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Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM review

Is bigger better for 50mm prime lenses?

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
The Sigma provides great illumination to shots

Our Verdict

Tested side-by-side alongside the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 on a D700 body, the Sigma produced similar resolution levels throughout the aperture range. The results looked perhaps slightly crisper at wider apertures with some shots, but not with others – the depth of field is so limited that it's difficult to rule out tiny focussing variations


  • Solid build
  • Excellent images


  • Expensive

What a whopper! Sigma's 50mm f/1.4 is twice the size and weight of other similar lenses and has a colossal front element promising superior peripheral brightness (reduced corner shading) and improved contrast at wider lens apertures.

The finish and the controls are rock-solid. This is one area where the independent lens makers like Sigma are every bit as good as camera-makers' own lenses, and sometimes better.

Sigma's HSM autofocus motors aren't quite as quiet as Canon and Nikon's, but the differences are small. You get full-time manual focus override, and the focus movement has a smooth, if slightly heavy feel.

The distance scale is very clear and there are depth of field index markers for f/8 and f/16. It would be better if there were markers for wider apertures, too.

This is a good, solid, top-quality lens, but there is both a weight and price premium to be paid.

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Rod Lawton is Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography magazines, including Digital Camera, N-Photo, PhotoPlus, Professional Photography, Photography Week and Practical Photoshop.