can do tonight is these shots of my very squirmy kids. Still, you can see the Sigma edge the Canon in sharpness and the Canon seems to have a creamier bokeh.

Sigma
20140413-IMG_3174

Canon20140413-IMG_3175

Canon
20140413-IMG_3188

Sigma
20140413-IMG_3194-2

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Comments [78]

Please or register to post a comment.

  1. stephan hoglund

    This is a great review, best I have seen in fact BUT that does not look like a Canon L lens but a S? Hmmm?

    | |
  2. Niculae Ionescu

    Canon looks better. trees are one thing but the child with sigma looks like he was in a taxidermist shop … and also has that silk envelop thing gooing on for it that only a few lenses have, like the meyer 35mm f4.5 or the Zeiss biogon 35mm f2.8. Sigma looks 2D, just like a print, and obviously very unflatering to the child where Canon makes wanna hold him and brings a timid smile …. The test was meant to cheat canon rfom its greatest quality, 3d with subject at 2m on a street where it simply shines and does that different planes thing like old voightlander heliar …. people looking for sharpness should go for the Sigma ! but … the Canon has that thing i mean if you see it you undertsand, people with mathematical or engineering backgroun probably dont see what i am talking about …

    | |
  3. Julio González

    The sigma lens is better. Makes your little boy look happier.

    | |
  4. Jay Bussiere

    I’ve had my go at Sigma lenses but prefer the Canon’s color rendition and extra dynamic range I can pull from their L lenses.

    | |
  5. Mahinthan Someswarapillai

    What about the AF Speed?

    | |
  6. Chuck Eggen

    Sigma hands down the better lens. But you don’t get any bragging rights stating you have the Sigma in your bag. I dumped my Nikon 50 for the Sigma. Don’t care about bragging rights for the lens maker. I like the results.

    | |
  7. David Darick

    Anthony, in your quiz above, can you please specify which pics belong to which lens? I can tell by the results what pics are getting the highest percentage of votes but as far which belong to which is unclear. Thanks!

    | |
  8. Choo Chiaw Ting

    BCEG my guess, because they are sharper.

    | |
  9. guido

    Thanks a mill Anthony
    You seem to be the only one who really tried to COMPARE the two, and for that thanks a million!
    I’m still not 100% sure, what to get and I think that is exactly what one should take from this comparison. The differences are so subtle that it comes to personal preference as in real world, the differences are NOT visible, if one can’t compare! I don’t know anyone who takes first a pic with the one lens and than the other and asks the client which one they prefer!

    | |
  10. Nick Daniels

    The only thing I need to do to choose between the Sigma and the Canon, is look at the 100% crops of the tree trunk photo. However, I can even see it in most of the small web samples too. The Sigma clearly has better contrast and because of that, the bokeh appears slightly less creamy. Images taken with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art are sharper and have that really wonderful ‘pop’. Just look at the baby photo! I think this lens does not only produce crispy colour photos, but also super strong black and white photos. What a great lens this is.

    However, if you are a fan of the softer low contrast Canon look and don’t care about corner softness (i.e. when you like photographing flowers, babies and other subjects that don’t benefit from the extra contrast and detail) or if you just don’t care, the Sigma is not for you. I f you want ultimate image quality and excellent build quality at an affordable price, get the Sigma. You can always lower the contrast and sharpness in post processing, but you can never recover details that was never there in the first place.

    I guess it will be a little sad for some Canon 50mm f/1.2 (and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G) owners to see that their lens is now surpassed by a cheaper third party offering, but that’s just how it works. New and better products are developed every day. I had the Canon f/1.2 lens, but now I’m the proud owner of the clearly superior Sigma.

    | |
    • John

      I though about it for a while and decided to go with the Sigma for the exact reasons you give here. You can’t recover detail that was never there. Also, with the Sigma I spend less time post processing, because the images are just better straight out of the camera. Now that I use the Sigma, I hardly need to boost the contrast and sharpness. There really is a significant difference.

      | |
  11. Thomas Agatz

    When i’m opening your RAW’s, the other one than the Canon 50L (suppose it should be the Sigma) does my Mac say is a Canon 35mm f1.4 ?!?

    | |
  12. DHT

    I am almost going to buy a canon 50mm f1.2 just before I read the article. It`s seemed totally similar with each other.Should let deferences between Canon and Sigma slide. Sigma lens is more affordable for more people. However, Sigma lens is too BIGGER than Canon one.Worring about balance of camera if it adpot with the Sigma.

    | |
    • Nick Daniels

      I think the price difference is worth the extra weight. It will balance just fine with most cameras. Even if the lens is heavier then your camera, it shouldn’t be a problem. Then the lens helps stabilize your lightweight camera.

      Oh, the Sigma and Canon are NOT similar at all. The Sigma is sharper and has better contrast. Check out the various test on the internet and take a good look at the samples in this post on a calibrated good quality monitor.

      | |
  13. Katie Cook

    Thanks so much for this review! One question that I had about the new Sigma is if it’s heavy? My husband and I travel all over the world, and I love the Canon 50mm’s because they are so compact and relatively light. A friend mentioned that the Sigma might be on the heavier side. Did you find when shooting with the Sigma that it was heavy, and possibly a bit of a nuisance when possibly site seeing? Do you think the Canon 50mm 1.2 would be better for travel? Thoughts? Thanks!

    | |
  14. Niko M

    Dear Anthony, thanks for the 50mm Match. I must confess that I am now a bit disoriented. I own à canon 50m f1,2 for few and I can say I am more than happy with its performance & ergonomics. However, It is true that sharpness under f2 is not amazing. Another thing, canon 50 f1.2 has often some back or front focus phenomenons. With my 5D MIII, I corrected it from -10 level of AF Micro Adjustments. As I am very “sharpness” addict, I m now very hesitant. This new 50mm is very exciting , but it is also very “big” and heavy.

    Anthon, do you if the sigma is “environment proof” like Canon L series lenses (dust, water ….)?

    Thanks

    Cheers

    Niko, from Paris, France

    | |
    • DHT

      It said that Sigma lens has not weather sealing like what Canon lens does.I am not sure about it.

      | |
    • Nick Daniels

      Weather sealing is over rated.

      | |
  15. John

    It now appears as if the Canon lenses occupy the position that earlier the German lenses did (In “ancient” history 70’s – 80′) If you took 2 pictures one with a German lens the second with a Japanese Lens, The German lens while being “sharper” had a lower contrast and so the equivalent Japanese lens wold appear sharper… Taken down to the film emulsion level a “fuzzy appearing” German lens would in fact have the same resolution if not greater than the Japanese lens. I think it all comes down to what is the effect/style YOU are looking for?

    | |
  16. Sarah

    THANK YOU for this! This article was far from useless. I am a photographer and my dad loves learning about lenses/cameras so when one of us comes across a neat article, we’ll email it to one another. I emailed this to him before I even read it because we’ve been discussing these two lenses in comparison to one another in the past week! Again, thanks so much. This was way more than just an article, but another way to connect with my dad. You’re appreciated.

    | |
  17. Jonathan Kim

    Anthony,
    I recently got my hands on the Sigma 50mm Art as well and did a quick comparo. Is it just me or is the Sigma a little darker (the transmission is lower) compared to the Canon 1.2 at the same settings? I personally concur with your assessment of the Sigma and I like the pictures compared to the Canon.

    | |
  18. Niccu

    Could you also please post the raw files of the portrait you recently added Anthony?

    Thank you!

    | |
  19. Oscar Chang

    Why it’s not a Canon 50mm F/1.2 picture on top?

    | |
    • Anthony Thurston

      I am not sure what you are talking about. The Canon 50mm F/1.2 is featured in the image (which is black and white, which may be what is throwing you off)

      | |
  20. Marton

    After spending 1 hour with PP, I can only see that the Canon lens is much better than the Sigma. It is not a surprise as the pricing is also earth and sky between them.

    | |
    • Gilbert

      Hmmm, I’m curious as to why you say this?? I would have liked to see the Canon at 1.2 vs Sigma 1.4 as the point of buying either lens is shooting at max aperture but I see little difference with both lens at 1.4 and generally give the Sigma a slight advantage in contrast and sharpness with little to complain in the bokeh department…

      | |
    • Nick Daniels

      In this case, the higher price of the Canon doesn’t reflect the optical quality at all. The Sigma is clearly superior, however difficult that is to accept for some current owners of the Canon 50mm f/1.2.

      | |
  21. Brian

    I have the Sigma 50mm f1.4 (the older version). I’m wondering will it be a big enough difference for me to move to this updated model rather than moving to the Canon 50mm f1.2.

    | |
    • Nick Daniels

      Yes, there’s a big difference in optical quality. The Canon 50mm f/1.2 is better then your Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM and the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art is better then the Canon.

      | |
  22. Butterfly

    I would like to point out that the dandelion 100% images are exactly the same.
    Right click and open the both images in a new tab, swtich between them and you’ll see the only thing thats actually changing is the text.

    | |
  23. Roy Iswanto

    Hello everyone, I happen to own a 50mm 1.2 and a sigma 35mm f1.4 (which I’m assuming have the same build as the 50mm), one of the biggest problem I have with sigma is the build quality. I don’t know if it’s just mine, but after a while the middle barrel creaks, and wobble. Versus the 50mm L is built like a tank. Of course there’s a big difference in pricing.

    | |
    • Simon

      I’m surprised to hear that, my 5 year old Sigma 50mm f/1.4 has been used a LOT and it’s still good as new apart from a slight squeak when focusing! Canon L series are certainly better build quality, but for the money, Sigma are making some great alternatives.

      | |
  24. Leon Paul Reyna

    I own a Canon 7D yet if I want razor sharp images I always drop back to my Konica Minolta 7D and my Sigma 90mm lens. The problem with Canon is its cmos algorithms and default lens focus settings. True you can go in and adjust your lens in customs features yet the settings used for portraits will not work if you immediately switch to macro work or vise versa. As proof I sent my Canon 7D camera in two times for soft hazy focus and each time it returned with a note saying “the focus settings are within factory tolerances” after a third time sending it in they gave me a new camera and true to form my new 7D has the same inherent soft focus problem. Gone are the days of razor blade sharp lens like that from Hasselblad. As a result of this pervasive Canon soft focus problem found on all theirmodels, a growing number of my friends are opting for a lens adapter so as to use a Hasselblad manual focus lens on their digital cameras. The clarity is second to none and in the end having to manual focus to achieve a sharper image is a sacrifice any real photographer is willing to make!

    L. Reyna

    | |
  25. Cruxiaer

    I chose BDEG, please announce the answer soon!

    | |
  26. Cy

    I’m not impressed with the bokeh of the Sigma, I expected better. The Canon and Nikon are both ‘creamier’ while the Sigma, as you said, is kind of ‘busy’ or less creamy.

    otherwise, It looks fantastic. But, in my fast f1.4 lenses, I want the BEST bokeh I can get!

    Great review, and again, love that you respond to everyone else’s opinions.

    | |
  27. Al Downie

    This is great – thanks very much! Although you reckon the balance tips in favour of the Sigma, I’m greatly reassured that my 50L is a better choice for me; I’d far rather have a small bokeh advantage than a small sharpness advantage. Indeed, that’s specifically why I paid so much for the 50L. Seems to me that the Sigma (and the Otus for that matter) would be a great studio lens, but not so great for everyday, walkabout use.

    | |
  28. Jason SWITZER

    I mainly shoot weddings and would really like to see a comparison of the autofocus on the two lenses on moving targets and focusing in really low light (think indoor reception type lighting). Also, how well does each lens track a target in Ai Servi mode?

    Thanks for taking the time to compare the two lenses!

    | |
    • LPMurph

      I have the SIGMA 35mm f1.4 Art and honestly the autofocus is bang on. In Servi I find it tracks very well.

      | |
  29. Glenn

    Thanks for taking the time to make a comparison of both lenses as this is important to me for a future purchase. My conclusion is sharpness vs bokeh wgere each may have a slight edge. Will be interesting to see how Canon will respond and if the rebates will bring down the price for the 50L.

    | |
  30. Derek

    People are so rude and ungrateful these days! Having their butt on a chair and be like “It’s lame! It’s suck! I want something else! Quick because I’m rude and I’m think than you are my b*tch! So you betta work b*tch!”

    Your review/comparasion is definitely not usuless! Thank you for this one. I’m really excited to buy this lens and I enjoyed your test, the game was also fun! Like every article it’s take time to test and then write it. So thank’s!

    In other hand I won’t say no for more portraits haha, because I will buy it for portrait too. So if you can do more portraits please, I and we will appreciate it. Sorry for my bad english, I’m french.

    Ps: Is that possible to have the raw of the babies portraits please?

    | |
  31. Jay Campbell

    Nice. Very much appreciated. Love your kids’ shots. – Jay

    | |
  32. Jack

    How I wish modern reviewers would dig out a few copies of Amateur Photographer from 40 years ago and learn how to do a proper lens comparison. What I learnt from this was a huge price difference – and that point was made by a commenter.

    | |
    • Tom

      Wat you learnt was simply wrong information…
      Give the guy who did the review a break.

      | |
  33. Ido Scharf

    In the last two portrait photos, the kid looks more fond of the Sigma! GET THE SIGMA! LOL

    | |
  34. Ruben

    Really wish we could see [all] these at 100%. Other reviews are showing longitudinal chromatic aberration (color fringing), in high contrast areas.

    | |
  35. Ryan

    I’d like to see more model / people shots.

    For me, the main difference is the Sigma has less CA and is sharper (less haze). See the tree shot (download the RAW), the right side of the tree has significant CA on the Canon and none on the Sigma.

    | |
    • Ryan

      I’d like to see the RAW of your baby shot. The eyes look a lot better on Sigma but hard to compare at anything but 100%.

      | |
  36. Sydney

    Thank you for the quick comparison summary. The differences are quite negligible between the two lens in terms of image quality. What I would like to know is focusing speed & the ‘noise’ level (motor) between the two lens when you update your review would be greatly be appreciated.

    Adorable kids, BTW.

    | |
  37. mathias nielsen

    How is the focus times on the sigma compared to the quick canon?

    | |
  38. Sean

    How about a corner sharpness comparison? In my experience the Canon 50 1.2L just completely falls apart in the corners.

    | |
  39. Art

    I was too waiting for this sigma 50 as I am enjoying their 35. Just not sure I will unload my canon 50 1.2 for it yet. I just MFA -11 mine and it seems to be fine for now.

    | |
  40. Aaron

    What are your thoughts on autofocus? When I want something sharp, I use manual, but when I don’t have that luxury I use autofocus, the 50 1.2 misses a lot more than it hits. I’m using a 5D M2. I’m interested in selling the 1.2 and getting the Sigma if the autofocus proves to be better in those kinds of situations.

    | |
    • Anthony Thurston

      The Sigma seemed to be very accurate with the AF. I did notice the Canon had a little bit more trouble, but seemed to do ok overall.

      | |
  41. Karen

    Thanks for the info guys (Anthony & John). Helps alot.

    | |
  42. IsaacImage

    Thank you very much for fast answer and for the RAW files !

    | |
  43. IsaacImage

    Thank you for the comparison ,
    How the AF speed compared to each other.
    Is Sigma focuses faster ? is there any lugs ?
    Thank you

    | |
    • Anthony Thurston

      They seemed to focus equally fast, and by that I mean that I didn’t notice one or the other being much faster/slower than the other. Both seemed quick and snappy on these stationary targets.

      | |
  44. Tim Kelly

    I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed the bokeh of the Sigma is not smother. The 50L just looks much nicer. I care a lot more about the difference in bokeh than the difference in sharpness. But the sigma is still way cheaper.

    Thanks for the comparison.

    | |
  45. Karen Gaither

    so we’re looking at a cost dif from about $1600 for the Canon 50mm 1.2 vs the Sigma 50mm 1.4 at about $450 for such a small difference in output.

    wonder what the difference is between the Sigma 50mm 1.4 and the Canon 50mm 1.4, which is what I have.

    should I change now to the Sigma 50 1.4?

    | |
    • Anthony Thurston

      I am trying to get my hands on a Canon 50mm F/1.4 to compare to as well. But, we know that the Canon 50mm F/1.2 is better than the Canon 50mm F/1.4, so if you want to upgrade, the Sigma is a great option that will save you quite a bit over the 50mm F/1.2.

      | |
    • John

      That price you quoted is for Sigma’s OLD 50mm 1.4.. this new one’s going for just under 1k.. just a heads up..

      | |
  46. Lex Arias

    Sigma is definitely kicking the ass of the “big Manufacturers”

    | |
  47. Zach

    I’d have to agree with the previous poster. It’s a lens that will often be used for portraiture, why not give examples of portraits?

    | |
    • Anthony Thurston

      Zach, I will have portrait shots from the Sigma in my full review. In this case I did not have a model available on such short notice, so I worked with what I had. Thanks for the feedback.

      | |
    • Anthony Thurston

      Hello again Zach, I just updated the post with some quick and dirty portraits of my squirmy kids. Hope that can do for now. :)

      | |
    • Zach

      Thanks! Your kids are adorable! Great shots of the baby!

      | |
  48. Gregory Hitchcock

    I hate to sound so cynical, but this is CLASSIC PIXEL PEEPING! You can looking at individual spores on a dandelion for pete’s sake! They are close enough! Hell I’d wager the old canon f1.8 would do just as fine. Why are people so obsessed with “the best” out there? I use the f1.8 with the metal base for weddings all the time! And it’s the lens which came with my CANON ELAN 35mm SLR!

    | |
    • Joven

      Yeah, it’s a bit cynical. Not all of the images were 100% crops. You can still get a feel for color rendition of the lenses, and how the OOF areas behave. The best part of the comparison is you have to look at the images side by to determine if the extra cost is worth it.

      It’s not like it was in a lab with a bunch of different objects.

      | |
    • KoKo Valadez

      Yeah it is a pixel peeping and measurebating. But this is SLRLounge.com and there are tons of other sites that do this in reviews or comparisons. If they didn’t do this it would just be like reading the forums where people would have a much heavier bias towards a brand.
      Remember, you are reading a gear review/comparison article. It can be as easy as “Choose Sigma because reasons ABC or go Canon for DEF” and then it would be a simple paragraph or two article.

      | |
  49. George

    Useless review. Why you shoot flowers. Use models. How they perform at dark situations. Test it in different lighting situations.

    | |
  50. Aaron K

    Mehhhhhhhh! I shall just have to make do with my humble little 50mm f/1.8D.

    | |
  51. Aaron K

    If I guessed BCEH and they are correct … do I win the lens?? :D

    | |
    • Anthony Thurston

      haha, if it was mine to give away…. you would have to pry it from my cold dead fingers! :P

      | |