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Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX DG HSM


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#1 +mrk

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Posted 13 July 2011 - 07:25

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Hey everyone,

I've had this lens a week~ now and feel I have used it enough to post a review on it and say a few words on whether it is worth the extra cash (£379) over the standard Canon and Nikon 50mm 1.8 lenses which cost less than half that.

I've been a 50mm 1.8 users for many years now and it's always been a good lens to have in the bag, the depth of field is excellent as is the low light capabilities, as you'd expect from a prime lens really.

The Sigma 50mm 1.4 EX DG HSM has a lot of acronyms after the name but all you need to know is how it compares to the cheaper prime lenses out there and how it feels to use, no? :D

Build quality & Design
Immediately out of the box the build quality grabs your attention. It's not a textured matte finish like some other Sigma lenses (24-70 2.8 EX DG, for example) but is still matte and tough to the touch/tap. The weight will catch you off guard as well because it has some heft to it. smaller bodies like the Nikon D40~/Canon 450/550D series etc will been weighed down at the front but it's quite well balanced as it's a short lens, just pretty fat.

The front of the lens is completely plain, I really like this and it's something Nikon have used for ages. It gives a more professional and clean look and it stops people from attempting to read the writing when you're taking their picture :p

It comes with a good quality hood but the lens cap can be easily knocked off if you catch the end of the pinch release on something, some kind of recess at the end would have been good but you can also buy 3rd party caps on eBay for little money and use them instead I guess. The inclusion of a hood is excellent as canon only bundle hoods with L lenses and want you to pay £20+ for one on anything less.

It also comes with a very nice padded zip top pouch should you wish to carry it around in your rucksack with other kit and so on.

Technical comparison vs Canon 50mm 1.8 mkII
I have used the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 AF-D lens on the D300 before and found it to be better than the Canon 50mm 1.8 mk II but only slightly. I don't have that to hand any more so this comparison will go directly with the Canon lens.

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(size compared to the Canon 50mm 1.8 mkII on the right)

Sharpness:
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At 1.8, the Sigma is not only sharper but the bokeh is smoother as well. CA and flaring is also better controlled although these can be fixed in editing later anyway.


Image Quality & Bokeh!
The above sharpness test is something I don't normally like to do because all lenses of the same model can differ slightly, some are sharper than others but for piece of mind I wanted to know that mine wasn't faulty or anything as some older forum posts on other sites said they had sharpness and focus issues. mine has no such issue, maybe Sigma fixed this I don't know. Either way though you have a 3 year warranty so all should be good :)

At 1.4 you can get some very sharp results but it all goes down to how steady your hands are because if you move an inch then the depth of field will be off and you'll lose focus. Such is the way with wide aperture lenses :p Below are some examples I shot during the first few days:


Let's move on to some real world examples of what this lens is capable of when you get composition and exposure exactly how you want it:

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(shot from a moving car at f/2)

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Final Thoughts
Paying the extra premium for this lens over the 1.8 counterparts or even the 1.4 competition (Canon 50 1.4 USM as an example) does provide some benefits but I guess at the end of the day. The Sigma has better flare and CA control over both canon 1.4 and 1.8 50mm primes but then again it should do as it's much newer technology. It is sharper at the same apertures and the bokeh is far nicer at the same apertures as well but the best thing is that the widest aperture of f/1.4 is still very sharp and provides an excellent opportunity to be creative with your images and give them that extra punch to make subjects stand out.

not only that but it looks damn cool on whatever body it's attached to ;)

Whatever lens you buy though I would seriously recommend /a/ 50mm prime to everyone who owns a DSLR. These lenses force you to be creative and move to get the shot instead of standing there zooming in and out. Of course have other lenses but there's quite nothing like a fifty!


#2 Cereal Bawks

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 09:36

What camera do you use it on? A FF or a crop? Because if you're recommending the 50mm Sigma on a FF, you should also mention their 30mm F1.4 lens, which gives the same effective focal length on a crop.

Personally, I'd find 50mm on a crop, i.e. 80mm effective, pretty limiting and annoying.

#3 OP +mrk

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 09:52

I'm on a Canon 1.6x body so yes it's 80mm but it's a perfect lens for portrait photography which is exactly the reason many people get one on a crop body too.

#4 Winston

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 09:54

What camera do you use it on? A FF or a crop? Because if you're recommending the 50mm Sigma on a FF, you should also mention their 30mm F1.4 lens, which gives the same effective focal length on a crop.

Personally, I'd find 50mm on a crop, i.e. 80mm effective, pretty limiting and annoying.


Agreed with that, 50mm on a crop is always a bit odd for me, but now I'm on an FF, and this Sigma is delicious, I love this lens. Also agree with regards to the 30mm counter part, I had that lens previously when I had my 7D, it was great as well, damn light compared to the 50mm, but produced excellent IQ and bokeh as well.

All in all, the 30mm and 50mm f1.4's from sigma, are the champion primes for the bang for buck.

I guess one of my only down falls with the 50mm is poor QA, mine has a slight back focussing issue, but luckily a bit of micro-adjustment on the camera did it for me, but for people who are on bodies that don't allow micro-adjustment, it's a PIA to bring it back to a sigma dealer to have it recalibrated.

#5 OP +mrk

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 10:00

Sigma's QC is hit and miss yeah but luckily I've not encountered a problem although I do have a Sigma dealer local so the 3 years warranty will be well covered.

#6 richardsim7

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:31

Wouldn't it be better compared to the similarly priced Canon 50mm f/1.4? :s

#7 Steve B.

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:33

Wouldn't it be better compared to the similarly priced Canon 50mm f/1.4? :s


I guess that its compared to that one because that's what he has :p

#8 OP +mrk

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:33

I only have the 1.8 to compare to at the moment although the image quality improvements are still the same because the Canon 50mm 1.4 and 1.8 mkII lenses have comparable image quality. Slight difference in bokeh smoothness but IQ/Flaring and CA are almost the same.

The Sigma is better than them both.

There isn't really a comparable price 50mm to the Sigma either. The Canon 1.4 is £275 so over £100 cheaper still.

#9 richardsim7

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:42

Hmm this has me intrigued. I've been meaning to get a 50mm for my 7D (but not sure if I want 35mm because of the crop factor) but I guess the 50mm could be used as a portait lens... :)

#10 OP +mrk

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 11:53

Don't let the crop put you off because you won't have to get a 50 down the line when you go full frame either and then sell the 30 or 35 :)

I use the 50 exclusively for portraits and closeups where I want that creamy bokeh!

#11 richardsim7

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Posted 17 July 2011 - 15:38

Found it for £350 - tempted :p