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Gear Reviews

Head2Head: Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art vs Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM

By Anthony Thurston on April 14th 2014

Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art Review Series

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!

New Sigma 50mm vs Old Sigma 50mm

One of the biggest comparison tests with the new Sigma 50mm that I have personally been interested in is the one against the old Sigma 50mm f/1.4. I currently own the old version of the lens, and so I am wondering if it is worth upgrading to the new one. Let’s take a look and find out…


Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a comprehensive review for either lens, just a quick comparison and overview of how the two lenses compare to one another. RAW files will be provided for download at the end of the article so you can download and compare on your own screen for anything I may have not compared directly in this post. 

Size & Build Quality Comparison

These two lenses vary greatly in size, with the newer Sigma coming in quite a bit longer than the older Sigma 50mm. The new Sigma has the latest “Global Vision” styling that all the new Sigma lenses have, and the old Sigma has the classic matte black Sigma finish.


In terms of build quality, these two lenses are both very solid, but the edge here has to go to the newer Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art. The focus ring on the new model is smoother and provides and better grip, being roughly 3 times the size of the old model’s focus ring.

That is not to say that the older model is not well built – it is a solid lens in its own right – just when compared directly to the new model, you see some slight shortcomings.

Handling Comparison

I will not talk about this much, because honestly, both of these lenses are great to use. Both feel solid in the hands and fit well on both my Canon 6D and EOS-M. Obviously, the two lenses balance a little differently with the older model being more compact, and the newer model being longer.

In terms of AF, both lenses focus quickly in normal lighting, though both struggle a little in lower light situations. In terms of AF accuracy, the newer model seems to have an edge in accuracy, with the older model having a few “misses” where the new model did not have any.

Image Quality Comparison

The first and most obvious difference between these two lenses is that they have a slightly different field of view. They both claim to be 50mm lenses, but the older model has a slightly wider field of view.

It is worth noting that in my testing, the new model has the same field of view as the Canon 50mm f/1.2, so if I had to guess I would say that the old model Sigma is just not quite a full 50mm focal distance, maybe more like 45mm.

Compared Wide Open at F/1.4

You can click on the images to view a larger size (1200px wide), these RAW files will also be available for download at the end of the article.

Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art, Canon 6D, ISO 100, F/1.4, 1/400th 


Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM , Canon 6D, ISO 100, F/1.4, 1/400th  Sigma50mm-Art-Vs-Old-Sigma-3227

As you can see, the new model has a bit more contrast than the old model. The color rendition is virtually identical. In terms of sharpness, they are both sharp, but the new model is definitely quite a bit sharper than the old model.

new-sigma-100-crop old-sigma-100-crop

Compared at F/2.8

You can click on the images to view a larger size (1200px wide), these RAW files will also be available for download at the end of the article.

Sigma 50mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art, Canon EOS-M, ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/200th 


Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM, Canon EOS-M, ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/200th  Sigma50mm-Art-Vs-Old-Sigma-2530From what I can see, it seems the two lenses are almost the same by F/2.8. They are equally sharp and both display good center to edge sharpness.

new-sigma-corner-crop old-sigma-corner-crop

The Test

Ok, now I have walked you guys through a couple of comparisons. Here are some more sample shots with these two lenses. Can you tell which lens shot which images?






Which Numbers Are The New Sigma?

View Results

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In Conclusion

Overall, I came away from this test feeling really good about how my old model Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM stacks up to the new model. It is not quite as sharp, and the AF is not quite as accurate, but overall, it compares very well to the new model.

Based on this, I will probably be holding on to my old Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM for a while longer yet. I am in no hurry to upgrade. I do plan to upgrade to the new model in the future, just not right away.

If you would like to check out the RAW files from the images used in this shoot please feel free to download this zip file (236mb). So, start your download and compare away. I think you will see, as I have, that the old model holds up very well,with the new model edging the old model in sharpness, contrast, and the creaminess of the bokeh.

Please leave a comment below once you have had a chance to compare the images from these two lenses. Do you agree with my assessment? What stood out to you?


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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.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Mike Powell

    I really don’t any reason to spend more for the art lens, most of what I see and know, Post prepossessing (to which I will do anyways) I will get the same results. Also, I will beat the shit out of this lens, I might as well save the cash.

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  2. Stephan Buchmann

    Thx for the comparison. Very helpful as I swing over from Canon 5D to Sony 7rii and wondered on which lens I spend the big money. 

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  3. Paul Wójtowicz

    Can you repost the raw files? The link is not working

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  4. Michael Schore

    Just picked this lens and I am a little concerned. I was shooting in some tough conditions with the lens wide open. I was using my D300s. Anyone else have any problems with exposure?

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  5. Sean Tatalovich

    So what was the results of the images? 2 & 3?

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  6. florian hossfeld

    One more thing : The older Sigma 50mm 1.4 HSM seems to gather more light at the same speed and even at a faster shutter speed :

    your 1st test is slightly overexposed when using the older sigma, and the speed & ISO are the same: 1/400 ISO100.

    your 3rd test, same thing, the older Sigma is slightly overexposed and the shutter speed is even higher : 1/640 ISO100 vs 1/500 ISO100 with the new lens.

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  7. florian hossfeld

    First off, thanks a lot for this test.
    In your first comparison shot (the close portrait) the focus point seems to be a bit back focused on the older 50mm Sigma, and the picture is slightly over-exposed, this could lead to a loss of sharpness and make the out-of focus areas a tiny bit smoother if focused perfectly. Try to fine-tune your lens and you’ll probably end up with even results. I own the older 50mm 1.4 HSM and it is a bargain for the price now. The only issue is that I had to send it twice to Sigma to update the firmware, because Nikon purposely bricked Sigma lenses, this is one of the reason why Sigma went with this new “Art line” lenses that are compatible with the USB dock.

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  8. GDP

    Would you be willing to compare the 50 Art at 1.4 with the 50L at 1.2? I think that would be the best way to give us an idea of how substantial the 50L’s bokeh advantage is.

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    • derek

      He already did, watch few articles ago. ;)

      But if you can give us the raw files of the babies… I will appreciate it! Or more portraits raw please!

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    • GDP

      My impression was that the 50L was shot at 1.4. I looked back but couldn’t find confirmation of the aperture setting. Did I miss something?

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    • derek

      No you didn’t miss anything. But it doesn’t make sense to shoot at 1.2 with the Canon since he compared it with an 1.4…

      He said in other hand than the difference between 1.2 and 1.4 wasn’t big in real life.

      To me you can buy the 50L if you want a little bit better bokeh and shoot at 1.2…
      The sig is a little bit sharper, my priority is sharpness so I’m not gonna pay around 600$ (I’m living in France so the prices are not the same) for a little bit better bokeh and a 1.2. But it’s my opinion only. ;)

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    • Matthew Saville

      Derek, it makes sense to shoot the Canon 50 L at BOTH f/1.2 and f/1.4, actually. Don’t worry, we’ll make sure to cover all the bases in our final review!


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    • Gilbert

      Thanks Matthew, I was wondering just like “GDP”. It totally makes sense to compare both lenses at 1.4… but I’m looking at buying either and honestly I wouldn’t bother buying a 50L to never shoot it at 1.2… i.e. it would be nice to see what difference it makes to have that extra 3rd of a stop! Looking forward to reading the full review.

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  9. Derek

    Thank you so much for this second article, I really enjoyed the first one too. It seem like alot of people are disappointed about this lens :( :( :(
    Maybe the hype was to big?

    In my opinion… I prefer sharpness than bokeh, so I’m not gonna pay 529 euros more, for a little bit creamy bokeh and a little bit less sharpness… The bokeh is really expensive in this case! :p

    I’m gonna watch the raw files right now, thank you, and if you can give us some another raw portraits… I will appreciate it!

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  10. Dennis

    Thanks for your article on testing the new and the old Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lenses. I used to own the older one and loved it. This lens is my favourite focal length to shoot with and after trying many different 50mm (mid price range) lenses, the now older model Sigma was my favourite and it has seen me through a lot of paid jobs as well as own personal use.
    I have been anticipating the new Sigma Art 50mm f/1.4 but my patience ran out and I was getting more and more bookings to shoot weddings, and so I ended up buying the Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens. It took me a few weeks to get used to it and I was actually quite disappointed with the lens at first. Then I understood what this lens was about and what it was capable of doing. All of a sudden, this lens made sense and the magic started to happen!
    Your test, combined with Sigma’s slow release of the new 50mm Art series, has confirmed that I have made the right choice and now for me, there is only peace of mind whenever I shoot with my magical Canon 50mm f/1.2L lens. Again…thank you!

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  11. Jed

    I’m feeling the same way, the bokeh just isn’t as creamy and pretty as I was hoping. This was looking like it would be the first non-L lens I would shoot with, but just doesn’t quite match the gorgeousness of the Canon 1.2

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Regarding the bokeh specifically. This is mostly due to the Sigma having more contrast out of the box than the Canon. If you bump up the Canon shots to match the contrast of the Sigma the Bokeh looks virtually identical.

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  12. Tim Kelly

    So far from what I have seen the bokeh on the new sigma 50 is looking a bit on the busy side. I was really hoping for some nice soft bokeh from this lens.

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    • Matthew Saville

      True, however we’re testing this lens in some of the worst possible conditions you can possibly test bokeh- twigs and branches! Look at some of the legendary Leica lenses that are known for having utterly gorgeous bokeh, and you’ll see similar “business” in situations where there are branches and that kind of texture-y bokeh.

      I’m not saying that the Sigma 50 ART is still a winner WRT bokeh, it may still be the case that the likes of the Canon 50 L etc. offer less busy bokeh. We’re still testing, that’s for sure!

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