Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM review
6 Conclusion & samples
Conclusion - Pros
- Class-leading image quality
- Relatively low vignetting even at wide apertures on full frame
- Reasonably fast and positive autofocus, with full-time manual override
- Very good build quality
Conclusion - Cons
- Large and heavy for a 50mm F1.4
When Sigma first announced the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM in March, our story headline (courtesy of our news editor and punmeister-in-chief) was 'A new standard?', and this has turned out to be remarkably prescient. This new lens essentially redefines its class, and for once the results really live up to the marketing hype; compared to previous designs, we see significantly improved sharpness at large apertures (presumably due to a reduction in aberrations through the use of an aspherical element), and substantially lower vignetting due to that that oversized lens barrel. Chromatic aberration (both axial and lateral) has been impressively minimized, and distortion is low - in optical terms there's simply little to fault.
In short, Sigma appears to have taken a fresh look at how photographers now tend to use 50mm primes as a complement to zooms for low-light and portrait shooting, and optimised the lens to match, paying attention predominantly to high central performance at wide apertures over corner-to-corner evenness stopped down. The designers have also recognised the dominance of DX/APS-C as the current de facto standard sensor size, and ensured good performance across the frame even on this resolution-hungry format. The rendition of out-of-focus backgrounds is pleasantly smooth, again suggesting that Sigma considered portrait shooting to be an important application when designing this lens. The result is a 50mm F1.4 which is a far better portrait lens on APS-C than legacy primes designed for 35mm film, as well as an extremely competent standard on 35mm full-frame.
All is not perfect, of course; the 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM still can't achieve anything approaching genuine corner-to-corner sharpness on full frame at wide apertures, however it does much, much better than the other 50mm F1.4 lenses we've tested so far, and it's important to realise that depth of field is so limited at these apertures that even getting the subject in sharp focus is a trial, let alone the corners (even a slight relative movement of the photographer and subject will result in a misfocused image). Also, the older 50mm F1.4 designs measurably outperform it for corner-to-corner sharpness at smaller apertures on full-frame, so if you're shooting primes for absolute image quality at F8, it offers little advantage. It's also physically quite large and heavy, as a direct consequence of all that glass needed to reduce vignetting, and therefore no longer really fits the bill as a small light prime to drop into the bag for discreet shooting; indeed it's very nearly as big as Canon's EF 50mm F1.2L USM. This in turn means it takes far more expensive 77mm filters; by contrast existing 50mm F1.4 designs make do with threads ranging from 49mm (Pentax) to 58mm (Canon). And whilst it looks like it could be the ideal fast portrait prime for Four Thirds, it appears unlikely to be able to match the Zuiko Digital ED 50mm F2.0 Macro for outright sharpness.
Of course the biggest negative currently against the Sigma is its price; it's significantly more expensive than the equivalents from the major camera manufacturers, and so the question becomes whether that optical superiority at wide apertures is worth the price premium. At the time of writing (August 2008), that's a very tough call, but it's important to understand that this lens is currently very much at the start of its product lifecycle, and if the price drops to a level much closer to the other 50mm F1.4s, then it will be quite simply a steal.
Rating (out of 10)
|Ergonomics & handling||8.5|
There are 20 images in the samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. To provide the fairest impression of the lens itself, images are shot in RAW and converted using Adobe Camera Raw at default settings (to bypass the test cameras' automatic JPEG chromatic aberration correction). A reduced size image (within 1024 x 1024 bounds) is provided to be more easily viewed in your browser. As always the original untouched image is available by clicking on this reduced image.
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Samples Gallery
Aug 18, 2008
Mar 18, 2008
Aug 17, 2011
Aug 17, 2011
A Bay Area startup offering a pay-by-the-photo camera service cleverly addresses the pain points photographers experience when they pick up their first DSLR. But can it survive the smartphone?
It's been a big year for software innovations, dual cameras and huge displays. Take a look at our picks for the top smartphone cameras and why we think they stand out.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. At the #7 spot is the ready-for-any-weather Olympus Tough TG-5.
By combining his skills as a time-lapse filmmaker and an engineer, Julian Tryba created this out-of-this-world creative 'layer-lapse' of New York City that alternates between night and day in time with the music.
Canon Japan's new lineup of novelty camera-themed gifts was just revealed online, including a lens mug and lens thermos, two retro camera-themed USB drives, and a picnic mat.
The Profoto A1 most certainly isn’t for everyone [...] But for those who are used to using the Profoto systems, and want something that pairs seamlessly with the strobes you already have, there is no better companion.
Fujifilm has asked a US district court to clear it of any wrongdoing, after allegedly being threatened with trademark litigation by Polaroid.
While a couple of our reviewers are out testing the Sony a7R III in Arizona, back in Seattle we slapped the camera in front of our studio scene to get a close look at its image quality. See how it stacks up against the competition.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017, and the #8 ranking belongs to the Nikon D7500.
B+W has announced a new aluminum filter holder that offers three slots so users can use multiple filters at the same time. The holder goes with the 2mm thick 100mm square filters it launched earlier this year.
8K video is coming a lot faster than you think, and Blackmagic is ready for it. Meet the DeckLink 8K Pro, a new high performance PCI-E capture and playback card built to handle 'real time high resolution 8K workflows.'
"Glass is everywhere in photography. From Eugène Atget’s reflective vitrines to Lee Friedlander’s sly self-portraiture, photographers have long been in thrall to the visual complications glass can inject into a composition."
Former Apple Aperture lead developer Nik Bhatt has designed an iOS app called RAW Power that lets you edit raw photos from your professional camera using your phone and tablet.... color us intrigued.
Advertising photographer Blair Bunting got his hands on the new Microsoft Surface Book 2, and it blew him away. Bye bye MacBook Pro...
The OnePlus 5T retains many of the 5's features and specs, but comes with an edge-to-edge display and a dual-camera that is optimized for low light.
Sony's recently announced IMX461 backside illuminated medium format sensor will bring 100MP resolution and almost 2x the speed to the next-gen Fuji GFX and Hasselblad X1D.
With the ‘Rent a Hasselblad’ camera equipment renting program, the camera makers is aiming to give enthusiast and professional photographers easier access to its medium-format photography products.
They say seeing is believing, and that's exactly what happened when one DPR staffer took the Google Pixel 2 out for an afternoon shooting under challenging conditions.
We're counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. At the #9 spot we have the Fujifilm GFX 50S, a medium-format camera that took CP+ 2017 by storm.
Instagram is testing a new feature that lets you follow hashtags in addition to people, making it possible to keep track of your favorite #landscapes or #portraits without leaving your home feed.
Despite the gigantic volume of second hand film bodies in existence, it seems there is still a demand for new 35mm SLRs with a retro feel. The latest is a remake of the Ihagee Elbaflex from the 1960s, but with a Nikon F mount.
The Polaroid Insta-Share Moto Mod straps an instant printer directly to your Moto Z smartphone, so you can print your photos as soon as you've captured them.
The Mitakon Speedmaster 135mm F1.4 lens is being relaunched in 7 different mounts, including: Sony A, Sony E, Canon EF, Nikon F, Fujifilm G, Pentax K, and Leica L. Got an extra three grand lying around?
In January, Kodak announced it would bring back the beloved slide film Ektachrome. The timeline has been pushed back a bit, but Kodak says you can expect to purchase Ektachrome again in 2018.
Instagram popularity is threatening some of the most beautiful landscapes in the US, as hordes of 'nature lovers' trample over the same spots over and over again in search of the same exact shot.
You’d have to be pretty brave to immerse your $50K RED cinema camera underwater. But if you've got the guts, Gates just released a new housing you can be pretty sure won't wreck your unbelievably expensive toy.
Adobe has released a 'Lightroom Downloader' app for Windows 10 and macOS High Sierra that allows you to download all of your images from the Adobe Cloud, all at once.
After releasing a popular 4K action cam and an affordable mirrorless M43 camera, Chinese camera maker YI is diving into yet another market: 360° VR. Meet the YI 360 VR: a powerful little two-lens camera that can shoot and stream in 4K.
The DJI Spark has received a lot of attention thanks to its diminutive size, but how does it stack up? In our review, we take a look at what it's like to fly this pint-sized drone, as well as what's in it for photographers.
Between now and the end of the year we'll be counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017. Coming in at #10 is a fast wide prime and part of the highly-acclaimed Sigma Art series.