Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Review

Of all the focal lengths in photography, 50mm likely has the most lens options out of any. Whether you shoot full frame or APS-C, there’s dozens of 50mm lenses out there.

In this particular article, we’ll be looking at the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art. Although originally released for DSLRs, Sigma eventually modified it to be compatible with Sony’s mirrorless system.

So, in such a competitive focal length, how does this lens compare? Let’s find out.

Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?

Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art

- Incredible image quality

- Built like a tank

- Good AF (though not flawless)

- Good mid-budget option

- Very large and heavy

street in taipei at night
Is this mid-budget Sigma better than its competitors?

Build Quality

Size & Weight

So, first up let’s talk about size and weight. Unlike some of the other DG HSM lenses I’ve reviewed, this 50mm manages to stay reasonably sized.

It measures a length of roughly 3.9 inches (9.9cm) and weighs a chunky 28.7oz (815g). So, although it is rather heavy, it isn’t comically huge like some of Sigma’s converted DSLR lenses.

Still, it’s massive compared to a smaller alternative like the manual Voigtlander 50mm F2.0 or the Sony 50mm F1.8. This definitely isn’t the kind of nifty fifty you can just slip into your pocket.

From what I understand, it seems like Sigma took the DSLR version of the lens and just attached a built-in adapter. So that partially explains why it’s so big compared to many other 50mm options.

Is the lens well-built?

So it’s extremely heavy, so that must mean it’s built well, right? It sure is!


The barrel, being entirely made out of metal, feels great in the hand.

The glass elements in this thing are heavy-duty. I obviously didn’t disassemble it to take a closer look, but you can just tell by holding the lens that the entire thing is just spectacularly built.

Hood & Accessories

The petal-shaped lens hood is plastic, but absolutely does NOT feel cheap. It’s reversible for easy storage and has a great grippy surface for easy removal.

Something to note, however, is that the lens hood adds a LOT of extra length (a couple inches).

As an extra touch, a lens case comes included. While this may seem minor, it really shows that Sigma views this as a premium product that is worth protecting.

lens hood with sigma 50mm f1.4
As you can see, the lens hood adds a good bit of extra length (it is reversible for storage, however).

Weather Sealing

Unfortunately, despite all this other great stuff, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 is not weather sealed.

This is rather surprising given that it’s such a large and pricey lens.

Built to last?

So is the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM lens built to last?

I’d say absolutely. The only thing that concerns me is the lack of weather sealing. Otherwise, it’s built like a tank.


Ergonomically, this lens is, once again, quite heavy. However, I still found that it was fairly comfortable to use on a long shooting session. I’m not sure I’d lug this thing up a mountain with me, but for quick photoshoots it’s great.

With bigger lenses like this, I generally have one hand on the camera and one hand on the lens. It balances decently well on my Sony a7iii, even if it is a bit front-heavy.


As for aesthetics, I find this thing to be gorgeous. Looks are subjective of course, but this lens gives me such a premium vibe.

The barrel features a couple of different shades of sleek dark gray, contrasting incredibly well with the minimal, white text engravings.

You have some small “Sigma” branding near the bottom, a grayed-out serial number, and of course the iconic Sigma “A”. The distance scale looks fantastic, and the AF/MF switch protrudes from the barrel a bit but still looks nice and unobtrusive.

Image Quality


Next up, we’re going to talk about sharpness. The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM is a few years old, but it still delivers great results.

Do note that my lens tests don’t tend to get very scientific. I typically just pixel peep, so don’t expect any sort of MTF graphs or anything along those lines.

Wide Open

When shooting wide open, we see exceptional center sharpness with only a little bit of minor fall-off near the corners.

More than excellent for any portrait-related needs. You don’t always need razor sharp corners.

Stopped Down

Although performance wide open is already great, stopping down makes the lens shine just a little bit more.

At F2.8, any remaining corner softness is evened out, and we see fabulous performance from edge-to-edge.

taipei taiwan skyline
Sharpness is pretty great wide open, but it really shines when stopped down slightly.

Optical Quirks & Flaws

Alright, so the Sigma 50mm F1.4 is absolutely razor sharp, but how does it handle optical flaws such as distortion, vignette, CA, and flaring?


First off, distortion was virtually non-existent.

Some 50mm lenses suffer from a bit of barrel and pincushion distortion, but the Sigma doesn’t struggle at all.


Vignette, on the other hand, is very strong when shooting wide open, but stopping down even to just F2 completely remedies it.

I could see this being an issue if you’re trying to shoot in a very low-light environment, as fixing the vignette in post may introduce extra digital noise. Really though, it’s mostly not a problem.

man on motorcycle
Vignette can be a bit of an issue when shooting wide open, but it’s easily remedied by stopping down slightly.

Chromatic Aberrations

Although chromatic aberrations are largely well controlled, fringing can show up when shooting high-contrast situations such as tree branches or subjects against bright skies.

In most cases, they were not noticeable. When aberrations did show up, I was able to usually remedy it in post-processing with a couple of clicks.

Flare Resistance

Finally, flare resistance is absolutely top notch.

Even when shooting directly into the sun, there was minimal ghosting or loss of contrast. If you’re shooting backlit portraits, this lens will get the job done.


Bokeh is a very subjective topic, but a 50mm F1.4 has to have lovely bokeh, right? You betcha!

There’s great subject isolation, and the bokeh is incredibly strong when you’re close to your subject.

With that being said, it can start to get a little “chaotic” in transitional (bokeh to in-focus) parts of images.

Other than that, I didn’t find any sort of warping or “cats-eye” distortions near the corners.

Overall Optical Performance

So yeah, over the years we’ve come to expect nothing but excellent performance out of Sigma’s lenses, and the 50mm F1.4 is certainly no exception.

Sharpness is spectacular and, despite a bit of vignette, optical anomalies are very well controlled.

Bokeh, of course, is absolutely gorgeous.

Already interested in checking it out?
Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art
The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art offers excellent performance at a mid-budget price tag.
inside of taipei train
Overall sharpness and image quality are quite fantastic, as we’ve come to expect from Sigma’s lenses over the years.

Focusing & Other Notes

Quality Control Issues

Now, before we move on, just one more note: quality control.

While my copy of the lens was flawless, I’ve heard of other users getting duds that have focus issues.

If you order this lens, I would highly suggest taking it out for some extensive and difficult testing (high contrast, low light, high-speed action) to see how the AF is working.

For what it’s worth, it looks like most of these reviews came from owners of the Canon & Nikon versions, so it’s possible that Sony users wouldn’t be affected thanks to our generally superior AF system.

Either way, if you have problems with that lens, I’d consider contacting Sigma directly and discussing a replacement (or return).


Anywho, next up, let’s focus on focusing! I generally don’t dig too deep into autofocus, as most modern lenses provide more than satisfactory results.

Stills AF

I got what I expected out of the Sigma: autofocus that is quick enough, reliable, and rarely hunted (some issues in low light). The focusing motor is whisper quiet, as the HSM (“hyper-sonic motor”) marketing lingo implies.

Those who use filters (77mm thread by the way) will be happy to know that all focusing is done internally, thus the front element doesn’t rotate when refocusing.

The lens works well with Sony’s special AF modes, tracking subjects easily with AF-C (continuous AF) and almost always nailing EyeAF perfectly.

Video AF

Video AF performed similarly, nailing accurate focus relatively quickly with very little hunting.

Plus, as I mentioned before, the focusing is dead silent (and doesn’t suffer from focus breathing).

Overall, quite satisfied with the autofocus. It works as well as I’d expect and there are no surprises.

Manual Focus

My fellow manual focus enthusiasts will be delighted to know that this lens offers a great MF experience.

First of all, the focus ring is absolutely gigantic. There’s a full-time manual override, so simply spinning the lens will turn off the AF system, but there’s also a dedicated switch as well.

The ring feels well-dampened but has an incredibly short focus throw, which is great for quick refocusing but can make it a bit hard to get super precise focus.

The lens works flawlessly with Sony’s excellent focus assists such as peaking and magnifier. The focus scale, although I rarely physically look down at it, can be super helpful for “set and forget” type shooting.

Overall, super pleased with the MF experience. Although not quite comparable to a dedicated manual lens, it’s still one of the best manual rings I’ve used on an AF lens.

My Final Thoughts


Finally, before we finish out the review, I want to touch on a few alternatives (there are many).

Do note that these alternatives will be all across different price ranges. I’ve listed two autofocus lenses (cheap and expensive) along with two manual focus lenses (also cheap and expensive).

Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM

This is the lens you go for if you want the absolute best with zero compromises.

The Sony FE 50mm F1.2 GM is an absolute monster of a lens. It’s razor-sharp, built like a tank and it’s F1.2.

Expect incredibly fast focus, unmatched image quality, and, unfortunately, a steep price tag. If you can afford to drop thousands of dollars on a lens, go with the Sony G-Master every time.

Sony FE 50mm F1.8

If you’re looking for something a lot cheaper and smaller, consider the Sony FE 50mm F1.8.

It won’t be quite as clinically sharp, but it’ll get the job done. Expect slightly slower autofocus and iffy build quality, but a much lower size and pricetag.

Voigtlander 50mm F2.0

Looking for some premium glass instead? Consider the Voigtlander 50mm F2.0.

In a league of its own, the Voigtlander is entirely manual focus, but offers spectacular sharpness and (especially) build quality.

It’s quite expensive but think of it as the Gucci of camera lenses.

Meike 50mm F1.7

Finally, if you’re looking for a very budget option, consider the Meike 50mm F1.7 (link to my review).

Although it is manual focus, this dirt cheap little lens offers surprisingly great optical performance.

I’ve personally owned a few lenses from Meike and, while low-budget, they’ve typically surpassed my expectations.

traffic in taipei
This Sigma is an absolute beast.


So, with all these great alternatives, is the Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM still worth picking up? Honestly, I’d say so.

It offers a great mix of premium build and great image quality while still managing to stay relatively affordable. If you don’t want a “low-budget” lens but also don’t want to spring for a G-Master, this Sigma is a fantastic compromise between the two.

If you’re interested in picking it up for yourself, I’ve left a purchase link below. Thank you for reading. 🙂

A Razor Sharp Mid-Budget Lens
Sigma 50mm F1.4 Art
The Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art is an excellent lens that combines razor sharp images, a heavy-duty build, and a nice price tag. A great mid-budget lens.

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