Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM | A Lens review: Sigma's winning portrait lens

The lens has the same design as the other fixed-focal-length lenses in the Art series: a simple, sturdy, all-metal construction with a comfortable rubberized focus ring and distance readout, plus a switch for manual/autofocus. Lots of folks have compared it to the Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4 -- a fabulous lens to be sure, but far more expensive at close to $4,000, and it's almost twice the length not to mention somewhat heavier. I also like it better than the Canon 50mm f1.2L, which costs about $600 more (note, that's a subjective preference). I haven't tested Nikon's 50mm competitors, and as I was testing I couldn't help wishing I had a Nikon-mount version to see how it fared with an OLPF-free sensor in addition to my tests of the Canon-mount version with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

Mount Sigma, Nikon FX, Canon EF, Sony A
Focal range 50mm
Aperture range f1.4 - f16
Minimum focus distance 40 cm / 15.7 in
Angle of view 46.8 degrees
Aperture blades 9
Elements 13 elements
Filter diameter 77mm
Minimum length 3.9 in/99 mm
Maximum length 3.9 in/99 mm
Weight 28.7 oz/815 g
MSRP $949
Availablity late April 2014

At f1.4, the lens delivers excellent sharpness, though unsurprisingly it seems to perform best in the f1.8-to-f11 range. There's little distortion, I saw no vignetting, and it has nice clarity. There's some tendency to aberration at the widest apertures and softness at its narrowest, but marginal improvements in those areas make lenses more expensive.

Yeah, I wish it had image stabilization and weather sealing; I wish all lenses for OIS-based systems had it. But as a great-performing portrait lens for less than $1,000 -- and with its characteristics, it would immediately improve a good APS-C dSLR as well -- it's seriously worth considering.

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