For sometime now 50mm has become a standard for portrait shots. Most photographers using full frame cameras prefer using the 50mm focal length for their portrait work and photographers using APS-C cameras prefer using the 35mm lens to get as near to the original 50mm focal length. Nikon has its own 50mm lens and so does Canon. In fact, Canon has 3 variants of the 50mm lens with different apertures like f/1.8, f/1.4 and f/1.2. So what innovation has Sigma brought with the Sigma 50mm f1/.4 HSM Art Lens? Does it make its presence felt? Read on to know our take on the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens!

Focal Length – Sigma 50mm f/1.4

A 50mm focal length stays fixed at 50mm focal length irrespective of the lens that is being used. So you must make sure that you are using the lens for the purpose it is made for if you are wishing upon optimum results. 50mm is the focal length (approx.) which is very close to our own vision and hence preferred naturally and thus pictures created using it look very normal/natural to the photographer and viewer. Most of the original SLR camera’s used to come bundled with a 50mm or a near 50mm lens. My first SLR, a Zenit, came with a 58mm prime lens. Keeping all these points in mind it is obvious that 50mm is a useful focal length.

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The number of scenarios in which a 50mm lens can be used are plenty. You can find yourself using the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 in fashion, portraiture, weddings, documentary, lifestyle, sports, architecture, landscape & studio photography. A good applications for the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 can be found in clicking people as subjects.

Aperture – Sigma 50mm f/1.4

Just like other Global Vision lens nomenclature, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is no different. It receives a designation of “A” for Art vs. “C” for Contemporary or “S” for Sports.

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Personally i feel as if the”A” in these lenses depends on the “A”perture. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 goes to a good f/1.4 which means it can give a good shallow DOF. This can be called an “Artsy” effect. Shallow depth of field (DOF) can make the subject pop out by simply turning the background into a strong blur. The effect thus generated is very pleasing to the eyes.

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In addition to blurring generated by the Sigma 50mm f/1.4, the wide aperture allows fast, action-stopping, camera-shake eliminating shutter speeds even in low light. If you can shoot your subject with a narrow DOF then the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 can very well be used in low light HANDHELD! One might argue that pleasing shots can be clicked using a zoom lens at 50mm too. For example lets take the 70-200 f2.8 in consideration. Now f/2.8 aperture requires 4x as much light to get the same shutter speed as an f/1.4 aperture provides and that changes everything. These are the things which can make or break your photograph.

Image Quality – Sigma 50mm f/1.4

The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 was prophesied to have a great image quality, way before it was even launched. Was this promise delivered?

At f/1.4, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is quite sharp in the center of the frame with slowly slightly increasing softness toward the borders of the image circle. Yet, for full frame, the corners are nicely sharp even at this wide open aperture. A slight improvement can be seen at the center while at f/2 and even corners are sharper at this aperture. Extreme sharpness can be found throughout the frame at f2.8.

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You will no doubt notice about-2.5 stops of peripheral shading in full frame corners at f/1.4 in the Sigma 50mm f/1.4. But this is still 1 stop lesser than Canon 50mm lenses and Zeiss Otus 55. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 handles vignetting like a boss. It is reduced to 1 stop at f/2 and about 0.4 stop at f/2.8. This news is better served to APS-C users as with a smaller sensor size, the vignetting and softening will be much less too! Distortion in the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is negligible. Overall the image delivered are very satisfactory. CA (Chromatic Aberration) is well controlled in the Sigma 50mm f/1.4. Though one can notice bokeh CA in some images. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 also handles flare well. All in all the lens has a great glass set within and it shows in the images clicked with it.

The Sigma 50mm Art Lens is constructed with a 9-bladed aperture and delivers circular bokeh. It almost rains bokeh at wide apertures.

Focusing – Sigma 50mm f/1.4

As made evident by the “HSM’ in the name of this lens, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 comes with Sigma’s premium Hypersonic Motor-driven AF system. This AF system is extremely quiet with a odd click or two being heard while focusing.  Focus speed is good, being faster in bright light compared to low light scenario. Focusing is internal thus you can easily use CPL filters with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4. Also it I should mention that the thread on Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is 77mm. Filters for this lens won’t come cheap.

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The single toggel switch on the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 also makes it easy to switch between auto focusing and Manual Focusing.

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The  focus ring on the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is nicely-sized, ideally positioned and, easy to find. The focus ring on the Art lens is smooth and has decent resistance. It is worth mentioning that there was no play in the copy of lens that we got from Sigma.

With an MFD (minimum Focus Distance) of 15.7″ or 400mm, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 has an MM (Maximum Magnification) of 0.18x. This is how this measures up with the competition:

Model MFD MM
Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens 11.8″ (300mm) 0.19x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens 17.7″ (450mm) 0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens 17.7″ (450mm) 0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Lens 17.7″ (450mm) 0.15x
Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Macro Lens 9.1″ (230mm) 0.50x
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens 18.0″ (457mm) 0.15x
Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Lens 17.7″ (450mm) 0.15x
Nikon 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Lens 17.7″ (450mm) 0.15x
Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Lens 18.0″ (457mm) 0.15x
Nikon 58mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens 22.8″ (580mm) 0.13x
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens 15.7″ (400mm) 0.18x
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Lens 17.1″ (434mm) 0.14x
Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro Lens 7.5″ (190mm) 1.00x
Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Planar T* ZE Lens 17.7″ (450mm) 0.15x
Zeiss 50mm f/2.0 Makro-Planar T* ZE Lens 9.4″ (240mm) 0.50x
Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T* ZE Lens 19.7″ (500mm) 0.14x

This focal length and MFD/MM are good enough for medium-small product images, close-ups of large flowers and tight head-shot portraits.

Build Quality & Features – Sigma 50mm f/1.4

The design if the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is not an innovative one for sure. Sigma borrowed the basic design of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 from the same class of lenses. The 35mm lens from Sigma shares quite a similar design as well. This is however a good thing. If you have used one of these Sigma lenses earlier, you would feel right at home. All of Sigma’s Global Vision lenses all have an awesome, classy, high-end look and feel. This goes for the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 too. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Lens construction is of a “Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) material, along with traditional metals. The lens feels sturdy and there is zilch play. The lens hood provides for good protection and remains compact when fit in a reverse position.

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The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 HSM Art lens is missing an annotation in its name. The missing “OS” means that this lens does not come with Optical Stabilization. It is widely believed that wide aperture lenses especially at 50mm do not need OS but that does not stop me from wanting it. A lot many of my handheld low-light shots would have come out much better had the lens had OS. Also that would have kept the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 on top of its competition.

Another thing missing from the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is weather sealing. It is supposed to be “Splash proof” but it would be better to not take it out on a rainy day.

Image Samples – Sigma 50mm f/1.4

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Price and Summary – Sigma 50mm f/1.4

When Sigma announced the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 it had hinted the price to be well over a lakh rupees. But when the lens for finally launched at around Rs 70k, we were pleased. Mind you, this price is certainly not cheap from any perspective. But, with the image quality of this lens and the wide aperture, this is as good as it gets. Everything about this lens is worth its price.

The Sigma 50 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens is available in Canon, Nikon, Sony/Minolta and Sigma mounts.

Currently the lens is priced at Rs 62,799 on Amazon India.