Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM review
6 Conclusion & samples
Conclusion - Pros
- Stunning image quality - super sharp, minimal CA and practically no distortion
- Impressive flare resistance
- Generally attractive rendition of out-of-focus backgrounds
- Fast, silent, and accurate autofocus
- Excellent build quality
Conclusion - Cons
- Large and heavy for a 50mm F1.4 prime
- Relatively expensive for its class
- No weather sealing
We've been very impressed by Sigma's recent 'Art' line lenses, such as the ultra-fast 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM and the 35mm F1.4 DG HSM. The 50mm F1.4 DG HSM continues in a similar vein, but if anything it surpasses its illustrious stablemates. Optically it's simply spectacular; Sigma's older 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM outperformed most similar lenses, but the 'Art' lens essentially redefines the class. It's a perfect match for high end full frame SLRs like the Nikon D800 and Canon EOS 5D Mark III.
In fact Sigma's latest 50mm is one of the very best lenses we've ever tested. It's impressively sharp wide open, with none of the 'haze' or 'glow' from spherical aberration that's normally associated with this kind of fast prime. Stopped down, it just gets better; we've been shooting with it mainly on a 20MP Canon EOS 6D, and it's impressively sharp right across the frame at apertures from F2.8 - F11. Indeed it seems pretty clear that the Sigma will continue to give excellent results on higher resolution sensors for some time yet, and is likely to be utterly untroubled by the D800's 36MP sensor when the Nikon-mount version appears.
Chromatic aberration is also extremely low. When shooting wide open you'll see some longitudinal CA (magenta and green fringing around objects which are out of focus), but it's not hugely objectionable. Distortion is almost entirely nonexistent, and vignetting relatively low for this class (1.5 stops in the extreme corners on full frame). We've also found the lens to be impressively resistant to flare, and to give generally-attractive background blur or 'bokeh'. Overall, when looking through the hundreds of real-world pictures we've shot with the lens, it's difficult to find much to complain about at all.
Operationally there's a lot to like about the Sigma too. Autofocus is fast, silent and positive on the Canon-mount version we tested, and the manual focus ring is smooth and sufficiently precise for critical focusing. We generally got most accurate autofocus by sticking to central AF points, which is worth bearing in mind to get the best from the lens. There's little to complain about in terms of build quality (unless you need weatherproofing), and small touches like the large positive AF switch and the grip on the underside of the barrel make the lens a joy to use.
There is a penalty for this exceptional performance, though, and it's size and weight. Sigma has achieved this level of optical performance by using a complex retrofocal design, which has more in common with a typical 35mm F1.4 than a traditional 'Double Gauss' 50mm. The lens is therefore more than twice the size, and about three times the weight, of Canon and Nikon's 50mm F1.4 offerings. All that glass means it's expensive, too; at $950 / £850 / €1000 it's much closer in price to the premium Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G, or Sony Carl Zeiss Planar T* 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM.
In fact, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 makes for a particularly interesting comparison with the Nikkor 58mm, which we reviewed at the end of last year. Nikon seems to have decided to trade-off sharpness against bokeh, meaning that the 58mm is visibly not as sharp as the Sigma, especially at large apertures, but blurs backgrounds quite beautifully in return. For certain uses - most obviously wedding and portrait photography - this makes the Nikon the natural choice, but we suspect many users will prefer Sigma's approach overall.
The Final Word
Overall, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art is a pretty easy lens to sum up. It's the best autofocus 50mm prime we've reviewed to date, with optics so good that we can't really find anything to criticise. This does however come with a significant size and weight penalty, not to mention a distinctly high price. But if you're prepared to put up with that, we don't really see any reason not to recommend the lens wholeheartedly. It's a deserved winner of our top award.
Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
Category: Normal Lens
Ergonomics and Handling
The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art is distinctly large, heavy and expensive for its type. However this is more than made up for by its fast silent autofocus, solid build quality, and absolutely outstanding optics. Overall it stakes a very serious claim to be the best autofocus 50mm prime on the market right now.
- Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM on DxOMark
- Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM review
- Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Review
- Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Lab Test Report
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G Review
- Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G Review
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Review
There are 48 images in the review samples gallery and 31 images in the preview 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. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.
Review samples gallery
Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art review samples
Preview samples gallery
We had an early sample of the 50mm F1.4 DG HSM for a couple of days, long enough to put together a quick initial samples gallery. We concentrated on large-aperture shots to show sharpness and bokeh, but have also thrown in several images shot at smaller apertures too.
Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art (Canon) preview samples
|Dirt Hose by poppyjk|
|European bee-eaters by drvanger|
from A Big Year - birds
|Fat Is Beautiful Guinea 2008 DP by MarioSS|
from - Fat is Beautiful - (Woman's Portrait n Black and White+ A Border)
The a9 boasts impressive capability. As more examples of it in practice pour in, Sony's claims hold up. Watch the a9 track and maintain focus on a rapidly approaching basketball.
Last week, more than a million tonnes of Californian coastline slid into the ocean, taking part of Highway 1 with it. Check out the remodeling in photos taken before and after the landslide.
Even after eighteen months of reviewing the latest, greatest, shiniest and must-buy-me-est new gear, DPReview staffer Carey Rose has continued to use older DSLR cameras for his freelance work. But now, that might be changing. Read more
Sony is the world's leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it's said in a presentation to investors. A focus on high value cameras and lenses should boost operating income, it says. Read more
It's nicknamed the 'Cycloptic Mustard Monster,' and is a 3D printed medium format camera. Read more
The new NanGuang LED lights are battery powered and come with accessories including filters and diffusers.
Have you been telling yourself, "Hey, I really need one of those 8K displays?" A video about Dell's new 8K monitor shows you what to expect. Is it really that much better?
Tamara Lackey, a Nikon ambassador USA and pro shooter, discusses embracing self-consciousness as a means of connecting with subjects.
There's a new Spiderman movie coming out and the poster been generating a lot of online chatter. Mostly about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.
An honest defense of the system's merits, with photos as proof.
Copyright disputes are no fun at all. 'Binded' is a new startup that aims to simplify the process of registering - and enforcing - copyright for photographers. Read more
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more