Fstoppers Reviews the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art for Sony E

Fstoppers Reviews the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art for Sony E

Today I’ll be talking about the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art lens for Sony E mount. As with my prior review of the 35mm version, I will be going over the topics that are relevant to me which are sharpness, focusing, bokeh, and usability.

First and foremost, the Art line has been available for some time but is being released currently for Sony E. This is exciting news for Sony owners as this opens up options for adapterless usage of more than just the Sony branded lenses which are often Zeiss optics and great quality but also higher priced.

AF Differences

The biggest question I have received about these native E mount Art lenses has been: is it the same Art lens we’ve had for years with an embedded MC-11 adapter, or is it redesigned internals for the new mount, taking into account the heavy usage of things like Sony’s eye AF?

The information I have been given in regards to that question is as follows:

• The Sony FF E-mount lenses are compatible with AF-C (continuous AF) — which is different from when Canon and Sigma mount lenses are used with the MC-11 where on AF-S (single shot).

• AF works with Video shoot with E-mount lenses — which is different when MC-11 is used…. then only MF.

• As for the performance, the native mounts provide much smoother and quieter AF especially in AF-C and video mode.

I had suspected this would be the case, since it has taken quite some time for the full line of Art lenses to become available for Sony. If it was simply a mount adapter or conversion, they would have been able to release all of them very quickly but I did want to confirm this before making a statement regarding it.

AF Review

This lens — like the 35mm — focuses well and accurately. The one primary difference I saw with the 50mm is that in extreme low light situation, it hunted some and would give false confirmation. Now I do want to be clear that it was in almost complete darkness, in any type of reasonable and usable lighting situation it worked as expected and I have no complaints.

The eye autofocus worked exceptionally well on this lens with a near 100% hit rate, hardly ever did it miss. As advertised by the specs the AF is quick and silent. Perhaps too quiet, I've become accustomed to hearing a lens focus and knowing it was working and this one is so quiet you almost wonder if you accidentally hit the manual focus switch. I experienced very good quality on the AF for this lens. 

Physical Specs

The most important physical spec on any Art lens and this is no exception, is that it’s big. No question, it’s large, heavy at 28.7oz and I don’t care. It feels high quality in hand and as I have mentioned before that makes me feel like I am holding something nice even though that’s obviously not quantifiable.

A metal lens or a plastic lens have very different feel in hand, and truthfully if you dropped either on concrete they are probably going to break the glass anyway, so there’s not really a special durability reason that the better build is desirable, other than maybe minor bumps in a bag or perhaps general wear on moving parts like a focus ring. The Sigma Art is built very well and definitely feels high end. Much more so actually than the cheap plastic feeling I have seen with the Nikon lenses, such as the 58mm G.

The lens has 13 elements in 8 groups, with a 9 blade rounded diaphragm. Minimum focusing distance is around 15 inches, which for my needs works well for the focal length.

Sharpness and Detail

Sharpness is exactly what we all know and expect from the Art line, as it has been one of Sigma’s strong suits for some time now. Even rivaling and in some cases outperforming the legendary Zeiss Otus for sharpness.

Obviously with that history of the optical performance from the Art line, this does not come as surprise to me and of course given some AF changes and mount change I did expect the sharpness to not change from the Art line’s venerable DSLR counterparts.

Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art, with real sun. Showing the ability to handle the flare as well as color and sharpness while keeping the ability to focus perfectly.

Bokeh and Falloff

Perhaps the biggest thing for me is the character of a lens, the falloff, out of focus areas, and how they are rendered is at least as important as technical sharpness to me if not more important.

Falloff and rendering example from close focus with the Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art.

Sigma’s critics often complain about the bokeh and character, stating they are too clinical looking. I personally have not had that experience and I am quite picky about those types of details.

The theory going around has been that because of all the extra elements and glass inside these beasts which is made to remove flaws such as fringing, that the tradeoff is the character is lost because some of that character comes from the very flaws that were removed. Perhaps there is a small degree of this, if you were extreme bokeh testing against a bunch of lights you may see some difference in the smoothness of the bokeh while zoomed in to 1200%. But I do not test like this on gear, I test the gear in a real world environment on what I produce for my customers and at the end of the day, what really matters is how does it actually work for the job at hand.

What I can say in regard to the character is that in my real world usage there is zero problem with it or rendering etc. This lens holds up to any Zeiss, Nikon, or Canon lens I’ve ever used.

What I Liked

  • Sharpness is excellent
  • Color and contrast are good, even in back-lit situations, however this isn't as big of a thing for me as I color grade most of my work pretty heavily to suit my style
  • Incredibly quiet focusing
  • The size. Yes I know most people think the large size of the Art line as a negative thing, it doesn't bother me a bit and if anything I feel like I have something quality in my hands. Of course, as mentioned before, that's not quantifiable but size means nothing to me. A tourist carrying it around, maybe size is a concern, but for a professional looking for quality images it's a complete non-issue.

What I Didn't Like

Finding things to dislike about this lens is tough, I plan to use a 50mm Art very heavily in my normal work. The focusing accuracy in very dark conditions isn't quite as accurate as the 35mm Art was, be we are really splitting hairs here as shooting in almost pure darkness isn't a thing for most folks. Yes I know, perhaps a wedding photographer at a reception might and that could be a topic of interest but for me it's really not a big issue either.


Compared to the primary other options in this class, it really is the best performance to value ratio. The Sony 50mm is $500 more, and I don’t see a $500 difference in the images, as a matter of fact the Sony 50mm is known to have a pretty widespread de-centering problem that makes the focus plane off, even when the image is technically in focus and many need to be replaced. That is a pretty large smudge on the reputation of something that bears the Zeiss name.

I also cannot see any better quality in the Sony’s images, in fact the Sigma Art is sharper.

You can get the 50mm 1.4 Art for Sony E here for $949.

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I bought one of these and all was good until I was taking picture of two people with both face detection on, and prioretise registered faces on. I have been using a Sony 24-105 with these settings no problem.
But the Sigma made both my cameras af-systems to lock up. I had to disable face detection to be able to shoot.
After the shoot I gave the lens back to the shop and got a Sony 50 1.4. Still my camera did not work. I had to delete registered faces before all was normal again, even no face was registered.

Sorry to say Sigma failed me again. I also once tried the mc-11 adapter with a Sigma 24-105, that was a joke.

The Tamron 28-75 on the other hand is a nice fit with A7, I find the images more then sharp, focusing good and it's size is normal. I hope no bugs:)

Also I thought the background blur shooting backlid was ugly, I hope the Sony will render nicer. That's my comfort for getting a in Norway double price lens I never planed for:)

As far as I understand, face registration failed on you.

As far as what I can understand, Sigma lens have bug that trigged a lock up in the camera. Both my cameras, a a7m3 and a A7Rm3 hung the same way.
I would expect anyone with that lens who enabling face detection and priorety registered faces will have the same outcome.
So I'm computer language, there is a bug with that lens.

Actually yes. It did. But it also locked up the cameras. And there was no faces registered and I did not try to use it. And my 24-105 was working just fine with these settings.

Phil Wright's picture

How did Sigma fail you when the Sony 50 1.4 did exactly the same thing?

I used the camera with Sony 24-105 no problem. When I started with the Sigma the cameras autofocus system failed. I tried with both Sony 50 and Tamron 28-75, it did not work. I had to flush registered faces before it worked.
Then after it's ok.
I am pretty sure there's a bug in Sigmas firmware, and I expect it's repeatable to, since both cameras locked up.
I do not like when things stop working, I feel safe with the Sony.
Anyone who read this with that lens, just turn set priorety registered faces off, I guess.

You don't see the flaw in your logic? You didn't actually reconfirm that it would lock up again with that particular copy of the Sigma lens or all copies of the 50 ART.

No I gave it back to the shop and got the Sony. I don't have a logic besides that it did not work flawless and I did not want it.
I am not beta testing and my logic works fine for me.
If you have or get it take a note register face on but blank might not be so clever with Sigma lenses. That's all. :)

BTW both my cameras hung after mounting the Sigma so it was replicated.

Dave McDermott's picture

This is the lens I have been waiting for. Absolutely stunning images too by the way.

Bill Larkin's picture

Thanks so much :) - I really do like this lens a lot! and the way it handled shooting backlit really sold me. I think you'll definitely enjoy one!

stefano giovannini's picture

What does this sentence mean? It makes no sense, can the author elaborate? " which is different from when Canon and Sigma mount lenses are used with the MC-11 where on AF-S (single shot)."

Bill Larkin's picture

When Canon and Sigma mount lenses are used with the MC-11 it only is able to use single shot, not continuous.

With the native E-mount lens, all options are available including continuous.

That is the information that was given to me.

Bokeh Master's picture

the canon mount art lenses with sigma mc11 work perfectly with my a7r3. All the AF-S and AF-C work perfectly. High speed shooting with continuous AF and Eye-AF are on point as well. DMF as well.

Phil Wright's picture

I was thinking the same thing. I use a Sigma 35 1.4 Art lens (Canon mount) with MC-11 adapter and AF-C works perfectly?

Bokeh Master's picture

yeah, the writer is just being paid for ad i guess

Bill Larkin's picture

I actually just really like this lens, and it's my everyday workhorse. - The AF-C didn't work for me with a Canon mount Art lens.

stefano giovannini's picture

AF-C works perfectly with MC-11 and Sigma 18-35mm Canon mount. Photographed a woman training for a marathon doing sprints, most shots were in focus. I just find the combo to struggle in low indoor light with low contrast / dark faces more than with native mount lenses.

I mainly like the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 for its sharpness and price in comparison to the Planar 50 mm f/1.4 FE, which I once owned and cherished but couldn’tjustify keeping cause I prefer shooting with my razor-sharp Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 g2 on a Sigma mc-11 adapter. This 50mm is great for portraits and landscape. Super-sharp for pixel-peepers but CA can be a little distracting wide open at f/1.4. Good review.

Christian Howell's picture

Have to agree about this lens... It's Zeiss sharp and I'm shooting in a very dark studio getting great shots... It lives on my 6D II (well one of them)... Just moving a bit takes you from full length to half... At 1.4 it beats out the 70-200 2.8 for light-gathering and you don't need compression...

Hello bill, i've read with attention your review. This is sure an amazing lens, and i'm just choosing now what buy between this and samyang fe 50 1.4 AF for sony.
About bokeh of sigma: you say that someone consider a bad bokeh, but is not true until you zoom at 1200x.
I thik this is visibile in the highlight background also if you look at normal whole image (without magnification).

And also the difference in sharpness, isn't noticeable also if you zoom at 1200%?

i like to buy this lens, but what do you think of this, against the samyang 50 f/1.4 AF for sony?
many review say is less sharper (but if to need to crop for see the difference....) and has visible nice bokeh.
Have you tried both?
PLease answer me.
Many thanks

Bill Larkin's picture

Have not used the Samyang, But I love the Art line so much, there isn't any room for improvement on this lens in my opinion. The Art line is as good as it gets.

"is it the same Art lens we’ve had for years with an embedded MC-11 adapter"

It is absurd to assume the added extension is an MC-11. That would be saying the e-mount lens is merely the Canon version with Canon AF algorithms translated (by the embedded MC-11) for E-mount AF. Nonsense! I expect the AF algorithms to be native e-mount for maximal performance and minimal bugs.