Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM Review

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This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM prime lens that was announced on March 18, 2008 for Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony and FourThirds DSLR cameras. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is a professional-grade lens for enthusiasts and pros that need a high quality lens for portraiture and everyday photography. Its large aperture of f/1.4 is great for low-light photography and the shallow depth of field helps isolate subjects from the background, beautifully rendering background highlights, also known as bokeh. Unlike cheaper DX lenses, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is designed to work on both APS-C / DX and full-frame / FX sensors from many current DSLR manufacturers, including Nikon and Canon.

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM

The lens rivals other fast 50mm primes such as the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and with a price point of around $500, it is one of the few third party lenses that is actually more expensive than branded versions. Is the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 better than other Nikon 50mm primes? How does it perform wide open and when stopped down? How does it handle? In this review, I will do my best to answer these and other questions you may have and will show you samples from the lens, with comparisons against the Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and the new Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lenses.

Sigma Sample #10

NIKON D3S + 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/1.4

What does the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 offer to the already saturated market of excellent 50mm lenses from every DSLR manufacturer? For many years the focal length of 50mm lenses was considered a “standard” or “normal” focal length, because it closely resembles the perspective of the human eye. These lenses were widely popular on film cameras and the focal length was ideal for portraiture and everyday photography. As digital SLRs and zoom lenses started taking over the market, popularity of 50mm primes also decreased. The smaller size of APS-C sensors made the field of view of 50mm lenses narrower, while the flexibility of zoom lenses and their low price drove the demand towards convenience. Now that full frame digital cameras are getting more and more affordable, the once forgotten 50mm lenses are regaining their popularity among many photographers. Seeing this trend, some manufacturers including Nikon have been updating and renewing their 50mm lens lines. Sigma, being a third party lens manufacturer for many brands, introduced their flagship Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM in 2008 and has been marketing it as a higher-quality f/1.4 lens with better characteristics than most branded 50mm f/1.4 lenses.

What is so special about the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens? When compared to other 50mm lenses, it has some characteristics of high-end professional lenses. First, it is currently the only 50mm lens on the market with a massive 77mm filter size. Compare that to Nikon’s 50mm f/1.4G and f/1.8G lenses that have a 58mm filter thread. Even Canon’s expensive 50mm f/1.2L USM lens has a smaller 72mm filter thread. Second, it has an ultra-fast Hyper-Sonic Motor (HSM) that allows the lens to focus about twice faster than Nikon’s 50mm f/1.4G. Third, it is a large and heavy lens weighing 505 grams, which can help balance the lens with a DSLR body better. Fourth, the lens does not extend or rotate like some other 50mm prime lenses. And finally, the 9-blade diaphragm renders circular background highlights, which look more natural and pleasing than heptagon-shaped highlights on 7-blade diaphragm lenses. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM works and autofocuses on all new FX/DX and older Nikon DSLRs.

Sigma Sample #3

NIKON D700 + 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, ISO 360, 1/800, f/2.5

1) Lens Specifications

Main Features:

  1. Designed for use with full frame and APS-C sensor digital cameras.
  2. Designed with molded glass aspherical lens elements for superior corrections of chromatic aberration & high image quality at all working distances
  3. HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) ensures a quiet & high-speed autofocus
  4. 9 blade diaphragm creates a pleasant out-of-focus- effect on backgrounds

Technical Specifications:

  1. Mount Type: Sigma, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax and Four Thirds
  2. Focal Length: 50mm
  3. Maximum Aperture: f/1.4
  4. Minimum Aperture: f/16
  5. Lens Construction: 8 Elements in 6 Groups
  6. Angle of View: 46.8º
  7. Number of Diaphragm Blades: 9
  8. Minimum Focusing Distance: 45cm/17.7in
  9. Filter Size (mm): 77
  10. Maximum Magnifications: 1:7.4
  11. Dimensions (Diameter x Length): 84.5×68.2mm/3.3×2.7in
  12. Weight: 505g/17.8oz.
  13. A lens hood, front & rear lens caps and carrying case are included with the lens

Detailed specifications for the lens, along with MTF charts and other useful data can be found in our lens database.

Sigma Sample #6

NIKON D700 + 50mm f/1.4 @ 50mm, ISO 320, 1/4, f/8.0

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