Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art Review

Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art Review

March 22, 2014 /31 comment(s) Gear reviews

Will Chao here, I am a wedding photographer in Melbourne. Welcome to my review of the Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART vs Canon 50mm 1.2. I also threw briefly the old Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX lens and the Canon 50mm F1.8. Before I start, I have to make it clear that I am in no way affiliated with any of these brands and certainly am not being paid to write this review. Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART is henceforth known as S50A

I have used Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX Old version (henceforth known as S50) and the Canon 50mm F1.2L (henceforth known as 50L) quite extensively in the past, but both left something to be desired.

The two lenses are on par when it comes to image quality, with Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM having slight edge when it comes to Bokeh creaminess, which surprised me because it was a 1.4 compared to Canon’s 1.2, but the Bokeh circles have less outlining issues and smoother in general.

However, as someone who is used to the image quality produced by the 70-200 F2.8 IS II, 85mm F1.2 II, as well as the 200mm F2.0 IS, I couldn’t seem to get similar results from the two 50mm’s, especially after being printed (I shoot a lot of times wide open, so wide open sharpness is important to me).

For years, 50mm had been a void in my arsenal that I would have loved to use but hated the image quality, but that is until the announcement of Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART. The lens which is designed to rival even the Otus 55mm F1.4 in image quality terms, let’s see how it measures up against the old 50mm’s.

For a bit of fun I also threw in a $125 50mm F1.8 lens, just to see how they compare.

I am priviledged to have access to a SUPERBLY SHARP copy of the Canon 50mm F1.2L, courtesy of Clarte Photo , so you might recognise a bigger resolution gap between more standard copies.

The images are JPG directly converted from RAW with no processing what-so-ever. White balance is set manually using a grey card (this is important when comparing colours from the lenses because white balance affects it more than you imagine)

All images are shot with the maximum aperture available for the lens, with Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX and Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART  being shot at F1.4, Canon 50mm F1.2 L being shot at F1.2 and the 50mm F1.8 being shot at F1.8

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Will Chao PhotographyThe Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART obvious has the sharpness advantage, I don’t think anybody had any doubts.Melbourne Wedding Photographer Will Chao PhotographyBut does the bokeh live up to the F1.2 hype?

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Will Chao PhotographyI personally don’t notice any colour difference between the Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART and the Canon 50mm F1.2 L, at least nothing major that can’t be fixed easily in post. The Sigma is tad a bit more contrasty (due to the extra sharpness) and more vibrant, it also has +4 magenta tint over the Canon (or Canon has a +4 green tint over the Sigma)

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Will Chao PhotographyMelbourne Wedding Photographer Will Chao PhotographyOnce again, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART has a tad smoother bokeh

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Will Chao Photography

Let’s see what 1.8 vs 1.4 vs 1.2 looks like in terms of background blur.

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art Review

The smoothest bokeh here belongs to the Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART and the Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX, Canon’s are the busiest but what is surprising is how sharp the Canon 50mm F1.8 is, it stands for excellent value in money!

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art ReviewMelbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art ReviewMelbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art Review

Let’s see how the Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART and Canon 50mm F1.2 compare indoors,

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art ReviewMelbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art Review

Another thing I have noticed is that although F1.2 is only 1/3 to 1/2 of a stop faster than F1.4, the exposure difference between both lenses is in fact around 3/4 of a stop, this is likely due to lens coating that may have affected transmission (? need confirmation), but let’s see how it fares against the sun.

EDIT:  This is mostly like a case of F-stop Blues, that once Canon detects its own lens it actually invisibly boosts its ISO to give off the illusion that the lens is brighter.

This is evident when shooting both lenses at F1.4, the Sigma is noticeable darker than the Canon, despite only a 2% difference in T-stop

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art Review

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art ReviewMelbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art Review

I am glad I bought the Sigma 50mm F1.4 ART, and I am very happy to know that I once again have a 50mm that I can trust on location that will produce great results almost all the time!

Below are some more sample photos taken with this lens (these have been post processed)

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art ReviewMelbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art ReviewMelbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art ReviewMelbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art Review

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art Review

Melbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art ReviewMelbourne Wedding Photographer Sigma 50mm F1.4  Art Review

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  • Flávio Sganzerla

    Will, congratulations on your review, the best I’ve seen about the new Sigma 50mm!
    I want to ask you a question that puzzles me, does the old Sigma 50mm lens has better bokeh than the new one?

    • Will

      Thanks Flavio! From my experience, the new lens has slightly better Bokeh

  • Noah Wardrip

    Thanks for the great review and comparisons! Can you please comment on the AF accuracy relative to the Canon 50 1.2? Is it more accurate or similar to the Canon (which, in my experience, is inconsistent/inaccurate even after micro-adjust).

    • Will

      Maybe I am unlucky with Canon lenses but most of my L lenses require calibration, and my only two Sigma lenses (this and the 35 art) require no calibration out of the box

      But Sigma does have the luxury of a USB calibration dock so it should be less of a problem

      • Christoph Jertrum

        what a great review, THANKS. i have the art and have to say, this lens is a reference.
        your review is fantastic and so detailed. pls keep up the great work !

        • Will

          Thank you Christoph!

  • Paul Doran

    Its amazing even with small internet files how much obvious sharper and more contrasty the Sigma is. A real beauty that I am going to use for my dog photography. Thank you!

  • Darryn McKay

    Good review thanks 🙂 Will be adding this lens to my list of gear for weddings soon

  • Steve Hermann

    Well…ok…..I own the Canon 135mm 2.0 & the Canon 50mm 1.2. This is how I see it. I do not think you will get much sharper than the 135mm….I don’t, know maybe I’m wrong…..maybe the Sigma is sharper ….If so, I think that’s great! Here it is, The Sigma 50mm 1.4 & the Canon 50mm 1.2 are pretty much two very different lenses. Each has it’s own use. I don’t know….I think most women would prefer the Canon over the Sigma for most of these photos. I myself do not want to see where the make-up begins and where it ends on a woman’s face. On most all these shots I see, I much prefer the Canon1.2 photos. I may be the only one that says this, but that’s how I see it. Now…..I love a sharp lens as much as the next guy, but for me, there is a time(most of the time) to use a sharp lens & times not so much. I have taken photos with my Canon 50mm 1.2 that are just magical. I keep it at 1.2 to help do this magic. I have seen very cool photos taken with the Sigma & there is no doubt that the Sigma is a fantastic lens, but for anyone to say that ether one of these lenses is better than the other…..well….For me, I would disagree with that for sure. This is why I will have both of these lenses in my arsenal. I know it sounds crazy, but I think I can find great use for both. It will depend on the mood I’m in.

    • Will

      By that logic, 135 is also unsuitable for portraits, because it’s ‘too sharp’

      And neither is the legendary 200mm F2.0 which is even sharper than the Sigma

      Or maybe the 70-200 F2.8 IS II, which in my experience is equivalent to the Sigma in sharpness and is one of the most commonly used portrait lens in the world

      Most women would probably prefer how they look out of a phone selfie than straight out of camera from a professional DSLR, but that doesn’t mean you should discount high quality optics

      You can always soften in post, but you can’t add more detail

      • LordArklon

        You…I like you. Those last two statements are spot on.

    • Haiku Sixtyseven

      “I don’t know” is ok for you

      • Steve Hermann

        It’s all good here!

  • Steve Hermann

    No, That’s not what I’m saying at all…..I am plainly saying I love both the 135 & the 50 1.2 for portraits,….BUT they do two very different things. Most times I need the very sharpest lens poss. and the Canon 135 2.0 is just the ticket. Now sometimes I want a very dreamy look …..that is, certain things on the face that I want blurred…..eyes included. I took a photo of a beautiful girl & the focus point was right on the tip of her nose with the Canon 50mm at 1.2. I moved in fairly close, but not too close for bow distortion. The results was amazing…..well at least for me it was. Her eyes were slightly blurred & that is exactly what I wanted. It was like looking into a dream. Most folks love this photo & I’m sure a lot of folks my not. As for post….I don’t really want to fool with it that much. I know that sounds like a sacrilege to most, but for right now, I want see what I can do without it.

  • Steve Hermann

    Now on the flip side,….here is what the Canon 135mm 2.0 can do. In this photo of me, I wanted to show all…as sharp as poss. I was at a very, very hard time in my life and I wanted to record it in this photo, wrinkles and all…..The lens did it’s job well in my opinion.

    • Refurb7

      The 135mm is not “on the flip side” of anything. It’s not relevant to this comparison at all.

      • Steve Hermann

        Well,…… Maybe I’m wrong, but for some reason I thought we were talking about the sharpness of the Art 50mm. So….. Let’s talk sharp! I have the Art 50mm 1.4. I love this lens for many reasons, not just for sharpness. …… Well? ….. I love the rest of my lens arsenal too. They all do different things for me. So since I myself am talking about sharpness of the Art 50mm,… why is it that I cannot or should not compare this lens to any other lens in the realm of sharpness. What the hell is your beef about that? Please respond! I really want to know just why it is not relevant?

        • Thomas

          It’s not relevant for a very simple reason – those are two very different lenses and both have their own place and use. No one ever decides between 50 and 135, at least not solely in terms of sharpness. Sure, you can decide if you need a 50 or 135, but then you should compare against other lenses in that particular range. What does it matter if 135 is sharper or not if you need a portrait lens for your studio? I’d really love to see you shoot that 135 in tight spaces if you need to see more than just the head.

  • Interesting,I am planning to get one of this.

  • Jonathan

    Hi Will, Thanks for the review! I appears that possibly the 50L is backfocusing slightly (focus appears to be on the bridge/tip of the models nose). I realize that for the bokeh that observation (which is possibly wrong on my part) is immaterial but for sharpness and detail up close it definitely seems relevant. It seemed to jump out at me with the very first image comparison. Does this seem to be the case for you?

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  • Ingrid

    Awesome review! I’ve been drooling over the Canon 50mm f/1.2 for a long time, but since I started checking out online reviews, and yours in particular, I think the Sigma is the way to go for me. Such sharpness! Ah, the beauty.

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  • Chad Barnier

    Great article! Thanks 🙂

  • Vàrun HariSharma

    Great review!!! Really informative

  • Poppy

    50L is still better… nice try sigma!