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Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A review

A big and heavy lens for sure, but this excellent optic shoots super sharply even when wide-open

(Image: © Future)

Digital Camera World Verdict

It’s not small or subtle, but the optical quality of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A more than makes up for it. This is a simply excellent standard prime lens, perfect for general-purpose photography, delivering great results across the board. Despite being a few years old it still stands up alongside its contemporaries thanks to a sophisticated internal optical construction – and autofocus is fast and consistently accurate, too.

Pros

  • +

    Near-faultless image quality

  • +

    Speedy, reliable autofocus

Cons

  • -

    Big and bulky

  • -

    No weather seals

Sigma’s previous 50mm lens was renowned as being a heavyweight but the replacement ‘Art’ edition piles on the pounds. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | A, to give the lens its full title, gains 50 per cent in length from the previous model and rises in weight from 505g to 815g. As such, it’s one of the outright largest lenses of its class and focal length. At 100mm, it’s almost exactly twice as long as Canon’s 50mm f/1.4 lens (opens in new tab), for instance.

The main reason for the Art lens’s weight gain is that it has a much more complex and sophisticated optical path than its predecessor, based on 13 rather than eight elements. These include one complex aspherical element and three SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements. The overall aim is to deliver excellent sharpness and contrast, while also keeping colour fringing, distortion and vignetting to a minimum. 

Build quality feels superb throughout. The focus ring operates very smoothly although it doesn’t quite have the tactile fluidity of something like a manual-focus Zeiss Milvus lens. When speed is of the essence you can count on the Sigma’s autofocus system being very fast and consistently accurate. More and more of Sigma’s latest Global Vision lenses are now featuring weather-seals but, as one of the first off the blocks back in 2014, this lens isn’t one of them.

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

Perhaps the most impressive facet of this lens is how sharp it is when shooting wide-open at f/1.4. It even beats the (very sharp) Canon 35mm f/2 lens (opens in new tab) for wide-open sharpness, despite the latter having a narrower maximum aperture. It’s almost a distortion-free lens and both colour fringing and vignetting are minimal. Overall, performance is simply fabulous.

The lens comes complete with a soft padded case for secure transportation, as well as a hood for keeping out stray light and controlling reflections. One thing that’s worth noting is that, as with other f/1.4 Art lenses, there’s no image stabiliser, so it pays to be careful with shutter speeds when using the lens handheld.

Read more:

Best Canon lenses in 2019 (opens in new tab)

Best wide-angle lenses for Canon (opens in new tab)

Best Canon telephoto lenses in 2019 (opens in new tab)

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Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 


His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 


In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.