Sigma recently announced nine prime lenses coming to their Art lens lineup for Sony E-mount shooters. We got to test out the new Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, an update to the previous Sigma 50mm f/1.4 released in 2014. Here’s what we thought.
What’s in the Box
Like all Sigma lenses, this one comes packed in its own zippered carrying case. It also comes with front and end caps and a lens hood. It’s ready to use right away, although you may want to buy a 77mm UV filter to protect it while in use.
This E-mount lens is designed for full-frame format Sony mirrorless cameras. However, it can also be used with APS-C models (although it will slightly crop the resulting image).
The lens has an aperture range of f/1.4 to f/16. When shooting at the maximum aperture of f/1.4, it produces a shallow depth of field with smooth bokeh, making it great for portraiture.
The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens is made for several camera mounts including Nikon and Canon DSLRs, Sony A-mounts and Sony E-mounts. This lens we tested was made for Sony E-mounts and used with a Sony a7R III.
Look and Feel
Sigma designates this lens as part of its Art series, which means it’s designed for high optical performance in a range of shooting environments.
Off the bat, the lens has a high-quality look and feel to it. Comprised mostly of metal, this lens is big and bulky. While that may be great for those with bigger hands, having a big and heavy lens that only covers a single range may be an issue for some.
This lens worked so flawlessly with the Sony a7R III that it felt like a native lens. With a clear, contrasting point the autofocus is fast and responsive. Sometimes the lens was slower to focus in low light scenarios, but never in such a way that made it unusable. If you need to focus manually, simply flip the switch from AF to MF and use the large focusing ring near the front of the lens.
Images captured with this lens are crisp with excellent, well-saturated colors. Even when shooting wide open at f/1.4, photo subjects are sharp with buttery-smooth bokeh in the background. There isn’t a lot of vignetting either.
The lens appeared to hit critical sharpness at f/8, although shooting at f/2 provides a nice balance of image sharpness and bokeh.
If all third-party lens mounts worked this flawlessly, I doubt photographers would even bother using lens adapters.
What About the Sigma MC-11?
If you’ve recently switched from a DSLR to the Sony mirrorless, you’re probably familiar with the Sigma MC-11 lens adapter. It’s a popular way to use existing DSLR lenses (i.e. the Canon 50mm f/1.4) on Sony cameras. But while the MC-11 has been popular, Sigma is pushing for photographers to adopt native lenses for their camera mounts, including Sigma’s lens options.
Why go for a native mount?
- You can tune the lens to work with each focal length you’re shooting at.
- Focus hunting is minimized.
- Better autofocus including continuous AF, eye AF and face recognition.
- Native mounts work better for video AF.
Why This Lens May Not Be for You
Overall, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens is a winner when it comes to build and image quality. But here are two reasons why it may not work for you.
Firstly, there’s the price. At $949 this is an expensive 50mm lens. By comparison you could get a Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 for $248 or a Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 macro for $498. But fast Sony Zeiss 50mm lenses always come at a high price. The Sony Planar T FE 50mm f/1.4 costs $1,498, while the Sony Zeiss 55 f/1.8 is priced at $998.
So depending on your needs, you may need to budget quite a bit of money for a fast Sony prime lens. But if you’re in the market for a basic nifty fifty, there are much cheaper options.
Secondly, there’s its size and weight. At 1.8 lbs it’s large and bulky, comparable in size to the Sony 24-240mm and the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8. By comparison, the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is only 0.62 lbs and is more compact and portable.
If you’re looking for a compact prime lens that’s easy to travel with, this Sigma lens probably isn’t your best bet.
For photographers set on having a fast 50mm prime lens, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens is a great choice. It’s smaller and more reasonably priced than the Sony 50mm f/1.4 lens, and produces crisp and beautiful images.
However, photographers with a smaller budget, or who want to carry smaller lenses, may want to consider other 50mm options at lower price points in more compact packages.
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